74 of 76 people found the following review helpful
Totally amazing and sorely dissapointing with more QTEs than tombs
, 16 Mar. 2013
This review is from: Tomb Raider (PC DVD) (DVD-ROM)
Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics had to do something, despite being utterly brilliant the last proper "Tomb Raider" outing for Lara Croft "Tomb Raider: Underworld" took around 7 months to reach the sales targets the companies were hoping for after a 2 month Christmas period which lead to 30 CD staff having to be laid off, so a reboot of some sort was always on the cards due to the perceived apathy towards the series. The result, Tomb Raider 2013 is both an amazing success and a disappointment and letdown.
I have LOVED Tomb Raider games from the very first one (and yes that even includes Angel of Darkness, although that was more "enjoyed" than "loved") it is no word of a lie to say they are my favourite games ever. I love the sense of discovery, exploration, secret passages, finding exciting tomb machines and puzzles and working out how to solve them and how to navigate Lara to the next tomb room... unfortunately most of that is lacking in the current Tomb Raider game.
However, let's get the good out of the way first... and there is A LOT to like about the new game. If you have a PC that can pull it off, Tomb Raider is jaw-droppingly beautiful there has never been a better looking TR game or with a few exceptions any other game for that matter. The voice acting is also exemplary across the board, and whilst the script does fall in cliché at times during the latter part of the game, Lara has never felt more real as a character. Lara is also much more fluidly animated, seamlessly moving from one action to another in a very natural way which is a joy to watch. Also improved beyond recognition is the 3rd person cover shooting. The shooting mechanic was always a "tacked on" element in previous games, now Lara will automatically crouch behind cover when it is nearby, headshots, bodyshots and legshots all cause the enemy to be injured in a different way and enemies stagger and react to weapon impacts much more believably.
But this is where we now get to the flipside of the coin and where things start to falter...
Tomb Raider used to be a puzzle-plaformer (that was its true genre) which used to get lumped under the action/adventure genre umbrella... well it's not any more. The cover shooting mechanic is now one of the main elements in the game combined with very simple plaforming to get around the island. By about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way through the game the shooting was becoming very tiresome, you'd be standing on a cliff about to slide down a rope and could see barrels and other environmental items laid out in a conveniently "there's going to be some shooting coming up so we're giving you cover" kind of way and as if on cue the moment you reach the ground the script kicks in and you find yourself in YET ANOTHER firefight, there was way WAY too much cover fire fights in the game.
and talking of scripts another thing there were way way WAY too many of were scripted events weather they were Quick Time Events or other scripted corridor moments in a trend to make the game more "cinematic". QTEs are a truly hideous inheritance from the console generation. I understand the appeal for developers as they are not as passive as a cut scene and to some minimal extent allow the player to still feel involved in a sequence of events that are outside the normal in-game actions for a character, or as an easy (lazy) way to transition from one area of the game to a completly different area without having to design a "linking environment", but they always leave me cold, they end up either being overtly simple (you are running over a collapsing series of bridges in a spectacular sequence, but in actual fact all you are doing if holding down the "w" key to run forward and occasionally pressing space in a HUGE window of opportunity) or amazingly frustrating (steering Lara left and right down a river constantly getting impaled on metal poles and having to start the whole sequence over from the start a dozen times so by the end of it you're actually more frustrated than exhilarated). In effect the game is playing itself and you're just there for the odd random unnecessary single button press. I despise them.
There has been a trend over the last year or two which has been acknowledged both by the gaming press and by the game designers themselves of "dumbing down" or "watering down" the gaming experience and difficulty, with games becoming more expensive to produce and a need for more people to buy the games to finance them they want to appeal to a wider audience base which now includes the "casual gamer", this is no clearer than in the lack of TOMBS in TOMB Raider a game about raiding TOMBS. There are now a total of just SEVEN tombs in the whole game, all of which are optional and can be bypassed and to call them true Tombs with a capital "T" in the "Tomb Raider" sense is laughable, they all consist of only two rooms, the first room contains a single physics based puzzle which you need to solve to get to the second room which is basically a place for a "treasure chest" which contains a map of where all the collectable diary entries and GPS cache cylinders are located. Each puzzle is woefully simple to solve and I completed each "tomb" in under 5 minutes... so that's 35 minutes max out of a 12 hour game actually in a tomb using your brain to solve a puzzle.
All of the rest of the platforming in Tomb Raider is of the non-puzzle variety, and whilst the game will have you shimmying across ledges and jumping across gaps you are always led by the nose and left in no doubt where you need to go next, 90% of the time it's always obvious how you're meant to get to a certain location and on the occasions you find that you can't it's not because you need to work out your route or solve a problem and actually use your brain for once to get there, it's because the game has deliberately locked you out from progressing because it hasn't given you the climbing axe you need, or the rope arrow you need or the shotgun that can get through blocked doors... so for much of the platforming you're just "going through the motions".
Ultimately at the end after 12 hours Tomb Raider left me feeling like I had won a hollow victory, like I had been led by the hand through the entire game, and however beautiful and cinematic the journey might have been I had not been challenged once and had done nothing that gave me in any way a sense of accomplishment. Despite all it's characterisation and beauty I still think Legend/Anniversary and Underworld are the better Crystal Dynamics Tomb Raider games.
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