Review by Raganork
"Tomb Raiding... without actually raiding many tombs"
Since the '90s, Lara Croft has been an iconic star in the video game industry. Her games were filled with adventurous platforming, puzzle solving, and intense shooting. But over the years, her prominence slowly dissipated, and the Tomb Raider games just weren't as exciting to play anymore. The series desperately needed a reboot if Lara wanted to stay alive in the gaming industry.
Enter Tomb Raider (2013), which serves as the backstory for the legendary archaeologist Lara Croft. Unfortunately, this may not be the reboot that the franchise so desperately needed, as it feels more like a cinematic action film rather than the adventure game that the series started out as.
No one can deny that this game looks absolutely gorgeous. The new character model for Lara Croft is fantastic, and it shows how much the series has evolved. In the '90s, Lara's most prominent feature were her big breasts. In this reboot, Lara as a whole is designed beautifully, and her breasts are not the only stand-out feature. Her animations and lip syncing are very well done. In fact, the animations throughout the game are great as well. No characters move in jerky movements, the physics engine works perfectly (which is extremely helpful during the puzzle sequences), and the particle effects are excellent.
The level design is also top notch. Being that this is an adventure game, you'll be traversing the environments in a number of different ways. You'll be scaling cliffs, traversing underground tunnels, sliding down mountains, climbing on buildings, hoping across broken structures suspended high in the sky, and more. These environments are all seamlessly integrated with each other, and it makes exploration feel nice and smooth.
The controls are very tight. Every mistake I made, be it in combat or solving puzzles, felt like it was 100% my fault. The guns handle perfectly, jumping feels good, and there is no lag or input-delay of any kind. Climbing around the environment it both easy and incredibly fun. You'll be climbing the side of a cliff with ease, but at the same time feel a sense of satisfaction once you reach the top. It's an indescribable feeling, but getting through the platforming segments feels very fun.
Likewise, the sound design is really good. Guns sound powerful, Lara's grunting as she gets hurt sounds realistic, and the voice acting is really good. Every voice actor did a great job with their roles, especially the voice of Lara.
Unfortunately, that's where the positive aspects end, and you'll notice that I didn't touch on gameplay that much. That's because where this game suffers most is in the gameplay department.
First of all, for being called "Tomb Raider," I was expecting to... you know, actually raid some tombs. What I wasn't expecting was having to run around the outdoors for a majority of the game. You spend most of the game in villages and forests, with only a few story missions sending you into tomb-esque locations. The reason for this is because Lara is more of a "survivor" in this game, instead of actually being a "tomb raider." Lara gets stranded on an island, she has no food or survival supplies, and hundreds of people are trying to kill her. She's trying to survive this ordeal; not go hunting in tombs. So you might say that having her raid tombs wouldn't really make sense in this game, and I'd agree. However, I find it unfortunate that the developers couldn't work her origin story around exploring tombs. Instead, they went for a girl-is-forced-to-survive feel for this game.
Naturally, since there isn't a lot of tomb raiding, there isn't going to be a whole lot of puzzle solving. If you haven't played the previous Tomb Raider games, the series is known for both platforming and puzzle solving. While this game does has a lot of platforming, it is lacking noticeably in the puzzle department. Most "puzzles" usually consist of pulling distant objects towards you to give you a platform, or burning objects with a torch, or breaking support structures to grant you access to a new area.
There, I just told you over half of the puzzles in the entire game. Combine some of them together to come up with new puzzles. Set an object on fire, then yank it towards you to burn some boxes that were blocking a platform, then jump on that platform to move on. So the puzzles are not really a challenge. I never once got stuck on a puzzle, and even if you did manage to get stuck somehow, Lara will give you a hint on how to complete the puzzle.
There are also 7 optional tombs you can complete, if you can even call them tombs. You might think "Oh, so you lied! There are tombs in this game!" Well let me stop you right there, because each of these... "tombs"... can be completed in around 5 minutes tops. Every single optional tomb consists of a single puzzle. ONE PUZZLE. I already told you what kind of puzzles you'll be dealing with. When you reach the end of the tomb, you open up a chest and get some salvage, which you use to upgrade your preexisting weapons. You don't get a cool weapon or gadget or anything useful like that, which I found to be incredibly disappointing.
The game also presents you with 4 different weapons to use throughout your adventure, one of which is a bow. Let me tell you right now, the only two weapons you need to beat the entire game (on the hardest difficulty) are the bow and the pistol. This is because of two reasons.
1. The game is incredibly easy and offers very little challenge (even on the hardest difficulty, which I started with)
2. The weapons in this game are overpowered, especially the bow
Not only can you headshot most enemies in 1 hit, but the enemies don't really do that much damage to you in the first place. There is regenerating health in this installment, which means you can just take cover to regain health when you're close to dying. While you're hiding safely behind cover, you can quickly take out every enemy with your bow or pistol. No need to use your shotgun or assault rifle (the other 2 weapons).
You can also upgrade these weapons using salvage that you find from exploring the environment and looting corpses. You can make your guns more powerful, more accurate, or even allow them to set enemies on fire. There are also perks you can unlock as you level up, which give you small benefits. These range from useful (like sticking arrows in your enemies' legs to cripple them), to nearly useless (like getting more experience from looting animal corpses). By the end of the game, you'll have most of the perks unlocked.
And for fans of quick-time events, you'll probably have a blast with this game. They are scattered throughout the entire game, with the first half hour or so littered with quick-time events. If you miss a button, you die. This wasn't fun in the early 2000s, and it isn't fun now in 2013.
My biggest issue with this game is that it doesn't feel like Tomb Raider. It feels like Uncharted. It's a cinematic experience that focuses more on flashy set pieces instead of exploring mysterious locations. You can't get lost or stuck in this game. Pressing a single button will put an arrow on your screen telling you where to go, and highlight parts of the environment that you can interact with. Even though the environments are large and open, the game feels linear, and you can't progress to the next section unless you follow the path the game wants you to follow
Once you complete the 8-10 hour adventure, you'll have experienced everything the game has to offer. Is there replay value? Well if collecting hundreds of useless items for some achievements sounds entertaining, then you can tack on another 5-6 hours of gameplay. Completing all the optional tombs will take less than an hour. You can try to fully upgrade your weapons, but you don't really need to since the guns are strong enough already.
As for glitches, I found very few. I got stuck behind objects once or twice, and I got caught on a piece of scenery that put Lara in falling animation perpetually until I walked off the edge to suicide.
+ Great visuals
+ Fun platforming
+ Intense combat
- Lackluster bonus tombs/replay value
- Too easy
- Lack of puzzles
- Levelling up and upgrading weapons don't add much to the gameplay
Overall, I had a good time with Tomb Raider, despite my complaints. The platforming is fun, and the combat is fast-paced and exciting. However, I was disappointed that the game felt more like an action movie instead of a puzzle-solving adventure game.
Is the game fun? Yes, but it's not the kind of game that I'd want to replay anytime soon. Maybe you enjoy these type of games, but I certainly don't, and some fans of the series will most likely be somewhat disappointed with this reboot.
Is it worth a purchase? That depends. If you want a cinematic action game with some fun platforming and combat, then you'll really enjoy this game. If you want a challenging game, either combat wise or puzzle wise, then you'll be disappointed.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 03/18/13
Game Release: Tomb Raider (US, 03/05/13)
Got Your Own Opinion?
Submit a review and let your voice be heard.