Tomb Raider or Less Cleavage, More Gameplay

Reboots are en vogue these days. If you’re stuck with a story or a protagonist, rewind and restart. In Tomb Raider’s case, it’s been a damn good idea. Lara Croft isn’t just a mere sexualised dual-wielding triple jumping doll with gravity-defying massive knockers anymore, she is a young and naive student on her quest to archaeological glory. At least for 45 minutes. After a rough start, she has survived getting impaled, getting shot, falling and more falling, wolf attacks … and there’s more pain to come.

Sadly, the transition from naive student to cold-blooded huntress happens a bit too fast in the new Tomb Raider. One minute she is close to puking her guts out after shooting some bad guy’s brain into tiny pieces, the next she’s on her way mowing down squads of baddies. Later on, it gets outright ridiculous when she takes down a whole army (literally) within mere minutes! Alright, even though this sounds crazy let’s not forget the new Tomb Raider isn’t as outlandish as the franchise used to be (no, there’s no T Rex), but still, don’t expect more than solid B movie entertainment. It is solid; the story is engaging although not surprising – think of Indiana Jones and you’re pretty close to it. But it works. The story about her team stranded, an insane cult worshipping a long dead queen and hte mysteries of this isolated place is enough to get the plot going. Characters … well, let’s say it’s obvious who dies and who lives, and if you want to know more about them, you have to look for documents scattered all over the island.

Tomb Raider’s island is amazing. Thanks to the pretty and smooth graphics, it is more welcoming and more diverse than Far Cry 3’s jungles, and there’s much hidden in each and every corner – be it in the jungle, in caves, in old ruins or in a rather miserable shanty town, you’ll never get tired of looking at it. Yes; an island full of mysteries, some “others”, relics, it is more than a subtle hint to Lost. Inexplicably, there is no hatch (that award goes to Just Cause 2).

And now for the surprise: Lara is the little sister of Batman, and no, she has virtually nothing to do with Nathan Drake. Forget about comparing Tomb Raider to Uncharted – apart from both games being action adventures and containing gun fights, they don’t have much in common. Arkham Asylum is the godfather of the new Tomb Raider!

DNA tests? Here we go:

  • Lara’s instinct = Batman’s detective mode
  • backtracking (new gadgets open new paths)
  • melee system, especially counter moves
  • Lara’s rope arrows = Batman’s rope gadget
  • destroying barriers feels the same
  • documents = tapes
  • the level up system
  • stealth works similar – if it is an option

Let’s be honest here – Arkham Asylum is an amazing game, and it’s a decent blueprint to use. Mind you, Tomb Raider is more than a mere copy – it is darker, grittier and definitely bloodier. Both games have one thing in common though: The focus on gameplay and fun in diversity. And the mix between action/fighting and adventure/exploring is close to perfection in both games. There are many different items to collect (from interesting or useful to chore) so even after completing the story, you might want to go back and continue collecting some more stuff.

Surprisingly, the gun fights in Tomb Raider are more challenging than in many other shooters: Forget about leisurely eliminating enemies from cover! Molotovs, dynamite, melee fighters and more make it impossible to just sit there waiting for heads to pop out. In Tomb Raider, you have to be proactive and quick if you don’t want to get overwhelmed. The only annoying enemies are those carrying shields (at least before the grenade launcher upgrade): Lara’s stupid dodging before rolling makes fighting them a chore. By the way, why can Lara use grenades with a rifle, but she can’t use them without it?

Of course, Rabidgames has to nitpick once more: QTE. Come on! While the first couple of QTE in Tomb Raider might serve as a way for inexperienced Lara to learn how to fight and survive from an artistic point of view, getting rid of the final boss via QTE is nothing short of fucking lazy! It’s a disgrace. What happened to the art of smart boss fights? Extinct? Superfluous? Not streamlined enough for this generation?

Another disappointment in Tomb Raider is the lack of actual tomb raiding: There are only 7 tombs (plus one preorder DLC one) to be raided – and each one is just one puzzle per room. Erm, why exactly is the game called Tomb Raider now? Shouldn’t it be called “Lara Croft: The Beginning” or “Lara Croft Rises” … Anyway, Tomb Raider is one of those action adventures spelled ACTION adventures – although the fighting/puzzle ratio is still higher than in Uncharted 2.

Oh, the multiplayer. Fuck it. Rabidgames doesn’t give a fuck. Tomb Raider does not need a fucking multiplayer, and supposedly, it ain’t great anyway. Those wasted resources would have helped in enhancing the adventure part. Oh, and Square Enix, one word about your DLC policy: Fuck off! Lots of rather tiny stuff for day one. Weapons, characters etc. And for the singleplayer, we get some extra skins. Remember when skins got unlocked by playing the fucking game? Good old days long gone it seems …

Rabidgames nods: Well, the usual nitpicking aside, Tomb Raider is a pleasant surprise. Even though there is not much originality in there, it still feels refreshing, and that’s something which ain’t easy to achieve. The easy-going gameplay and a sombre atmosphere go well together, and after finishing Lara’s first adventure, we are craving for more. No, not a boob job, you perv!

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