Monday, March 18, 2013

Review: Tomb Raider (Xbox 360)

This will be one of the first reviews I have posted on here, but it is something I want to start doing regularly. If you have any suggestions for this, tell me below as well as any games you want me to review in the comments and follow me on Twitter!

Tomb Raider Xbox 360 Cover

So, I am a little late with this one, but I only got the game a week after release and was busy reading as well so that is my excuse. Regardless, I did enjoy playing Uncharted with a female character Tomb Raider since, overall, the gameplay is solid and the story generally sticks together though there are some holes. I will soon post a shorter and, most likely, NSFW video review for the game. For the record, I played the Xbox 360 but the game is also available on the PS3 and PC.


I must admit, beforehand, that this is my first Tomb Raider game. I, of course, knew of the game and Lara Croft and the typical reason that most people enjoyed the game (besides, you know, Lara's tits). However, it just wasn't on my radar. As this game is a re-boot, you can get away with not having played any of the other games and not knowing any of the story mainstays.

As you likely now, Lara Croft is your leading character and the whole point of the game is to showcase her transformation into the bad-ass she later is. Generally, the transformation works for the most part, though it is sudden. The rest of the cast is your typical stereotype like characters featuring the nerdy white guy (Alex), the Asian-Pacific Islander (or maybe Hawaiian) who thinks that everything is cursed or has a bad energy (Jonah), the strong black woman who just wants to get home to her daughter (Reyes), possibly psychotic old Scot (Grim), the grizzled veteran who teaches Lara everything she knows (Conrad), the annoying yet perky Asian girl (Sam), the glory-vain TV personality who betrays everyone (Whitman), and finally the sadistic-seemingly cult leader (Mathias). Yes, the game features a female protagonist which is different and new (though not for this franchise), but everyone else just seems cookie-cutter plain.

The crew of the Endurance.

There is plenty of mystery in what seems to be, at first, multiple storylines that eventually converge and form some semblance of a finale. The game does feature journals that you can find throughout the island but, the only problem with them is that they actually tell a bunch of the underlying story. Missing most of the journals leaves too many holes and gaps to the point where things do not make sense.

A few other things irk me as well. Lara is gravely injured with a pretty serious wound at the very beginning of the game. Though it seems to effect her for a little while, the wound is never treated, at all. Even the spot on her shirt where the wound is magically repairs itself. What should be an extremely debilitating wound becomes essentially a non-factor. At least have her find some way to actually dress the wound. Venison is not a cure-all!

This wound magically disappears...

The basis for the entire story is very iffy as well. (Warning: there are spoiler's ahead). The actual villain of the story is the Sun Queen Himiko whose sole is apparently immortal. Since she died without a body to move into, no one has been able to get off of the island. Sam is apparently descended from this Himiko, though it does not even seem like any of the Sun Queens ever had children. All the various Sun Queens are picked by the previous ones so lineage is not entirely involved. Regardless, you eventually find out that the soul of Himiko is eternal and goes from body to body of every Sun Queen. It is never answered how the hell that exactly works but, don't worry; Lara Croft vows she will find answers, just not ones that everybody wants.


So, if you look above, I made a joke saying that the new version of Tomb Raider is basically Uncharted with a female character. That has been a common view of most reviewers and they are not wrong. It is quite clear that the developer, Crystal Dynamics, had been influenced by Uncharted. The game features a re-imagining or Lara Croft and you view her in the third person as you play through the game with gunplay and climbing elements abound. Even some of the sounds effects sound like Uncharted which is weird enough. The climbing is tighter though and smoother in most areas and the gunplay is a step up. But, enough with the Uncharted comparison, because there are some bigger difference.

You will be jumping large chasms and crevices regularly.

As the game starts, it is pretty much on rails and you have very little control over anything for the first twenty or so minutes, sparing quick-time events which are used a little too often in this game, in my opinion. After that, however, the game opens up and allows the player a lot more freedom. The game does take on an open world feel at some parts though there are some locations that can never be revisited. Thankfully, there are no collectibles in those areas. Once you find camps you can use those to fast-travel back and forth between the areas and retrieve whatever you missed.

Base Camps are spread all over the isle and allow you to upgrade your character and weapons.

And, speaking of collectibles, you do collect an assortment of weapons throughout your journey but there are some features here that make absolutely no sense. The player is given for basic weapons; Pistol, Bow, Machine Gun, and Shotgun. You are able to gather salvage and upgrade each of these weapons. This is where it loses me, though. You can also find weapon parts and, apparently, can use these parts as well to upgrade each weapon. Therefore, a Type 100 machine gun becomes an AK-47 magically. Nuh-uh. An old Trench gun becomes a Pump-Action Shotgun. Again, not going to happen. You can perhaps argue that Lara is simply constructing new weapons from the parts, but even then it is iffy since your modification are magically compatible with every weapon.

It doesn't work like that.

It might seem like I am complaining a lot about the weapon-upgrade functionality but I am actually very in favor of it as it gives some depth to the gameplay. Just have it make more sense next time.

Now, I have yet to mention the multiplayer for those people who have been paying attention. I really wish the multiplayer did not exist, to be honest. The multiplayer portion of this games feels as though it was forced in just so the game had more content. It follows a similar system to the lackluster Bioshock 2 multiplayer where continued gameplay will allow you to unlock better weapons and boosts. It failed with Bioshock 2 and it failed with Tomb Raider as well. The developers of the single player game are actually not the same as the multiplayer, which was handled by Eidos Montreal (shame on you guys) . Multiplayer in this game becomes a definite negative.

Graphics and Audio:

The game looks and sounds good. It will not compete, in terms of visuals, with the big powerhouses like Halo or Crysis, but it does well enough on the almost eight year-old Xbox 360. The game runs on a modified version of the Crystal Engine and features decent draw distance and imposter over longer distances. Most of the textures are used in many places but there are some very distinct locations, such as a World War II bunker that is dark and dank, fitting of this gritty game. I was not overly impressed with the effects, as they did not Wow! me in any way, but they also are not laughably bad. Character models are hit or miss. Lara, of course, looks fantastic with realistic hair, bone movement, and facial expressions. However, the quality of other characters, like Conrad Roth, is lacking and close ups show some ugliness.

Lara's face is a major conveyer of emotion during this game, along with her voice.

In terms of audio, the voice-overs are extremely well done. Characters have voices that fit their appearance, even when that appearance is very stereotyped, and the voice actors performed well in terms of conveying the proper emotions during key parts of the game. The sounds effects featured in the game are nothing spectacular and feel like there were pulled out of any generic combat game. That is not exactly a negative but not impressing me either. The music, for me, was forgettable. It didn't grab me during any key moment but also didn't distract me.


I must say, I really wanted to give this game a better rating than I am. The gameplay and visuals were solid, audio was not distracting but feature great voice acting, and the story started out great. However, easily corrected plot issues, nonsensical game mechanics, and a lackluster multiplayer mode drop this from the nice rating it would have had before to an above average rating.

3.75 / 5

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