wools's Tomb Raider (PlayStation) review

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  • 31 out of 46 Giant Bomb users found it helpful.

Tomb Raider


As 1996 drew to a close, the first significant raft of 3D releases were beginning to emerge, with Tomb Raider being among the first of that wave.
 
Mario 64 had been released only a few months previously, taking the strong level design and imaginative puzzles the 2D Mario’s had been known for, and converting it into a gloriously colourful and endlessly playful 3D World.   Before anyone could become accustomed to the new perspective, Core Design released an entirely different game in Mario 64’s wake.
 
Taking inspiration from Indiana Jones and Egyptian architecture, Tomb Raider used a traditional puzzle template but encased it in a beautiful and atmospheric 3D world.   Eschewing action or significant gun combat, Core Design played to the limitations of the hardware by allowing the environment to overshadow all areas of the game.   Rather than becoming a detriment, the limited draw distance and lack of furniture became a great asset to the atmosphere.   From the very outset in Peru as the doors closed behind Lara, the ancient and barren world is foreboding unlike any other game of the 32bit era.   The vacant passageways and dimly lit caverns evoking strong feelings of loneliness and history throughout the adventure.
 
With this intentional design focus on the world, encounters with enemies retained a sense of dread that is absent from the majority of games before or since.   As the tombs are so empty and haunting, the far away cry of a Wolf or Bear is frightening, with the natural response to draw your guns from their holsters, and frantically get to higher ground to gain a vantage point.   When the animal runs into sight, the combat is quick and tense, with none of the circle strafing and precise aiming of an action game.   As the majority of enemies were animals, the simple artificial intelligence of your attackers were suitably animalistic in their nature, with the creatures taking you unawares and running head on.
 
Lara was incredibly dexterous at the time, and retains a sense of weight and precision, but the most defining element of the control was the cube based construction of the world.   Every square metre of the underground catacombs and cliff faces were built in cubes and the control allowed for precise navigation around these vast mazes.   Although many criticised moments that required a leap of faith, all that was required was some patience and carful exploration of the area.   With Lara not able to fall off a cliff whilst walking, and all jumps being clearly defined in distance by blocks, it is a joy to revisit the world and take your time in lining up a jump or swan diving into water.
 
From the opening arrival in the snow-capped mountains of Peru to the search for the remaining piece of the Scion in Egypt, the game is full of wondrous moments.   The terrifying reveal of the T-Rex in the valley, the hand of Midas room, the quiet sense of danger that is prevalent throughout, surfacing through a underground cistern and discovering a treasure, an incidental piece of music that plays after minutes of silence, the exploration of the desolate remains of a monastery in Greece, to the endless white knuckled jumps.   Words can’t do justice to the sheer detail and atmosphere that Tomb Raider paints its world in.
 
As time passes on and the memories fade into history like the Egyptian hieroglyphics that adorn its walls, Core Designs masterpiece deserves to be revisited, just to be reminded how brilliant Tomb Raider is.
36 Comments
Posted by Video_Game_King

Eh, not really a good review. I don't know what I don't like about it, since I feel like my criticisms are slightly invalid (what specific parts of the game did you enjoy, what can I expect to see in Tomb Raider), but this doesn't leave a very good taste in my mouth. I'd say that the line where you insult the player is pretty bad, but that's far too specific. Maybe it's the historical outlook?

Posted by buft

the game was amazing, not sure what happened to the series just that my interest waned somewhat after the second game, but i totally feel you when you talk about lining up that perfect swan dive, i used to spend hours just diving from different vantage points or exploring little nooks and crannies to see what they held. Tomb Raider made me feel like a young Indiana Jones but not that crappy one from the cartoon.

Edited by dagas

Have you actually played the game since 1996? It's horrible! I fired up my PSone with this game a couple of years ago to see how it had aged and it had aged badly. The graphics isn't just eye bleedingly ugly, it's got texture tearing all over the place like an unfinished quake mod and controlling Lara is like trying to control a 10 ton truck using a NES controller while being drunk. I could not control Lara in that game if my life depended on it. The lag between the time she jumps and your actual press of the button feels like ages.
I remember having problems back in the day with the TR games on PS1, but I could forgive it at the time, but to say it's 5/5 now in 2011...no offense but you must be blinded by so much nostalgia that you can't see your own hands if you hold them up in front of you.

Posted by csl316

My first Playstation game.  It took me so long to finish Peru, so I thought I beat the game.  And then I hit St. Francis's Folly and my mind was blown at how huge the game was. 

Still a fan to this day.

Edited by MysteriousBob

I'm sorry, but why is this featured? The first Tomb Raider was pretty damn janky, even by the standards of the time. I couldn't even get past the demo back in '97.
That raises a question- are these reviews supposed to be retrospective or reviewed in context of the period? Either way, this game is far, far from perfect.

Posted by WickedFather

On the PC the game was so much better, and a helluva lot better if you had a 3DFX card.  As a programmer at the time I remember being shown the game by a rep from 3DFX at the ECTS but I was completely pissed from all the free booze and he was asking me if I had any questions about the API...  I said no, it was all fine and the rest of my team quicky jumped in.  Excellent times!!

Tomb Raider 2 is the best of the series.  And yes, it's still excellent now.  It should be held up in the same glorious light as Super Mario 64.   Again, PC with the right hardware.

Posted by CornBREDX

No offense, but the first Tomb Raider was awful.
At the time, the appeal was hot chick with guns. That was really all it had going for it. I played it on PC, and for the time the controls were awful, the inventory system was confusing, the game play was bland (but had potential), the graphics were ugly (alot of grey and brown areas... go ahead and play it again, you'll see), and the story was not that great.
The concept was solid, and I do think some of the sequels were much better developed, but the first Tomb Raider is by no means a 5 star game.
You praise the game for it's restraint of enemies which builds a sort of tension (this is how i understand your statement: "
encounters with enemies retained a sense of dread that is absent from the majority of games before or since.") , but that was one major problem with the game. I know they were going for tension and ambiance, but the way it was designed was very poor, for the time, and has been surpassed by leaps and bounds by many other games. The first Tomb Raider by no means holds any ambient candle to the original Dead Space, F.E.A.R., or to go more nostalgic Metroid, Contra, or The original Alone in the Dark (just to name a few).
I'm sorry, i don't mean to be harsh, but your review here is completely biased, and is seeing this game through rose tinted glasses. It's completely off base. A lot of fancy words doesn't make this true.

I get the nostalgia for it, it was clever for it's time, but a 5 star game? Absolutely not. Never been topped in ambiance (sense of dread for the enemies)? Absolutely untrue.

if you want to play this again, play the anniversary edition. It's much better, and will give you that nostalgic fix. It fixes most of the problems with the game (except the inventory, which was always annoying in Tomb Raider regardless). The original was clever for the time, but not well made at all.

Posted by Getz

I'm going to judge this as a review of a game, even though I'm completely baffled as to why you wrote it and why it's on the front page. So, through that lens, your review leaves me no more informed than I was before I read it. I've never played the original Tomb Raider games so I don't have any clue how they played or what made them special. This is more a retrospective; a very personal account of your experience with the game told through abstractions. The one thing I learned was that the game is thick with atmosphere. Nothing about the gameplay or the art or the level design. Poor.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

How is this a review? Normally I don't get upset by this kind of stuff, but this seems more like a retrospective than anything else. Other than some hyperbolic nostalgia, I'm not informed about what this game actually is, and everything I've seen of Tomb Raider suggests without a doubt that it doesn't hold up in 2011. Do not recommend.

Posted by shinluis

WTF is everyone saying

this is a pretty good reminder of why the first tomb raider was so awesome =)
Posted by erinfizz

This is on the front page because I put it there. I thought it was an interesting piece of writing, if outside review norms.

Posted by ZombiePie
@erinfizz said:
" This is on the front page because I put it there. I thought it was an interesting piece of writing, if outside review norms. "
I agree. Having some fringe opinions showcased here and there is not a bad thing. In fact I'm all up for more retro reviews on the front page if you feel the same.
Moderator
Posted by Pepsiman

  @ZombiePie said:

" @erinfizz said:

" This is on the front page because I put it there. I thought it was an interesting piece of writing, if outside review norms. "
I agree. Having some fringe opinions showcased here and there is not a bad thing. In fact I'm all up for more retro reviews on the front page if you feel the same. "
I agree completely. The showcase is for well-formed sentiments about games of all sorts, even if they aren't popular. If it was just a soapbox to advertise well-written reviews that contain opinions that the majority already shared, it'd get pretty boring rather quickly. This review is probably just attracting the negative attention it does because it both uses an unconventional format and has praise for a series people are quick to dismiss these days. That's unfortunate, especially regarding the writing structure, since I feel it's always good as a writer to be reminded every now and again that there is no one good method to write something, even for something that can get as formulaic at times as game reviews. By all means, I support seeing more reviews like this on the front page.
Edited by Sweep

I AM OUTRAGED!!!



It's a good review, though.
Moderator
Posted by Pepsiman
@Sweep:  Are you actually saying you don't want to be inside something for once!?
Posted by Sweep
@Pepsiman: Don't be ridiculous.
Moderator
Posted by CornBREDX

The reason i'm being negative is because this review is biased and untrue. Both are things a review should never be.

I have no problem with older games, and tend to play older games more than new. Saying this game is 5 stars is ignoring what the game really was and suggesting it still holds up even today. At the time it was poorly designed but had possibility and felt inspired. Playing it now you only see it's short comings, and there are Tomb Raider games (such as the second which is the best in my opinion) that are much better.

You can be as unconventional as you want as long as you remain unbiased and lay the facts out straight. Suggesting this game was superb from the perspective of when it came out or even from a perspective of playing it today- both are misleading concepts.

Posted by craigbo180

This is one of the better user review's I've read on the site. I have to agree with you and say that at the time the first tomb raider was an amazing game, I'm not sure how it would hold up if I was to go back and play it again though.

Edited by Echo

This is an interesting piece, but double spacing is one of my pet peeves. It was used on typewriters and is no longer needed or considered 'correct'.

Posted by Wools

I did not expect anyone to read the review, it’s a surprise to visit Giantbomb during my lunch break and see over 40 messages! Many thanks to whoever read the article and decided to put it up.

It’s interesting the piece has divided opinion quite evenly. As the game was released over a decade ago, I felt there was no point in breaking it down and evaluating it, as if it had just been released. I wanted to re-appraise the game as not only has the series been mangled and marginalised in recent years, but I had recently re-visited some PlayStation classics, and wanted to put my thoughts about them on paper. Well, screen really.

An individual can never be neutral in an opinion, likewise I’m not blind to Tomb Raiders faults. The graphics have aged, the control is cumbersome with the D-Pad, the combat can descend to a few backflips followed by death, and there’s a few pacing issues near the end. Despite that, I adore the game, and it’s more than the sum of its parts.

I apologise to the few people who’ve got angry with the column, I only wrote it for my own enjoyment and wanted to share my enthusiasm with anyone who would listen!

Posted by benjaebe
@CornBREDX said:
" The reason i'm being negative is because this review is biased and untrue. Both are things a review should never be.I have no problem with older games, and tend to play older games more than new. Saying this game is 5 stars is ignoring what the game really was and suggesting it still holds up even today. At the time it was poorly designed but had possibility and felt inspired. Playing it now you only see it's short comings, and there are Tomb Raider games (such as the second which is the best in my opinion) that are much better.You can be as unconventional as you want as long as you remain unbiased and lay the facts out straight. Suggesting this game was superb from the perspective of when it came out or even from a perspective of playing it today- both are misleading concepts. "
I think you missed the part where reviews are always biased. You can't review something objectively, and anyone who thinks they can is lying to themselves and everyone else.
Posted by Getz
@ZombiePie said:
" @erinfizz said:
" This is on the front page because I put it there. I thought it was an interesting piece of writing, if outside review norms. "
I agree. Having some fringe opinions showcased here and there is not a bad thing. In fact I'm all up for more retro reviews on the front page if you feel the same. "
yah, if they're good reviews.
Posted by Malc

Excellent review and excellent game!

Posted by thedj93

you know what, i wanted to watch an lp to see if these opinions held water, and the graphics are not that bad.

Posted by Claude

Tomb Raider Anniversary was awesome.

Posted by Video_Game_King
@ZombiePie said:
" @erinfizz said:
" This is on the front page because I put it there. I thought it was an interesting piece of writing, if outside review norms. "
I agree. Having some fringe opinions showcased here and there is not a bad thing. In fact I'm all up for more retro reviews on the front page if you feel the same. "
* cough cough*

Also, I don't think people have an issue with the opinion of the review, but how it's written. It doesn't explain how the game is played or anything, and it seems a bit too ready to write off any flaws or anything.
Posted by ch3burashka

I am staunchly against reviews for games 2 console generations prior to the current one. You simply cannot give an accurate representation of the game at the time of release. I think the most you're allowed to do is write a blog about why you liked it or disliked it, but classifying this as a legitimate review goes beyond my comfort zone.


The actual article is well written, well composed - there are no complaints there. However, this cannot in good conscience be called a review.
Posted by CornBREDX
@benjaebe:  Then you can continue to get your reviews from reviewers who are paid to say a game is good. I will look for reviews that are upfront about everything. A lie is a lie. Reviews are meant to express what your experience was like- leaving out the bad just to mention how great it was back when gives the wrong impression. That's all I'm saying.

I don't debate that Tomb Raider was a great idea, and new at the time. It just had issues and certain aspects of this review suggest it was superb in its time and even today. I'm not trying to be mean, but that can't be farther from the truth.

@Wools: Thank you. All I'm saying is those points should have been touched on in the review.

You're review suggests its the most phenomenal experience ever and the dangerous feeling of enemies has never been topped. I disagree heavily with that, but to each his own.

As i said previously, my only complaint is the suggestion the game was flawless. It's really not.

@Claude: Agreed. It made this game so much better.
Posted by Magickeys

Why are you all bashing this guy? Tomb Raider was a good game and still it is. What's wrong with you all? If you don't like something doesn't mean that it sucks.

Posted by Kill

I wish that when I was featured that I inspired this much debate. This is the sign of a good review. Much respect to Wools for stirring the community and not following the gamer hive mind.

Posted by WatanabeKazuma

Definitely a different approach, but in all fairness I think that is why it works. It's already been mentioned but it's nice to have a different perspective. I know when I've written reviews in the past it can feel as though you are just covering the necessary bases and adhering to the standard formula.



Edited by mekon

This was the first game that I experienced vertigo with. There's a QTE (before they were properly invented) where Lara climbs out of a Sphinx head. Then the camera starts to look around the landscape from a very high position and I was completely unprepared for that. It sounds daft now possibly, but it left an impression on me that I haven't forgotten. Tomb Raider and Wipeout 2097 were my favourite PS1 games before my console overheated.

Edited by Underachiever007
@Sweep said:

"

I AM OUTRAGED!!!


It's a good review, though. "
Wait, so does angry Sweep not want to be inside people? Or does that angry glare simply do away with the need for a word bubble? This is too ambiguous for me. I'm confused.
Posted by Delta_Ass

ITT: People who don't like TR disagree with guy who likes TR

Posted by WalkerTR77
This isn't a standard review, but you need to go out-with the typical format for a game of this age.  I pretty thoroughly disagree with what's being said here, but I recommended the review because it was well written and iconoclastic. If you voted down the review because you didn't agree then I'd say your using the user feedback system wrong. 

@erinfizz: @ZombiePie: I'm with you here, retro reviews can be interesting from the right perspective; and I'd much rather have some challenging opinions featured than bland, milktoast review fodder. I don't think I've ever seen this amount of discussion instigated by a review here on the site.

@Wools: Kudos on the review. I could do without the double spacing though.
Posted by JJWeatherman
@Wools said:
"
I did not expect anyone to read the review, it’s a surprise to visit Giantbomb during my lunch break and see over 40 messages! Many thanks to whoever read the article and decided to put it up.

It’s interesting the piece has divided opinion quite evenly. As the game was released over a decade ago, I felt there was no point in breaking it down and evaluating it, as if it had just been released. I wanted to re-appraise the game as not only has the series been mangled and marginalised in recent years, but I had recently re-visited some PlayStation classics, and wanted to put my thoughts about them on paper. Well, screen really.

An individual can never be neutral in an opinion, likewise I’m not blind to Tomb Raiders faults. The graphics have aged, the control is cumbersome with the D-Pad, the combat can descend to a few backflips followed by death, and there’s a few pacing issues near the end. Despite that, I adore the game, and it’s more than the sum of its parts.

I apologise to the few people who’ve got angry with the column, I only wrote it for my own enjoyment and wanted to share my enthusiasm with anyone who would listen!

"
I think most people--myself included--just don't really understand why this is posted as a review. It would probably be better suited as a blog post linked to the forums.

Not bashing though. It brought back all kinds great nostalgic feelings.  :)

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