Anonymous of Holland            -A Dutchman in Korea-

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Anon Of Holland Reviews: Tomb Raider [Square-Enix, 2013]

Tomb Raider

Square-Enix has been on a roll lately. Since taking over the ‘Western’ publisher Eidos Interactive they’ve released 3 (Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Sleeping Dogs, Hitman: Absolution) games in a row that have been critical and financial successes, 2 of which I personally loved to play (Sleeping Dogs and Hitman); an impressive record for any publisher, especially considering the deplorable state gaming has been in recently. In fact, even though their new game has released in the beginning of March, it has the dubious honor of being the first non-disappointing game of 2013! Hell, I’d go as far as to say it’s the first great game of 2013.I’m speaking, of course, of Tomb Raider, the…Tomb Raider…reboot developed by Crystal Dynamics.

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Some would argue if we really need ANOTHER reboot in a  climate that is full of reboots, remakes and reimaginings, but I think we can all agree that Lara had lost her way a bit the past decade or so. Sure, Tomb Raider Underworld was enjoyable and Anniversary was a great remake, but when put up against her main rival Nathan Drake of Uncharted Lara’s adventures felt more like a retarded sister than a dangerous adversary. Cue Square-Enix, Japanese software giant, who buys up Eidos Interactive and thus gains the rights to the franchise and promptly decides to reboot it.

Square has placed its trust in the original Tomb Raider team, Crystal Dynamics, and their trust has paid off for the full 100%. Where you would expect a Tomb Raider reboot from the same team that did all the previous Tomb Raider games to get stuck in its previous experiences, it’s clear that nothing of the sorts has taken place here. The new Tomb Raider is something you haven’t seen before, and I’m not just talking about Lara’s boobs being smaller than a D-Cup!

First of all, Square decided they’d go with the popular style at the moment, which is making everything ‘realistic’ and ‘gritty’. To their credit it works really well here. What better way to frame the change of a young and naive girl into a badass adventurer than by beating the shit out of her for 20 hours? It’s not like they’re literally beating the shit out of her, but in my play time I’ve seen her get beaten up, impaled, drowned, exploded, shot, set on fire, broken by a huge fall, smacked against rocks, trees, bricks and other assorted materials and TOUCHED BY A CREEPY RUSSIAN GUY WHO LOOKED LIKE A TURK! Because, yeah, even though Lara gets to endure a lot of punishment in this game, they did decide to take the ‘implied rape’ scene out because the US was crying so much about it. It doesn’t take away much from the brutality of this game though; it’s pretty graphic in some areas, such as when Lara is hurtling down a river and gets IMPALED ON A STEEL TUBE THROUGH HER FUCKING MOUTH HOLY SHIT. Or when she takes a plunge into the sea and SMACKS HER HEAD OPEN ON SOME CORAL AND FLOATS UP LIFELESSLY, BLOOD FLOWING FROM HER WOUND. So, yeah, if Guro is your thing, you’ll be plenty served with this game.

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Anyway, as a result of this ‘post 2010’ approach to the game, the story and setting are very realistic, which makes it a much cooler game than the previous Tomb Raider games. No more weird temples with retarded systems of pulleys and rocks and whatnot just to form some puzzles, no more T-Rexes (booo!) and no more mutant enemies. This does have some effect on the gameplay though, unfortunately, as the puzzles are seriously lacking in this new Tomb Raider. In my opinion, it seems like they’re trying to hook a wide audience first, and then return a little more to the classic setting in the next game. There are some puzzles, mostly in the optional tombs, and they are quite clever, but I haven’t been stuck for more than two or three minutes trying to figure something out, and I did kind of miss that element of it. Apart from that though, the gameplay is amazing. Luckily, Crystal Dynamics have worked hard on the controls for Lara, so in my entire playthrough I haven’t once been pissed off at the controls when I fell down somewhere or got killed after a jump. The controls are ‘butt tight’ as we say in the Netherlands, and if every adventure game in the future has the same kind of controls I will be one happy camper. A large part of the game revolves around jumping, shimmying, balancing and climbing, of course, so the great controls definitely make that as enjoying as possible. The other part of the gameplay revolves around shooting bad guys, and surprisingly enough this is done extremely well! Even better than in most third person shooters! Where in most games I’d just sticky-cover my ass down somewhere and keep shooting until the entire room is emptied out, Tomb Raider’s enemies will flush you out with explosives or shoot away your cover around you so you’ll constantly have to move, making the combat so much more dynamic and tactical. The weapons are wonderful and accurate and just like with the platforming parts everything seems to be executed perfectly.

There are more areas of the game where it really shows that Square-Enix is well on its way becoming my favorite publisher by giving their developers ample time to perfect and polish their game. Most importantly perhaps, there are literally no bugs. No weird disappearing stuff, no savegame crappery, no clipping even! It’s a magical day when a video game doesn’t have clipping, my friends, but this game doesn’t have it! The attention to detail just shines through in every part of the game, from the super smooth animations to the great camera effects (I can’t believe I even actually liked those ‘lulz rain iz falling on ur camera’ effects but…they just did it so freaking well!) and things that make you go ‘damn, I can’t believe they thought of that’ such as Lara brushing her hand up against nearby walls or touching the ceiling when a particular cave is getting a little too narrow for comfort. The graphics in general are gorgeous, actually. I’ve always thought the reaches of the Xbox hardware had been reached quite some time ago and now developers are just trying to make us believe what we’re seeing looks better than something we saw a year ago, but Tomb Raider looks simply amazing. Much of this is due to the excellent animations, but a big ‘Holy Shit’ also goes to the incredible draw distance, the amazing detail in the environments and the aforementioned spectacular weather effects. Everything about this game just exhumes pure class.

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I’ve seen some reviewers complaining about the story, but I don’t really understand why. In fact, comparing this game to Dead Space 3, a game that also had a ‘large’ set of characters that had to be seperated from the player about 100 times during the game because it would be a drag to have them all tagging along, Tomb Raider does this so much better it’s like a slap in the face of Visceral. Where Dead Space 3 was full of retarded falling to split you up from your companions, Tomb Raider is much more realistic and even though there is a lot of falling, the falling actually makes sense and isn’t ‘oh yeah some thing just randomly exploded duh’. The main story is also very well done I think, starting off with mystery about a weird cult on a Bermuda-Triangle like island and moving into more supernatural territory slowly and believably. The dialogues are written well, and voice acting is acceptable on all levels.

This game was meant as an introduction to the new Lara Croft: a Lara Croft that starts off as a pretty little archeologist but is quickly forced to become the badass chick that we know and love. Even though her transformation isn’t as gradual as I would’ve liked, it’s still very well implemented and aside from doing a great job of serving the player this story, it also manages to be an extremely entertaining game you won’t want to put down until you finish it.

Verdict: 8/10
Great graphics, an interesting story and most importantly incredibly fun to play. The only thing it’s missing is some extra puzzles and hotpants.

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This entry was posted on 1 March 2013 by in Games, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , .

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