Saturday, June 8, 2013

Review: Tomb Raider (2013)

Review by Disgruntled Monkey

Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix

She reaches for the idol hoping that the books had the right information. One wrong move and these ancient ruins could reveal all the hidden traps set forth long ago by a people intent on having this resting place of the honoured dead preserved, not raided for its wealth. Everything she ever wanted had come down to this. Taking the idol off the podium she hears a click, then the muted sound of bricks rubbing against each other. Damn it. Time to run.

And run you will - from all the perilous pitfalls prevalent in this game. One wrong move and you are greeted by some of the hardest to watch deaths I’ve seen in a while. Lara Croft get’s brutally dispatched and as such it has caused a little bit of a stir with some people. Sure the first hour you feel that the exploits of the young Croft verge on the exploitative, but then something happens that makes this game better than I would have expected.

You are given a female lead character that survives, endures and slowly becomes a hero. As you get further along in the game you do everything you can to avoid the brutal deaths present, not because of the inherent set back (there is none), but because every nerve you have is driving you to help Lara survive. You are in this as much as the video game character and that is a rare achievement. The brutality isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste but it’s highly effective and shouldn’t be dismissed as only exploitative.

Along with the excellent success of involving the player, we have gameplay that makes you feel every bit the hero Lara becomes. Every collectible found, every little side adventure goes towards building up your weapons and skills and your sense of power. It’s great but this is also where things start falling apart a bit. The flaws don’t make this an awful game, in fact this game will probably still be considered one of the best of the year, but it does mean that there is room for improvement for the inevitable sequel.

This remind me of the Decent except with less blood.
One of the biggest problems is who Lara is as a character (story wise) and what she is on the game play side of things. Lara is young, inexperience and very unsure of herself. Throughout the story and through journals you can collect, we see Lara constantly questioning her own motivation. Yet when it comes to shooting the bad guys, she’s every bit the Arnold Schwarzenegger of bad 80’s action movies. Bodies fly everywhere, bad guys tumble to their deaths and shotguns are used with wild abandon. It’s fun but it doesn’t gel with the perceived insecurity of the characters personality.

Tomb Raider is a very strong origin story with some excellent gameplay that unfortunately doesn’t go together that well. The brutality of the deaths and treatment of Lara may turn people away but there is a point to it all. It’s a wonderful game, just not a masterpiece; Crystal Dynamics has truly resurrected Lara Croft and has given a exceptionally strong foundation for a new franchise to be born.

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