Tomb Raider: Official GBAtemp Review

Discussion in 'Official GBAtemp Reviews' started by Hadrian, Mar 9, 2013.

Mar 9, 2013
  1. Hadrian
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    Former Staff Hadrian Better than Craigslist

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    [​IMG]
    The Official GBAtemp Review

    I'm not going lie, I've never got into the Tomb Raider series, some of it was OK but overall I felt that the platforming and controls weren't tight enough for it to be enjoyable and the puzzles were pretty damn tedious. I'd hate to play what people would call the worst entry which apparently was Angel of Darkness. Things were much improved for TR Underworld and TR Legend but I still found the overall exploration and puzzles to be quite boring. So I was going into this new reboot with a clear head, no nostalgia hazing up the mind telling me "hey things were better when..." because I never felt that originally.

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    The game starts off with a young Lara, this is a different Lara to who we've met previously. Rather than sounding like she's a upper class "lady" with oodles of cash and a big inheritance to look forward to, she sounds like someone who while middle class and has done an honest day's work (she's worked in a bar apparently). She's also quite innocent, more realistic not only in looks but also in personality...she actually has one this time. She still has a sense of adventure but she is also cautious and less willing to take chances. Overall, rather than being tits on a stick, she is a fully fledged character. The story is quite contrived, Lara is travelling with a group of friends and people who are there to help in her first expedition to find lost Japanese kingdom of the Yamatai which is home to the legendary "Sun Queen" Himiko. Lara decides that they should not follow where others have failed and to enter the Dragons Triangle (kinda like the Bemuda Triangle, only with a shitty song named after it). Others disagree with this route but Captain agrees with Lara and they go that way. A violent storm attacks and splits their plane "The Endurance" into two halves and strands everyone on this strange harsh island.

    Then the game begins, Lara is away from her friends and crew and a strange man comes to take her. At first it's pretty much a "guided" experience in that for the forty minutes or so you're not quite in control of the game as you try to escape the captor. It's quite a bit of scripted set pieces and a number of QTE, normally this turns me off a game but it's so damn exhilarating and brutal in it's visuals and tone that I carried on. Once you've escaped the captor (which ends in a very grisly gritty climax) you are then on your own...you have to fend for yourself.

    Lara is exhausted from this ordeal, she's freezing, wounded, frightened and in a state of shock after she had to see the violent death of someone for the first time. It's quite startling to see such harsh cruelty happen in a modern mainstream title such as this, for me it's verges on thriller/horror movie territory. Lara sobs, breaks down and the signs of physical and emotional damage are very prevalent on Lara, she's blood soaked and shaking. Overall this opening sequence of the game was extremely effective and will be talked about in the years to come.

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    She begins to make a camp and begins to piece her mind back together, from there the game opens up into open world territory. She's hungry, she has no supplies so what does she have to do? She has to hunt. She manages to find a bow and arrow and she has to hunt. The first time she kills a dear she says "sorry" to the dear in question, this is extremely well acted by the voice actress Camille Luddington and this is the first time that I've actually seen remorse in a big budget triple a title...no doubt PETA would still bitch about it. From then on you have to find the rest of the survivors. Once you've met them you get a bit of back story from various of her friends, a little history on why the chose to take this expedition and all that. While doing this you also get to see other elements of the game such as salvaging items to build up your stats so you can upgrade weapons and items. You learn to know the land better in form of the "Survival Instincts" (which is a press of a button) which points out where you need to go and also key elements and objects in the environment you may need to attend to.

    It's a quite a long time before you first use a gun, in another fantastic section Lara and her friends are captured by a brutal islanders who you then learn have also been stranded on the island but have adapted and become kind of like a tribe who worship the "Sun Queen". There's an element of stealth as Lara tries to get away from these people and to help her friend but ultimately she is captured, beaten and throttled by the leader of this particular leader and then she kills for the first time. Yet again this is quite a dramatic reaction to Lara's face and tone. She's genuinely shocked and emotional for being forced to kill or be killed. From then on she hardens slightly and realises that this is the way that it has to be to survive and you'll then enter into 3rd person shooter category. Lara goes from being a frightened teenager to someone who gains points on headshots...it's a little "too soon" but whatever it's fun. The gun play is just so perfect here, the series has always had crappy combat but the developer has made the combat work really well. It's not a "all guns blazing run and gun" like you'll find in some shooters, you actually stay in one place and have a battle. Be it with your bow and arrow (which I've preferred throughout the game and is the finest I've encountered in a game, really so well done) or with any of the other weapons (thankfully you keep all throughout...odd that a slim girl can carry so many but a big muscled butch CoD soldier can only carry two) it's all a lot of fun and you can use an air of style to kill these foes. You can either disable them and then finish them off with your Pry Axe or you use explosive barrels like in other titles. It's all very satisfying and more importantly these sections aren't littered all over the place, still keeping within the series adventuring aspect.

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    The platforming is quite linear but in a way it helps. Climbing, jumping and swinging is all very precise, the controls are just perfect for what you need to do and if you miss a jump, for once in the series it's YOUR fault and not the games. While Lara is suddenly quite athletic, there is a still a sense of fear, trepidation and danger as you leap across cliffs, shipwrecks and other environments. What also helps is as you salvage more, the more you come across abilities and tools which really help take the samey feel off these adventuring and platforming sections.

    OK you may be thinking "you dude, WTF are the Tombs?" well there are plenty of tombs but you would need to find them first. Going into the tombs goes back to the series roots but it's less padded out. You'll have to solve a series of puzzles in each tomb and then at the end you are rewarded by something that will help you with your journey. I originally skipped these but later on when I discovered and got more interested in getting 100% in the game I've found "Tomb Raiding" to be essential to making this whole process easier. The puzzles are neither too easy or too hard but I've never once had to resort to a guide at all and neither will most seasoned experienced gamers.Overall I've found that the tombs are a very nice distraction.

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    The looks of the game are fantastic. I played this on a mid range PC on "Ultra" and it was stunning. The environments are stunning, you'll watch waves crash against rocks, wind blows the trees and plant life so wonderfully realistic that it's hard not to stop and wonder in awe at the detail of the whole thing. Even on "Low" it looked good, the team who ported this to the PC is Nixxes Software who also did the stunning PC port of Sleeping Dogs. PC gamers will love how this looks so much better than the console versions and they'll also love how customisable the game is, not only that but it worked on my dual core laptop...running on XP no less and that can't even run Black Ops 2 without stuttering! Nixxes seem to be Square Enix go to team when it comes to their Eidos releases and I hope that carries on. I do admit when climbing swinging around, it was annoying when the camera pans out to reveal the scenary, it was kinda like the developers were going "hey in case you haven't noticed...look at this OMG LOOK!".

    The sound is also fantastic. The atmosphere of the music is very apt with whatever Lara is doing. Be it going through an exhilarating rapid water chase or a shoot out with local thugs, it sets the tone very well. The environmental sound matches the looks perfectly but overall its the voice acting of Camilla Luddington who puts in a fantastic turn as Lara. It can be hard for a actor to portray emotional through only the means of vocalisation but she does it perfectly. You believe every scream, shiver and also the moments when Lara is all "well come on then, I'm not dying you are!" is also very well performed. She also did the motion capture for Lara too which again is well done and even slight touches of Lara touching a wall as she passes it occasionally really adds to the game. Sadly the rest of the cast are not as good, better than other video game voice acting but from going from the perfection of how Lara is performed to "not bad" can be a little jarring.

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    Overall what you have here is a very well made game. It's exciting and breathless, the gameplay moves from adventuring, combat, platforming and to puzzle solving quite often that you're never doing the same thing all the time and it really breaks the gameplay up and keeps the twelve hours of the campaign from having the slightest dull moment. On top of those twelve hours you can also go off to do your own thing, track down all the collectables, finish the challenges or just go hunting for wild boar...there is a lot of game here and not only that there is depth in those sections too. Sure those are a bit "Far Cry 3" Lite but I quite like it. It uses the best aspects from many of the best games of this generation and keeps things fresh. The core story is let down as the way it is told is done so well in it's presentation and set pieces but the story isn't bad really, just disappointing. For me this is a contender for "Game of the Year" and I look forward to any single player DLC content, even if it's just more tombs as the game left me wanting more. It'll be hard for the developers to top this in a sequel to as I felt that overall emotions of Lara, from her starting off afraid to becoming strong really kept me going. Perhaps more emphasis on exploring, crafting etc will be the order but then I hope they find a way to keep the emotion and brutality in there.

    + Looks and sounds amazing
    + Lara is finally not only a believable well thought out character, but also one of the finest in modern gaming.
    + Gameplay is very varied and at times very in depth.
    - The other characters are meh.
    - Story itself isn't up to the great narrative.

    Score: 9/10
     
    xwatchmanx and GamerzHell9137 like this.


  2. GamerzHell9137

    Member GamerzHell9137 GBAtemp Psycho!

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    Great game!
    Too lazy to read the review but i can say that the game is epic on PC.
    With TressFX on the hair looks awesome but right now it has issues with Nvidia graphic cards.
    Nvidia said that we are gonna see an update in the near future.
     
    dilav likes this.
  3. Guild McCommunist

    Member Guild McCommunist (not on boat)

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    From reading your brief story synopsis it sounds like Far Cry 3 meets Uncharted.

    Which isn't bad.

    My only real Tomb Raider experience is a bit of Tomb Raider Anniversary which was alright but nothing special. I may give this a shot when it's a bit cheaper.
     
  4. EyeZ

    Member EyeZ GBAtemp Addict

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    I'm about 25% through the game, and what a cracker of a game this is, i was unsure at first about the direction the game was going, but they have done an excellent job with this.
     
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  5. hundshamer

    Member hundshamer GBAtemp Advanced Maniac

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    One of the games I actually "finished." Now to go back and complete the sidequests.
     
  6. Jaems

    Member Jaems GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    I finished it this morning. I quite liked it. The story wasn't very good, but the gameplay, animation, and voice-acting were solid.

    It's clear they were going for a game on the scale of Uncharted, however, I wished had less focused on the action and more on survival. The game introduces itself with Lara having to find shelter and food which gave me the impression they were taking a survival-game direction. I was disappointed when soon after it turned into a mostly linear action title.

    I do have to commend Crystal Dynamics for their reinvention of Lara. I was originally a bit worried by the early trailers that they were aiming at Lara being more a victim and a character you have to protect rather than a character you become. But aside from an awkward "rapey" scene near the beginning of the game, their treatment and development of Lara was admirable. Hooray for good representation of women in videogames!
     
  7. Devin

    Member Devin "Local Hardware Wizard"

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    Did someone say tits?

    (Taken from my 360.)
    Warning: Spoilers inside!
     
  8. Rizsparky

    Member Rizsparky Saiyan Prince

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    Good infomative read, I'll pick it up in a few weeks when the price drops a tad.
     
  9. wrettcaughn

    Member wrettcaughn Misunderstood Moral Elitist

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    This is one of the few games I've actually been anticipating. Now that it's here I might only give it a rental to get through the singleplayer since I have quite a backlog of games to play (goddamned MS "Ultimate Sale" last week...). If the multiplayer is good I'll probably end up buying it.
     
  10. Hadrian
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    Former Staff Hadrian Better than Craigslist

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    I've not touched the multiplayer as I can't stand playing against people who aren't in the same room but I've read reviews saying that it's only functional and not really worth the dev time putting in. It would be nice if companies realised that not all games need it.
     
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  11. Densetsu

    Former Staff Densetsu Pubic Ninja

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    Whatever you do, DO NOT fast-travel back to the Mountain Base camp after you have passed it.

    I got to the point just before the end, decided to backtrack to the beginning to get all the collectibles, then got stuck at Mountain Base and had to start over.
    Warning: Spoilers inside!
    After looking into my problem for some workarounds, I found out on the official Eidos forums that the game is ridden with game-breaking bugs. I encountered the Rope Ascender bug as well, but thankfully there was a workaround for it (the workaround was another glitch in itself). I have experienced some audio and graphical glitches but those are easily fixed by reloading from the last checkpoint.

    I don't really like how it auto-saves EVERYTHING you do. That's part of the reason why the Mountain Base glitch exists. It would be nice if they allowed you to save at a time of your own choosing so you have the option of reloading an auto-save or an earlier save.

    A minor thing I wish they included was a "New Game +" mode so you can go through the story without worrying about collecting everything just to get enough XP and salvage to master all the skills and get all the weapon upgrades.

    In spite of these issues, I still think it's a great game. I have to agree with all the pros in the review. I wouldn't have been so harsh on the characters, although I think Whitman was rather predictable.

    I'm sure the major problems will be fixed in a patch. Until then, I'd wait on it so you can play the game the way it was truly meant to be experienced.

    - Full of bugs, some of which are game-breaking and extremely easy to trigger.
    - Auto-save prevents you from reloading earlier saves unless you use multiple save slots (up to 3 available).
    - No "New Game +" mode.
     
  12. Hadrian
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    Former Staff Hadrian Better than Craigslist

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    Funnily enough I've encountered none of those problems at all and don't give a rats hairy hole about "new game+".
     
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  13. Densetsu

    Former Staff Densetsu Pubic Ninja

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    New Game + is just a personal preference, but the inability to save on your own volition has its potential problems, and in fact contributes to certain game-breaking bugs.

    You're saying you found a way out of the Mountain Base after fast-traveling there? Or simply that you haven't experienced it because you haven't tried backtracking? If you have found a way out, I would love to know.
     
  14. Hadrian
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    Former Staff Hadrian Better than Craigslist

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    I dunno what to tell you, it never happened to me. I've just tried it now and nothing bad happened, I'm on the regular retail release.

    £22.90 free delivery on Amazon.
     
  15. Cyan

    Global Moderator Cyan GBATemp's lurking knight

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    Thanks for the review.
    I tried not to read the story part.


    How hard is the shooting/targeting?

    On the first Tomb Raiders it was auto-aimed at the nearest enemies. (one or two at the same time).
    Is there auto-aim too? or do you have to move the cursor yourself to select the shooting location? (I'm so bad at this aiming games with analog sticks, as I won't play it with a mouse but on PS3)


    I don't like the auto-saving, especially if there are bugs which force you to start the game from the start :(
    PS3 already had a day-one-patch, I hope they will release more fixes soon.
     
  16. EyeZ

    Member EyeZ GBAtemp Addict

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    The shooting is fine, you have a cursor with which to aim (no auto aiming), the aiming is pretty easy (there again i'm using a mouse and you're gonna use a pad).

    As for the bug issue, this is the first i've heard of any, i can't stress enough on how good this game is.
     
  17. Cyan

    Global Moderator Cyan GBATemp's lurking knight

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    Thanks for the info.
    I'll buy that game even if I'm bad at aiming.
     
  18. Densetsu

    Former Staff Densetsu Pubic Ninja

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    I'm playing the PS3 version, but I have read that the glitch I'm talking about is present across all platforms.


    The issue is this:
    Hardly a spoiler, but spoiler'd for those who are really anal about that kind of stuff:
    Sorry to derail your thread about bugs and glitches, but I'm really curious as to how you got out of the Mountain Base upon visiting it a second time. It shouldn't be possible, but if you had no problems, more power to you.

    Normally, there is no auto-aim in this game (at least, not in the same sense as in past Tomb Raider games). But there is some kind of auto-aim that activates only occasionally. Whenever you dodge a melee attack while you have your weapon drawn, the reticle will always auto-aim itself at the enemy who just tried to attack you so you can counter-attack. But no, auto-aim, doesn't work in the same way you're hoping. Most aiming in this game is fully manual (but I've only tried Normal mode, so I can't speak for Easy mode). You can always change the aiming sensitivity in the options.

    And don't get me wrong guys, I absolutely love this game. They chose the perfect person to play the voice of Lara Croft. The visuals are stunning, the music and ambient sounds are immersive, and personally I think the voice acting is great. I think the change in direction they took with this franchise was a smart move. Without the bugs, I'd be hard-pressed to find anything I dislike about the game. I just wish they'd given players the option to load earlier saves without having to juggle those 3 save slots.
     
  19. EyeZ

    Member EyeZ GBAtemp Addict

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    I'd just like to warn you that there are some set pieces in the game where you need to aim/shoot pretty quickly.
     
  20. Hadrian
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    Former Staff Hadrian Better than Craigslist

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    I thought the aiming was fine with a controller but it could be better, normally I like to sit back and play PC games but this one I preferred keyboard and mouse. Might be different on the console versions.
     

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