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Tomb Raider Review

Tomb Raider Review

In many years I could sign off on this game as “Game Of The Year” outright. It’s that good. In a year like 2013 is shaping up to be and the fact that this game came out early enough in it, the jury is still out.

I can guarantee that by the end of the year this game will be still on many people’s GOTY shortlists, including mine.

That’s probably enough of a review right there for a lot of people but wait, as they say, there’s more! I’m going to explain how and why I think so highly of this game.

Tomb Raider Screenshot 01

GRAPHICS:

Gorgeous eye candy down to detailed foliage textures.

Max out all the eye candy and you’re seeing a gorgeous, diverse, fully realized island world begging to be explored.

I continue to be grateful that I splurged on a GTX 680 last year as we get more demanding games like this and Crysis 3 as recent examples. There’s no way even a casual observer would confuse this game maxed out on the PC as a console port.

The world’s physics are much appreciated and I appreciate the attention to detail that clearly has been shown in all aspects of this game.

Comprehensive graphics and control options are available in the menus with all the options PC gamers want to see.

It ran perfectly at the highest settings on an Intel qx9650 Ocd to 3.5 GHZ, 8GB of RAM PC8500, and GTX 680 at 1920×1200. TressFX is a system hog but I was able to run it. It basically makes Lara’s hair blow in the wind in a very free flowing, natural, eye catching fashion.

Tomb Raider Screenshot 02

AUDIO:

Superb and I can’t stress enough the need to play this game on a quality sound setup whether it be speakers or my personal preference: Stereo headphones. I don’t mean $20 Ipod buds, either.

A fully realized sound design from jungle creatures, enemy voices, weather, creaking buildings, explosions, satisfying weapon sounds…it all comes together for one of the most generally satisfying sound designs for a game I’ve encountered in a while.

Hats off to composer Jason Graves, arguably best known for his music for the Dead Space games, for putting on a completely different hat in terms of music flavor, style, and taking his game to the next level. He alternates between thematic material, ambient, a dash of horror elements, and sometimes downright skin crawling music. I’m thrilled the soundtrack is available for purchase.

Tomb Raider Screenshot 03

GAMEPLAY:

Tight, balanced, satisfying. Gunplay feels great and sounds great.

The game hides its linearity VERY well in huge areas. I’d classify the game as soft linear/quasi open world although there are times during the course of the story where the linear rails show up for a brief time for the sake of the narrative.

Hitman Absolution and Batman Arkham Asylum “vision” ability exist in this game but not superpowered. You have a map that you can put a marker on to find things much easier and it’s very convenient in some of the huge and detailed areas Lara finds herself in.

Keyboard and mouse are fully remappable.

As PC veterans might expect: Once in a while you may encounter a situation where the camera angle and a directional situation might tempt you to swap out to a controller. You can do that easily enough but over the years great strides have been made with these types of games on all platforms.

I personally never had a time where I was tempted to reach for a controller and I think that deserves kudos considering many third person platformers and action adventure type games can tend to have issues. It used to be even I would just go with a controller at the drop of a hat including with previous TR installments.

Obsessive compulsive types: Rejoice!

There’s plenty of hidden treasures and goodies to find and explore and the game rewards you with weapon and skill upgrades making it all very well worthwhile and never tedious and repetitive. Hidden tombs are scattered throughout the game world as well so Lara is definitely a “Tomb Raider” literally throughout this game.

I finished the story with 22 hours under my belt and 94 percent overall completion which is high for me. I went fairly OCD with my playthrough.

For people that want to blaze through the story mode I would beg them not to do so. You’re missing out. You’re depriving yourself of good story narrative that gets fleshed out in audio recording, written diaries, and the aforementioned skill and weapon upgrades. It’s a role playing lite setup and it works great and offers plenty of incentive to the player.

The weapon upgrades are sweet. Having everything maxed out Lara makes Agent 47 from the Hitman series blink in respect. She’s loaded without being a cast away from a science fiction film. She’s a bad ass maxed out and you owe it to yourself to get her built up.

Tomb Raider Screenshot 04

STORY:

The James Bond/Batman reboot concept works like a charm here. Salutes and winks to the previous games are scattered throughout but people new to the series will have no problems jumping right in.

I think this is easily the best Tomb Raider game to date. The narrative takes young teenage Lara through her first scrapes and it’s amazing to go through this game and watch Lara go from scrappy and wet behind the ears teenager to essentially the badass Lara Croft in waiting by the end of the game after a slew of unbelievable events that take place.

The storyline is a cross between the Uncharted games, Lost (the TV series), and varying mythologies that comes together in a mysterious and sometimes generally disturbing concepts and narrative.

This is a more realistic Lara instead of the borderline busty anime character of previous games. Grit, maturity, and realism, and polish are the focuses of this game and characters, except for the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom-style villains and over the top occult mysticism that ultimately surrounds the source of the island’s “mystery.”

It’s the best of Uncharted, Tomb Raider, and Lost all thrown together in more ways than one without being a shameless copy of any of them.

None of this could be as effective as it is if it weren’t for Lara and what a great job they’ve done making her a sympathetic, likeable, and realistic character with shades of gray. She’s a “real person” even though she ultimately evolves into a badass by game’s end. That doesn’t make her Supergirl, though, as you’ll have plenty of evidence of throughout the game when you make mistakes and face gruesome death animations.

In all seriousness, the voice acting for Lara is spot on and she’s the star and focus from the word “go.” She has hints of vulnerability and humanity at all times and we see her go through the range of emotions throughout the game.

For those of you out there who argue people don’t care as much about female protagonists in games and it doesn’t work as well then I want to introduce you to Lara Croft 2013. Good luck not getting sucked into her story and not liking and getting behind her very quickly.

I wish more video game protagonists were as well-written and paced out as Lara is in this game. Very well done. I’ve read books where character narrative was handled far worse than what I saw in this game.

Tomb Raider Screenshot 05

Complaints:

Nits mostly.

On the PC at least the menu system is serviceable but leaves something to be desired and can tend to glitch in places at times. It won’t freeze but the animation will be “off.” I expect a patch to fix that in very short order and it may very well be a moot point by the time this review is published.

Boss fights are straight out of any number of games where you have to time rolls, hit the QTE at the right time, and then you win. Not the end of the world but if you’re not a big fan of QTE or boss fights you’ll be annoyed.

QTEs in general. In the first hour of the game they’re borderline excessive but this is precursor narrative and thankfully once Lara is cut loose for good the QTEs are reduced to very reasonable frequency.

I’m a QTE hater and even I couldn’t gripe with how it was implemented for the bulk of the game but the first hour so it’s a little annoying.

Traumatic deaths. Some people will like them. Some won’t. There are a handful of times where story narrative and logistics force you to go a certain way and if you screw up be prepared to see that traumatic death many times over. That can be frustrating.

Tomb Raider Screenshot 06

CONCLUSION:

Not a perfect game but what it does right it does REALLY right and its shortcomings are areas that can easily be refined in future installments. Arguably the best third person action adventure game to come along this side of the Uncharted series.

I’ve seen other reviewers say that this game combines the best of previous Tomb Raider games with Batman Arkham Asylum elements and I can understand that comparison.

You’re getting a lot of comparisons to some really great games and they’re all valid but I want to stress again: This is not a shameless rip off of any of them.

2013 is going to be a loaded year for games and it’s a testament to how good this one is that I fully expect to see it on my Game of the Year shortlist when the year is out.

Tomb Raider gets a four out of five: GREAT.

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3 Comments on Tomb Raider Review

  1. Great review Eric.

    I’ll be getting the PS3 version of this sometime, and I’m really looking forward to it now after reading your review.

    As for GOTY, we’ll see. I expect a lot games to be really great this year (BioShock Infinite, Defiance, Last of Us, Grand Theft Auto IV, Killzone: Shadow Fall, InFamous: Second Son [at least I hope that one comes out this year], Beyond: Two Souls, Assassin’s Creed IV, etc.)

    Like

    • I’m not declaring GOTYs this early but short list material definitely. What a loaded year this is and we’re off to a great start!

      You’ll love this game for sure!

      Like

      • Right, I gotcha. But if all these games are as good as they should be, it’s going to be a big shortlist.

        We don’t eve know what all Nintendo has cooked up for later this year.

        Could end up being an insanely difficult year for picking just one.

        Like

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