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Old 03-14-2013, 10:25 AM   #1
The 7th Patriot
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Review: Tomb Raider

Title: Tomb Raider
Platform: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Platform Reviewed: PC
Developer:Crystal Dynamics
Publisher:Square Enix
MSRP: $59.99
Release Date: March 5th, 2013 (NA)
Writer: The 7th Patriot

"I Hate Tombs"

Tomb Raider begins in an abrupt manner, and so shall I. One brief cutscene is all that stands between you and the game's tutorial. Our heroine survives a devastating shipwreck along with a few colleagues and finds herself stranded on a mysterious island. While attempting to regroup with her friends and make her way back to civilization, Lara discovers that the storm which destroyed her ship might not have been a mere natural occurrence. She also discovers that she and her fellow survivors are not the island's only inhabitants.

The characters and narrative are one of the game's weakest aspects. I have read many positive reviews written by people who seemed to be very impressed with this tale of personal courage and the manifestation of the will to live. If they were speaking honestly, which I assume they were, then I can only say that they are too easily awed. A game's story should serve as motivation to the player, something to keep his interest and compel him to play until completion. Tomb Raider mostly fails at this. In an attempt to follow a massively popular and tired trend, the gritty, realistic reboot, we are offered a title that takes itself too seriously while depicting characters that are incredibly unserious. We have the grizzled old man, the fat Samoan whose utterances never fail to be mystical and wise , the pompous and self-absorbed white guy, the nerdy beta male, the obligatory minority with a chip on her shoulder, and the whimsical all-American girl who is made Asian for narrative purposes (and to apparently satisfy some racial quota the developers had) . Lara is herself entirely uninteresting, and the idea that her arc is at all believable is laughable. Normally this wouldn't bother me but, again, this is a game that takes itself too seriously in its attempt to portray Lara as a onetime green archaeologist who becomes the daring explorer we all know.

The setting and visual style do not fare much better. We have a forgotten island that seems uninhabited at first (hint: it's not) which was also sought by the Allied Powers in World War II in hopes of obtaining its great power. For those of you who played Uncharted or Far Cry 3, this should be sounding eerily and disappointingly familiar. Tomb Raider is at once a beautiful game from a technical perspective, some areas of the island are impressive in their sense of altitude and scope, and quite ugly from an artistic point of view. The game has the drab palate of a Call of Duty title, enemies have very little variety, and only a few sections of the island stand out enough to be memorable. There is one moment atop a radio tower (again, Far Cry 3) embedded in a snow covered mountain that was a pleasure to behold. The rest, not so much. The schizophrenic character of Tomb Raider permeates it throughout. Portions of levels are enormous and minutely detailed, but the places themselves are simply bland. Rust color, a favorite of this generation, can only carry a game so far.

The gameplay and mechanics are obviously meant to be the game's highlight and they are. However, this is a relative statement. The island is designed as a semi-connected open world. You can backtrack to previously visited areas and even fast travel at campfires littered throughout the island. Many have noted this in order to demonstrate that Tomb Raider is no run-of-the-mill action/adventure, but, at its heart, it really still is. The game is played in a mostly ultra-linear fashion, with some areas of the island having slightly branching paths that take Lara to either hidden collectibles or hidden tombs that contain small puzzles to solve with rewards at the end. As Lara progresses, she gains one or two items that help her to jump and climb faster, and every now and then there is an environmental puzzle you must solve in order to move ahead. These are somewhat clever, and they more closely resemble the original Tomb Raider titles for the Playstation. While they aren't too difficult, they are definitely one of the more enjoyable aspects of the game.

Then, there is the combat. Lara fights with a bow (like in Assassin's Creed 3, Far Cry 3, Crysis 3...such creativity) a shotgun, handgun, machine gun, and engages in melee combat with her trusty pickax. Lara can upgrade her weapons at campfires in order to make them shoot faster, hold more bullets, do more damage, etc. Some enemies fight from a distance and others try to close you in with knives and swords. Most of the time, Lara is taking cover, something she does naturally when enemies are present and she is behind something at least waist high, and either fighting outright or moving stealthily in order to pass by unnoticed or strike without being seen. Generally, the combat is standard fare for today's games, it is fun for a bit and then becomes tiring in its simplicity. More critically, this game suffers from action fatigue. Though it has pretensions to being a game filled with exploration, branching paths, and excitement, it actually drags you from one set piece to another. This gets old fast. When someone looks at a screen yawning while the character is leaping from a burning edifice for the third time or just barely grabbing the ledge to avoid a plummet to her death for the thousandth time, all the while player agency has been almost entirely removed, can this even really be called "action" anymore? Either I am being desensitized or the game doesn't connect me to the protagonist well enough care. Maybe it's both.




Tomb Raider is a game that attempts to have the cinematic presentation of Uncharted, level exploration resembling perhaps Arkham Asylum, and the upgrade system and setting of Far Cry 3, but it doesn't excel at any of these. It looks good, graphically speaking, and it is incredibly uninspired in its execution, so it will probably be a huge success. Still, it is a mediocre title. Best to leave this tomb unopened.

Score: 3 out of 5

The Good
  • Impressive presentation, graphics, weather effects, etc
The Bad
  • Dull characters and story
  • Boring action
  • Derivative gameplay
The Ugly
  • Are people overrating this game because the protagonist is a chick?
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Old 03-14-2013, 11:17 AM   #2
sai tyrus
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Well written and thoughtful as always. I enjoyed it.
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Old 03-14-2013, 11:28 AM   #3
Suicidal ShiZuru
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Nicely done, a rarely seen honest critique of a flawed game pushed with advertising. I also feel the need to point out how true "the ugly" remark was. I don't think it's as prevalent now but right at release there were comments everywhere on the big mainstream media and gaming sites about people buying it solely for that reason as well as related ones.
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Old 03-14-2013, 11:42 AM   #4
Cutter99
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Here's on observation that might explain why some people love the game, and others don't: the game is reaching for empathy, but success varies depending on the player.

This game has a really neat technical trick that you didn't mention: how aware Laura is of her surroundings. She knows when she's about to jump, will pep-talk herself, she will turn to move through grass or bushes, and will put a hand out to touch objects she passes. There is very little repetitive canned animation - and a lot of fun situational stuff that creates the illusion of a more living character. Heck, even the bad guys take note when you suddenly have a machine gun.

That care in creating a character that moves and sounds more alive is a step towards what we're going to see more of.
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Old 03-14-2013, 11:48 AM   #5
Cutter99
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suicidal ShiZuru View Post
I also feel the need to point out how true "the ugly" remark was.
yyeeaaaahhh.... um. You do know that games with female protagonists always sell less, receive less marketing dollars - and hell, just flat out exist less? Right? It would be a remarkable about-face for the entire gaming community if we have all embraced a new perspective that female game characters are somehow preferable.

The obvious distaste here that - omaiGAWD - a game starring a girl might be getting extra love, oh no! That's just a little bit sad.

Here:

http://penny-arcade.com/report/edito...t-support-them

http://kotaku.com/5868595/nerds-and-male-privilege

Last edited by Cutter99; 03-14-2013 at 11:52 AM.. Reason: For Further Reading
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Old 03-14-2013, 12:06 PM   #6
Suicidal ShiZuru
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cutter99 View Post
yyeeaaaahhh.... um. You do know that games with female protagonists always sell less, receive less marketing dollars - and hell, just flat out exist less? Right? It would be a remarkable about-face for the entire gaming community if we have all embraced a new perspective that female game characters are somehow preferable.

The obvious distaste here that - omaiGAWD - a game starring a girl might be getting extra love, oh no! That's just a little bit sad.

Here:

http://penny-arcade.com/report/edito...t-support-them

http://kotaku.com/5868595/nerds-and-male-privilege
I don't have a problem with female leads in any medium at all. It's just that currently with all this pseudo feminism going around the gaming circuit lately it's obvious people take it too far with "support" and work against themselves. You're obviously blind to the fact that people are buying into this game solely as a passive way to support this new agenda. I've seen countless comments by people who praised the game and swore to buy it just because it was a woman as the protagonist. If you don't see the problem enjoy contributing to the endless circle of stupidity. Linking to a PA and Shitaku article to argue with is proof that you are misguided and uninformed. Kotaku especially has played a large role in pushing so much angst.
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Old 03-14-2013, 12:15 PM   #7
Rommel
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cutter99 View Post
yyeeaaaahhh.... um. You do know that games with female protagonists always sell less, receive less marketing dollars - and hell, just flat out exist less? Right? It would be a remarkable about-face for the entire gaming community if we have all embraced a new perspective that female game characters are somehow preferable.

The obvious distaste here that - omaiGAWD - a game starring a girl might be getting extra love, oh no! That's just a little bit sad.

Here:

http://penny-arcade.com/report/edito...t-support-them

http://kotaku.com/5868595/nerds-and-male-privilege
Two of the biggest franchises of the modern era, Tomb Raider and Resident Evil, star female protagonists. Others, any Bioware game or MMO, allow the user to choose sex. Did Heavenly Sword have a marketing campaign? It did? Oh. Well what about the female leads of FFX-II? Lots of commercials ... Oh! And of course, there is Metroid.

Females are well represented in video games. Lara's reception as a female is unique only because people seem to think it is unique. She had huge breasts, and it shocked the viewer into noticing the lead had a vagina. And not the way I do, in a box under my desk, either. It's made her the face and under-drag-acceptable lips of females in the medium.

Evidence shows that females are neither discriminated against nor offered preferential viewpoint by the industry.
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Old 03-14-2013, 12:50 PM   #8
Cutter99
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suicidal ShiZuru View Post
I don't have a problem with female leads in any medium at all. It's just that currently with all this pseudo feminism going around the gaming circuit lately it's obvious people take it too far with "support" and work against themselves. You're obviously blind to the fact that people are buying into this game solely as a passive way to support this new agenda. I've seen countless comments by people who praised the game and swore to buy it just because it was a woman as the protagonist. If you don't see the problem enjoy contributing to the endless circle of stupidity. Linking to a PA and Shitaku article to argue with is proof that you are misguided and uninformed.
So wait - do you not have a problem with female leads, or do you believe there is a current "Agenda" being perpetrated by... I'm not really sure who you think is driving the "pseudo-feminism" train? You're right in that it's sure not Kotaku - but the PAR has been a decent enough independent source for respectable opinions. (still, the article about nerd-male-privilege is really, really well written with some good stuff. Worth looking into.)

Let me show you how to have one (an opinion) without accusing someone who disagrees with you of being misguided and uninformed:

1. You are assuming a lot about the motivations of people who like the game. That's a dangerous thing to do - because the only real concrete data you have is that they like it, not why they like it. In my very first post I outlined some things about the game I felt were really very interesting and engaging. I think there are too many well-made aspects of the game to dismiss all that public approval as some sort of female 'hoo-ah.' I believe it's far more reasonable to simply conclude that you - personally - just didn't enjoy or appreciate some things that many others did. It's a whole other step to "everyone experienced what I did with the game, they then championed mediocrity because they are cheering on the girlpower."

2. It doesn't matter what isolated examples you cite - there are fewer female leads in games than male ones. Games with female leads sell less, and receive less marketing dollars. Those aren't opinions - I am citing the research of Geoffrey Zatkin, the Chief Operating Officer of Electronic Entertainment Design and Research. Therefore...

3. This scorn towards the idea that a game might be getting preferential treatment because the lead is a female is distasteful because it only perpetuates the worst aspects of nerd culture. It's similar in tone to a white man being upset in 1970s Alabama that someone might've done a black man a favor. Are you really so worried that feminism has been so powerful and successful that we've over-corrected slightly for all the male-bias in geek culture? Despite all the evidence to the contrary?

Here, from that Kotaku article you probably won't read:
************************************************** ****
"Geek society prides itself on being explicitly counter-culture; nerds will crow about how, as a society, they're better than the others who exclude them. They'll insist that they're more egalitarian; geeks hold tight to the belief that geek culture is a meritocracy, where concepts of agism, sexism and racism simply don't exist the way it does elsewhere. And yet, even a cursory examination will demonstrate that this isn't true."
************************************************** ****
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Old 03-14-2013, 12:53 PM   #9
DarkDaY
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I can see some of your issues, but they are not nearly ino as bad as you make them out and contrary to some the game is a looker but maybe thats just me and my comp on ultra. For those who just want to have a good time its easily worth the price.

I would give it 4.5/5

enjoy either way.
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Old 03-14-2013, 02:12 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by The 7th Patriot View Post
The Ugly
  • Are people overrating this game because the protagonist is a chick?
Feminist cunts.
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Old 03-14-2013, 02:19 PM   #11
Cutter99
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Feminist cunts.
YYYEEEAAAAHHH! HA! That is perfect. The Pope grabs the alley-oop and slams the message HOME! Two points!
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Old 03-14-2013, 02:20 PM   #12
Claus DuBois
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Wow, I'm surprised at the 3 rating. The narrative only supports about a 1.5 to 2 at best.

I unshamefully give the game a 4.5+, but I'm guilty of being a simpleton who evaluates a game almost solely on whether or not I enjoyed the experience and how much. If I played a game like an IRS agent trying to Fk U Up on your unsupported 1040 deductions, I'd likely die of aneurysm before the first cutscene.
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Old 03-14-2013, 02:25 PM   #13
Agnostic Pope
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Originally Posted by Cutter99 View Post
YYYEEEAAAAHHH! HA! That is perfect. The Pope grabs the alley-oop and slams the message HOME! Two points!
I fucking used to love Lara Croft and how corny/the illusion of discovery/puzzle the game carried but she became a walking trope that didn't make sense with the cutscenes. Like you were crying for killing one man seconds after gunning down 10...I mean, really? She just seemed so bland. But I guess people care more about graphics than the story/gameplay and immersion.
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Old 03-14-2013, 02:31 PM   #14
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Can someone give me a solid definition of "derivative gameplay"? As I imagine it, 90% of the games we play today are "derivative" of some predecessor. Does that phrase even mean anything anymore?
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Old 03-14-2013, 02:36 PM   #15
unleashbass
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Whilist, I do actually agree with some of the points " action fatigue ". But, while it may not be the most original etc. Its polished, an well executed. Bottom line anyone who likes Uncharted will love it. I'd give it 4. Just missing the puzzles of old.
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Old 03-14-2013, 02:38 PM   #16
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COMPLETELY disagree with this review. This is a 5/5 game.
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Old 03-14-2013, 02:42 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Cutter99 View Post
So wait - do you not have a problem with female leads, or do you believe there is a current "Agenda" being perpetrated by... I'm not really sure who you think is driving the "pseudo-feminism" train? You're right in that it's sure not Kotaku - but the PAR has been a decent enough independent source for respectable opinions. (still, the article about nerd-male-privilege is really, really well written with some good stuff. Worth looking into.)

Let me show you how to have one (an opinion) without accusing someone who disagrees with you of being misguided and uninformed:

1. You are assuming a lot about the motivations of people who like the game. That's a dangerous thing to do - because the only real concrete data you have is that they like it, not why they like it. In my very first post I outlined some things about the game I felt were really very interesting and engaging. I think there are too many well-made aspects of the game to dismiss all that public approval as some sort of female 'hoo-ah.' I believe it's far more reasonable to simply conclude that you - personally - just didn't enjoy or appreciate some things that many others did. It's a whole other step to "everyone experienced what I did with the game, they then championed mediocrity because they are cheering on the girlpower."

2. It doesn't matter what isolated examples you cite - there are fewer female leads in games than male ones. Games with female leads sell less, and receive less marketing dollars. Those aren't opinions - I am citing the research of Geoffrey Zatkin, the Chief Operating Officer of Electronic Entertainment Design and Research. Therefore...

3. This scorn towards the idea that a game might be getting preferential treatment because the lead is a female is distasteful because it only perpetuates the worst aspects of nerd culture. It's similar in tone to a white man being upset in 1970s Alabama that someone might've done a black man a favor. Are you really so worried that feminism has been so powerful and successful that we've over-corrected slightly for all the male-bias in geek culture? Despite all the evidence to the contrary?

Here, from that Kotaku article you probably won't read:
************************************************** ****
"Geek society prides itself on being explicitly counter-culture; nerds will crow about how, as a society, they're better than the others who exclude them. They'll insist that they're more egalitarian; geeks hold tight to the belief that geek culture is a meritocracy, where concepts of agism, sexism and racism simply don't exist the way it does elsewhere. And yet, even a cursory examination will demonstrate that this isn't true."
************************************************** ****
Excellent post. A shame this site doesn't have more members like you.
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Old 03-14-2013, 02:43 PM   #18
ElektroDragon
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Originally Posted by Suicidal ShiZuru View Post
I don't have a problem with female leads in any medium at all. It's just that currently with all this pseudo feminism going around the gaming circuit lately it's obvious people take it too far with "support" and work against themselves. You're obviously blind to the fact that people are buying into this game solely as a passive way to support this new agenda. I've seen countless comments by people who praised the game and swore to buy it just because it was a woman as the protagonist. If you don't see the problem enjoy contributing to the endless circle of stupidity. Linking to a PA and Shitaku article to argue with is proof that you are misguided and uninformed. Kotaku especially has played a large role in pushing so much angst.
Ridiculous. I bought the game because I enjoy looking at a hot, pretty girl while playing over some dude. That, and the game kicks total ass while showing me some ass. It's a better Uncharted than Uncharted.
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Old 03-14-2013, 03:29 PM   #19
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I liked the game cause it is a blast to play, pretty to listen to and kickass to look at with great gameplay and a fun story that acctually made me want to finish it. Players gonna play, haters gonna hate, their loss.
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Old 03-14-2013, 04:49 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by ElektroDragon View Post
Ridiculous. I bought the game because I enjoy looking at a hot, pretty girl while playing over some dude. That, and the game kicks total ass while showing me some ass. It's a better Uncharted than Uncharted.

No ass, great moaner though!
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