Tomb Raider Review

I’ve never played any of the previous Tomb Raider games. On top of that, I can appreciate games with scripted sequences so long as there’s a strong story backing them. All of that really puts me in a perfect position to review 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot; rather than focusing on previous game elements that are missing or changed, I can judge the game based solely on its own merits. I went in expecting to love this game.

Tomb Raider is complete and utter trash

I was wrong—I can’t recall a recent game that I’ve hated quite so passionately. In the end, I only made it about 90% through the game before uninstalling it and reading the rest of the plot on Wikipedia, and to my (lack of) surprise, it turns out that everything plays out exactly like I had expected. Every detail I had figured out early on was there, plus yet another pointless “heroic sacrifice.” There are a laughable number of those strewn throughout the game, by the way.

The story is a bad joke, the kind of stupidity that only idiots view as epic. The rest of us, however, will find it little more than cliched and patronizing, recognizing the overall plot as a stupid excuse to fill the game to the brim with explosions and crumbling caverns/bridges. There’s no depth, nor is there any subtlety.

I want to murder every character in this game

The characters are even worse, being so lazily written that they don’t even bother to be realistic. They’re plot devices, pure and simple, and they never make any effort to hide it. Within the first hour of the game, I had pegged the main villain, the eventual betrayer, and two out of three characters who would inevitably sacrifice themselves stupidly for main character Lara. All of this eventually proved true, confirming my suspicions that the characters are little more than lazy plot devices or, in the case of the self-sacrifice characters, cheap emotional triggers.

Lara is the worst character of all. She’s so incredibly weak and weak-willed that it’s painful having to slog through the game playing as her. She’s constantly gasping for air, crying, or otherwise sounding like she’s on the verge of tears. A large part of this is due to the fact that she’s constantly falling, being punched, or being blown back by explosions, even in places where it makes no sense. Bridges will collapse under her, caverns will self-destruct unnecessarily while she’s inside, buildings will be burned to the ground around her—none of this has any purpose but to throw her into a bunch of bad circumstances. She doesn’t grow as a character for any of it, either, though it does pander to that “save her” reflex in a certain key male demographic. Even worse, the closest she gets to growing as a character is to become a complete sociopath who wants to hunt down and murder the bad guys:

It’s not believable. It is, however, incredibly frustrating, and this kind of cringe-worthy, wannabe-epic writing makes me hate every single character in the entire game. I wanted to murder my “friends” more than my enemies because of how universally bad everyone’s writing is.

Tomb Raider (2013)

I’m choosing to believe that Lara getting eaten by wolves is canon.

The controls are among the worst I’ve seen

I’ve played a lot of games that had poor controls, but I’ve yet to find a game with such clumsy controls as Tomb Raider on the PC. The default keyboard and mouse layout is an unmitigated mess, and this is complicated by the million and a half QTEs that litter the game. One moment you’re walking along and then suddenly a prompt comes up: “Mash E!” Then another one: “Alternate left and right to struggle!” “Mash F! Press E! Press F when the circle is inside the other circle!”

These QTEs are so atrocious that they make me regret being so hard on Binary Domain; they come at you at all times from all directions asking you to hit this and that, and they never cease to be awkward and unpleasant. Even worse, failing them leads to an instant death. In fact, even being a little too slow can lead to a hilariously cheap instant death during certain scripted scenes:

The dark side of the scripted

Everything about the scripted scenes is a total mess. Your control of Lara during these sections is so limited and awkward that you’ll find yourself constantly dying from objects that you’re technically not even close enough to die from, and as if that’s not bad enough, sometimes you have to do something so specific that anything else results in an instant death despite that death making absolutely no logical sense:

She shoots the metal thing right in front of her two seconds after the scripted sequence without suffering any consequences, so it’s obvious that she wasn’t too close to the explosion. No, the game decided that I hadn’t solved this section the way that it wanted me to, so it instantly killed me despite it making no sense. She just randomly rolls over and dies despite the fact that the grenade would have killed him just as easily as the “right” solution of shooting above and behind him. One of many reasons why this pathetic game is complete and utter garbage.

Combat is possibly even worse

Combat is made unnecessarily uncomfortable by the game’s poor controls. Dodging out of the way is set to the shift key by default, which makes it feel incredibly strange, and given how important dodging tends to be, that’s a very, very bad thing. Even if you rebind the controls to something more comfortable, however, the whole thing remains a complete disaster; aiming is awkward at best, and I could swear that I had bullets go through enemies’ heads a few times instead of getting credited with headshots. On the flip side, other times I wasn’t anywhere close to a headshot and the game decided that it was. When you’re trying to be stealthy and avoid alerting other enemies, this isn’t the kind of randomness you want to be dealing with.

Tomb Raider (2013)

Oh look, Lara’s getting overpowered again. How surprising!

Platforming is okayish at best

Jumping around from platform to platform is decent enough for the most part, though Lara can tend to feel a bit “floaty,” but when scripted sequences kick in (which is far more frequently than you probably expect), things get far worse. Sometimes failing to jump at exactly the right angle means missing the jump altogether and dying:

It’s sometimes pretty, but always uninspired

Graphics are sometimes this game’s saving grace, though its overall art design is so disgustingly uninspired that most of the time that lack of creativity sucks all the life out of the game. The locations are okay-ish at best, being the same kinds of areas you’ve visited a million times before in other, better games. In fact, the only really interesting graphical thing this game has to offer is TressFX, an optional feature on the PC version that allows for more realistic hair:

Wait, does this game even have music?

If you asked me what kind of music this game has, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I remember some bongos and some boring orchestral stuff that was trying to be all epic, but truth be told, I don’t really remember anything beyond that. It doesn’t stick with you, nor is it creative or innovative in the slightest. It’s just a throwaway, copy-pasted soundtrack that you’ll instantly forget. A truly fitting soundtrack to a truly worthless game.

Here’s what you should do:

Tomb Raider (2013)

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