Tomb Raider PC Review

/ 10 years ago

Tomb Raider Featured

It’s taken me longer than I would have liked to complete this game, but after a few late nights and a few important jobs swept under the carpet, I did it, I finally completed Tomb Raider!

Hailing from the talented minds of Crystal Dynamics, although when I say talented I do know that the studio has had some rather off pace titles over the years, yet they are the people who made games such as Legacy of Kain – Soul Reaver, so we do know that they are capable of creating something special from time to time.

There is no point in hiding behind the truth however, the Tomb Raider franchise has been stinking of rot for a good few years now, and while there may have been one or two half good games in there, or at least enough to please the loyal fans, I think the games have gone down hill since the early PlayStation 2 days. What the franchise needed was some new blood and a complete reboot in the backside! Fortunately, that is exactly what Crystal Dynamics have done, throwing us right back to a time of a 21yr old, much less experienced in the art of exploring, and scared Lara Croft.

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I don’t want to dive right in and ruin the story, surely half of the fun of a single player game is discovering that part your selves! But what I can say is that the game starts with you suffering a ship wreck, separated from your friends and co-workers and basically stranded on an island full of mystery, treasure and cultist nut jobs… so a lot like LOST then!

This is where the most interesting dynamic of this game comes into play, survival. Where games such as Uncharted, or of course many of the Tomb Raider games prior to this one were action adventure titles, this is simply a survival adventure game. There is a bigger emphasis on life being fragile, and while sure, you can still take a bullet to the belly and be ok a few moments later if you don’t take another one, you’re certainly easier to kill than is normally the pace for a modern game.

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Gun fights are shaky and brutal, Lara is not some gun wielding ninja and your equipment isn’t that great to start with either. Shaky hands, scrambling for cover, minimal health and some well coordinated enemies, that will communicate with each other to circle around you, use fire to burn you out of cover and destroy your environment, or use shields to charge up on you, all of which adds up to some pretty chaotic but entertaining fights.

The AI isn’t the best in the world, but its certainly better than most any adventure game and the dialogue between enemies feels a little better than just triggered scripts, especially as they react to their environment dynamically as they try to find you and pursue you.

Gun battles, fire and other weapons are one thing, its what happens when Lara runs into the wrong end of them that gets me, “she dies” would be one way of putting it. However, Crystal Dynamics have put a lot of effort into the death scene animations of Tomb Raider and its easy for the first few to catch you off guard and make your eyes go wide. I can see some sadists jumping off every edge, getting killed in every quick time event and more just to see what happens. Unless you want to see her impaled through the throat, crushes, burned, strangled or maybe even worse, I would keep her alive! As grim as it all sounds, it plays really well on the survival adventure aspect I was talking about, and it shows how the character is more fragile and prone to death, of course that illusion is ruined by the fact real life doesn’t have save points / checkpoints.

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The PC edition of this game certainly has a few benefits over the console counterparts, and while sure, they also look fantastic they’re a far cry from what this game engine can do on a high end gaming PC. Most famously for this game is TressFX, a fancy physics based hair simulation that gives Lara a more realistic head of hear, doesn’t sound like much does it? Well your half right, it does look fantastic, and it is better than the more rigid hair model, but her hair does have a complete and utter seizure from time to time that can ruin the effect. Also if you own a Nvidia card, good luck getting the TressFX setting to work as intended, this is an AMD trick that Nvidia hasn’t quite emulated yet, even if they say they’ve patched it, I beg to differ.

All the major features are here FXAA, SSAO, AO, High Precision, Tesselation, AF and high resolution support. Should you have the system to enable them all to maximum the game world really comes to life in terms of detail that put it with the best looking games on the market today. Unfortunately not everyone has an SLI capable gaming rig, equipped with powerful i5 CPU’s and Crystal Dynamics have been good at creating a versatile engine that allows for good gaming performance as the cost of graphical fidelity on lower end systems, a humble Core2Duo is enough in some cases.

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The main story will take you around 9 hours to complete but if you bolt right through the game, your only getting half of the experience that the game offers. Through out the game you will find items like books, GPS beacons and wall markings that lead you off the beaten track, into caves, tunnels and more in the search for rare artifacts and some interesting level based puzzles. It’s a great way of getting some extra play time and fortunately its a sideline that’s entertaining to complete. It’s also important to find items such as food, ammo and salvage, the most important however is salvage. Using this salvage you can upgrade your guns, axe, bow and any other weapons you pick up on your travels. While the game starts with a shaky handed Lara and a clapped out old bow, salvage will see you with the precision of a skilled hitman and the moves to match in the latter half of the game.

Overall its a solid gaming experience, on one had you have the classic exploration that made tomb raider famous, as you figure out the best way to climb a set of obstacles to trigger a door or event to progress to the next section. Add to that the high action gun fights that made games such as Uncharted popular. Throw in the survival aspects and plenty of scenarios that put the life of a 21 yr old, inexperienced adventurer on the line constantly and you’ve got your self a game that can keep you on the edge of your seat more than once throughout its story.

I’ll admit, the story is a bit dull for my liking but it does help push the action and exploration along and its the gameplay that really matters here. The only issue I have with the game is that its caught what I call “Uncharted Disease” and where the developers at Naughty Dog have some of the best camera work in a gaming, a trend to try emulated that in recent years has caused a widespread case feeling like your game character is being followed by a very drunk camera man, does it really need to wobble that much Crystal Dynamics?!

If you love the original Tomb Raider series, you’re going to really enjoy this new adventure. The same is true for those who hated the original Tomb Raiders as this brings the game into the modern age, loosing all the old issues with the poor ledge grabbing mechanics and actually making the series enjoyable once again, just don’t bother with the tacked on multiplayer and you’ll be fine.

I’m still awarding the game our Gamers Choice award and even though it has some little niggles like the camera and poor multiplayer, the core gaming experience is by far one of the best of the last the last 12 months. If you’re not playing the new Tomb Raider, you’re missing out on a great game.




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