Review by bladegash666
"Lara Croft os back ; and bad as ever."
After 4 years and many fears , a new Tomb Raider is upon us. Rejoice! I say that with full conviction because Lara Croft: The Guardian Of Light wasn't really a true Tomb Raider game in regards to it's structure. It was a good game , of that much we can be certain ; but it was more of an experiment. Something to test the waters so to speak.
Square Enix and developer Crystal Dynamics saw fit to give us another game in the Tomb Raider franchise ; so here it is. Many trailers and videos have been released , much to varying degrees of success to varying parts of the franchise's rather large fanbase. There is a question you must ask ; one that fans and non fans alike ask ; is it any good?
PRESENTATION AND GRAPHICS
This game is GORGEOUS! From the character models , to the weather and particle effects , to the fire and smoke effects , this game nails the aesthetics. The game has a very gritty , but organic look. My only real complaint about the graphics is the environment variety. There's not much to speak of on the island of Yamatai.
Unlike it's Action-Adventure cohorts(such as Uncharted) the game world is a bit more open , despite being cautiously linear. It also tends to feel a bit lifeless as a result.
The sound design and score are par for the course in an AAA game. Nothing too remarkable ; but it's perfectly serviceable. The weapon sounds in the game have weight to them , and there's a nice mash up of ambient and atmospheric sounds. Overall , the strongest element of the game by far.
This is where the game falters the most I feel. This game is a reboot of Tomb Raider , so that means you won't be seeing any short shorts , balloon breasts , or akimbo pistols. It is a tale of Lara Croft's origin.How she came to be the cool , confident , sexy , dangerous woman we grew up with. It's a decent concept I suppose , but I can't help but feel they did a reboot more to keep the franchise relevant and profitable , instead of continuing to make great Tomb Raider games. There's not a whole lot wrong with that , but I kind of feel disappointed by it as a long time fan.
The plot is typical video game storytelling ; as in not very good. You have your one dimensional characters , generic villain , emotional context , etc. It's nothing short of mediocre. Basically , Lara and company go on an expedition to the island of Yamatai ; a cultist island to look for some artifact of some kind(it's really never clear what the protagonist are looking for) , and they get captured by the island's inhabitants. Lara narrowly escapes death(and her captors) and is basically forced to babysit her crew. This tale mostly consists of Lara learning how to adapt and survive in life or death circumstances , and it's mostly empowering , but the side characters are just that ; side characters. They have no depth or personality , and are there as pillars for Lara's character development.
As if that isn't bad enough , the narrative is actually fairly intrusive to the gameplay. There are some completely illogical plot contrivances that affect the game's pacing in a incredibly negative way. I won't spoil it , but if you've played games with strong narratives before ; it's probably best to lower your expectations before playing this one.
I'll break this down into two parts: single player and multiplayer.
Tomb Raider plays like a standard third person shooter with some slight variations of the modern formula. Most of the combat sections are broken down into cover shooting sequences , and they are done fairly well. There are four weapons to unlock and upgrade ; a bow (with three variants) a pistol , a submachine gun/assault rifle , and a shotgun. The guns have heft to them , but they work fluidly. It's simple to pull off headshots and the combat isn't overwraught with unconventional pacing errors. The developers typically balance the gunplay with puzzles and platforming ; both of which are decent on their own , but disappointing when compared to previous franchise installments. Despite the solidity of the combat ; there are issues.
The melee system is incredibly wonky and not well thought out. It felt like they were added last minute ; due to the fact most of the advanced melee attacks are just quick time events. Speaking of QTE , this game is filled with them. It's these moments that make me dread playing games honestly. They're aren't hard and don't really require any modicum of skill ; they're just incredibly boring.
The gameplay system is held up by skill trees; not unlike most other modern action games. It's a decent but flawed system in Tomb Raider. The skill trees are detailed , but they don't hold up well due to the fact that most of them aren't really necessary or useful skills. It's nice that they added meat to the game's bones , but after playing so many games that use a similar system ; it feels fairly generic.
One of the most endearing(and disappointing) elements in Tomb Raider is the tombs she raids. They make a bold , but brief appearance throughout the game. They're all optional , and they break up the constant pace of gunplay and platforming. What makes them disappointing you say? They're all too easy. The seven optional tombs offer short , but clever puzzles for you to solve. Once you finish them , you are rewarded with a treasure box of XP and salvage(the game's currency for weapon upgrades) that can be used at a campfire to strengthen Lara's abilities and fast travel to previous locations on the island of Yamatai. It's satisfying the first time ; but simply put ; it doesn't compare to the puzzles and tombs from previous entries in the franchise. The older games had really challenging puzzles and platforming , but that's why they were so rewarding. Once you got through an area you've been in for hours , it's a crescendo of confidence. This game dilutes and subverts that. I'm glad they were added , but it could have been much better.
There is also the matter of this game being compared to Uncharted , which is a valid issue. I know most of the people reading this may not have grew up with Tomb Raider. And some will say Uncharted copied Tomb Raider. It simply isn't true. Tomb Raider's style was more about platforming and puzzles , and occasional combat. Uncharted's style was more about combat and setpieces , and occasional platforming and puzzles. This game is closer to the Uncharted formula. It's not a HUGE gripe , but I can't help but feel that they followed the formula too closely because their target demographic knows nothing about classic Tomb Raider.
Whew boy! Here goes:
In a nutshell ; Tomb Raider's multiplayer component is the epitome of rushed , tacked on garbage. It's unpolished , dated , and skimpy. The core gameplay is solid(mostly) but the qualities of a good online shooter are NOT represented here ; at all. There is no party system , the invite system is completely backwards , and there are only a handful of modes. The balancing of the factions could use some work too. If you're looking for a new good MP shooter , AVOID THIS GAME. Just stick with >insert older shooter you got tired of before considering this< .
Despite my issues about the dilution of the Tomb Raider ; this game is a great buy for action adventure fans. It's to be commended for it's effort to stand up with some of the new pups in a genre it helped establish.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 03/19/13
Game Release: Tomb Raider (Collector's Edition) (US, 03/05/13)
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