I 100% completed Tomb Raider (2013) today. I'm pretty torn about the game, because there's a great deal of things I liked a lot, and a great deal of things I really hated simultaneously. That's a pretty unusual reaction for me with a game.
Things I liked a lot:
- Game feel: Movement feels great, shooting enemies with the bow is incredibly satisfying, jumping and climbing is really smooth, the sort of half-sticky half-cover system is really flexible and felt excellent. I can't stress enough how great it is just running around in the game. This has some of the best auto-platforming I've ever played in a game.
- Visuals: The game is really, really gorgeous. Weather effects are great. Environments are mostly excellent and there's quite a bit of variety given that it takes place on a single island. Lara's model keeps changing throughout the game as she suffers more and more abuse--and they very creatively have plot reasons to clean her up every once in a while only to make her bloody and dirty again.
- Enemy AI: I generally liked the enemy AI. There are only a few regular enemy types, but they combine them interestingly. I generally felt like I had to move around a bit to avoid getting pincered or my cover shot out or blown up. It felt frenetic and engaging generally.
- Bar filling: This game is more stuffed full of bars to fill than any game series other than Assassin's Creed. You are collecting scrap. You are collecting experience. You're using experience to upgrade skills and scrap to upgrade weapons. You're collecting weapon parts. You're collecting GPS pickups and relics (like in Uncharted, they have a little 3D Model) + most relics have a hidden thing for you to find if you rotate the model. Every area has something to shoot or burn or find as a per-level sort of thing. There are like 999 combat bonuses for extra experience. For a mostly fairly linear kind of action-shooter, I felt constantly stimulated with tons of stuff to do.
- Ziplines: I don't think people in the real world use ziplines but I love them in video games.
- The Puzzle Tombs: The game has optional tomb areas which are basically little mini-puzzle areas. This is good because the main game doesn't have many puzzles. These work great, they're very unique and interesting. Totally totally enjoyed these, wish the game had three times as many.
- Tension and Release: The game does a great job alternating between high excitement and low excitement periods.
- Long, substantial: This is a 15+ hour game easily. I took 19 to 100%, but that's including maybe 3 hours of replay because of lost save progress.
Things I didn't like:
- Game feel: All of the guns sucked in comparison to the bow, the grenade launcher is incredibly weak.
- "Big" enemies: Every single shooting game that features a 10 foot tall enemy that wears tons of armour and takes 999999 bullets and then you have to QTE to kill it and the enemy has lines like "YOUR PUNY WEAPONS WON'T HURT ME" is stupid. There are no 10 foot tall human beings. This is not enjoyable. No one likes this. Tomb Raider has this multiple times, including two separate boss fights.
- End-game combat: About three quarters of the way through the game, all the enemies start having armour and machine guns and combat takes a nosedive. It's much more frustrating without being more skillful. Bullet sponge crap. The last boss fight is like four QTEs.
- Setpieces: The game has an enormous number of setpieces where you're in a collapsing building, running from explosions, parachuting through trees, tumbling down a muddy slide, being pushed down rapids, falling large distances and hitting the ground, etc. These suck. They suck in every game that does them. It's not good gameplay, because it's basically an extended low-control QTE. But the worst part is that after the first time, the spectacle wears off. It's just boring and blasé. You see a bridge and you say 'gee whiz, I wonder if the bridge will collapse as I'm walking on it" and then it does.
Things I hated:
- The intro: The single worst part of the game is the introduction section. How the hell does this happen in so many games? It has forced slow-walking.
- Lara getting the crap kicked out of her: Lara gets shot, burned, inappropriately touched, beaten, falls, stabbed and impaled, hung upsidedown multiple times, etc. If you lose a QTE, you are going to get brutally dismembered by an enemy or environmental obstacle. The Conan Clueless Gamer review that emphasizes this is right to. The sounds here are really disgusting too. This is the definition of pornographic. The scenes aren't done to provoke any response other than titillation. It's just stupid.
- Genocide: Lara kills maybe 1000-1200 people during the run of the game. Lara kills more people than Kane and Lynch did combined. This is ridiculous. You can't have a moment in the introduction where the game is like "omg big emotional moment lara has to use violence to defend herself killing people is such a big moral responsibility" and then have her headshot 15 people in a row five minutes later. Either learn to make games with less combat, or stop trying to make it a major plot/character theme. Oh and by the way, the first time you kill someone it's in the context of a group of people burning down a village and killing dozens of innocent civilians and trying to kill you after groping you--there is absolutely, positively no shade of grey here. There's no moral dilemma.
- The characters, the writing: The characters are awful. You have a team full of awful sidekicks. There's "Grumpy Old Crazy Man", "Wise and Caring Father Figure", "Best Friend", "Big Dumb Muscle Gronk", "Socially Awkward Nerd" (this guy actually wears a t-shirt with an Esc key, it's just a total joke), "Oily Used Car Salesman Jerkoff Who Is Obviously Being Set Up For a Heel Turn Later", "Sassy Black Woman". It's pitiful. They're all terrible. The only character who gets any writing behind him at all is the father figure guy, who keeps telling Lara he believes in her, she can do it, etc etc etc. Which is why it's obvious that he's going to die, but not before he gets to have a dying breath monologue where he tells Lara to be strong. It's all so flat and telegraphed. It's so phoned in. And half the dialogue is cliche stuff. Even the ambient enemy dialogue sucks--the last enemy in the game fired a random audio cue where he said "Hey guys, she's got a gun!" No duh ♥♥♥♥♥, I just laid waste to an entire civilization. I was really tempted to skip most of the cutscenes.
- The story: Hey, you know the supernatural stuff in every Tomb Raider game? And every Uncharted game? Well, it's here and it's just as stupid here.
That's a lot of words to say I'd play another one. It's a big dumb mega-budget AAA game. I think in a lot of ways it's one of the better examples of what it's trying to do this generation. Fire the writer for the next one.