Tag Archives: lara croft

Tomb Raider review – Becoming a Croft

0fcfe416a700cdd937561ad0964a0299

Think about all the things that the Tomb Raider series has meant to you. Backflips, twin Uzis, shooting tigers, searching the large mansion, huge breasts, the short shorts, solving elaborate puzzles, surviving traps, and perhaps most importantly, raiding tombs.

Most of that has no place in this new Tomb Raider, and that’s okay. Developer Crystal Dynamics has taken yet another shot at the franchise, but this time opting for a complete reboot to focus more on the development of the protagonist, Lara Croft, rather than just tacking on another adventure to list on her resume.

This is Lara’s first true expedition. Lara and company set sail on their ship, the Endurance, with the goal of finding the lost island of Yamatai. No one knows its exact location, or even if it exists, but this young Croft is determined to discover it. And that she does, as a violent storm literally rips the ship apart and the crew washes ashore. The situation escalates quickly from there, as Lara is almost immediately captured before gathering her bearings and is tasked with escaping her captors and saving her friends.

The entire opening sequence through Lara’s escape is a highly cinematic affair with little interaction; move forward here, a quick-time event there, all to establish the setting and unveil the emotional and psychological impact on Lara. Many of the hints to create this type of setting are very subtle – while wading through high water or traversing dark areas, you may catch Lara looking back over her shoulder to see if anyone is following her. There are many of these moments, all of which are thoroughly believable, thanks to the expertly-done character animations.

lara2

Lara moves well and despite a grungy appearance, she looks great doing it. Crystal Dynamics also went out of their way to score Camilla Luddington (of True Blood and Grey’s Anatomy fame) as the voice actor for Lara, and she reprises the role perfectly. Occasionally, Lara will sit down at a campfire (save points) and give a brief monologue on her thoughts and condition, and these were a joy to listen to, both for narrative reasons and because the voice acting was so good.

The overarching story is about in line with what you’d expect, which is to say, not that much. You find that all the inhabitants of Yamatai are violent cultists that are looking to revive the Sun Queen and unlock her supernatural power. Literally every other human you meet that wasn’t on the Endurance is looking to capture or kill you, and you learn this very quickly. The real story is about Lara’s evolution from a bright-eyed explorer to a battle-hardened, full-fledged adventurer. Most of this change is very gradual and nuanced – at no point does she instantly flip a switch and say “okay, I’m going to act this way now”.

Her changes are out of necessity. She’s on a strange island and everyone and everything is trying to kill her. No, really, everything is trying to kill her. From islanders (known as the Solari) to wolves to any random cliff she’s near, death wants to claim her. The amount of times random falls and tumbles happen to Lara borders on a Looney Tunes level of ridiculousness. Did you know the average female has about 10 pints of blood in their body? I estimate that Lara should have lost somewhere around 35 pints throughout her adventure. The developers said they wanted you to care about Lara, and they decided they were going to beat her up until you do.

Lara is given a fair amount of options to defend herself. She starts with a bow, and eventually gets a pistol, shotgun, and even a grenade launcher. There is an upgrade system that allows for weapon mods to increase their effectiveness and she learns skills to assist both in combat and in traversal of the island. Of note, she’ll learn how to counterattack using some pretty gruesome sequences to fell her foes. Upon sensing there are enemies in the area, Lara will crouch instinctively to avoid detection. There is no “cover system” – Lara is smart enough to duck down when necessary. The combat is satisfying enough, but at times (particularly toward the endgame) the game leans on it a bit too much. And for once in a video game, the shotgun feels underpowered.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Yamatai is home to environments both lush and dangerous. Traveling across the island will take you to a wide variety of locations, ranging from a exotic forests with bustling wildlife to damp, dark caverns to underground bunkers with potentially deadly and free flowing natural gas. The transition between areas feels pretty seamless (for the player, at least; Lara might beg to differ). The island is broken into multiple hubs where you can quick travel between campfires once you’ve reached them. Most hubs are relatively small, but there are two or three massive ones that can make it feel like an open world game. Most areas also have a sense of verticality, and almost all of them are littered with collectibles. What’s nice is upon pickup, collectibles feature a description that is actually narrated to you by various characters and the island map will tell you how many of them you’re still missing, making them more rewarding to find.

Once you’ve completed the story and found all the collectibles, there’s very little else to do. You can run around and enjoy the gorgeous scenery and clear areas of enemies a second time, but they won’t respawn for a third go-round. There’s a couple optional tombs to find, but they house some fairly simple puzzles and are about as shallow as a puddle.

This Tomb Raider brings you something you’ve never seen in the series before: multiplayer. When I first heard that a multiplayer component was being added, I was just as skeptical as you probably are. I thought that it didn’t need multiplayer, that it didn’t belong. And boy, was I right.

Online play in Tomb Raider is about as exciting as reading the bullet points about its features. Here, let me show you:

With the new Tomb Raider multiplayer, you get

  • Five gameplay modes: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Free For All, Rescue, and Cry for Help!
  • Five great maps with vertical gameplay!
  • Gain XP to gain levels up to 60, then Prestige and start over!
  • Find Salvage to unlock new weapons and skills!
  • DLC coming soon!

See how riveting that was? That’s about the extent of actual fun you’ll have with the online modes. Most likely, you’ll give it a whirl and never touch that part of the game again.

Tomb Raider succeeds in being a great game despite its multiplayer missteps. Crystal Dynamics has taken an iconic character with a previously established identity and crafted the foundation to build her back up to it. By the end, Lara is once again strong and courageous, ready to take an another adventure and the ending implies as much. Thanks to this strong showing, I’ll be ready for it and you should be, too.


Final Score
9

______________________________________________________________________________________

Available on Xbox 360 (reviewed), Playstation 3
Dev: Crystal Dynamics
Pub: Square-Enix
Buy: Purchase Tomb Raider from Amazon | Gamestop

______________________________________________________________________________________
Full disclosure: I purchased this game for review. I spent approximately 30 hours with it, completing the game and spending several hours with the multiplayer.

What I’m Gaming Vol. 2

Hey everyone, Happy 4th of July! I hope you all have a great day today and are able to kick back, relax, and enjoy the free time. Just try not to do anything too wild.

Anyway, it’s Monday. And with Monday, that means the second edition of What I’m Gaming. Read on to see what I’ve been gaming this week.

Games I’ve Played

Gears of War 2 multiplayer screenshot

Gears of War 2

It seems to happen every big holiday – that’s right, a Gears of War 2 EXP event. This time, it is for Independence Day and it’s 21x EXP through tonight. I’ve yet to obtain the “Veteran Gear” achievement in this game (for those that don’t know, you have to reach level 100 in online play and win a match in each of the Snowblind Map Pack maps), so I decided to give it a shot.

It needs to be said that I do not like the multiplayer in Gears of War games. It’s glitchy, it’s third-person (I greatly prefer first person), it’s got everyone trying to bridge for host, it doesn’t want me to play it (more on this in a future article), yet it wants me to spend my life on it to get the online achievements. That said, I do want to have 100% completion in this game, so I need to be able to finish this achievement off. I’ve passed on a lot of other EXP events, so I at least needed to spend a few hours on this game.

And that’s all I could take. I played enough to level up nearly 3 levels. I went from 57 to [almost] 60, so I’ve still got a long way to go. I just can’t take this game except for in small doses. I can honestly say I am not looking forward to Gears of War 3.

Schizoid screenshot

Schizoid

I admit, I’ve had this game for a while. It was on sale on XBLA who knows how long ago, but I never got around to checking out what it was all about. I’ve never been much of a trial person – I like to kind of just dive in and hope it’s good.

Buying Schizoid was a good decision.

The concept of the game is very simple. There’s a blue guy, and there’s an orange guy (no, these aren’t portals). If you have the blue guy, you can kill the blue creatures. Likewise with the orange. The goal is to clear all the blue and orange creatures on screen, preferably without dying.

Me and my girlfriend dove into the co-op (after the game I outline next pissed me off) and after dying a few times, we were much better. It was really pretty mindless fun – the kind where if you lose a few times, you don’t get mad. It just inspires to you play better and keep trying. Completing this game will be very challenging, but I’ll be giving it a shot, for sure.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light screenshot

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

I don’t know what to say. I heard that this is a very solid game with good co-op, but that’s not what I experienced. We were only in the first level, but actually experienced two game-breaking glitches that caused us to move on to play Schizoid (although that part wasn’t a bad thing – see above).

I was playing as Lara and I was killed by a rotating flame. When I respawned, I appeared on the other side of a gate that I wasn’t supposed to be at yet. I had no way of returning to my partner, so we had to reload the game. The second glitch was just as frustrating, if not more. While trying to work our way back to the flamethrower puzzle, there is a small chasm that you have to cross. Lara has a grappling hook/rope tool where she can swing across by latching onto a golden ring. She would then help her partner across. Well, the game refused to acknowledge the ring (even though this is how the game instructed us to cross!) and we could not continue.

That’s when I turned it off. It’ll be a while before I try to play this game again.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 screenshot

Sonic the Hedgehog 3

After last week’s Sonic 4 fiasco, I decided to go back and play the previous entry to make sure that I wasn’t being too critical of the newer game. I played one level (picture above, actually) and stopped. I don’t particularly like the level that follows.

Anyway, Sonic in this game was a fast as I remembered, and ensured that my perspective was not skewed by time.

condemned 2 screenshot

Condemned 2: Bloodshot

I still have not played through the campaign in this game, but I’m finally almost done with the entire multiplayer. I was able to have a friend assist me with unlocking my “Serial Killer” achievement, where you have to get 1000 kills in the multiplayer. I also made progress towards the “SKX” achievement, where you have to kill 9 people that unlocked “Serial Killer”. It was definitely a good day of work, and it didn’t take long.

It might be a while before I finally get into the campaign in this game – “horror” games are games I need to be in the mood to play, and usually it needs to be at night. I’ll get there, though – but not before I complete the multiplayer.

Tales of Vesperia

I continued my journey in Tales of Vesperia and uncovered some interesting plot points. Right now, I’d say I’m around two-thirds through the story segment of the game. You’ll be seeing this game a lot in What I’m Gaming.

Killzone 2

I played about half a level. I wasn’t really in the mood to play it and I was tired. Just a quick fix, I guess.

NBA 2K11

Another game that will probably be a weekly entry for the foreseeable future. I love this game, but Kobe’s dunk rating is way too high for his age and current ability, and my brother knows how to abuse the [nearly] unstoppable dropstep dunk. Ugh.

The King of Fighters XII

Continued working on filling out my spreadsheet for this game. I’m done with my initial playthroughs with each character. Now I just have to go back fill in all of the blanks. Too bad there are a lot of blanks…

Oh, and Mature sucks in this game. Bad.

Games I Bought

No retail games this week. I did purchase three XBLA titles, though. Those titles were Tetris Splash, Hardwood Hearts, and Puzzle Bobble Live. All three of these titles were purchased for my girlfriend to play. I will probably end up never touching any of the three, myself.

I did end up getting HALF MINUTE HERO: Super Mega Neo Climax for myself, although I haven’t had the chance to start it.

Other Gaming-Related News

Not much here. I re-downloaded several games and DLC that I either deleted in anger or frustration (Prince of Persia Classic, anyone?) or because I needed to conserve space. Now that I’ve moved into a bigger HDD, these things aren’t a big concern anymore.

Conclusion

That about wraps up my gaming report for this week. Now it’s your turn – what have you been playing this past week? What new games have you bought?

Let me know in the comments.

What I'm Gaming Vol. 2

Hey everyone, Happy 4th of July! I hope you all have a great day today and are able to kick back, relax, and enjoy the free time. Just try not to do anything too wild.

Anyway, it’s Monday. And with Monday, that means the second edition of What I’m Gaming. Read on to see what I’ve been gaming this week.

Games I’ve Played

Gears of War 2 multiplayer screenshot

Gears of War 2

It seems to happen every big holiday – that’s right, a Gears of War 2 EXP event. This time, it is for Independence Day and it’s 21x EXP through tonight. I’ve yet to obtain the “Veteran Gear” achievement in this game (for those that don’t know, you have to reach level 100 in online play and win a match in each of the Snowblind Map Pack maps), so I decided to give it a shot.

It needs to be said that I do not like the multiplayer in Gears of War games. It’s glitchy, it’s third-person (I greatly prefer first person), it’s got everyone trying to bridge for host, it doesn’t want me to play it (more on this in a future article), yet it wants me to spend my life on it to get the online achievements. That said, I do want to have 100% completion in this game, so I need to be able to finish this achievement off. I’ve passed on a lot of other EXP events, so I at least needed to spend a few hours on this game.

And that’s all I could take. I played enough to level up nearly 3 levels. I went from 57 to [almost] 60, so I’ve still got a long way to go. I just can’t take this game except for in small doses. I can honestly say I am not looking forward to Gears of War 3.

Schizoid screenshot

Schizoid

I admit, I’ve had this game for a while. It was on sale on XBLA who knows how long ago, but I never got around to checking out what it was all about. I’ve never been much of a trial person – I like to kind of just dive in and hope it’s good.

Buying Schizoid was a good decision.

The concept of the game is very simple. There’s a blue guy, and there’s an orange guy (no, these aren’t portals). If you have the blue guy, you can kill the blue creatures. Likewise with the orange. The goal is to clear all the blue and orange creatures on screen, preferably without dying.

Me and my girlfriend dove into the co-op (after the game I outline next pissed me off) and after dying a few times, we were much better. It was really pretty mindless fun – the kind where if you lose a few times, you don’t get mad. It just inspires to you play better and keep trying. Completing this game will be very challenging, but I’ll be giving it a shot, for sure.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light screenshot

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

I don’t know what to say. I heard that this is a very solid game with good co-op, but that’s not what I experienced. We were only in the first level, but actually experienced two game-breaking glitches that caused us to move on to play Schizoid (although that part wasn’t a bad thing – see above).

I was playing as Lara and I was killed by a rotating flame. When I respawned, I appeared on the other side of a gate that I wasn’t supposed to be at yet. I had no way of returning to my partner, so we had to reload the game. The second glitch was just as frustrating, if not more. While trying to work our way back to the flamethrower puzzle, there is a small chasm that you have to cross. Lara has a grappling hook/rope tool where she can swing across by latching onto a golden ring. She would then help her partner across. Well, the game refused to acknowledge the ring (even though this is how the game instructed us to cross!) and we could not continue.

That’s when I turned it off. It’ll be a while before I try to play this game again.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 screenshot

Sonic the Hedgehog 3

After last week’s Sonic 4 fiasco, I decided to go back and play the previous entry to make sure that I wasn’t being too critical of the newer game. I played one level (picture above, actually) and stopped. I don’t particularly like the level that follows.

Anyway, Sonic in this game was a fast as I remembered, and ensured that my perspective was not skewed by time.

condemned 2 screenshot

Condemned 2: Bloodshot

I still have not played through the campaign in this game, but I’m finally almost done with the entire multiplayer. I was able to have a friend assist me with unlocking my “Serial Killer” achievement, where you have to get 1000 kills in the multiplayer. I also made progress towards the “SKX” achievement, where you have to kill 9 people that unlocked “Serial Killer”. It was definitely a good day of work, and it didn’t take long.

It might be a while before I finally get into the campaign in this game – “horror” games are games I need to be in the mood to play, and usually it needs to be at night. I’ll get there, though – but not before I complete the multiplayer.

Tales of Vesperia

I continued my journey in Tales of Vesperia and uncovered some interesting plot points. Right now, I’d say I’m around two-thirds through the story segment of the game. You’ll be seeing this game a lot in What I’m Gaming.

Killzone 2

I played about half a level. I wasn’t really in the mood to play it and I was tired. Just a quick fix, I guess.

NBA 2K11

Another game that will probably be a weekly entry for the foreseeable future. I love this game, but Kobe’s dunk rating is way too high for his age and current ability, and my brother knows how to abuse the [nearly] unstoppable dropstep dunk. Ugh.

The King of Fighters XII

Continued working on filling out my spreadsheet for this game. I’m done with my initial playthroughs with each character. Now I just have to go back fill in all of the blanks. Too bad there are a lot of blanks…

Oh, and Mature sucks in this game. Bad.

Games I Bought

No retail games this week. I did purchase three XBLA titles, though. Those titles were Tetris Splash, Hardwood Hearts, and Puzzle Bobble Live. All three of these titles were purchased for my girlfriend to play. I will probably end up never touching any of the three, myself.

I did end up getting HALF MINUTE HERO: Super Mega Neo Climax for myself, although I haven’t had the chance to start it.

Other Gaming-Related News

Not much here. I re-downloaded several games and DLC that I either deleted in anger or frustration (Prince of Persia Classic, anyone?) or because I needed to conserve space. Now that I’ve moved into a bigger HDD, these things aren’t a big concern anymore.

Conclusion

That about wraps up my gaming report for this week. Now it’s your turn – what have you been playing this past week? What new games have you bought?

Let me know in the comments.