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?