grumbel's Tomb Raider (PlayStation 3) review

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Decent reboot that can't decide if it wants to be an action-comedy or a serious horror movie

[Warning: Some spoilers might follow]

The Tomb Raider reboot is overall a rather uneven mix. It completely fails to find a consistent tone. It start out like a horror movie. After getting ship wreaked, Lara gets captured and tied up. On her escape the has to wade through dead bodies and past the remains of ritual sacrifies. This portion of the game is heavily driven by cutscenes and quicktime events and in general just not a whole lot of fun to play.

Soon after the game switches to the survivalist theme, it's now no longer about being victim of a crazy cult, but about going hunting for food, protecting herself from wolves and stuff. The game opens up a bit, but still has quite a few of cinematic sequences going for it. That whole survival stuff doesn't last very long either and Lara gets to aquire her first gun.

Even so the game is just something like two hours in at this point, it changes tone again. With a gun in her hand Lara is now no longer victim and survior, she switches to fighting back back. And she doesn't just fight back a little, after she has made her first kill she goes all out Rambo on her enemies, guns blazing and blowing up whole enemy bases single handidly. At that point the game completely forgets it's survial roots and turns into an over the top action commendy that really can't be taken seriously by any stretch of the imagination. Lara vs multiple waves of dozens enemies isn't just an exception, it's the norm. It's essentially not even female-Rambo any more, it's Hot Shots! Part Deux. The gameplay at this point has turned completely into a shooter, jumping still happens a bit, but the QTEs are mostly gone.

That shift of tone however doesn't last long either. Once an enemy base or two have been turned to ashes the game switches for the last half of the game back to more classical Tomb Raider'ing and to survival again and stays that way till before the end where it goes Rambo again.

While the game stays linear in the later sections, it focuses more on environmental exploration then on blowing stuff up and the environments open up a bit. Puzzles stay however extremely rare and very simplistic. The environmental traversal however is good fun, but feels like a bit of a downgrade to previous games as the dynamic rope action of Underworld is gone and replaced a plain old static grappling arrow.

Main story aside, the he whole upgrade and XP system the game has feels like a pointless distraction and the campfires that act as upgrade-points often feel out of place. Collecting boxes of salvage also just undermines the serious tone that the game tries to go for in the beginnig. It's not much of an issue in the later parts of the game, but all those systems felt out of place at the beginning when the game was going for a more cinematic style. Even later on those systems don't really add much to the game, it feels like they have thrown that stuff in just because most games have it that way. As the game remains linear, there just is no room to explore and collect additional XP or salvage for weapon upgrades. So while the systems might look similar from a distance to what is in Far Cry 3, in practice they remain completely non-consequential.

Overall I am not sure how I should feel about the game. The beginning with all the QTE was kind of annoying, but it didn't last very long. The over the top Ramboing around on the other side was certainly entertaining, but also so over the top that it felt out of place even by video game standards. The last half is probably the best of the game, but it's such a downgrade from the mass killing she did earlier that it just doesn't connect properly. Lara goes from scared girl, to one-women army, back to just being Lara and then back to being an army again. Over the course of the game Lara defeats two opposing forces with hundreds of man single handlidly, not by clever wits, but just with pure brute force.

Where the game feels the most like classical Tomb Raider is after the main story is over and you can go collecting documents, relicts and such. The game allows you to revisit sections of the game to collect everything you missed. The enemies are reduced to a tiny handful in this part and the main focus is completely on climbing and environmental traversal. The documents and relicts are nicely done and give some backstory about what has happened on the island. They are also well placed and marked on the map, so that it's not to difficulty to find them all without a walkthrough. Spending all that time collecting all those things makes you almost forget how the game started. The game also features seven optional tombs that are quite similar to what you would expect from previous titles. However those tombs are really short, essentially just a single puzzle and a treasure chest, so while the puzziling in there feels nice, they are also however way to quickly.

In the end as a reboot it's quite ok. It does not feel like a substantial upgrade, as a lot of mechanics from previous titles are no longer present, but the presentation is quite nice and the mechanics the game has, while simpler then before, do work out quite well and still provide a good bit more exploration then you would get from many other games. The biggest crux is really the tone of the game that is so completely all over the place and it's impossible to take the story seriously given how many completely crazy over the top action moment it contains. That the story also features a bunch of tired character old cliches, mixed in with some otherwise quite descent characterization that don't help either.

The main story takes around 9h, collecting everything in the game takes around 18h.

Other reviews for Tomb Raider (PlayStation 3)

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