Review by KFHEWUI

"Disappointment from a diehard and longtime fan of the series"

Tomb Raider has been in a downward spiral in recent years and despite the changing of the guards, the series has continued in a downward spiral. After the pitiful performance of Anniversary and Underworld, Crystal Dynamics decided the series was in need of a reboot. Instead of following the steps of the past Tomb Raider games, Crystal Dynamics decided to completely copy the Uncharted series and in the process do an origin story even through The Last Revelation and Chronicles both contained stories that involve the origin of Lara Croft.

The game begins with Lara drowning in a ship that is sinking, and she is miraculously saved at last second. Only to find out the ship, the crew is on, is being ripped apart by a severe storm. Somehow Lara and the crew survive despite Lara being tossed into the water with severe tides that should have ripped Lara to shred or even slammed her into the rocks that litter the waters. After awaking on shore, Lara and the crew are attacked. Lara escapes and must find her fellow crew members while trying to find a way off the island.

The story has some major. First off Lara has moments where her characteristics contradict her actions and what the story is telling. The best example is when Lara kills a person for the first time. After the kill, Lara portrays disgust at having to kill another living person for about twenty seconds then Lara goes on to kill about thirty enemies without showing any other disgust. Sometime after this, Lara meets up with her mentor Werner Von… Uh, Roth and tells him that she killed a person and shows some sorrow. It is hard to believe the scene because by this time, Lara has killed over a hundred enemies without showing any remorse.

About Lara's mentor, although it was established in The Last Revelation, Chronicles, and Angel of Darkness, that Werner Von Croy is Lara's mentor, this reboot choose a guy name Roth. Not much is actually told about this person other than that Lara and Roth go back sometime even back to when Lara was a child.

That is not the only issues with the story. All of the characters, save for Lara, are static and basically exist for one point in the game which usually ends with them dying. If the character does die, I found it hard to care for the characters since they are not developed. I mean why should we care about a character that we nothing absolutely nothing about? While it is supposed to strengthen Lara and make her stronger, it does very little for the player. Plus there are more questions than answerers at the end of the game. Why did Lara get into archaeology? The game hints at it because of her resentment at her father but that makes no sense. No sane person would choose a profession especially a dangerous one because they resent their parents.

The problem filled story can be overlooked if the game has solid gameplay except it does not. Any fan of the series that is looking forward to tombs filled with traps to avoid is going to find nothing but disappointment. Instead this reboot focuses on generic firefights and action scenes. This would be okay if the firefights brought some new mechanics to the table however it does not.

Lara only wields four weapons in this game including shotgun, machine gun, pistol and bow and arrow. Alas Lara does not dual wield pistols like every other game in the series. Over the course of the game, Lara can upgrade the weapons and new upgrades can be found by collecting weapon parts. One issue with the upgrade system is that it makes no sense. See when enemies are killed, they can be searched for parts which can be used for upgrades also Lara can hunt animals. Animals be scavenged for parts but one has to wonder where in the world Lara learned to upgrade weapons? Even better how in the world can animal guts and bones be used to upgrade weapons?

During the course of the game, Lara will gain experience points, and after she gains enough, Lara will gain a skill point. Skill points can be used to learn new abilities like carrying more ammo and being able to take more damage.

Speaking of damage, gone is the health system of yesteryears. Instead the game uses regenerating health, and this ultimately eliminates most of the challenge from the game. If Lara takes too much damage, she just has to hide behind a rock for a few seconds and everything will be fine. This would be okay if Lara was not turned into a wimp. It only takes four hits to kill Lara (normal difficulty). When Lara gets low in health, the screen turns grey, and this makes it tough to see what is going on. How am I suppose to get to cover if I cannot even see what is happening? Also apparently one of the designers learned how to use splatter, and it is used from start to finish. If Lara kills an enemy or takes damage, drops of blood splatter on the screen but that is not all it even happens with water or rain and drops of water splatter on the screen. It is annoying.

As for the firefights, they are uninspired and generic like imitation crab meat. Every battle plays out the same, and the enemies sometimes are not that bright. They will stand out in the open so the player can take them out with ease or others will be dead accurate. Most of the enemies in the game are normal human enemies, although there are few in later parts of the game that are cover in armor. Add in large armored types and the generic checklist has been completed.

Combat is flawed in this game for several reasons. Not only is there a glaring lack of enemy types and each battle plays out the same with dozens of enemies being thrown at the player, the weapons border on broken. Weapons seem to do damage at random for example the shotgun. There were a few times where I shot an enemy at point blank four times with the shotgun, and it did not kill them. When an enemy can survive four shotgun blasts at point blank, there is a serious flaw. Although the enemies were dumb enough to leave billions of flammable red barrels all over the place which the player is better off using them instead of the guns although the bow and arrow is excellent and very good for pulling off headshots.

The game includes a cover system but it is flawed. When Lara gets close to an object that she can hide behind, she will duck without the player having to press a button which is nice since there is no hassle with trying to get in and out of cover. Although the cover in the game can be destroyed so hiding behind a box or rock for too long may bite the player in the butt however this is not a big problem except for only a handful of battles late in the game.

This is one area where I feel the developers went overboard is with the violence. Lara can be killed in a lot of gruesome ways including having her head smashed against rocks in water, stabbed by enemies, and being impaled. That is not all Lara can kill enemies by smashing their heads in with an axe or killing dozens of enemies with guns.

When not fighting the same generic enemy countless times, Lara will also have to survive one of the numerous action sequences and the developers went overboard and reuse the same action scene a lot. Numerous times over the course of the game, Lara will have to run through a collapsing building but there might be a small curve to the scene like the building is on fire or Lara is running on the rooftops. After playing through the same scene multiple times, it gets old quickly. Later on some of the sections of the game make very little sense like a ship that has been placed in the air and is held up by wires, and one has to wonder how in the world it got there in the first place. Secondly wonder why it was even placed there, there are several parts in this game like this that really felt like they should have been cut mainly due to they only drag the game on.

One area where the game shines is the climbing mechanics but sadly they play second fiddle to the action. Lara will have to climb along narrow ledges, shimmy around corners, and jumping across gaps. This time Lara does get some new gadgets to help her in her journey. Now thanks to the addition of the bow and arrow, Lara use fire arrows to burn objects. Another helpful new addition is rope arrows a la Thief: The Dark Project. Lara can tie rope around an arrow and shoot it to a marked area and tie the arrow to a post. Other gadgets include a climbing axe and a rope ascender.

The save system has been completely redesigned. Tomb Raider uses an auto save system, and every time Lara reaches a checkpoint, the game saves automatically. The game also saves whenever Lara nabs a collectible item.

Sadly QTEs return in the game, but there is lack of variety of these sequences. QTEs consist of shaking the left stick back and forth followed by hitting triangle. Another involves hitting triangle at the right time to attack an enemy or even repeatedly mashing square. Although the triangle QTEs are awkward at first. A circle will appear and it will shrink. When it hits a specific point, a triangle will appear in the middle of the circle then player has to quickly hit it before the sequence is considered a failure.

If the player wants to take a break from the endless or seeming to be endless amount of combat, there is a multitude of things to do. Lara can hunt animals for parts to be used for upgrading weapons, collect items (GPS, artifacts, and notebooks), and explore tombs. Scattered over the island are hidden tombs and I use the word “tomb” loosely. Apparently, Crystal Dynamics think that a tomb is a large room composed of a single puzzle. Every tomb is designed as a large room with a simple puzzle. Puzzles include dropping four tanks on the end of a seesaw so Lara can jump and grab a ledge or even burning objects on an elevator so her weight does not cause the elevator to drop out of reach of a ledge. Completing these not only unlocks trophies but also unlockable goodies like concept art and character models plus sometimes they hold weapon parts.
Speaking of puzzles, there are several puzzles to solve in the game however none of them are difficult. Most of the puzzles involve using a lever or manipulating an object. The only interesting puzzle involves finding a radio single to send out an S.O.S.

One issue with the game is the camera, and the camera sways as Lara runs. This annoying but it can make some sections of the game cheap since the camera is swaying so much that it is hard to tell what is coming up a head. The perfect example is one part where Lara is being swept by a rapid, and there are poles that are jutting out at certain points. The camera is swaying so much that it is hard to see the poles plus add in the water which splatters on the screen. Sadly there is no way to turn it off and it hurts the game.

To help cater to the casual gamer, Lara has a survival instinct, and this is like the waypoint marker in Dead Space. Hitting “L2” will turn the screen grey and a marker will point where Lara has to go and a pillar of light will also appear at the spot. If anyone has to resort to using this at any point in the game, they should find a new hobby. Although the game takes place on a large island, the path Lara takes is a linear one. The large island simply tries to hide the fact that game is linear but does a poor job.
One issue is that some areas cannot be accessed by backtracking since Lara usually falls down a ledge, but these areas can be accessed by quick travel. Quick travel can be accessed at a campfire however not every campfire has a quick travel option.

Speaking of the controls, Tomb Raider has a decent control scheme that takes very little time to master. The issue with the controls is that some of the actions are poorly mapped. For example, roll and extinguish are both placed on “O”, and it is very easy to roll off a ledge and die when the player simply wanted to extinguish the torch. Another issue is that there is no hip fire so Lara can only shoot if the player is holding “L1”.

There are a few parts where the game actually does shine. The music is fantastic, and the series has always had great soundtracks which is the only part of the series Crystal Dynamics has not screwed up. This time around Jason Graves composed the soundtrack, and he is responsible for the soundtrack for Dead Space. He did a good job. The tracks are very moody and fit the scenes well although most of the time there are only sound effects playing like the wind blowing or swaying of leaves. The voice acting is solid with a good cast of characters. None of the characters sound force even the actors that voice characters with very little effect on plot do a good job with what they are given.

Graphic wise, the game is absolutely gorgeous. There is a nice variety of locales including caves, forests, tombs, Japanese temples, and ship graveyard. That said the color scheme can be dull for the most part. A lot of areas consist of brown, grey, and green although the gondola and beach sections do break it up with their better color schemes. Animation is solid and Lara moves around realistically although the same cannot be said for her hair which moves constantly like it has a mind of its own even in places with no wind blowing.

Replay value is extremely high for the game. There is a lot of bonus content to unlock by collecting all the collectibles plus there are trophies although the trophy list is terrible. Only one trophy is related to the story, and the rest are for collectibles and sadly online. Yes, the first Tomb Raider to feature multiplayer. Despite being a bad idea and tacked on, the multiplayer in this game is weak. There are only three modes from launch including the standard death match. DLC for this game consists of nothing but MP skins and maps.

While it was supposed to be a phoenix rising from its ashes, Tomb Raider fails miserably and is instead an example of everything that is wrong with the game industry from the dozens of generic gunfights, overused action sequences, QTEs, tacked on multiplayer, pathetic difficulty, auto save, and over use of gore. In all honesty, this game should have been a new IP, since it bears no resemblance to the series. All Crystal Dynamics had to do was change the name and change Lara's name. Considering this reboot did not even sell a forth of what the first game sold, it is a red flag that it is time for the series to be put to rest. This reboot is the “Resident Evil 6” of Tomb Raider. It bears no resemblance to its predecessor and like a Michael Bay film it is all style and no substance. Add in that Lara is poorly defined and starts out like a wimp then turns into Rambo and killing enemies like F bombs being dropped in a Tarantino flick.

I have been a fan of Tomb Raider since the first game, it completely change my view on videos game, and it hurts me to see a series that I love so much and grew up with turn into this travesty. It has been a heck of a ride, but Crystal Dynamics is taking the series in the wrong direction so this is the final Tomb Raider game for me unless Crystal Dynamics takes the series back to what made it great until then thanks Tomb Raider for all the great memories. It is sad that it has come to this that a company will sellout a series just in an attempt to make more money but at least this time it bit Square-Enix and Crystal Dynamics in the butt. Too bad they do not care about it.

Story: 3/10

Being an origin story, the point of an origin is to develop the character however Lara is only partially developed and what little development there is done poorly. The story is full of coincidences that happen way to many times like a storm that comes out of nowhere and causes a rescue helicopter to crash. All of the side characters are static and most of them are ultimately useless.

Music: 9/10

Easily the best/strongest part of the game and each track fits the mood of the moments. Voice acting is top notch and has a very good cast of actors.

Graphics: 8/10

One of the strong points of the game with great graphics and solid animation although Lara's hair moves around non-stop even in places with no wind.

Gameplay: 3/10

Considering this makes a huge bulk of the game, this part is very disappoint and departs from the series trademark. Instead of investigating tombs, the player has to navigate the same dull battle against an army of enemies numerous times over the course of the game. Add in dozens of action sequences that usually consist of either running from a collapsing build or running through a burning build. What ultimately save the gameplay from being a complete bust are the platforming sequences that are the only bright spot of the game.

Controls: 6/10

While the controls are solid and the basic layout is decent. There are few oddities liking having roll and extinguish torch on the same button which makes it easy to roll off a ledge when the player wants to put out a torch. Plus the inability to be able to shoot from the hip is absurd.

Replay: 5/10

There is a tacked on multiplayer that only has three modes. Add in dozens of items to collect like GPS, documents, treasures, and weapon parts, and there are optional tombs to explore although I use the word “tomb” loosely.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.0 - Poor

Originally Posted: 09/18/13

Game Release: Tomb Raider (US, 03/05/13)

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