nerd radio

Get ready for the new daily show

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: FTN reviews Tomb Raider

March 16th, 2013 by Irwin Fletcher Comments

After much deliberation and hours of playing let’s check out my mad ramblings below on the latest Tomb Raider game.

It was inevitable that when the Tomb Raider reboot reared its head that there would be a slew of people screaming Uncharted at it. That’s exactly what has happened.

The game has been out a week and the comparisons between Lara Croft and Nathan Drake have been flung up in the air like clay pigeons waiting to be shot down, Duck Hunt style.
Tomb Raider never really had a chance; I mean what was the studio to do?
If you are going to make a realistic styled game out of the once mighty Tomb Raider franchise will it not be compared to PlayStations awesome action adventure game?
Of course it would, I personally prefer the stark differences that occur in both games than to sit down and compare notes but most people will not listen.
If you think in this review I will make bad jokes like Nathan Croft or ‘The only thing missing is a ring around Lara’s neck’ then you are sadly mistaken. These two games have similar ideas but the differences are massive and that’s what I am here to concentrate on.

How does one go about making a new history? Rebooting a series that defined a gaming generation. Lara Croft is not to be scoffed at, she herself sold more PlayStations than anyone else (that makes her sound like some crazy electronic salesman), back in the late 90’s you had to have this game and the controversy that followed the ‘nude code’ scandal is ridiculous by today’s standards.
Back then everyone was obsessed with seeing naked Lara, which let’s face it, it would have been a mirage of triangles and polygons morphed together to make no sense. Seriously go back to the original Tomb Raider, Lara looks like she is made out of flesh coloured Toblerones.
Now the time has come for all those boyhood fantasies to come true, now is the time to see a naked Lara…

Ok not physically naked (although there are plenty of down the top cleavage shots, so perverts worldwide should be happy) but mentally and spiritually.
This is Lara year one, where the heroine was born and one of the world’s greatest archaeologist was made.
You start of the game as a young and innocent looking Lara, one who the outside world hasn’t touched yet. Fresh and clean looking and at this point it is her brains and not her brawn that is getting her through.
She is on an expedition, her first proper expedition to find the lost island of Yamatai. When she suggests they sail into the Dragons Triangle; a stretch of sea that is known for its constant storms and swells, the captain agrees. Soon they are hit by a storm and wash up on the island of Yamatai.
Lara is taken by the inhabitants of the island and given a really warm welcome by being tied upside down in a potato sack next to dead folk, not exactly the welcome you would want, in fact I bet Christopher Columbus didn’t come across any of this in his travels.

From there the game goes ahead and you start to grow and learn the skills that will eventually make Lara this all awesome Tomb Raiding chick that we all know.
Before you get to that point there is a lot of growing to be done, to survive Lara has to kill a deer, her first proper kill. Crystal Dynamics really flesh this out to show how unwilling Lara is to kill something innocent at the start. Mind you when they finally give you free reign of the island I was going about like some mad poacher killing every kind of animal chasing gamer points.
Lara comes across various weapons on her travels and these can be upgraded from salvage you find from downed enemies, breakable boxes and even animal carcasses. You can also find parts for the weapons to change them from a basic shotgun to a combat shotgun.
I really liked the variety of guns and the choices I had when upgrading, but the most impressive thing was any time I upgraded a gun it appeared on Lara somewhere in its upgraded form. If for instance I upgrade the stock of the shotgun with wraps around it then next time I see it the stock will have wraps around it.
The same goes for the pistol which appears in many cutscenes, when upgraded it appears in its upgraded form in the cutscene. I love this little detail it just goes to show the care and attention given to this game.

There are also skill points which introduces some RPG elements to the game, you can up a skills making you more powerful with a certain weapon, more accurate or to collect more loot. It is a rudimentary system but considering the game didn’t need it I think the basic skill tree is a nice touch.

Speaking of cutscenes I did feel some where dragged out a bit, there were times when I was in an action packed moment only to end on a cutscene that slowed the whole thing down. The pacing of the game is lovely but I really didn’t need a cutscene to move things along every 30minutes.
There are Quick Time Events (QTEs) where you have one of two buttons to press in time to make Lara do an action properly. These events are usually in the style of massive Hollywood blockbusters and sometimes could be particularly tricky, some people have said there were too many but I’d have rather had another couple of these than the extra cutscenes. Sometimes in a game with QTEs you feel that you never see the action because you are too focused on the buttons, in this game with only the two buttons to concern yourself with you can watch in splendour has whole towns fall and you duck, dive and climb through the falling debris.

If there is one huge difference to the Tomb Raider of yesteryear and this reboot upstart is the action. This game is heavily action packed, pitting Lara against an army of angry island scavengers.
These guys seem to come from nowhere and everywhere and sometimes I felt a bit like a homicidal maniac with the amount of killing I done.
The action is way too easy on any setting but hard, enemies are mildly smart, taking cover when they need to, only popping out to take shots at you. There are guys with shields that you tend to scramble past and get the drop on them. Sometimes there are two of those guys plus someone throwing petrol bombs at you and it can become overwhelming.
The good news is Lara has some decent combat mechanics at her fingertips. You can press one of the top buttons and have survival mode activate, this will paint the enemies in red and show you exactly where they are. Aiming is a doddle and really precise with the bow, which I used pretty much exclusively for the whole game. It never feels too clunky but isn’t exactly a tailored experience. It’s better than every other gun play in the Tomb Raider series and at times can be fun.
The constant onslaught of enemies can become boring at times, wave after wave of these guys appear just to be lined up in body bags. Later there are bigger guys but these are few and far between and way too easy to beat.

There are stealth elements of the game too but my problem was you can maybe take 1-2 guys out stealth then suddenly the other guys see you with no warning. I found the best way to keep quiet was taking guys out with the bow from a distance then slinking in. It is a rudimentary stealth mechanic so do not expect too much.

What would Tomb Raider be without some tombs?

The thing is the tombs in this game are optional, I think there is only a couple that are needed to progress the game which is strange.
Considering this game has a long history with having tomb based puzzle solving it is a surprise to see more thought put into the action than the tombs themselves.
The tombs are all ancient with some sort of modern twist; it seems the island marauders have been there so long they have taken up camp in almost all of these places.
The puzzles aren’t hard at all and usually take a couple of decent guesses. There is nothing ridiculous here and no climbing to the top of a massive tomb just to get a key to open a door to another massive tomb.
There are also relics and journals scattered around the island for you to find, each come with an explanation and all the journals come with a voiceover attached. I loved this little touch it made the back story of the game all the more interesting and gives you something to hunt once you have finished the game.

Multiplayer leaves a lot to be desired, it was promised to be something completely different and to be honest it is more of the same.
It is plagued by crappy map design mixed with one overpowered team.
The scavengers have the best guns and usually start on the better side of the map. The survivors have few good weapons at all which is disappointing.
The 4 game modes are just boring and to be honest the game didn’t need this at all just like so many other games.

I loved this game and I will play this game again, it was fun, endearing and a great start to a whole new set of games I hope.
It really did have me at the point where Lara stood over shipwreck cove to see all the broken ships that had come to the island for years. I thought to myself this is a pretty looking game and I want to go on those ships.

I give the game 5 out of 5 nerds; it was a joy to play and so far my favourite game of the year. Go buy it now.

I'm an LA journalist who really lives for his profession. I have also published work as Jane Doe in various mags and newspapers across the globe. I normally write articles that can cause trouble but now I write for FTN because Nerds are never angry, so I feel safe.