Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Tomb Raider - A videogame review

Its been a while since I’ve done one of these, but reading some old posts yesterday got me in the mood. Video Game review time! This entry is on one of the most refreshing reboots I’ve played in a long time – Tomb Raider

Lara Croft is back. And she’s better than ever. Gone is the overly sexualised dual wielding pistol woman who smashes 10,000 year old ruins apart to get a single trinket and fights off T-Rexes for fun. Now shes a barely out of University archaeologist who’s probably never fired a gun before. On a boat searching for a lost civilisation, the shit hits the fan and she and her friends are stranded on a deserted island with an army of psychopathic pirates.

The game starts incredibly. You are surviving, sneaking round, armed with nothing except for a salvaged bow and arrow. The tension is palpable and you find yourself holding your breath a lot. After killing your first deer to survive Lara is overcome, and can barely stomach the situation. On killing her first human, in self defence she is devastated and inconsolable. It’s brilliantly immersing. The gameplay is amazing and the story writing (by Ms Pratchett of Diskworld fame) is equally matching.

And then the game progression kicks in. Before long the inexperienced woman is replaced by Arnie in a strappy top. The execution moves later on…Lara pins enemies down and shoves a shotgun under their chin before pulling the trigger. She’s grabbing them from behind and dragging her climbing axe across their neck. The game sacrifices the intense immersion and great story telling for its gameplay. The afore mentioned scene where Lara kills her first human. She’s broken up about it. She’s crying and in a bad way. She’s on the radio to her mentor (who is an amazing character BTW) who tells her to firm up and get out of dodge. In escaping the village…you kill at least another 5-10 people with your new pistol and bow. One second in experienced school girl. The next Rambo, with smaller boobs. The flow and immersion are just sacrificed for the game curve

Don’t get me wrong. It’s an incredible game. Simply astoundingly good. I’m going to give it a while and play it again. And I don’t do that very much. I just feel the survival aspect could have been expanded. More stealth, less run and gun would have worked well.

The other aspect that lets it down is the name. Tomb Raider. It is the character…and there are Tombs. But they’re optional, and insanely easy. I think there’s about 5 or 6 in the game. In total I can’t have spent more than 10 minutes total in them.  The puzzles are solvable by a 4 year old (it is an 18 rated game, but I think that’s because of the brutally realistic death sequences in the game) and it feels like they are an after thought. The weapons upgrade you find in them can be found in the world just by looting random enemies.

And that is my last criticism. The salvage upgrade system. I have no problem with its execution. It’s a good idea. But my the end of the game you’ve turned your WW2 shotgun or wooden bow into a SPAS12 that shoots flaming ammo or a Olympic Competition Bow that can shoot grenades, using only scrap salvage and upgrade components found on dead guys and in 5000 year old tombs. It’s a bit silly.

And I’m not going to comment on the Multiplayer. Haven’t played any, don’t want to. People need to stop crowbarring multiplayer into games just to sell some DLC map packs. It ain’t good.

Overall this game is incredible. Gorgeous, well written but with a few criticisms here and there. But I think everyone needs to play this game. Its got suprising length to it as well, especially if you go for full 100% collection - around 15 hours. Thank you Crystal Dynamics. Now go forth and make me a game as well written that features actual tombs and some raiding but with the same intense characterisation and you’ll win my favour forever.

Final Docs Rating. 9 out of 10.

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