My thoughts on Tomb Raider(Review)

Posted by Phatmac (5726 posts) -

Tomb Raider was once one of the most important video game franchises. After several reboot attempts from Crystal Dynamics it seemed like Tomb Raider would become another franchise that retired. Fast-forward several years and a new Tomb Raider is announced, this time a reboot, focusing on developing Lara as a person, not a big-breasted caricature, and people quickly called the game an Uncharted clone. But sometimes clones prove to be better than the original. Sometimes Uncharted outdoes Tomb Raider, and this time Tomb Raider has outdone Uncharted, for the most part.

Crystal Dynamics' latest introduces a new Lara Croft. Much like Casino Royale did for James Bond, Tomb Raider looks to humanize Lara Croft, taking her away from being the over-the-top action star she had become, to an archaeology student who has never fired a gun. After convincing her research team that they were headed in the wrong direction, Lara's ship is torn apart in a freak storm, leaving her to wash ashore a mysterious island inhabited by some less-than-savory individuals. After a frightening near-rape situation, Lara finds herself forced to kill her would be attacker. This becomes Tomb Raiders strongest and weakest aspect.

MOVE TOWARD THE CAMERA UNCHARTED ACTION SCEN

Lara can barely stomach the fact that she was forced to kill this man. She's crying and nearly vomiting, but she understands that what she did was necessary for her own well-being. Then, in order to escape to her friends, she has to kill a few more guards. She later makes a comment about how she had to kill a few guys to escape. Here's my problem: this is a video game that controls very much like every other third-person-shooter out there. I, the gamer, have hours and hours of experience slaying foes using all sorts of weapons. I have no issue taking out thousands of bad guys (hell, I've even killed good guys) to beat a game and my fingers are well trained in aiming rifles and pulling triggers. Lara is not. She's just a college-aged girl, forced into a situation to survive which thus forces her to kill, run, and hide. She shouldn't have the aptitude to pull this off, yet she does because I'm controlling her.

There's a disconnect between game design and story in Tomb Raider that is some times distracting. Lara is somehow able to climb cliffs, fight enemies, and fall great distances while barely taking a moment to gather herself. One of the first scenes shows Lara fall directly onto a rusty steel bar, puncturing her side. She gets up, pulls it out, says "ouch" (or something to that effect), and walks on. I don't think this is at all the fault of the developers, but rather the structure of games in general. Lara is frankly an unbelievable character.

EARLY YEAR OF THE BOW CONTENDER. BOW, BOW BOW A BOW BOW!

Luckily, the game more than makes up for these shortcomings with some of the tightest platforming ever to be released. Every moment within Tomb Raider feels right, and rarely like a video game. Set pieces aren't set up just for Lara to climb/fall/shoot through, but are completely natural given the setting. Puzzles are similar, rarely feeling artificial. I'm also fairly disappointed by the lack of focus with tombs in a game called Tomb Raider. There are a few tombs that only have a small puzzle in them. Games like Assassin's Creed Brotherhood had better tombs than this.

What you'll spend the most time with is shooting, which, aside from my issues mentioned above, is standard but solid. The left trigger pulls up your weapon, the right shoots, while clicking in the right thumbstick zooms in a bit. Weapons are well-balanced, leaving Lara in situations where each feels appropriate. The best weapon to use in the game is actually the bow. You can stealth through some sections by using the bow which silently kills enemies. My year of the bow award has an early favorite already.Tomb Raider tasks you with collecting salvage from around the island that is in turn used to upgrade your weapons (increase damage, reload speed, etc.). Similarly, Lara has some abilities that can be upgraded as well, which can allow her new fighting moves, faster climbing speeds, and abilities to see animals which helps in the strange hunting part of the game, something that feels wasted after the first hour or so. It seemed like the game wanted to have a survival aspect with the hunting that would be akin to Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Instead, hunting is just a task that you can do but it never feels important.

Lara really needs to take a shower.

Story progression is always top notch, placing Lara in more and more perilous situations and as situations grow more outlandish, the story doesn't ever feel forced, like I feel it did in the Uncharted series. As soon as Uncharted turned that corner into supernatural, I always felt like it didn't belong, but when Tomb Raider takes a similar turn, I didn't once feel like it was the wrong choice. Tomb Raider begins feeling mysterious, much like the TV show Lost, and when things amp up into crazy-ville, it feels right at home.

Multiplayer rears it's ugly head, and frankly it's pretty boring. It's very clear that the decision was made late in the development cycle. Multiplayer modes are pretty standard, including Deathmatch options and the like. The most interesting, or better yet the least boring, was called Rescue. Heroes are required to gather five gas canisters while villains are attempting to stop them. The mode is unique because in order to win the heroes must gather 5 canisters, but the villains can win by killing the heroes 20 times. This adds a new dimension to what would otherwise be Capture the Flag, making the mode the only thing I spent much of any time with. Luckily this is barely the focus of Tomb Raider. Crystal Dynamics has pulled off a great reboot. My small problems with the story aside, Tomb Raider is a successful reboot that makes Tomb Raider important again. Hopefully, we can get another sequel for Tomb Raider again.

You should buy Tomb Raider.

Be sure to watch the video below in order to view my thoughts on Tomb Raider in vlog style.

#1 Posted by jdh5153 (1034 posts) -

Tomb Raider is a great game, but I can't recommend buying it. The game is only about 6 hours long and there's not really any point to play through it again...The multiplayer is a joke....Rent this one at Redbox.

#2 Posted by TooWalrus (13254 posts) -

You know, I actually like reading reviews better when I've already finished a game (I mean, you posed this as a "thoughts piece" so it doesn't get removed from the forums, but this is a review through and through). I've got thoughts on your thoughts:

Running toward the camera isn't a feature unique to Uncharted, plenty of modern games are doing it (MGR, recently,) and Uncharted may be where this particular game takes some cues, but Naughty Dog's been doing it since the Crash days, which clearly was paying homage to Indiana Jones, which Tomb Raider also takes inspiration so to criticize a game for incorporating scenes like that doesn't seem particularly fair (unless they're bad or frustrating- which they aren't). It's also weird how you criticize Tomb Raider for using similar gameplay elements to the Uncharted games, then complain that the hunting isn't more like Metal Gear (and on that note, I think the fact that hunting supplies you with the same salvage currency that harvesting plants, wreckage or enemies supplies is an intentional gameplay decision hunting is helpful, yet optional. I would have been annoyed if the game told me "Shoot a bird or die!"

People have been whining that she gets her side punctured by that metal bar and recovers quickly (it's not "ouch but I'm fine," I thought she was reeling in pain until reaching the campfire and taking a rest before she's up and leaping around?) ...but nobody bats an eye that she can get shot a million times and never die. The fact that we notice how beat up Laura becomes throughout her journey (and she's scarred, bruised and bloodied to shit by the end) is a testament to good character design, they've beat on her just about as much as they could without effecting the game-play, and you really feel for her.

This whole "disconnect" complaint doesn't seem genuine to me. Unless a character's got the fairly generic back-story of "he's an ex-soldier or mercenary or cop" or whatever most characters don't have a reason to be used to shooting and killing. I thought the story was fine in explaining that she clearly doesn't like what she's doing, but she has to get over it quick if she wants to survive. It's not a masterpiece, but it's just as good as any shooter I've ever played- There's a lot of complaints about this issue, but so far, nobody's offering up a better solution. Do you have one? "Oh, Laura took a self-defense class at the YWCA, she's prepared for this"

This game is similar to Bioshock Infinite in some regards. I'm not comparing their quality or anything, but most criticism of these games seem like incredibly nit-picky. We're going to whine about how "she recovered too quickly" how "she's not sad enough to be shooting these guys" how "shouldn't hunting be more like these other games" but in the end, the gameplay is so much god-damn fun that the complaints are largely forgettable. I'm not saying we shouldn't bring minor complaints up, but the amount of discussion we've had about this stuff seems way out of proportion with how big of a deal they actually are.

TLDR; Tomb Raider's pretty great.

#3 Posted by Phatmac (5726 posts) -

You know, I actually like reading reviews better when I've already finished a game (I mean, you posed this as a "thoughts piece" so it doesn't get removed from the forums, but this is a review through and through). I've got thoughts on your thoughts:

Running toward the camera isn't a feature unique to Uncharted, plenty of modern games are doing it (MGR, recently,) and Uncharted may be where this particular game takes some cues, but Naughty Dog's been doing it since the Crash days, which clearly was paying homage to Indiana Jones, which Tomb Raider also takes inspiration so to criticize a game for incorporating scenes like that doesn't seem particularly fair (unless they're bad or frustrating- which they aren't). It's also weird how you criticize Tomb Raider for using similar gameplay elements to the Uncharted games, then complain that the hunting isn't more like Metal Gear (and on that note, I think the fact that hunting supplies you with the same salvage currency that harvesting plants, wreckage or enemies supplies is an intentional gameplay decision hunting is helpful, yet optional. I would have been annoyed if the game told me "Shoot a bird or die!"

People have been whining that she gets her side punctured by that metal bar and recovers quickly (it's not "ouch but I'm fine," I thought she was reeling in pain until reaching the campfire and taking a rest before she's up and leaping around?) ...but nobody bats an eye that she can get shot a million times and never die. The fact that we notice how beat up Laura becomes throughout her journey (and she's scarred, bruised and bloodied to shit by the end) is a testament to good character design, they've beat on her just about as much as they could without effecting the game-play, and you really feel for her.

This whole "disconnect" complaint doesn't seem genuine to me. Unless a character's got the fairly generic back-story of "he's an ex-soldier or mercenary or cop" or whatever most characters don't have a reason to be used to shooting and killing. I thought the story was fine in explaining that she clearly doesn't like what she's doing, but she has to get over it quick if she wants to survive. It's not a masterpiece, but it's just as good as any shooter I've ever played- There's a lot of complaints about this issue, but so far, nobody's offering up a better solution. Do you have one? "Oh, Laura took a self-defense class at the YWCA, she's prepared for this"

This game is similar to Bioshock Infinite in some regards. I'm not comparing their quality or anything, but most criticism of these games seem like incredibly nit-picky. We're going to whine about how "she recovered too quickly" how "she's not sad enough to be shooting these guys" how "shouldn't hunting be more like these other games" but in the end, the gameplay is so much god-damn fun that the complaints are largely forgettable. I'm not saying we shouldn't bring minor complaints up, but the amount of discussion we've had about this stuff seems way out of proportion with how big of a deal they actually are.

TLDR; Tomb Raider's pretty great.

Tomb Raider is pretty great!

#4 Posted by JasonR86 (9762 posts) -

I could write a big long thing but what I would basically say, after all that text, would be; hey Tomb Raider is pretty great.

#5 Posted by Demoskinos (15086 posts) -

I really liked it. Might dig into some multiplayer soon quite possibly.

#6 Edited by Humanity (9824 posts) -

@jdh5153 said:

Tomb Raider is a great game, but I can't recommend buying it. The game is only about 6 hours long and there's not really any point to play through it again...The multiplayer is a joke....Rent this one at Redbox.

It's a lot longer than 6 hours.

Just pointing this out in case someone doesn't know your posting history and takes what you wrote at face value.

#7 Edited by Phatmac (5726 posts) -

@humanity said:

@jdh5153 said:

Tomb Raider is a great game, but I can't recommend buying it. The game is only about 6 hours long and there's not really any point to play through it again...The multiplayer is a joke....Rent this one at Redbox.

It's a lot longer than 6 hours.

Just pointing this out in case someone doesn't know your posting history and takes what you wrote at face value.

Yeah it took me 10 hours or so to beat it.

#8 Edited by gogosox82 (428 posts) -
@jdh5153 said:

Tomb Raider is a great game, but I can't recommend buying it. The game is only about 6 hours long and there's not really any point to play through it again...The multiplayer is a joke....Rent this one at Redbox.

It's way longer than 6 hours. More like 10-12 and that's if you don't go off exploring and then its more like 15-20.

#9 Edited by p00rdevil (158 posts) -

Going off exploring is what the devs intended for players to do. Sure it's optional, but returning to previous areas via fast travel nets a lot of additional gameplay. And it is not all that repetitive either because there are multiple ways of approaching an area, additional items to collect that were out of reach your first time through, and new ways of platforming and interacting with the map because of upgraded gear. So if you are not backtracking you are missing out on about 1/3 of the total single player gaming TR has to offer. It's a fun time too, platforming in this game never gets old, lol!

Six hours. Yea right. Maybe jamming through the campaign, ignoring the tombs, with the single purpose of rolling the credits as soon as possible. Even then it would be tough on your first play through. This is not a six hour game.

#10 Posted by Phatmac (5726 posts) -

Going off exploring is what the devs intended for players to do. Sure it's optional, but returning to previous areas via fast travel nets a lot of additional gameplay. And it is not all that repetitive either because there are multiple ways of approaching an area, additional items to collect that were out of reach your first time through, and new ways of platforming and interacting with the map because of upgraded gear. So if you are not backtracking you are missing out on about 1/3 of the total single player gaming TR has to offer. It's a fun time too, platforming in this game never gets old, lol!

Six hours. Yea right. Maybe jamming through the campaign, ignoring the tombs, with the single purpose of rolling the credits as soon as possible. Even then it would be tough on your first play through. This is not a six hour game.

Exactly

#11 Posted by Morbid_Coffee (955 posts) -

This game is pretty good.

#12 Posted by LiquidPrince (16106 posts) -
#13 Posted by Phatmac (5726 posts) -
#14 Edited by Klei (1768 posts) -
#15 Posted by Hailinel (25201 posts) -
#16 Edited by JasonR86 (9762 posts) -
#17 Posted by ArtelinaRose (1856 posts) -

I bought this game for $23 last week. I did not think I was going to enjoy it very much but once I got past the first quarter or so when they let off on the instant death QTEs and let you start actually playing the game and doing your thing I ended up REALLY liking it. I would give it an easy 4/5.

#18 Posted by TooWalrus (13254 posts) -

Christ guys, I was planning on sleeping soon...

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