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Monday, 20 January 2014

Rik's Reaction to TOMB RAIDER (2013) (PC)

An entertaining but flawed game in my opinion, but enjoyable for what it was and so far the only Tomb Raider game I have ever completed. (SHOCK REVELATION!?)

So this time we are taken all the way back to the start of Lara's story and the narrative of the game is essentially an origin tale. We learn the background on how a young innocent woman, becomes the Lara Croft we all know and love, i.e. World class archaeologist with a penchant for revealing ancient supernatural myths to be actually true whilst acrobatically murdering endangered wildlife on the way to recovering a lost and priceless artefact.

In this game, Lara isn't that, not yet at least.

The story begins with Lara as part of an archaeological team who along with 3 or 4 of her friends make up the support crew for TV celebrity archaeologist Dr.James Whitman. They are at sea, looking for the ancient island of Yamatai in the Dragons Triangle, just off the coast of Japan. On a hunch / educated guess from Lara, they decide to change course and sure enough.. find the island!!

By crashing into it.

Shipwrecked the survivors encounter a gang of bloodthirsty mercenaries who capture Lara's friends... successfully setting the scene for Lara to save them.. come of age.. and ultimately turn into.. LARA CROFT. I won't tell you any more about the story as I don't wish to spoil it for you.

Someone should really have put a warning sign up about this place...

So.. I already said it's an entertaining game... but why is it flawed? Well... A few reasons. 

The main one is that the game constantly takes control away from you to the extent that sometimes I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be actually controlling Lara Croft or not. There were more times than I can count that the game just asks you to press the "forward" button.. and Lara does the rest herself, ducking under things... moving around things... etc etc..

Now this in itself... isn't horrible to be honest... it allows certain narrative driven events to take place, like conversations between characters over handheld radios or whatever... but it really messes up the rhythm of the game and often to the point there just isn't one at all. As a result. the story's pacing felt disjointed and all over the show... and for such a narrative led game, it really stood out for me and detracted from the experience.

The performance of the game also raised some concerns as certain chambers or vistas would cause the game to stutter and "chug" seemingly at random, when seconds earlier it had been silky smooth. Lara herself demonstrates jerky animations at times, the way she really obviously changes direction in mid air and homes into scalable ledges like a heat seeking park-our expert and the inescapable feeling that despite huge rolling landscapes above , below and around you, you're just advancing down a big pretty corridor.

But most of all, the biggest issue for me was how the "gritty" storyline of one person surviving against the elements, her hunger and the dangers around her were successfully undermined by the events Lara goes through from start to finish. Lara should be dead... so so very dead. Many times over..

I know I know, it's a game, you cry!! ... but it was just SO MUCH PERIL and TOO MANY dangerous situations she faced and survived against ALL the odds that it actually ruined the semi grounded story it was trying to tell. She fell down cliffs, several times. Washed over waterfalls, several times. She is swept down rapids smashing off rocks, several times. Ledges crumbled, buildings burnt down, ropes snapped, caves collapsed, Wolves ate her, PLANES CRASHED, HELICOPTERS CRASHED, EXPLOSIONS WENT OFF IN HER FACE...You get the idea.


Oh crap.. oh crap... OH CRAP... OOOOOHHH CRRRAAAPPP... !!!

There is suspending disbelief for the sake of entertainment, I can do this.. I can! But then there is just coming to the conclusion that Lara Croft is a super hero and will never ever die, no matter what situation she is in. That's how I dealt with it. ... what?!

On another note I felt it was too violent .. considering Lara's apparent inexperience in combat situations at the start of the game and the emotional impact her first kill has on her... she took very quickly to hacking men's heads off with a climbing pick. It went from doing what she had to do to survive... to almost relishing a fight.. and that felt kinda wrong..

Moving away from the thematic and narrative issues however... actually playing the game was alright. The combat was excellent and a real shining point, I enjoyed nearly every encounter.

The times when Tomb Raider did open up and allow you to step outside the linear corridor... which were rare... the puzzles were the solvable, but not immediately solvable kind... which is the exact right balance in my opinion.

The voice acting and the overall storyline is also engaging, the graphics excellent and for the most part very well put together.

Tomb Raider is enjoyable, finishing the game at all says a lot of course (I wouldn't finish something I hated), but quite a few bits to change and fix for the next game in my opinion although, I am glad I played it through.

But to conclude, I recommend Lara Croft, maybe for a tenner if you see it about.

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