Community Review: Tomb Raider

I'm actually properly enjoying Tomb Raider. I know! Honestly, no-one was more surprised than me.

Tomb Raider's pacing is its strength, paired with its accessibility. The controls are beyond intuitive and the game does an incredible job of somehow just doing precisely what it is you want to do at any precise second. When you want to take the stealth approach, Lara is somehow on her hunkers, being stealthy. When its time to get shooty, Lara gets shooty.

It all in the design of course -- the game sets up situation and is good at whispering in your ear -- 'this is the stealthy bit, this is the shooty bit'. You're never aware if you're being tugged or you're the one doing the tugging. Are you playing or being played. Regardless, Tomb Raider does an incredible job of just sucking you into the experience. You don't ask questions, you just move forward.

But I do have some issues with the game. It could be summed up with one experience -- climbing up the communications tower roughly three or four hours into the game.

Tomb Raider sets its 'spectacular' moments up superbly. They take you by surprise at the right times and they slow things down when need be. As I mentioned before, the pacing is spectacular.

You are told you need to climb a tower. You are told that tower will be high. It will be scary. Seconds later the camera pans, you see the tower. Even in the distance it towers into the stratosphere. In anticipation your palms begin to sweat. It looms in the distance for the next 30 minutes of play. The tension is incredible. This is foreshadowing at its best; it's brilliant level design.

Then you finally arrive. This is the moment you've been playing towards for the pat 30-40 minutes. I'm ready to be terrified, to be challenged, to feel the incredible fear of ascending something, of feeling that terrifying exposure.

But then, the control is just wrestled from your hands. You push up to climb up a ladder twice. That's it. Done.

At more than one point I removed my left thumb from the controller to find that Lara was climbing up the tower by herself. I had little to no control over what was happening. In an instant all that tension, all the build-up, just dissipated and I was reminded that I was playing a video game on rails. Huge disappointment. For this moment to retain its tension, it must be possible for Lara to fall off, for the player to fall off, but you can't. Not really.

That moment, that sequence of events, perfectly sums up the negatives in the Tomb Raider experience. At times it guides you a little too vigorously. During certain set-pieces you don't really feel as though you are controlling much of what's going on. And then there are the quicktime events which, despite being well executed, are still quicktime events.

But Tomb Raider really capture a zeitgeist. You could bury it in the sand and in 50 years people would uncover it with a perfect capsule representation of what gaming has been over the last five years. It does everything and does it reasonably well. Surprisingly good.

Alright, I've rambled on a little too long! What did you guys and girls think of the game?

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Comments

    I've not played it yet, but here is my review:

    The promo art is good. Lara now looks like a real person rather than a caricature of angelina jolie. 5 Stars.

    I am having all of the fun with this game, ALL of it.

    Having a bow as a primary weapon is wonderful, and unless I'm being swarmed by enemies it's my weapon of choice. I love firing an arrow at a random wall to draw enemy attention and then picking them off with headshots. So much fun!

    I'm enjoying it so far, though they do beat her up a lot, and there are too many distracting trinkets to collect which don't seem to add anything much meaningful to the experience other than cluttering up the screen. Still, it's been good, and I agree wholeheartedly with the point about the controls - very intuitive.

    I think (know) my copy is on it's way for delivery today :DDDDD

    Despite my misgivings about the portrayal of Lara, I still pre-ordered this game and I looking forward to it as a whole. One design choice that I disagree with is not going to ruin my enjoyment of the game I'm sure. :)

    Absolutely loving it!

    Deliciously dark and atmospheric. I thought the radio tower bit was funny and overtly Far Cry 3, how did she manage to climb back down after knocking a rung off the ladder? Also I think the game is a little easy. I'm playing it on hard which I usually give up on in other games, but I'm finding TR straight forward, never run out of ammo and haven't really got stuck anywhere – yet (haven't finished). I love all the collectables, I find myself doing a lot of exploration :D

      ...how did she manage to climb back down after knocking a rung off the ladder?

      Zipline. It's in the game, right after the mayday call cutscene. You should know this, seeing as how you played it and all.

        The zip line is below the final ariel.

        I would say she slid down it like a firemans pole.

    The waggle left thumbstick is shitting me to tears admittedly.

    It's really pretty good.
    Visually it looks great.
    It is very corridor driven though.

    It's really obvious how much excess baggage that series had gotten, and it's good they removed a lot of it.
    I do miss her handstands though.

    I like this game it has an awesome atmosphere to it and seems to help compliment the whole survival/imminent threat themes to the game.

    Last edited 04/03/13 11:36 am

    I am up to a part where I unlock a new "pull things with the bow" mechanic so that I can pull heavier stuff, but the game glitched and now I am stuck on the front half of the ship. I can't go anywhere, I don't have a save or check point to go back to, they just reload this glitched bit.

    It is very upsetting. I am/was enjoying absolutely everything about this game!!!

    I will be trying to contact... someone about it or hope that it gets patched... or inform them so that it can be patched.

    Other than that completely game breaking glitch, I LOVE IT!!!!

    The All-Important question, however........

    Can you still swan-dive? :-D

    Nothing beats playing the old games [I still play the last 3], running from some enemies and performing a gut wrenching head-first dive into some water 30+ meters below!

    Still waiting for my god damn Steam copy to unlock... arrgh!

    I'm still waiting for a PC-based review.. :) Probably get to play it before I see that though.. I want to see how much nicer it looks on PC.. I will still play with my XBox controller though! :)

      Same, i'd like to know if its a bad port, or if like arkham City it adds a "whole notha LEVEL!"

    I'm still waiting for mine to turn up from Ozgameshop, it was shipped on Friday so it might take a week or two.

    I've been avoiding all previews/reviews/videos like the plague to make sure I get maximum enjoyment and nothing gets spoiled, I realize I'm posting in a review article, but I didn't read it, honest.

    Enjoying it so far (about half-way through, I think) but I have three major criticisms:

    1) It's waaaay too easy (and hand-holdy).
    2) It's extremely corridor-driven.
    3) QTE. Everywhere.

    Also, their is no real incentive for not dying. The game saves so often (and every time you collect anything at all) that you never respawn more than about 30 seconds behind where you died.

    Last edited 04/03/13 12:07 pm

    I'm absolutely ADORING it so far.

    It's like they took what was wrong with Uncharted, and fixed it all, but then finely tuned almost everything about the game, from the controls to the achievements.

    I LOVE that this game doesn't FORCE multiple play throughs on you, which is fantastic for guys like me with a giant backlog.

    Finished it. All sorts of brilliant. One thing that really stuck out was how well the environmental puzzles are designed. They won't click right away but if you bash your head enough in them you will figure it out. The most i got stuck was 15 minutes.

    One downside is the combat. The developers have implemented a mechanic where if you trigger the AI, a million* (slight exhaggeration) guys run at you out of no where. THis is fine because it punishes the player for not being stealthy but in many sections it just seems the punishment is to much with four or five waves of guys having to be survived to continue, whilst if you stealthed, only 2 would be taken out.

    Seems disproportionate.

    So pro tip, play stealth.

      Is there new game plus?

        Nope.

          Crap... I'm going to have to collect everything for those damn weapon parts.

          Thanks.

            I heard that you can go back to previous chapters selectively though rather than having to go through the whole game again?

    First up, I am having an absolute blast playing this game. The shooty bits and explore-y bits are set up a lot better than most games (*cough*Uncharted*cough*) and there's no shortage of things to side-track you. Still, there are three things that annoy me.
    1) For all the PR crap about Lara being "vulnerable" and making you want to protect her, she hides it incredibly well. In the first hour, after all the serious wounds she's gotten, she should at least be in danger of having Tetanus, Sepsis, Hypothermia, and be in no position to be using a bow, climbing walls or dragging fully grown men. Instead, she's wading through stagnant water, mud, and rain with open wounds in cold rain and snow, running and leaping like an olympic athlete. Not exactly a reason to make you worry about her.
    2) The survival aspect is simply shooting animals and finding food deposits for experience.
    3) The game should really be title "Tomb Raiding Optional".

      The game should really be titled "Tomb Raiding Optional".

      This. They're actually referred to in the game itself as "optional".

        Do you mean it should be called Lara Croft; Tomb Raider Origins or something?
        Im only 2 hours in so far, but thats how Im feeling. After just finishing Far Cry 3 and enjoying it, it is nice playing tomb raider and getting that familiar, but different feeling.

      From some of the reviews I've read, it seems the poor balance between COD-action and original Tomb Raider puzzling has left a lot of fans a bit disappointed.. I'm not sure how I will feel until I am finished with it.. they seem to suggest there isn't enough tomb raiding in the game..

    I heard a certain rumor that at the beginning of the game if you tap the X button on the ps3 controller to a certain spice girls' song rhythm you will be able to unlock the 'bareskin' outfit for Lara.
    Not sure bout Xbox and PC.

      Yep, seems legit

        I can confirm that this is indeed correct.

        If it's not working for you then just keep trying and/or listen to more Spice Girls.

        Last edited 04/03/13 8:21 pm

    Was never a fan of the tomb raider series, but this game does sound good..

    Also, does anyone else think that drawing of Lara kind of looks like Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones?

    Pretty good game, but let down by some bad design decisions. As @ashley pointed out, QTEs, linearity, and lack of difficulty. But also some specific sections that annoyed me more than they really should have...

    The "slide down the mountain dodging death-traps that will grotesquely impale you" is more disturbing than it should be, purely because the water spray obscures said death-traps until it is too late to dodge. It was amusing to watch Conan fail to do it; it was frustrating to learn why first hand.

    Black wolves in a dark forest, invisible unless you use the immersion-breaking sixth-sense ability (at least the guys shooting you are visible via muzzle-flash). When they make the game look this good, and try to invest you in the character to such an extent, requiring the player to break their immersion is annoying, to say the least.

    About three-quarters through (I think), and am enjoying it. I'm also learning that people make campfires in extremely odd places...

    Bah I can't decide. Can anyone shed light on exactly how like Uncharted it is? I really enjoyed the Uncharted games, but by 3 I was happily done, as in I wouldn't buy Uncharted 4 at this point. I consider them more interactive movies than video games, which isn't strictly a bad thing. But by 3 I was so so so bored of the formula, cutscene, shooting gallery, cutscene, shooting gallery, repeat ad nauseam.
    Some of that is fine, but exactly how much of Tomb Raider are we talking? Is there platforming of any kind as well? Other gameplay elements? Does the upgrade system lend itself to more than simply making your next shooting gallery easier?

    HE WAS DEAD THE WHOLE TIMES!!!

      If that's a spoiler, I hate you.

      Last edited 04/03/13 9:42 pm

        It is. For a movie. That isn't Tomb Raider.

          Oh, wait, it was The Sixth Sense, wasn't it.

            I wouldn't say. That might spoil it fo rsomeone ;)

    None of this matters, of course, until Patricia Hernandez has played this game and decides that it is somehow just another subversive perpetuation of the global misogynist agenda. That's when the real review begins.

      I am surprised that she hasn't done an article about the implied rape attempt during one of the cutscenes that has been shown in the Crossroads trailer. That's the problem with articles like that.. before I'd read PH articles, I would have just taken it as a movie.. felt the anguish, felt the desire to save Lara from the evil man and all that.. but instead I get this "oh no.. implied rape article is coming" instead. Totally ruins the interactive movie.

    I've only managed to get around 30 minutes of gameplay into the PC version so far. Woke up early to give it a try. Usually I am up early enough to read emails and check Facebook messages etc but not early enough to play a game.. so I made the effort to get up a little earlier.

    I skipped the first movie as I recognised it as being the same movie from one of the trailers (pretty disappointed with that.. wasn't expecting a trailer to be an actual ingame cutscene in its entirety). Got to experience what is likely to be every type of puzzle, QTE, action and other section type of the game.. so effectively the first part of the game, as you'd expect is the tutorial but it doesn't play like a tutorial for most of the time. There's a little bit of hand holding but with the first proper puzzle there wasn't any hand holding.. and you just have to work out what all the set pieces do individually and then put all the pieces together basically.. not too hard but mildly satisfying. I was already expecting the QTEs and I actually like QTEs when they are done right and the ones I have seen so far aren't too bad.. but only time will tell how annoying they become if there are too many of them or become forced.

    From what I have seen so far it is a pretty game but I've yet to been awe-inspired by the locations yet. Maybe they will get better as I progress but so far the game has a good level of grittiness and adventure spirit.. so that is good. The level design seems to be set up in a way that inspires you to look around rather than just following the corridor that you seem to be forced down, so while it doesn't seem (at this stage at least) to be very open-world oriented, it's not a completely barren corridor like you'd see in a platform game.

    As many have said already, the controls seem to be very intuitive and streamlined but of course I have decided to play the game with an XBox Controller, so I am not sure how good the non-controller controls are. The framerate at "High" settings with Tesselation turned on is very smooth with no screen tearing that I have witnessed. I will be increasing the graphics to Ultra tonight to see how things work at that level. Ambient, music and other sounds seem to match the environment and current game play as well adding to the immersion.

    This is just my first impression.. but so far I'd give it an overall score of 7 or 8 out of 10. I need to see more of the game to know whether that rating is going to go up or down.. it's a great game on the surface but I am still waiting for those "Wow!" moments to happen or not happen as the case may be.

    Last edited 05/03/13 10:01 am

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