With a lot of online reviews if the reviewer has invested their own money in a game they can have a tendency to overpraise the game so not to admit disappoint, or if they didn’t like the game they can go the other way and say it has no merit whatsoever (eg someone ranting about Call of Duty). So what we’re gonna do is have both Ian and Matt review games so that you can get two opinions about the game at the same time, to present a more balanced view of the experience. Each time we look at a game we will look at certain aspects that are important to the game (so Super Smash Bros would focus on the multiplayer, as an example). Today we’re looking at the latest Tomb Raider game by Crystal Dynamics. Both reviewers played the PlayStation 3 version. The areas we will look at are; Gameplay, Story and Longevity.
Ian: Tomb Raider feels like an incredibly polished and tight third person action game. Yes I know everyone says it, but it really does feel like Uncharted’s rebellious younger sibling, that’s its older sibling. The gunplay is the draw of the game personally. There are only 4 weapons in the entire game and they all have a nice weight and feel to them. They really feel like they can do damage, which often isn’t the case in games that focus on shooting (the assault rifle in halo is an example of a weapon that never really had a nice feel to it). The levels are beautifully designed; they’re wide and open, which allows for different approaches to scenarios. Wanna be stealthy or full on action? You’re presented with an opportunity for both. I also like the crafting system. It’s an unashamed video game; you upgrade weapons by collecting bolts from dead rabbits. The gameplay is, as it should be, the joy of this game and easily it’s best feature. It’s a shame the rest of the game is such a let down.
Matt: Tomb Raider is a joy to play, it handles great. You always feel like you are in control of Lara. The gun play aspects are all done very well. As Ian said there are only 4 firearms in the game, but each has its own merit and own purpose. Each weapon also handles differently. The pistol is you quick weapon that can be used to get you out of a fix, but is also loud and draws attention. The Longbow is great for your stealth kill, but takes it’s time to set up. The Machine gun is great when you are in a tight spot and need to clear enemies quickly, however it’s inaccurate and you waste a lot of ammo. Then there is the shotgun, great in close quarters, but woeful at distance. There is the pickaxe, which is a great little melee weapon for quick kills. The game also allows for a great deal of choice with stealth and action, which is nice to see, and fits well with the whole survival theme. There is also a nifty little upgrade system, which allows for your own customisation of Lara. Of course you can just hunt loads of animals and level everything up to, if you want to collect achievements.
Ian: MY paragraph contains SPOILERS so skip it if you don’t want the story ruining. Atrocious, utterly atrocious. The story is by far and away the weakest part of the single player experience. The main issue is character development. Take for example the character of Alex. For some reason he leaves the group to search for something (genuinely can’t remember and don’t care), then before he gets all blown up there’s a heart moving moment between him and Lara. Except it isn’t heartwarming as we have absolutely no idea who he is, or why we should care about him. The same can be said for all the other characters, they feel there just to have Lara bounce off rather than feeling like fully formed characters themselves. And don’t even get me started on the main antagonist, he’s one dimensional and killed in a very anticlimactic way.
Matt: I’m not as harsh on the story as Ian is. In fact I quite enjoyed it. It helped me understand what makes Lara, Lara. Sure some of the characters where a bit one dimensional (including the villain). The idea of her being stranded and the experience moulding her into the gun slinging, leather wearing, bike riding Lara that we know and love is appealing to me. It’s not a great story, but it’s not a bad one either, and let’s be honest with ourselves, Tomb Raider was never exactly a game famed for story telling. Without adding spoilers I’m just going to say that the story is good, entertaining in parts and a bit flat in others.
Ian: The single player mode will last you anywhere between 10-15 hours, which is pretty good for a modern single player game. Here’s the big issue though, there is little to no replay value at all. If you start up a new game all you weapon upgrades etc don’t carry across so you have to scavenge for parts again. It’s not too much of an issue but what is, is not being able to select a part of the game to replay again. The best part of the game is the burning building section. When I finished my first play through I immediately wanted to play that section again, alas you can’t. You have to replay the whole game again, including the mind numbing opening quick time event sections. This really isn’t on, it means you never actually go back and play the game again which is such a shame. It’s like having your favourite song on an album bring track 7 and being told you have to listen through songs 1-6 every time you want to listen to it. It just makes you think twice before putting the game in the drive. Then there’s multiplayer, you’ll play it once then say “well that was rubbish”.
Matt: Yeah longevity isn’t exactly this games strong point. The main story will take about 6 hours, then you’ve got about another 4 or 5 collecting everything, but after that there’s nothing. Multiplayer is frankly shit. It’s just all a bit uninspired. Also as Ian said; not being able to select portions of the game to replay is a bit annoying as you don’t really get to experience all those great moments again. Also there isn’t really any reason to play again. There isn’t a branching story, or any kind of reason to play through with a different approach. As mentioned before the story is only good, so you won’t even replay it to experience the story again. Yeah there isn’t really much I can say here. If you deeply love the game then you’ll play it again anyway, if your just casual it’ll probably gather dust and be replayed in a year or so, or get traded in.
Ian: I have to say that if you’re into great single player games you’ll lap up your initial play through of Tomb Raider. The gun mechanics are tight, the levels are impeccably designed and the set pieces are breathtaking, but there’s nothing beyond that. An amazing game let down by an emphasis on multiplayer for longevity and poor planning for single player replays. I give Tomb Raider a very respectable 8/10.
Matt: The game is very fun. It has excellent game play, and a story that is both gripping and slightly forgettable. The game looks and feels beautiful and the settings create feelings of both awe and despair. There are moments when the game really drives home the survival aspect, and then moments when Lara defies death like superman. The game isn’t perfect; it’s actually a way off that. However it’s also by no stretch a bad game, it’s in fact a great game. It has its flaws but it also has what you need, a good story, good game play and stunning scenery. For that I’m giving Tomb Raider an 8/10. If it had longevity it would be at least a 9.
Any way what are your thoughts on the game? How would you rate it? You could always tell us by answering the poll.