Best Tomb Raider ever. Which isn't saying much; I went back and tried to play the first Tomb Raider the other day and discovered it's actually quite unpleasant. This is the only Tomb Raider I've actually finished, in fact.
But you have to like this kind of game, the "Prince of Persia / Tomb Raider / Ico" sort of genre, let's call it the "you barely grabbed the ledge!" genre. I absolutely love this type of game - (so why didn't I play more of the Tomb Raiders? Shelf level events, I guess) - even though I don't like the more traditional cartoony platformer, and I don't know if it's because the sort of quantized environment appeals to me, makes me feel safe and comfortable, whereas a Mario or a Jak feels sort of mushy and loose. Or maybe it's the color - how odd that the games with the more contrived gameplay mechanics (how convenient that there was a flagpole the perfect distance from the platform which is the perfect distance from that crack in the masonry) have the less abstract, stylized color - they try to be more simulationist.
Since I haven't played a Tomb Raider since II (and a brief stint with Angel of Darkness at E3, "My God, Lara drives like a truck!") and I never played any of them very far I can't be sure but it seems that the clever mechanic they're introducing here is a grappling hook you can use to pull blocks to you. (Wonder if that was Doug Church's contribution? What does "original design" mean?) And the blocks actually aren't quantized, they rotate freely, which was refreshing after God of War, where there was one silly puzzle that relied on the fact that Kratos could slide a block in any direction but he couldn't actually rotate it!
As much as I liked the game, the boss fights were annoying and I ended up playing the game on easy just so I could get past the bosses. Which leads me to the eternal question:
WHAT IS OUR OBSESSION WITH BOSS FIGHTS?
From a producer POV, from a bang-for-buck point of view, boss fights are retarded. The buck is quite high: they are unproven mini-games; they are excruciating amounts of work that often use very few of the assets and systems that have already been developed; lots of special case coding and etcetera have to be put into them.
And the bang is usually low: we move away from the tried-and-true staple gameplay of our title to some weird minigame; and it seems we always make the boss fights frustratingly hard, because it just Wouldn't Do to spend a lot of resources on the boss fight and then have the player beat it in two minutes.
On the other hand, for drama, I do understand the need to have something different, something climactic, break up the action. I ask myself, "How would this game feel if, after navigating all the ledges and poles and platforms, you simply put a bullet in the badguy's head and that was the end of it?" You do want something more. A conundrum.