The Critics Mostly Love The New Tomb Raider

Tombs! Puzzles! Guns! Jumping! More guns! The setpieces are all there, but does Tomb Raider manage to scratch that treasure-plundering-and-adventuring itch? Reviewers say it does.

Survival horror-esque hiding and sniping goes hand in hand with mountain climbing and cover shooting in the franchise reboot. But what was it, in particular, that sent critics over the edge? Here's what they have to say.


When you're not fighting against Tomb Raider's design, you feel like you're just going through familiar third-person adventure motions. As you may expect, combat encounters are broken up by largely straightforward environmental puzzles. These usually involve figuring out how to apply the set of upgraded weapons or items that Lara has acquired through the game. On top of this, Tomb Raider is overblown with quicktime events. They are often used to pull you up from a ledge or open a door. They aren't inherently bad but I often felt removed from the on screen action when all I was required to do was a single button press to perform a death-defying manoeuvre.


There aren't many mandatory puzzles and they aren't too tricky. They involve a lot of ropes. For the first few hours of play, it feels like this core element of the series has been sidelined and dumbed down to a disappointing degree. But again, things look up as the game goes on. The puzzles crop up more regularly and get more challenging. It's just like old times as the game shuts up, calms down and gives Lara the breathing space to quietly work out the answers.


Battle is as big a part of Tomb Raider as navigation, and that's a surprisingly good thing, because Crystal Dynamics has been able to create a most elegant combat system. When enemies are near, Lara transitions into a crouching stance, and will automatically take cover near convenient walls and boxes. While most game characters take cover with obtrusive — and often unwanted — snaps, Croft manages to flow naturally and simply from cover to combat to regular movement, in a way that never seems obnoxious or unnecessary. The game's contextual animation is superb, and seems know exactly the correct thing to do in any given situation.


Few action games come close to the level of control that Tomb Raider provides. For example, after Lara makes a deliberate jump in one direction, you maintain the ability to change where she's falling in mid-air. This air control sits at odds with the emphasis on realism found in Tomb Raider's presentation, but it makes the platforming less linear and demands more from the player. Likewise, you can leap between locations — say from sliding down a rope to climbing up a rock wall with your pickaxe. The speed of these changes makes Lara's animations look awkward and unnatural, but it feels right.


Tomb Raider has definitely taken inspiration from the other great action games of this generation. There's an escaping-from-a-burning-building scenario, and more than one sequence where you're skidding at speed down a waterfall. But even when Tomb Raider falls back on action-game cliché, it does so with such confidence and aplomb that you don't mind — in fact, that burning-building sequence is one of the game's most breathlessly exciting moments. Once it gets going, Tomb Raider is high-octane and squeezes your adrenaline gland dry, but it's also got great variety and pacing. There are quiet, tense moments inbetween the combat-heavy setpieces, and you're never in the same place doing the same thing twice.

The Escapist

Even the tombs themselves have been simplified. They're not big huge sprawling things filled with massive statues, hidden switches and deadly traps. They're petite puzzle rooms with a very simple goal: Figure out how to get from the entrance to the treasure box using ordinary objects like gas cans, buoys, and cargo haulers. If you find yourself stumped, Lara's Survivor Instinct ability helps highlight items of interest in the room, and occasionally Lara herself will mutter a hint. It's a great compromise, offering a helpful nudge to those who want it without forcing it on those who don't.


Ominous dread replaces intrepid sauciness in this reboot, and there's little of the breathless wonder that distinguished the first Tomb Raider games. You will see beautiful vistas, yes, but not much joy accompanies those moments. A tight claustrophobic camera zooms in on Lara when she squeezes through tight crevices and, even in the game's more open environments, a tense anxiety is never too far off. But that dread makes the play of the game feel deeply satisfying.


    Lol at machinima, isn't Tomb Raider all about puzzles? Why did he complain about environmental puzzles in a Tomb Raider game?

      It does seem a bit weird.. but I think what he might be complaining about is the lack of difficulty to them rather than the inclusion of the puzzles..

      I'm somewhat confused w/ the Machnima review myself..

      Just about everything wrong Machinima has listed is what every other review out there is either praising the game for or just small point of disconnect that's a minor foot note in the game.

      I get the feeling the reviewer really just went in not liking the review (possibly wanting to give it a 2-3) and ended up begrudgingly liking it to give it a 6....

        Yeh, I read the review not long after I posted the above to see what caused it to get such a low score and the things he/she was nitpicking over seemed to be the same stuff other people had picked up on but rather than accepting that is simply how games are made, they decided to really come down on them for that. Yes, it is guilty of going from a moment of realisation that you've just killed another living being to being able to run around killing everything in sight without further remorse.. but what the reviewer (and to the a lesser extent other reviewers) has forgotten is that this setup of remorse should only need happen once to show what the character feels whenever they kill someone.. the next million times you kill the living being (be it an animal or human), you need to assume that the character is feeling the same feelings inside.. we don't need to be hand-held through the emotional contexts of the story like in a poorly written children's movie.. we got the message that she feels guilty for killing the person or animal the first time..

      They prob didn't get paid out to give a good review.

    I'm not sure really why QTEs get such a bad wrap really. The only downside to them that I see is that your focusing on what the next button combo might be rather than enjoying the cinematic experience unfolding in front of you. Do people not remember the great games that made use of QTEs, not the least of which was the "Dragon's Lair" Coin-op?

    The way I see QTEs incorporated into games is a way for the developers to incorporate an experience that is action-packed and fast-paced.. a sense of urgency and awesomeness that may be lost if left up to the player to decide how the scene unfolds.. it's a story-telling mechanic.. it's only a small part of the game, in this instance, so why all the hate for this.. I don't know..

    Sure.. if there are too many of them, they can seem like a "cheap" way to make certain parts of the game that may have otherwise be done with fully interactive gameplay.. but when seen as part of the overall thing, they're not unwelcome to me.

      When it comes down to it, everything is a QTE. Some games just present it in a a way such as button combinations. Pres X X -> -> O to do THIS and learn it rather than having it pop up on screen all the time.

      I much prefer it like this. QTEs take the action out of my hands. I don't feel like I just killed that mega awesome boss when the game takes control away from me and forces me to do it in their pre determined way.

        That's true.. they have their place.. like the first scene to use a QTE in this particular game (if you've played it, you know what I am talking about.. but I won't spoil it for others) is something where a QTE works very well..

          I think the rule is kind of like... one off reactionary sequences are good for quick time events, killing every big boss or strong creature (Force Unleashed) isn't.

          The exception being the Ultimate Ninja Storm games which use QTEs to pay fanservice to the anime during boss fights

      I take it you've never watched any of Yahtzee's rants about QTEs? The biggest issue I have with them is most of them happen during cut scenes so it usually ends up being:
      1) Relax or put down controller to watch cut scene
      2) Button prompt appears
      3) Lounge room destroyed trying to quickly pick up the controller again, or, you blinked and now you're dead because you missed it

      I don't have a problem with QTE combat, but cut scenes are a horrible place to put them because there's never any consistency. You never know where they're going to appear... Look out! There's one over there! No! They got Jimmy. Run! Quick, press triangle, press triangle!

    Started playing last night, only for a couple hours, so far im impressed, very much dislike the wolves, and not having a melee attack (yet? please tell me that changes?).

    The menu system for upgrades/leveling skills is a bit daunting at first, and i find i spend more time looking for secrets than enjoying the story/game.
    The QTE start to get very frustrating when it doesnt respond to the command and then makes you watch the same event 10 times... that being said however the climbing QTE wher your using the triggers to move forward and dodgy rocks was well implemented IMO, and the slipping press (X) to save yourself i like.

    The game looks great even on console, lara does seem to take more of a beating than nessicary i think, but at the same time i was finding myself wanting to kill her just to see ways she would die, cos the first time i failed a QTE and she did it was epicly gruesome and made me wince proper.

    Hoping it hold my attention till the end as it does look like a good game so far

      The wolves.. hehhe.. yeh.. it made me remember the first Tomb Raider where you're in the cave (or something) and there's a tiger.. or a wolf.. or bear (I honestly can't remember what animal it was) right at the very start of the game.. and you will die VERY quickly if you don't act accordingly. I liked that about the original TR.. one wrong move and you're dead.. it's a little too forgiving for my liking so far.. but I've only been able to invest 77 mins (according to Steam) into the game so far.

      You get a melee attack when you unlock the second tier of your abilities.

        Thats something, thanks, was worried that my pick axe was pretty much useless lol

    Such an amazing game. I'm surprised at how much I'm loving it.

    100 from The Escapist?! :P

    Gotta say I'm glad it broke street date. Got a good chunk of playing done over the weekend and it's a fantastic game. Bloody engaging.

    I loved tomb raider, finished it twice now i would go as far as to say game of the year even this early on if not a top contender. Not only the best game so far this year but one of the best this gen

      It certainly is great, anyone who says otherwise obviously isn't a gamer.

    Yeah I think the game is fantastic. I am playing it on PC though maxed out with 360 controller. As far as story and gameplay almost perfect.

    GOTY so far and I doubt anything will top it that is on the horizon besides Bioshock but even then.

    It's certainly a pretty game, but I'm finding the weapons all boring (the bow is particularly poorly executed), the combat repetitive, the AI are a hive mind when it comes to stealth, and the game frequently takes control away from me for both moments big and small.

    And despite what one might initially expect, I'm finding Lara's exploits a -lot- less believable than Nathan Drake. I'm not even finding myself that wrapped in her character, unfortunately.

    Then it just boils down to nitpicky things like her currently equipped weapon vanishing and just appearing on its holster upon changing to something else.

    The game's okay, and there are great parts to it - I'm definitely loving the way she flows from cover to cover when enemies are present, the animations there are great. There are just a fair few disappointments as well, that's all. I'd give it a 7/10, but not in terms of that being a bad score these days; it IS a good game, just not -great-.

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