The lights are on
I'm a year late but thanks to PS+ I managed to play and beat this supposed gem...and I am disappointed.
Tomb Raider is a good game for sure with a pretty decent campaign that does a good job of getting rid of the eye candy association with the games and makes Lara more vulnerable (for some overly-so). The gameplay isn't really all that bad, but thanks to games like Assassin's Creed, Infamous, Arkham, and especially Uncharted, it just can't stack up. The game world is made up of small and large segments traversable via quick travel from camps, and your weapon selection is small: Bow, pistol, smg, shotgun. These weapons can be upgraded with salvage found in crates, chests, and killed animals and enemies for increased accuracy, an upgrade from shotgun to pump action then combat, etc with cosmetic effects for each upgrade. You can also level up and give Lara more ammo capacity, better collectible finding senses, and more health, along with other useful abilities. Unlike what GI claims, these systems aren't very deep, but offer enough customization and increased lethality to be worthy of a nod.
The game uses a system similar to Detective Mode or Eagle Vision called Survival Instinct, which temporarily makes the game world black and white while highlighting points of interest such as enemies, animals, collectibles, and ammo. Luckily there isn't a massive flash when you activate this so unlike the Arkham games, you don't fear going blind one day while playing in the dark. And don't even think about trying to be stealthy. Although bows, silenced weapons, and the stealth takedown are all marketed as "stealth" options, there were very few cases where they worked for me. An enemy could be several feet from another and facing the other way, but would somehow know his buddy just got dropped and alert every enemy in the area. Dodge counters are also finicky. You should be able to press the dodge button as an enemy is attacking to activate a counter, and press the attack button at the right time for a lethal arrow stab. However, this system is temperamental and doesn't always want to work.
Back to the game world, each area has a set amount of collectibles and challenges spread throughout it. From GPS caches, journals, and relics to the challenges that involve destroying poorly hidden objects, it can take a little time to find everything. But these side attractions aside, the entire game feels antiquated, as if the developers are still stuck in the PS2 era. The game features poor dialogue and voice acting, rough and outdated animations and the backpocket effect even during cutscenes (such as when Lara will start to place a weapon behind her back and it suddenly disappears), subpar and unreliable platforming where Lara will sometimes not recognize a cliff face to scale or rope to grab and fall to her death or just get stuck on a small object such as a fence and refuse to get off, far too easy puzzles in the very few, small tombs, and characters that are so one-dimensional and stupid that I felt physical pain listening to them. One was the typical "I won't listen to you because you're dumb" character who of course later acts all depressed because they were wrong and made everything worse, and plot points that were made bright as day earlier on were made into these HUGE deals near the end. One in particular was supposed to be an end-game shocker but I just couldn't believe Lara hadn't realized it before. Then there's a couple times where moments that should have been epic were cheaply written off...there's just so many moments where I couldn't believe I was playing this on a PS3 and not one or two console generations before. There is just no valid excuse for it all.
Perhaps I've just been spoiled by the better games such as the Uncharted series, or perhaps others let these glaring faults slide in the excitement for a fresh start for Lara. But in the end, Tomb Raider isn't much more than a poor attempt to utilize the systems that other great games of its generation had already perfected, and is a game that doesn't deserve nearly the same level of praise it has received.
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