Review

Tomb Raider

Legends Of The Hidden Template

Tomb Raider’s new Lara Croft is a breakout character. So why is she stuck in such a generic game?

By John Teti • March 5, 2013

Tomb Raider lost me when the hero, Lara Croft, talked about shelves. I was standing in a tomb, and I had to retrieve a few (ancient, sacred) jugs of water from some shelves that I couldn’t reach. The reason why I needed these jugs isn’t so important—I mean, they’re jugs; it wasn’t life or death—the important part is that I didn’t know how to get them. For the first time, one of Tomb Raider’s puzzles had vexed me, and I welcomed it. Here was a chance to tinker and experiment. Except before I could, Lara piped up to say, “Those shelves look weak.” If some weight were added to them, she mused, they would probably fall.

I wish I could say that this was the first time I had seen a game solve its own puzzle for me, but it’s not. Tomb Raider follows a broader trend in which mainstream games are built around the “experience” rather than around the player. The shelf monologue taught me that the Tomb Raider experience is not meant to include quiet time spent thinking over puzzles, and if you try to use the game that way—to treat its puzzles as puzzles—it resists you like a petulant child: Nuh-uh, you’re playing it wrong. The assumption seems to be that if you were the type of person who enjoyed challenging your intellect, you wouldn’t be playing Tomb Raider. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Tomb Raider has an excellent foundation, which makes its narrow-minded game design even more of a shame. This “reboot” of the Tomb Raider series, which has been moribund for years, follows the story of Lara Croft, a young, ambitious archaeologist. Her first major expedition goes awry when she and her crew shipwreck on a remote, cursed island. Lara must discover the island’s ancient, spooky secret and fight off a cult in order to escape. The script, written by Rhianna Pratchett, traces a convincing arc for Lara as she transforms from a rabble-rousing greenhorn into a compassionate fighter, and even a leader.

Tomb Raider

The misogyny that characterized much of Tomb Raider’s marketing doesn’t drag down the final product. Yes, Lara’s ever-present grunts and moans lend themselves to salacious interpretations (does she need to whimper EVERY time she squeezes through a tight crevice?), and the game’s death animations, as Conan O’Brien discovered, are indistinguishable from a snuff film. Likewise, it’s inexplicable—by which I mean entirely explicable—that Lara never grabs a jacket to cover up her heaving cleavage even as she shivers in the rain. Yet she also has emotional complexity and a humane honesty that outshines comparable action-game characters like the Uncharted series’ swashbuckling lead, Nathan Drake. The upshot is that Lara is well-rounded, in both the superficial and the deeper senses of the term. While I don’t excuse the mild troglodytic tendencies on display here, a smart game critic takes his victories where he can get them.

Playing through Tomb Raider is like following one character’s through line in a season of Lost—the game is structured around a series of well-wrought McGuffins that pull Lara back and forth across the mysterious island. The island feels natural, and it’s thoughtfully constructed. From the eerie, thin-aired homeyness of an abandoned cliffside village to the rugged function-over-form aesthetic of the cult’s shantytown, the settings invite exploration. I wish the island could exist outside of Tomb Raider, as a virtual playground where other, more enterprising game creators could build their own adventures.

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider ties down its more impressive elements with a disappointingly generic design template. It’s the same old hunter-gatherer treadmill: hunt some bad guys, gather treasure, upgrade your equipment (or yourself), and go shoot some more bad guys. Since we have advanced so far beyond the days when video games had you shoot down clones of the same idiot over and over again, Tomb Raider boasts at least five or six slightly different varieties of idiot, which I suppose makes for a nice mélange as you slaughter them by the busload with arrows to the skull. (The first time she kills a man, Lara grapples with the moral and emotional implications of her act, but before long she minds less and less. It’s like they say: The first thousand murders are always the hardest.)

In a nod to its predecessors, Tomb Raider includes a number of spatial puzzles where you have to, say, move the idol to lift the seesaw to topple the box to climb the ledge to earn the treasure. If old Tomb Raider puzzles could feel like they were concocted by Rube Goldberg, the new ones feel more like Marty Goldberg, Rube’s less clever cousin. (Marty sells real estate in Scottsdale if you’re ever looking for a deal on a condo.) Most of the puzzles take place in hidden tombs—the game hastens to note that these are optional—and they typically involve a single leap of logic. Or, more accurately, a single small hop of logic. And if you struggle at all, Lara’s right there with a ham-fisted hint. In its last hour or so, Tomb Raider presents a couple of tricky rooms that are worthy of its legacy, but they’re still tame, and they come too late.

Tomb Raider

These shortfalls are symptoms of a larger failure of imagination. Tomb Raider treats game design as a commodity rather than a venue for expression—“game-ness” is merely a thing that is bolted onto a preconceived experience. I’m not talking about the ratio of cinematic cutscenes to jumping and shooting parts. Nor am I especially bothered that Tomb Raider borrows liberally from games like Uncharted or Batman: Arkham City; all creators learn from their contemporaries in the field, and Arkham isn’t a bad exemplar to learn from.

No, the trouble here is the dearth of inspiration and ideas that Tomb Raider brings to its relationship with the player. Even if you’re a cog in a beautiful, well-executed machine—and Tomb Raider is that—you’re still a cog. This is clearest during the game’s “set pieces,” which is an industry term for segments where lots of pretty stuff explodes on the screen and you are occasionally invited to participate by pressing a button or two. When Lara runs across a collapsing bridge as gunfire crackles around her, but all you’re doing is holding the joystick forward, that’s a set piece.

The most memorable set piece-type moment for me is a quick bit that comes early in the game. Lara is clambering out of an underground hellhole when a cultist grabs her by the ankle. A graphic appears instructing you to waggle the controller’s joystick back and forth to escape.

This sequence made me think of Look Around You, a brilliant British comedy show that, for its 2005 season, satirized pop-science infotainment programs of the ’80s. The “Computers” episode sees an intrepid faux-reporter does a “special report” on video games. In the sketch, an enthusiast demonstrates Window Cleaner, which instructs players to “waggle your joystick for suds.” The joke is that the game is hopelessly rudimentary and makes the player look like a fool. It was hard not to feel like something of a jackass myself as I waggled my joystick to keep Lara Croft alive.

Tomb Raider’s abundant work-up-a-froth moments exist to give the player something to do while pre-rendered events play out on screen. You have to frantically tap a button to pry open a door on account of the door-opening animation takes a while, so Tomb Raider needs to distract you a while. That’s a backward way to build a game, and it creates a laughably thin illusion of agency.

Sure, Tomb Raider is a serviceable distraction, and you could argue that it’s a mistake to expect more than a time-killer here. But even the makers of the game, or at least some of them, seem to expect that the final product would be more than pretty wallpaper for another typical shooter, some inoffensive puzzles, and contrived moments of empty “interaction.” I’d argue that it’s fair to hold the entire game up to the standard it sets with its story and setting, which bear the marks of soulful artists plying their craft. These successes infuse Tomb Raider with a spirit of growth and exploration—it’s too bad that we, the button-pressers, are deemed incapable of that same growth.

Tomb Raider
Developers: Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal (multiplayer, not reviewed)
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Price: PC—$50; PlayStation 3, Xbox 360—$60

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  • Chum Joely

    Cool review. After some of the marketing nonsense John mentioned, it was interesting to see that there may be an actual story there. But apparently you don’t feel particularly connected to the story through gameplay, so I’m gonna say this isn’t particularly worth trying for me. Back to New Vegas…

    • PaganPoet

      I still like an old temple/tomb exploration (damn those Indiana Jones movies, indoctrinating me as a child), so I will be checking this out, eventually. But not at no damn 60 dollar, a bitch gots bills to pay, innit?

      • George_Liquor

        Rather telling that it’s already five buck off on Steam.

        • The_Quirk

           Still saving up for Bioshock Infinite.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          Square Enix has done that with a bunch of their games as a pre-order incentive. They did the same with Sleeping Dogs and Hitman: Absolution.

    • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

      Well, this raises a question for me about how do you actually establish that sense of agency and maintain it, when you want to do stuff in-game that has no easy analog to your basic control scheme?  In the leg-grab scenario, what other reaction should a player have to their avatar’s leg being grabbed than to fiddle with the input which has thus far controlled their avatar’s legs?

      Ramble incoming!

      The illusion of player control in most games, especially story-driven ones, is only as much control as the developer feels you need at any given moment.  One the one end, you have QTEs which effectively serve as attention checks, where a player’s input only directs in-game action insofar as it allows the scene to continue.

      But on the other end of the spectrum, you have something like Heavy Rain, where player input affects even the teensiest in-game action.  I’ve seen criticisms leveled at both approaches, so it’s kind of damned-if-you-do damned-if-you-don’t.

      I think there’s actually something psychological to consider in defense of quick-time events, though.  Speaking from my own experience, I find that I detach from the game very quickly when all interactivity is stripped away.  Check it: if a game gives me even nominal control over the camera during a cinematic sequence, I’m more engaged than if not.  I’ll look around the edges for easter eggs (Metal Gear Solid rewards this sometimes), zoom in and out but also be absorbing what images, audio or words are being presented to me.  Waggle stick to pay attention, basically.

      I dunno.  I guess I’m in favor of player interaction even in the most superficial of ways, used in moderation (or not?  I really enjoyed Heavy Rain and Asura’s Wrath, and those are almost nothing but on-screen prompts overlaid on top of cinematic sequences.)

      There’s one moment I recall being mocked as kind of the ultimate unnecessary QTE, at the end of one of the Ace Combat games.  Big victory speech, yadda yadda, dude’s standing there next to the romantic interest, and the player is given the option to press A to hold her hand.  Laughable, right?  Or is it?  It’s a small, simple action that changes the context of the scene subtly, and it’s left up to the player to decide if they want it to happen.  Personally, I can dig it.

      • Professor_Cuntburglar

         I think the biggest issue with QTEs is when they come out of nowhere. If a sequence gives you control throughout, then they’re okay, but if they pop up in an otherwise non-interactive cutscene then it’s super annoying.

        Also they’re sort of lazy. “Press X not to die” isn’t very immersive, because it doesn’t take much thought. What if you had full control over Lara’s leg in that scene, and had to move it in such a way that it kicked the pirate in the face?

        • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

          Well, then it basically turns into a minigame, which brings along a whole new set of criticisms, and may require additional development considerations for a once-off moment that occupies all of three seconds of actual playtime. In game development, time is usually the most precious resource, and coding takes time.

          The Walking Dead games seemed to strike a balance with their action scenes that most folks were generally okay with, though, so perhaps more developers will turn to that as an example (even though very similar action/reaction sequences filled Heavy Rain and the Jurassic Park game, and those were pretty divisive).

          Maybe it all works when it’s more than a binary outcome (live/die)… maybe just another branch or two with minimal long-term implications but still some difference… Live/die/survive but take some damage when the scene ends/alert nearby enemies?

        • Professor_Cuntburglar

           @Chalkdust_TMAI:disqus Yeah, it’s much more immersive when it feels like you’re making decisions, rather than just pressing a button because the game told you to. Mass Effect does this pretty well.

        • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

          @Professor_Cuntburglar And yet, that’s the sole basis upon which rhythm games are built!  What a piece of work is a gamer.

        • http://sarapen.ca/ Sarapen

          Rhythm games are upfront about being nothing but essentially a long QTE. In other genres player immersion usually gets broken as soon as the “Press X to do the thing that you can only do in this QTE and not anywhere else even though it makes no logical reason why you can’t kick everyone in the face” prompt shows up.

      • Citric

        I don’t like QTEs mostly because cutscenes are a great time to pay attention to any nearby cats, especially since my cat likes to hop on my lap while playing. A QTE causes surprise which might startle the cat and at a bare minimum the cat doesn’t get proper petting, which annoys her.

        (Panderin’ to the Soupy demographic, this week’s comment cat is mine.)

        • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

          What about a QTE that is cat-centric such as ‘Move your joystick back and forth to pet the cat’ or ‘Hold X to pour the cat’s purina’?

        • Fluka

          This is a statement of truth.

          Also, if my cats are poorly petted, they have a tendency to sit on my hand *while I’m playing* and get me killed.  QTE: ruining modern games for cat owners!

        • George_Liquor

          I wanna get a cat, but every time I go to the pound, the cats there turn into furry little murder machines around me. Can cats smell evil?

        • SamPlays

          Jetpack Joyride is made for pet owners. As long as you have one finger/thumb available to press a button (ANY button), you’re free to properly pet your cat.

      • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

        I’ve been a Heavy Rain apologist for a while, so I’m with you there. It’s not about the amount of agency for me—I should put “amount” in scare quotes because I’m not sure how exactly I would measure such a thing. But you know what I’m talking about. What I’m looking for is for the overall design of the game to reflect a vision, and to exercise some degree of personal expression. Quick-time events are almost universally awful but if they’re used as a tool in an artist’s toolbox—rather than “let’s graft on some nominal crap for the player to do”—sure, they can work. I think the Ace Combat QTE you’re talking about is a perfect example of how the technique worked for you. You really got something out of it, and I’m moved by the meaning you found in it.

        In short, I can tell the difference between agency for the sake of giving me something to do and agency that is offered with artistic intent—and with respect for my role as the player/co-creator of the experience. I think most people can tell the difference. So I don’t know why games act like we’re dumber than we are. I guess a lot of players don’t care, and there’s nothing wrong with that—being able to discern condescension and giving a shit are two different things.

        • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

          Yeah, I get what you mean.  I wasn’t really speaking in defense of Tomb Raider specifically (I don’t plan on playing it until the price comes down at least), but on that question of “how much is enough, and how much is too much?”

          QTEs are tricky to do well, but I believe that they can be done well.  If they’re underbaked, I’ll maybe sigh to myself at worst, but I don’t think it’s ever completely soured me on an experience.

          I think there’s even a place for the hint-speaking aspect (make it an option!), as I know I’ve been hung up on many an obtuse video game puzzle, though it sounds like TR’s ‘inactivity threshold’ is too low.  Again, something that could probably have been done well but wasn’t iterated on enough.

        • TaumpyTearrs

          @Chalkdust_TMAI:disqus 
          The verbal hints/on screen markers thing has gotten ridiculous over the last few years.

          Sometimes I don’t mind, like in Max Payne 3 on the rare occasion i had to hit a button and didn’t find it immediately because I was picking up ammo or health. He would say there was probably something back in that last room, I go back and hit the button. This isn’t a problem with Max Payne, because the whole point of the game is for me to shoot people. A locked door isn’t a puzzle, its a momentary respite before I dive into the next hail of bullets. But lots of other games are based more around exploration, puzzle-solving, using tools or powers, tec. And those games definitely lose something from the constant hand-holding and directions.

        • George_Liquor

          God, no, QTEs don’t belong a developer’s toolbox! QTEs should be banished to the pits of Hell, right next to obnoxiously long NES passwords. The only effective use of QTEs I’ve ever seen are the ones that give your character a sense of impulsiveness, like the paragon/renegade moments in Mass Effect. Otherwise, the “press X to not die” QTEs are a fun-sucking blight on videogaming.

      • Treymoney

        The mandatory QTE at the end of Metal Gear Solid 3 was a pretty powerful moment too, as I recall.

        • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

          I don’t remember that. Was it to salute The Boss’ grave or something? Wait… MGS3 had quick time events? I can’t have forgotten that much about it.
          Unless you meant MGS4, in which case, don’t tell me, because I haven’t finished it.

        • Bad Horse

          @twitter-259492037:disqus  SPOILER COUNTRY

          Not exactly. It’s to execute her.

          • Treymoney

            That’s the one I was thinking of.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        Having played the first hour of the game, I think I can speak a bit about the problem with its QTEs. And that problem is…the fact that I can speak about the problem with its QTEs. It’s not as if the game is a huge QTE-fest, but there are a lot of them in the first hour of the game.

        I’m not categorically opposed to QTEs, but I think they work best once the player has become accustomed to the game’s mechanics. At that point, the QTE is not just a button you have to press, it’s a fancier, timed version of what your character can do in the game. It becomes more “I have to time this jump exactly right” than “I’d better press this button not to die.”

        But Tomb Raider throws QTEs at you before you have a chance to even learn the game’s mechanics. You’re told to press “F” to fend off an attacker before you’ve been introduced to mêlée combat. Even worse, you’re told to press “left” and “right” (or “A” and “D”) to dodge falling rocks, but if you check the game’s control scheme, the key for dodging in regular gameplay is “Shift.” So not only do those QTEs happen before you’re introduced to the dodge mechanic; they can actually have the perverse effect of teaching it to you incorrectly!

        I’ve read in reviews that the game gets much less QTE-heavy as it goes on, but that seems to me to be the opposite of what it should have done.

        • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

          QTE’s on PC games are even worse than usual, I feel. First of all, keys on a keyboard aren’t really conducive to button-mashing like a controller is (and depending on the keyboard or mouse, you could easy mess it up with the abuse). Second, I pretty much re-bind all my controls with every game, but sometimes, especially with ports, the QTE buttons or button descriptions wont follow your keymapping and just show whatever the default key was, so I’m left scrambling. 

          I remember when I played Dead Space 1, their keymapping suffered from exactly that problem, so I had to keep my xbox controller on standby for whenever a QTE popped up. Luckily it allowed you to hot swap between controller and kbm.

      • Fluka

        Though I’m still not sure I agree, this is actually a very good defense of QTEs.

  • PaganPoet

    Isn’t it about time that game developers realized that nobody is here for quick time events? I think the gaming community at large has been pretty tired of them ever since they started coming into prominence (God of War? Resident Evil 4?) I’m not sure why they continue to believe that “press this button….NOW or watch your character die a gruesome death” could possibly be construed as fun.

    Shame this review of the game is more on the negative side. I was quite interested to check it out myself (and I will eventually, just not at full price). I was hoping the darker, more survival horror-esque grittiness was just the defibrillator that the series needed. I quite enjoyed Anniversary for the nostalgia and memories, but Underworld was quite a boring slog. 

    I also really liked Lara’s new design. I mean, she’s still improbably good looking with a perfect body, but at least she looks remotely human now.

    • Fluka

      I just want to know who keeps asking for QT events in their games.  Is it just developer laziness?  Is there some massive demographic I don’t know about that loves having to press a button really fast to not die?  How did this become a Game Thing To Put in Every Game?

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

        My guess is that they are in games to make them feel more dynamic, but without making the basic game mechanics too complex. “And then the giant picked me up so i slashed his hands until he dropped me and ran up his back to shoot his face” versus “I shot the giant a bunch and rolled out of the way when he charged me.”

        The WORST though is when they have you do a bunch of QTEs to watch the same fucking animation over and over again. Yeah, I remember when they came into prominence in like 2004? With RE4 and God of War, people thought they were pretty neat. but damn they got old fast. Like, by the end of RE4 and God of War.

        • Professor_Cuntburglar

           No , the WORST is when you have to watch the cutscene all the way through every time you die *cough*Far Cry 3*cough

        • http://twitter.com/TheBryanJZX90 TheBryanJZX90

          Yeah, that’s absolutely why they exist. It lets your character do things not necessarily outside the realm of possibility given the character, but definitely outside the realm of possibility given the standard control scheme. But understanding why they exist doesn’t magically make them fun, interesting, or particularly immersive.

          I mostly just had to comment because your “and then the giant picked me up so I slashed his hands until he dropped me and ran up his back to shoot his face” example of what QTEs can do was totally doable in Dragons Dogma just using the normal controls. One of the cooler things about that game was the large skillset it gave players that lets them achieve a lot of the same dynamic results that QTEs offer, only completely unscripted and completely in control by the player.

        • SamPlays

          But it still doesn’t explain why we’re expected to press “X” rapidly. When I think of the Arkham games, they’ve got a very simplistic fighting mechanic that really amounts to using 1-2 buttons. But the game is designed in such a way that pressing the same button doesn’t always lead to the same outcome because it accounts for context. Hence, why you can pull off a fluid, dynamic John Woo-style ballet of punches without having to do much with the controller. 
          @Fluka:disqus Personally, I dislike pushing buttons rapidly and have felt this way ever since playing those track-and-field type games on the NES.

        • ToddG

          @SamPlays:disqus   The only time I’ve liked having to press a button rapidly is in episode 5 of Walking Dead.  To avoid spoilers, suffice it to say it’s very effective in enhancing the tone of the scene in which it is somewhat-subversively used.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Johnson/501651 Kevin Johnson

          I think @SamPlays:disqus got the right idea. QTEs wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t so arbitrary and random. If X normally makes you jump, then X should be the QTE that is related to all jumping-related set pieces. If the R-trigger is a grab, then R should be for all grab/grapple QTEs and so on.

          That way, it feels more organic to the control scheme vs. being a shitty Simon Says mini-game of its own design. It would also be beneficial if we had a better sense of the character’s mindset. God of War has specific set QTE buttons, but you never know what Kratos is planning to do in the moment, so it just becomes confusing and tedious.

          If a badguy tackled you, then you could open up the QTE set (rapidly press B to push back, tap A to kick in them in the crotch), which would depend on the health of the villain. (Kinda Heavy Rain-ish). Then you have agency without the threat of immediately dying. I thought The Last of Us would have something like this, until it turned out to be basically a zombie game with stealth (I can’t be the only one that was utterly disappointed by this.)

          I don’t hate QTEs, but totally understand why other people do. I do think they could be used effectively if there was more agency and options to it.

        • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

          @facebook-501651:disqus I guess if there’s one thing positive to say about QTE’s it’s that at least they have scrapped the practice of randomizing which buttons you have to press. The arguable progenitor of QTE’s, Resident Evil 4, was so god awful with this. That mid-game Jack Krauser knife fight ruined my thus-far no-deaths playthrough because of that. I died like 30 times in that fucking scene. If not for those, I would easily call RE4 a perfect game. Plus after the 2nd time of attempting to pass that scene, it is robbed of all dramatic tension. 

          God of War 2 (the only God of War I’ve played), was also especially miserable in some parts. At the very end with Zeus, I actually had to get my ex, who apparently had much quicker reflexes than I, to come in and beat it for me. There’s nothing like the feeling of playing through a whole game and having to outsource beating the ending.

      • ToddG

        I think they’re also a response to common complaints of cutscenes being too long, an often-misguided attempt to keep the player involved.

      • Carlton_Hungus

        I think they were an interesting concept when first brought in (let’s say God of War as an example), and are most useful in that type of hack-and-slash combat.

        Developers are limited in their options. (1) not have them and hack and slash with Kratos’ usual combos which looked pretty good back then.  (2) Create complex monster specific combos or moves, which would likely give the player the most agency, but could be difficult for players to learn, memorize etc…, especially depending on how specific you want to break down each of Kratos’s multi-step killing extravaganzas, also would that just make them QTEs without the screen prompts?  (3) Just make them full on cutscenes for brutal deaths, taking away all agency.  And (4) put them in there to find a happy medium.

        I agree they are rife with over-abuse and since their introduction in GoW have become obligatory even when unnecessary.  I think the most egregious being “door opening that Teti mentioned (Uncharted I’m also looking in your direction on that one).  I think when done right they can strike the right balance, but when every mundane action requires one, i.e. opening a door, lifting a log they lose the point (unless that’s the crux of the whole game a la Heavy Rain).

        • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

          I’ve encountered several games lately with the utterly pointless “struggle to open door” mechanic. Good god I’ve never seen something so pedantically stupid in a game. I Am Alive, among its other many issues, has these doors constantly where you have to mash a button rapidly to open a regular ass doorway. It adds nothing to the game. They aren’t in situations where, say, you are running from an enemy, and therefore the urgency and panic adds to the atmosphere. No, they are just normal ass doors between areas. The key I had mapped it to was one I was worried about wearing out with the mashing, so every time I come to a door I have to open the menu and set the control scheme to use a controller instead of kbm so I can do it better.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

        QTEs are used to create the illusion of agency.

        • http://sarapen.ca/ Sarapen

          In which case they do it very badly.

      • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

        The oddest thing to me about QTE’s is that they are often in games that are striving for the cinematic/gritty realism approach. But then BLAM right in the middle of what is supposed to be your beautiful work of art, you have a big fugly button graphic overlay wiggling around in front of your characters with blue highlight lines radiating off it. Nothing takes me out of immersion in a game more than that. Then on top of it, if it’s an instant-death scenario, you have to go through the cut scene again and again if you fail, which serves to take me out of the experience even further. 

        As much as I like to rag on David Cage, I think Heavy Rain treated this very adeptly. Arguably, the entire game was quick time events mixed with point&click adventure. But the significant action-oriented QTE’s were always very adaptable and forgiving. If you fucked up the first button press, the scene would adapt itself and give you another option, in a way that didn’t feel unrealistic for the scene playing out. There were several press-button-to-not-die moments, but being a game with multiple protagonists, it was uniquely suited to go on and actually let a character die. 

        But to get back to your question, I’m of the same mind. Who likes these things? I don’t think I’ve ever talked to someone who says they enjoy QTE’s. Like what @BreakingRad:disqus said, I feel like they are almost a direct reaction to people who complain about cut scenes removing player interaction. So to have their cake and eat it too, developers stick QTE’s in to cut scenes so you can’t be like “I wasn’t playing for 5 whole minutes because I had to watch this thing! GRUMBLE GRUMBLE!”

      • stakkalee

        Developers include QTEs so they can deny that they’ve padded the game out with cutscenes.  “That 5-minute monologue wasn’t a cutscene!  Didn’t you notice when you had to press ‘X’ 3 minutes in!?!”

    • George_Liquor

       Eh. I miss the triangle boobies, myself.

      • PaganPoet

        You could put an eye out on those things!

        • George_Liquor

           Eye out? Hell, you could’ve used those suckers to split firewood!

    • frogandbanjo

       Well, to a certain extent the game is rigged, isn’t it? It’d be hilarious to see a few games lampshade it a little better – say, with a spooky island being full of the corpses of all of the unfortunate not-so-perfect bodies who couldn’t do all the necessary Tomb Raiding or Boob Heaving or whatever. Plenty of room for a full-blown PC controversy with piles of old, fat, and distracted-by-iPhones corpses littering the area, not-so-subtly implying that Hero Protagonist’s unbelievable physical perfection is going to be a serious and necessary advantage.

      Hell, it’d be awesome if they took that idea one step further, and gave players a subtle visual indication of how difficult particular sections of the game were going to be by highlighting some particularly buff or agile-looking corpses just to drive home the point that this particular puzzle or challenge is going to demand a little something extra from Swiss Army Supermodel Barbie, For Realz Edition.

      You know, like pressing F. A lot.

  • Fluka

    Glad to hear that the awful marketing was mostly just incredibly poor PR judgement, rather than an indication of the game’s contents.  This review still matches the vibe I’ve been getting from previews and videos of this game: lots of “interactiveness” (unpuzzling puzzles and quicktime events) rather than actual immersion.  It’s like watching a movie, but I have to press a button in the right way to keep the scenes coming.  And sometimes there’s shooting.

    (Also, as much as I’ve loved the other videos in the Clueless Gamer series, that Conan video is the first that’s rubbed me the wrong way.  Yes yes satire of pathetic gamers, etc., but the pretend lecherousness sounds too close to actual things said in seriousness by dudes on the internet…)

    • hyphen_ateit

      I, too, found myself surprisingly put off by that episode of Clueless Gamer. It seemed like Conan went in prepared for the game to be the masturbatory fantasy we all feared it would be and, when it turned out to be something a bit smarter and darker, he just went with the jokes he had planned anyway. It just made him look like a creep. It was also frustrating that, in looking to tear down games’ pervasive misogyny, he blithely took aim at one of the rare games that opted to aim higher.

      • DrFlimFlam

        Conan’s weirdly rude to the generation of kids (and their interests) that grew up watching his Simpsons and Late Night shows.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          It’s times like these when I must quote 30 Rock: “Who’s Conan O’Brien, and why is she so sad?”

        • Logoboros

          You realize that people who were born when Conan was writing for the Simpsons (much less watching it) are twenty years old now. The generation gap is quite a bit wider than you might think.

          • DrFlimFlam

            I always thought of Conan as funny to my own generation; tail end of Gen X (though most of Gen X probably likes him) and the beginning of whatever you’d like to call the next; Y, Millenials, whatever. And it seems that many of the touchstones of that age group are more ripe for mockery than anything else from him. Yeah, super-nerds like those in line for Star Wars are funny, but I still think of it as the hand that feeds. We’re the ones that love Marge vs. the Monorail, after all.

        • Logoboros

          Ah, I misunderstood you. I thought the “generation of kids” you were referring to would be the generation playing this current iteration of Tomb Raider (not 30-year-olds who were kids playing Tomb Raider in the mid-90s). I can say, based on personal experience asking my own classrooms full of college freshmen over the last few years, very few of them have any particular affection for — nor even much familiarity with — the Simpsons.

          Tangential point: Yesterday I asked two classes (a sample of 40 young people aged between 18 and 21) how many had see the movie “The Usual Suspects” (as part of a discussion of unreliable narrators), and ZERO students had seen it. In one of those classes I asked how many had even heard of the movie, and got a small smattering of non-committal shrugs.

          It’s that kind of experience that brings the real curmudgeon out in me and kind of makes me wish commenters on sites like this had their ages stamped beside their user name so that we could have some context for gauging how far each others’ pop culture horizons actually extend (and I really do think that Americans born after 1990 tend to have a far more truncated awareness of pop culture from earlier generations than any previous generation at least since the dawn of TV — they had a cable ecosystem that basically always have something to watch that was new and targeted directly at them, rather than growing up, as I did, with easily 50% of my TV being reruns of shows that were on the air when my parents were kids or teens or even when my grandparents were [Looney Toons]). But that’s a rant for another time.

        • frogandbanjo

          @Logoboros:disqus I find it particularly disturbing that you’re on the internet, on a fairly geeky site, and still think that age is a worthwhile gauge for anything.

          I’m sorry you have to deal with fairly large groups of young people on a regular basis, but I think that’s coloring your opinions more than is warranted. Indeed, you’ve probably had extended conversations with teenagers on sites similar to this one without ever realizing it, because, for example, the particular teenager with whom you were conversing went through a 60′s music phase or a B&W movie phase or a “I’ll just look up these weird proper nouns on Wikipedia before replying to this old dude” phase (those would most likely be the future lawyers.) You seem to be pining for a “Robot Chicken”-inspired language to share with people, and that’s more about personal comfort and insularity than it is about having meaningful conversations.

          While it’s by no means a universal or unidirectional phenomenon, I think older folks should take a step back and recognize just how much of the art they love gets absorbed into the public consciousness piecemeal – with those pieces often being abstract, stylistic, or conceptual – such that the progenitor work (or just the particular epochal one upon which the particular old dude is hung up) seems trite, tired, and irrelevant.

          Queue the old joke: “Man, this Lord of the Rings bullshit is just a slow, dry D&D ripoff!”

          Well, you know what? 99 bitches ripped off Tolkien rather poorly, but one bitch took inspiration from him and did him one better in at least one respect. Add several of those up over the course of a few decades, and LotR is no longer artistically important so much as it is historically important. Art lives. History’s dead. Each has their place, but two sets of dishes is strongly recommended.

      • Fluka

        Yeah, it seems like he went in with a set joke idea, and was determined to push it for all it was worth.  I like these better when his reactions actually contain a level of truth regarding the game in question, like the criticisms of Resident Evil 6 or the idiotic AI of Hitman.  On in this case, his sudden utter horror at his inability to avoid the horrifically violent failed quicktime event.

    • Professor_Cuntburglar

       The fact that he was justifiably horrified at Lara getting her head impaled on a pike every time he failed the river bit almost made up for it, though.

      • WL14

        His review had me laughing at his misogyny up to that point, then I felt his pain (and hers) as she kept FUCKING STABBING HER HEAD ON THAT FUCKING POST. That was one of the most horrible moments I’ve seen from a videogame and we kept seeing it over and over again because Conan is so shitty at videogames. I was revolted and at the same time knew exactly what he was feeling. I’m annoyed that it was a quicktime event, but still.

      • Fluka

        Okay, that part I did like.  At least his reaction, as opposed to the HOLY SHIT WE HAVE TO SEE HER GET HER IMPALED BY A TREE THROUGH THE BOTTOM OF HER JAW AAAAGGGHHH NOT AGAIN NOT AGAIN.

        • The Guilty Party

          Yeah, that was pretty revolting. Jesus. That and the ‘quick time event to remove the spike through your abdomen’ thing really turn me off from the game. Ugh.

      • hyphen_ateit

        After seeing that death animation I thought I was reading into things too much, but John seems to have corroborated this in his review: Lara’s death animations are not just disturbing for how graphic they are but also for their darkly sexual undercurrent. In other words, they like making you watch her get stabbed a lot. It’s unsettling.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          Being the unskilled player that I am, I’ve seen a few of the death animations in my brief playtime. They’re gruesome, sure, but I really don’t see anything darkly sexual about them. If anything, they make you want to avoid dying.

        • hyphen_ateit

          I haven’t played the game so, like I said, it might be a little bit of a stretch. I’d be curious to hear why John chose to refer to snuff films in his review, though.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          @hyphen_ateit:disqus: I guess it’s because the death scenes are pretty specific. In Uncharted, if Nathan Drake dies from getting shot in the face, he just yells “Arrggh!” and kind of keels over. In Tomb Raider, if Lara Croft dies from getting shot in the face, you actually see the hole in her head.

          The death scenes are fitting for their respective games. Uncharted is a light, breezy adventure, where dying is no big deal because you can simply reload from the last checkpoint. Death is framed as just a minor setback. On the other hand, the death scenes in Tomb Raider make the player think “Yikes. I really don’t want that to happen again.” They push the player to try different approaches to avoiding death, which is framed as something truly horrific.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

      That video of Tomb Raider reminded me of an interactive movie like “Dragon’s Lair” or “Wirehead”

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      I was similarly put-off. Conan was acting like a creep, and if they joke was supposed to be on him for behaving like such a creep, the bit didn’t really convey that.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

        He did make a comment that he’d been asked to tone down the skeeviness.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

      YES! A lot of those he seems really into the violence which kind of weird me out, but this one, man, he just wouldn’t ease up on the creepy objectification jokes. And I don’t really think you could call that satire. blech. Oh Conan, you’re so much better than that!

  • Kilzor

    When will we ever see the other side of the Tomb Raider controversy?  Simply put, tombs are a non-renewable resource, and once we’ve raided them all, there just won’t be any left.  Until we have a game that’s brave enough to tackle this position, the game industry still has a lot of growing to do.

    • PaganPoet

      We should organize a tomb sit in whenever we find out where Lara or Nathan Drake’s next target is? If we trigger all the ancient booby traps left in this world, where will our children die bloody gory deaths?

      • Professor_Cuntburglar

         OUR ANCIENT WONDERS HAVE BEEN CLIMBED ALL OVER ONE TOO MANY TIMES

      • The Guilty Party

        I’m going to hang out outside of Gamestop and throw plastic tombstones at people who shop there. Tomb Raiding is Murder!

    • Effigy_Power

      Also, how is nobody upset about white people stealing the cultural treasures of developing nations, huh?

      Actually that appears to be a valid point…

      • Destroy Him My Robots

        Actually, the end boss in this game is Zahi Hawass.

      • Simon Jones

         At least Nathan Drake is upfront about it. Nathan Drake is stealing treasure because Nathan Drake has expenses.

        Lara is living in a vast mansion, until the reboot at least, and is stealing things in order to have them and fondle them in her vast mansion.

        Pre-Reboot Lara is a pretty awful human being, on reflection.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

        If the ancients didn’t want us destroying their precious historical artifacts, then they shouldn’t have filled them with ammo and medicine. 

      • Moonside_Malcontent

         Lara Croft and the Adventure of the Elgin Marbles.

        • Carlton_Hungus

          IT BELONGS IN A MUSEUM!!!

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        That’s why people should stick to fictional tomb raiding, like in Carmen Sandiego: The Secret of the Stolen Drums: gameological.com/2013/02/the-art-of-syrian-games/

      • valondar

         Because developing nations like this kind of game so much they make their own?

        Behold!
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7JfoUVNIH8

    • WL14

      SUSTAINABLE TOMB RAIDING FTW

      • ToddG

        Well, if she only entombed all the people she killed while raiding other tombs, I think she’d be fine.

        • EmperorNortonI

           But she’d also have to carefully set death traps, place a new and original treasure, and then lay out ammo and meds for future generations of Tomb Raiders.

        • EmperorNortonI

           Reading my other comment, I can now imagine a whole game based on that idea.

        • Halloween_Jack

          @EmperorNortonI:disqus : Why not? I’m still trying to figure out what medi-gel was doing aboard the geth dreadnought in ME3.

    • Captain Internet

      Hi, we’re UrbanTomb™, and we agree!

      We create authentic tombs in major cities around the world to fully service the Raiding community in a safe, sustainable way. Tomb Raiding is excellent exercise, and our flooded tunnels and hydraulic dinosaurs will give you a full workout at a fraction of the price of a ticket to Peru.

      Of course, we have to make concessions to realism in places, but we’re working on it 24/7. Right now we are lobbying government to deregulate the market for human corpses so we can add an extra layer of realism. Be sure to instruct your representative in Congress to vote for the Leveraging Unexploited ValUe in the Dead and Dying – or LUV-U-DAD – bill when it comes up this Summer.

      Follow us on Twitter for updates about UrbanTomb, as well as it’s World War One-themed sister project Trenchercize™ – don’t get Trench Foot, get Trench Fit™!

      • EmperorNortonI

         For the Win!

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      Part of me really hopes that, in some international market, a poorly-conceived, over-literal title translation has given the series the title “Grave Robber” (or its equivalent in the local tongue).

      • Bad Horse

        Grave Robber: Kirk Douglas

    • Crusty Old Dean

      This is sort of a real problem for Tomb Raider and other Indiana Jones-inspired games and franchises. Lara Croft goes to Atlantis in the very first game – it’s kind of hard to come up with more myth-based settings to top that. Oh, another ancient artefact that has the power to bring forth the Armageddon you say? In, say, El Dorado? Let’s go then!

    • WaxTom

       Oh geez, HERE we go again! Another member of the P.C. police coming in and ruining our fun!

      Look, raiding tombs is part of gamer culture! If you want to play these game you gotta realize that, yeah, some tombs are going to get raided here and that’s JUST HOW IT IS!!!

      Now, am I going to go out and start raiding every tomb that I see after playing this? NO! But guess what, if there’s a tomb out there that’s just begging to get raided you can’t blame the industry for anything some explorer might do!

      There’s this little something you may have heard of called THE 1ST ADMENTDMENT that protects games like THIS from getting CENSORED by the likes of you!!

      tl;dr GET OVER IT HITLER, Tombs have alwasy been raided and we arn’t stopping cause you are all butthert about it!!

      johnny boy

  • Citric

    I tried playing the original Tomb Raider recently, thanks to a misguided steam purchase. I got stuck because for some reason a seemingly easy timed jump would not work right. But I did like that it tried to be a game about exploring and jumping, with minimal combat, until the primitive controls got in the way.

    Anyway, I was kind of hoping the new one would focus on exploring and jumping and stuff instead of combat. I’m sick of everyone assuming I want to kill the population of Prince Edward Island every time I play a game. Let me raid some tombs which are big and expansive and have lots of nooks and crannies, but relatively minimal enemy interaction. If I want to kill some dudes, I already have plenty of dude killing games.

    • Enkidum

      Those potato-eating bastards on PEI have it coming.

      • PaganPoet

        The dirty, greedy, evil, potato-guzzling bastards!

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          That’s the Russians. Those clever guys actually found a way to drink potatoes.

      • Brian Stewart

        I want their mussels!

    • eggbuerto

       You would probably enjoy Tomb Raider: Underworld then. It’s mostly a series of big environments to jump around in (with some shooting) and it has modern jumping controls.

      • Citric

        Excellent, because I also have that, same misguided Steam purchase. No idea why I decided that I must raid all the Tombs for $15 but I did.

    • EmperorNortonI

       Imagine, a game whose new and innovative element was its elaborate rope and grapple physics, dynamic swinging and climbing physics, and realistically simulated grip, traction, and slippage physics.

      Ascend the upwardly-sloping ice tunnel at your own peril!  Slip and fall and hit your head for trying it in ordinary shoes.  Those hiking boots would have helped, had you grabbed them back in Level 2, but you were too worried about making the big jump to risk the weight.  Fortunately you can use your knives as improvised ice picks.  Too bad they’ll be useless against the Yeti later on in the level.

  • caspiancomic

    My hat is sincerely off to you, Mr. Teti, for using the word “jugs” so many times in your opening paragraph to refer to actual, literal jugs.

    • PaganPoet

      Little brown jug(s), don’t I love thee? Ho ho ho, hee hee hee!

  • http://www.facebook.com/deejaytaufiq Mohamad Taufiq Morshidi

    The only thing i can say is that Lara finally unleashed my inner sweat fetish.

    Anyways, what was that whole rape thing about? So yeah, there’s “suggested” rape. So what’s the fucking problem? This game is pretty violent, and “suggested rape” is the bigger problem? Give me a fucking problem.

    • Enkidum

      Give you a problem? All right, here’s a problem.

      • The Guilty Party

        An archaeologist is travelling 35 kph south on a train through Egypt. A native guide is leading a trail of camels due west, 2 km southeast of the train. How long does the train of camels have to be to ensure camel sausages for dinner tonight?

        • Enkidum

          Thanks, I was too lazy to actually think of one!

        • EmperorNortonI

           No, no, any word problem involving archaeology needs to involve moving bags of dirt to the sorting area, managing the wages of the workers who actually do the digging, and accomplishing one’s goals for the season before funding runs out.

    • Professor_Cuntburglar

       It’s a fun adventure game. Rape doesn’t belong in it.

      Honestly, all of the violence (including the rape) just seems like a lazy way to make it “dark” and “gritty, as opposed to actually engaging with those dark topics in an interesting way. And that trivializes them, which is bad.

      • http://www.facebook.com/deejaytaufiq Mohamad Taufiq Morshidi

        I guess you’re right. 

        But i do like the dark and gritty style of it. I mean, i live in a country where the jungles are violent filled with deadly animals, Islamic Rebels and Chinese Communists (Hell, our Borneo states are being invaded by Filipino Muslims right now!) So to see a dark and gritty story set in an island jungle is kind of cool and if rape comes with it, then i’ll just go with it. 

      • The_Misanthrope

        Since it is a game that already has a reputation for sexualization, there is also the creepy revelation that the player (or any other viewers in the room) is the third participant in this rape, the perv getting off by watching someone else violate a woman.

      • hyphen_ateit

        I’ve been trying to reserve judgment on that point. The attempted rape could theoretically be valid character development (the femaleness of the writer makes me hopeful), but that is admittedly a tough feat to manage in a work that is clearly plot-driven entertainment above all else.

    • IntotheNightSky

      Well, since you asked so nicely, the problem is that video games have not exactly had a fantastic track record when dealing with emotionally charged subject matter.  

      Let me try to spell this out clearly.  Very nearly one in ten people have been victims of rape, to say nothing of related sexual violence.  If you consider also the fact that this violence is disproportionately inflicted upon a segment of the population which has been routinely oppressed throughout history, you begin to realize that if a video game is going to include scenes of intense sexual violence, its developers should seriously consider the effect it’s going to have on members of their audience.  And I don’t think it’s out of bounds for the gaming press to remind developers of this fact from time to time.

      If video game developers had a better track record for dealing with these sorts of stories, I’m sure the critics wouldn’t have to remind them so often.

      • http://www.facebook.com/deejaytaufiq Mohamad Taufiq Morshidi

        I agree with you on this.

        In an industry where the audience are 12 year olds who shout “FAGGOT” every single minute, giving a videogame a rape backstory can definitely lead to problems.

        I think that the video gaming influence is the one problem that is preventing the industry from maturing. In an age where everyone is shouting on Xbox Live, where video game awards shows are being sponsored by fast food and junk food companies, where video game advertising is still stuck in the late 90′s, it shows how much immaturity there is to the industry and how trying to be “mature” can lead to social problems.

        • Bogie55

          All of which probably suggests the most adult themes – such as rape, murder, industrial tax relief controversies – should actually be kept well out of the sort of video game that is seeking a youthful audience. The problem with trying to up the grit in every long-running franchise is that not every hero(ine) is Batman and not every director is Christopher Nolan.

        • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

          @Bogie55:disqus Holy shit. Let it be known that somebody on the internet mentioned Christopher Nolan in a positive light.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      The rape controversy stems from comments made by one of the game’s producers, Ron Rosenberg, in an interview with Kotaku. He said that Lara Croft would face the threat of rape in the game, which drew some ire based on the context of the other comments he made. (He claimed that the player would want to “protect” Lara.)

      Then, a spokesperson for the game’s developer, Crystal Dynamics, tried to backpedal and say that the game merely depicted “close physical intimidation” (whatever the hell that means). This caused further controversy, because now people thought that the game’s developers were trying to trivialize sexual assault.

      Rosenberg’s and the PR rep’s comments were certainly misguided at best and sexist at worst. That being said, I find it odd that so many people were incensed by the idea that the game would deal with sexual assault, without having actually played the game. It’s not possible to know how a particular game handles a subject without playing it. If upon playing the game, you discover that it mishandles the subject of sexual assault, or worse, uses it for the purpose of cheap thrills, then by all means, condemn it. But to say categorically that video games can’t deal with sexual assault is to impose an arbitrary creative restriction on the medium (albeit one with good intentions). I don’t want to be in the business of telling artists what they can or can’t do. I’d rather tell them what they should have or shouldn’t have done.

      • caspiancomic

         I’d like to throw a big official co-sign on my man @Merve2:disqus’s breakdown here. When this game’s rape controversy gets summarized, it tends to get truncated down to “this game has rape in it! how controversial!” which isn’t even close to the full story. It was mostly a tale of PR putting their foot in their mouths and presumably losing their jobs.

        One of the tragedies of this particular storm in a teacup is that a lot of people’s mechanism for dealing with the fallout was to suggest that maybe games aren’t an ideal medium for a depiction or discussion of sexual violence. As Merve said, this instinct came from a good place, but was a bit short sighted- by suggesting that certain topics (even those with as much gravity as sexual assault) represent the boundaries of the medium’s capabilities, we artificially limit what the medium is capable of doing. In the wake of the controversy, too many people were saying that this discussion didn’t belong in games at all, as opposed to recognizing that this specific discussion happened to go poorly.

        The fact that this was one of the first (the first?) large scale discussions about the relationship between rape and interactive storytelling, and it was a disaster, has probably shut down the gaming world’s ability to have that discussion more intelligently for another good several years. If the whole ordeal had gone over a bit more tastefully, this game might have some day been fondly remembered as a courageous first step in addressing issues this serious in a mainstream piece of ostensibly populist gaming.

        • The_Lame_Dane

          well they saw how many copies “Girl with the Dragon tattoo” sold.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          Part of the problem, I think, is that brief snippets from the controversial “attempted rape” scene were included in a trailer for the video game. It’s important to draw a distinction between the game and the materials used to promote it. When I saw that trailer, I didn’t think, “Why is that in the game?” Instead, I thought, “Who thought it was a good idea to market a game by depicting implied sexual assault?”

          I know I harp on this a lot, but it boggles my mind how much of a disconnect there is between the people who make games and the people who market them. Rhianna Pratchett wanted to tell a coming-of-age tale about a young woman who survives a terrible ordeal. But the marketing folks saw that and thought, “Hmm…dark? Gritty? LET’S MAKE A RAPE TRAILER.” Video games are dealing with more varied and more mature themes than ever before, but marketers are still stuck in the old “guns, boobs, and explosions” mindset. Maybe that’s what video games were all about at one point, but the medium has evolved now. Unfortunately, marketers haven’t evolved with it.

        • Professor_Cuntburglar

          I have major doubts that a AAA adventure game set on a magical island would handle rape in a meaningful and tactful manner, ever. If you’re including that in a game, you have to be making some artistic comment; Tomb Raider was never trying to be art, it was trying to be entertainment. And having a subject like rape in entertainment is bad. Always.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

        Using rape (or the threat thereof) as a dramatic tool can be quite effective, but it requires an EXTREMELY delicate touch.

        • Fluka

          Yup yup.  As much as I agree with Merve that games shouldn’t be constrained from dealing with certain issues, I’m not sure that I trust modern AAA games, a medium that half the time doesn’t even acknowledge that women are part of their audience, to tackle rape with any kind of sensitivity or subtlety.  

          A lot of the time, rape situations in popular culture (particularly nerd culture like comics) end up being “character building” scenes for women.  Want to explain how your lady character became a badass?  Throw a little rape or sexual assault in there.  Makes it extra gritty!  It’s a lazy trope, and throwing in a QT event (as the initial PR suggested) makes it extra ridiculous.

          To be honest, I was personally less offended by the presence of rape and more by the suggestion that the player wanted to “protect” Lara from the big bad rapey men, rather than being Lara struggling to find her resolve and become a hero.

        • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

          Well, it’s also a very cheap and easy instant drama/emotions ploy. Any hack writer can stick it in and immediately get the visceral reaction from the audience that they want. So can be  offensive on multiple levels. I often find myself going “oh come on, you couldn’t think of a better way to garner sympathy for this character, or make this other character clearly evil?”

        • AmaltheaElanor

          @Fluka:disqus also, why is that you when you play Uncharted, you play *as* Nathan Drake, but when you play Tomb Raider, you play as someone who is protecting Lara Croft.  It’s such an obnoxious (and telling) double standard.

        • Logoboros

          @AmaltheaElanor:disqus While I do think there’s a double standard, I wonder if part of this is also just a reflection of over-the-shoulder gameplay vs. first-person play. The better comparison would be Assassins Creed. What is the ratio of people talking about “being Ezio” to “controlling Ezio,” and how does that compare to the ratio in discussions of Tomb Raider? There’s a sociology project for someone.

        • AmaltheaElanor

          @Logoboros:disqus I don’t disagree, and that would be an interesting study.  But I think the important difference here is that no one uses such language to describe someone like Nathan Drake (also a third-person, over-the-shouler) and the important distinction here is the use of the word “protect” as opposed to “play as.”

        • Logoboros

          @AmaltheaElanor:disqus Ah, I had Uncharted mixed up with FarCry. So your example is, indeed, spot on.

          It might be even more interesting to look for “distancing” language in discussions of first-person games with female protagonists (though that’s a pretty small sample to work with). But is there any tendency for male gamers to not equate themselves with Chell in Portal for example? I can’t say I’ve seen much of that, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if someone pointed it out (and even Chell isn’t a great example, since her gender is barely even a characteristic).

        • AmaltheaElanor

          @Logoboros:disqus Faith in Mirror’s Edge would work well for such a discussion.

      • hyphen_ateit

        While I support your condemnation of those who blindly condemn controversial works (see: Zero Dark Thirty’s torture scandal) and I also support a diversification of the stories games tell, I think it’s very important to recognize that we all knew what sort of game Tomb Raider would be long before anyone played it.

        To be more specific, we all already knew that this would be a typical action game, in that it’s core mechanics would be built to facilitate considerable amounts of thinly-justified murder. Lara is not about to sit down and contemplate the moral complexities of each of the thousands of murders she undoubtedly perpetrates during the course of the game.

        I’m not saying that’s wrong, but I do think it imposes a large degree of emotional detachment on the game’s violence right off of the bat. That makes it virtually impossible for the game to depict rape with the appropriate level of emotional depth. I long for the day when a game handles such a loaded issue effectively. Today seems unlikely to be that day.

    • Fixda Fernback

      Oh, good, you’ve joined us here now, with all your ignorance and vitriol in tow… How exciting!

      • http://www.facebook.com/deejaytaufiq Mohamad Taufiq Morshidi

        Well, in a sense that why a video game can’t depict rape other than the audience and whether or not it’s tasteless, yes i am ignorant on that.

  • Professor_Cuntburglar

    I’ve watched some gameplay videos, and it’s amazing how uninspired this game looks. There’s nothing you can do that you haven’t done a hundred times in other, better games. It looks like Uncharted by way of Far Cry 3, but not in a good way.

    Also, it’s a little unnerving just how much the developers want to beat up Lara. She’s a action hero, she doesn’t need to break her arm then get stabbed with a rusty nail every time falls off a ledge. She’s on a magical island, it doesn’t need to be “realistic” (and it isn’t, because a lot of those injuries would just kill her or incapacitate her). Compare that to Nathan Drake, who just sort of bounces off everything, which makes his fun entertainment games fun and entertaining.

    • Effigy_Power

      Your realism thing struck me as a good point.
      The developers of Assassins Creed recently stated that they couldn’t see a female protagonist for AC4, which is to play in the Caribbean or something. They deemed it unrealistic and people would be taken out of the setting.
      To recap here:
      -Lady Heroes in 18th century America: Unrealistic.
      -Golden Apple Mind control devices built by alien gods: SUPER-REAL!

      • Professor_Cuntburglar

         Yeah that’s silly. Especially since lady pirates did exist (I think), but an ancient guild of assassins most definitely did not.

        • Open_Source_Idiom

          Hell, there’s going to be one in the game!

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Peter-Kovalsky/1504237433 Peter Kovalsky

          Possibly the most badass pirate of all time was a lady:

          http://www.badassoftheweek.com/chingshih.html

        • Fluka

          Hey Ubisoft!  The bloodthirsty ghosts of Anne Bonny and Mary Read are super grumpy right now!

      • Destroy Him My Robots

        “Lady Heroes in 18th century America? Not realistic enough for console and PC releases, but realistic enough for handheld entries, if you catch our drift.”

        • PaganPoet

          The smaller screen is more effective for their delicate lady eyes. Plus, the portable system is small enough for them to carry around in their vaginas!

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          @PaganPoet:disqus: I’ve long suspected that women use their vaginas for carrying around handheld (vagina-held?) gaming systems. NOW I HAVE PROOF.

        • Effigy_Power

          Naturally. That;s why lady-gamers didn’t exist before Rumblepack and Force Feedback. Because secretly we are the big gaming pervs, not Conan drooling like a tool watching Lara hang on by the skin of her teeth to some debris.

      • Mercenary_Security_number_4

         That characterization of the developers seems misleading from what I’ve read, but developers aren’t exactly the most articulate bunch so maybe its just a matter of interpretation.

        http://www.ign.com/articles/2013/03/04/female-lead-in-future-assassins-creed-wouldnt-be-surprising

        • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

          At this point, given the amount of verbal blunders, I think it’s safe to say that developers should never say anything about potentially controversial topics in a public medium. So often them come off as inarticulate sheltered nerds who lack any social awareness. That said, there have been more than enough verbal blunders by PR people — people’s whose job revolves around smooth talking — in the gaming industry to condemn them as well. 

      • http://twitter.com/closedmouth Annabelle

        Most of my Assassin Guild recruits in AC:B were girls.

        • Simon Jones

           I frankly wanted to keep playing as Enzio as he gets progressively fatter and more bearded and more italian, randomnly yelling at his recruits to do things.

      • ComradePig

         Didn’t the most recent handheld AC game have a female protagonist despite being set in the Caribbean during the same time period?

        • Effigy_Power

          Yes, that’s what makes this worse.
          Apparently we are good enough for handheld, but just downright unrealistic on the big screen.

  • LoveWaffle

    I never got the hype for this game.

  • Effigy_Power

    I am getting the feeling that more advanced and popular games basically play themselves.
    It’s a bit in line with the development of toys when I was a kid. Initially everything was manual and required you to come up with shit. Plastic horsies and Barbie dolls and all that crap were at least, for all their other failures, still dependent on your own interaction. Then everything got animated and self-controlled and full of LEDs and you could basically sit there and watch your little pony doll run around and shit rainbows.

    Games appear to go the same route. The more elaborate and complex the set pieces become, the more the developers seem to be afraid that we are too dumb or inattentive to get what’s going on. Screen-filling scripted events go on and the devs seem to want to guide our camera and hand and yell at us “Look at the cool shit we built here, look at it! That’s what you paid $60 for. This exploding B2 bomber full of fireworks and bunnies. And now look over there, so you have a second to prepare for the QTE. Oh, and if you fail this, which you will, you can look at this cool, unskippable cutscene again. Well, you have to.”

    “Cinematic” is not a great term for games and not one people need to constantly blow at us. Movies don’t attempt to be radio. Radio doesn’t attempt to be books. Why do games apparently have to emulate a static, non-interactive genre of entertainment when it can be so much more.
    Nobody wants to play interactive movies. That was attempted a decade or two ago and it died painfully and covered in spit and punches, luckily. Why bring that back?

    • Fixda Fernback

      Clearly, you’re forgetting the enormous success of the Philips CD-i…

    • Gauephat

      Attempting to be “cinematic” has been a terrible trend for video games, like you said.  They always end up being glossier rail shooters.  Things may work on that level the first time you see it, but in a video game it’s too clear how constructed and deliberate it really is.

      When I think of video games that have actually succeeded in being “cinematic” in the sense that there seems to be a sense of story or spectacle, I think of moments in multiplayer games that are produced completely spontaneously.  I think games succeed the most when they are effectively able to use the intelligence of real people (and to a much lesser extent, AIs) to produce unique and memorable moments that weren’t designed or storyboarded.

    • Logoboros

      I think part of this is an issue with the “game as experience” mindset. Think about early arcade games. The basic relationship was of the gamer AGAINST the game. The game was a challenge. The game was your opponent. The goal was to “beat” the game (or beat the high scores of other games — to master the game better than them). The amount of hand-holding in current games represents a completely different kind of relationship. I was reading Chalkdust’s comments about QTEs high above with a certain amount of horror. The way these events were described as basically being necessary to keep the gamer’s attention on the game (because it would wander off elsewhere without constant stimulation and affirmation) — the image that conjure for me is a lab rat rewarded with its food pellets for participating. You are essentially subjugated to the game (though willingly — and the game is constantly trying to flatter your and court you). I know all the gamification research basically encourages this reward-pellet mentality — that’s how you keep someone doing a task over and over again when they wouldn’t necessarily be motivated to keep doing it on their own. But that’s part of the difference between the arcades and now. Arcade gamers’ motivation to beat the game came pretty much from within — in fact, you could say it had to be almost obsessively strong to overcome the lack of variety in levels/sprites and nearly insane difficulty levels of the games themselves (which is also why gaming in the 80s wasn’t the massively mainstream phenomenon it is now, of course). Present day gamers always seem to be on the verge of boredom with the games they’re playing (at least if the design of those games is any indication), and they only thing that will keep them playing is the promise of scenes or events to trigger or stuff to unlock. (I see I’m starting to conflate two different game mechanics there — though I think both play into the gamer-as-lab-rat idea — so I’ll cut myself off before I wander too far.)

      • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

        Horror?  Really?  Huh.  Whatever sinister Pavlovian intentions you’re alluding to, you don’t have to worry about me.  I’ve been bored by plenty of games and stopped playing (hello Dishonored, Hitman: Absolution, Sleeping Dogs, Darksiders II, etc… keep my Steam library warm for me!)

        I just see, even in intelligent conversations about games, that QTEs seem to be the last thing it’s safe to hate on blindly.  I do see merit in the concept of a quick-time event, as one of many things in a developer’s toolbox, but I certainly acknowledge that they’ve become a weird crutch for AAA studios lately.  I’m certainly not trying to argue that QTEs are some savior of interactive storytelling (I think there are much more interesting things yet to be explored, but I’m in no position to make any of them a reality).

        The stuff about attention/engagement was more to my own personal experiences.  Maybe I’m an anomaly, but I notice I have different mental ‘modes’ if I’m watching a movie or playing a game, and going into a cutscene risks my mind wandering.  It was active!  It wants to do something.  It’s in action-reaction mode, not pure absorption mode.  This is probably the philosophy that devs are leaning on when using QTEs.  On the spectrum of plotting out an elaborate fully interactive setpiece vs. pulling all control away from the player to run planecrash.avi, QTEs fall in the middle.  Again, a crutch in most cases, but not without merit in others.

        And anyway, I like games as a storytelling platform.  I grew up on text and point-and-click adventures, then JRPGs, as well as the arcade ports (woo Colecovision!).  Why should it be so heinous that I want my time investment to result in furthering the narrative (the promise of scenes as you say), instead of winning the chance to put “ASS” in the high scores?

    • Swadian Knight

      This is a problem that extends to most forms of media, but I think the problem is less the emulation itself and more the way it’s introduced to the work: a good comic book can be literary, but it shouldn’t let itself drown in wordiness, and a good song can be poetic but shouldn’t throw its musicality out the window for it. Similarly, a good video game can be cinematic if it draws on the themes and techniques of that medium to augment the experience it offers, but not if it sacrifices its main characteristics – interactivity and player input – to achieve that.

      It’s just really hard to come up with an experience that understands and respects the limitations and strengths of video games, especially when so many of our cultural reference points are in other forms of media and so many professionals of different areas have to work together on a project this size. It’s a wonder when anything cohesive ever comes out at the other end of all this.

    • Fluka

      This is the same evolution that’s happened to Legos.  Formerly a big box of bricks to build whatever your imagination can think up, with the occasional pirate or medieval brick to spice things up.  Now it’s a bunch of single-purpose bricks to build stuff from Star Wars or Lord of the Rings or whatever other licensed property they pick up.  (Or, uh, coincidentally you could just go play Lego Lord of the Rings on your XBox instead.)

      • Logoboros

        Actually, LEGO at least has a non-imagination-killing rationale — their patent expired, so they had to find a way to distinguish themselves from all of the cheaper but compatible block brands. Licensing does that, and unique block types does that (quality also does that, but kids don’t really care about quality — though they do care about brands and franchises). But you’re right that the side effect is to water down the imaginative element of building things with Lego blocks.

        • Fluka

          Wait, is *that* what happened to Lego?  Huh, I learned something today.

        • Logoboros

          @Fluka:disqus There’s a recent Planet Money podcast that explains the story. It’s interesting listening:

          http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2012/12/13/167055503/why-legos-are-so-expensive-and-so-popular

        • Citric

          The nice thing about Lego at least is the ease of kitbashing. You can follow the rules and make a lego star wars ship, or you can do a mad mashup of the millenium falcon and little sister’s horse riding camp, leading to the Millenium Institute for the Riding of Space Horses.

    • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

      There seem to be a lot of lead developers in video games who come off as failed aspiring filmmakers. The most noteable being David Cage and Hideo Kojima, in my mind. They just can’t seem to shake the idea that games need to aspire to films, instead of being their own thing.

      On a related note, this is a pretty wonderful takedown of Cage: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/jimquisition/6945-Emotions-Polygons-and-Ellen-Page

      • rvb1023

         Cage deserves a lot of the flak he gets and so does Kojima, despite me spending the next few sentences defending him and that I actually like both of them (Say what you want about Cage, but he is at the forefront of major game studios trying to expand gaming’s horizons).

        I think Kojima “gets” games, but I also agree he still wants to make movies. So he does both. In every MGS game there is something that takes advantage of the medium in a way no other medium could do. However, he loves putting in 3-8 hours of poorly written cutscenes. While I could understand the ire directed towards Kojima for his overlong and melodramatic cutscenes I feel his clever direction when it comes to the actual gameplay, which, unlike Cage, is for the most part separate from the cutscenes, more than makes up for the 30-minute codec calls.

        • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

          Although I agree with you, I was at a live interview with Kojima, where he pretty much flat out said (via his translator) that he got in to games because he couldn’t make it in to films.

      • valondar

         If not failed filmmakers, then failed screenwriters. The guy behind writing the story for the first Assassin’s Creed game was IIRC a screenwriter who wasn’t able to get any jobs in film or TV before applying for one at Ubisoft or something along those lines.

        • Simon Jones

           Video game writing is wall to wall creatives who weren’t quite good enough to make it in another industry. This is not quite the onus you think it might be in the case of Film and Television, where there are honestly not that many jobs to go round. So I wouldn’t be too hard on them.

          On the other hand, we should be less kind to certain other points of entrance. The Dragon Age writing room, for example, is probably built out of terrible unpublished fantasy epics.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

      Making a game “cinematic” appeals more to spectators than the actual players.

      • Effigy_Power

        This. A million times this.
        When Sony ran its idiotic ad-campaign for Uncharted 2 or 3, about the guy who can’t stop playing because his Hooters-girlfriend thought she’s watching a movie, it encapsulated everything wrong with this.

        -Chicks don’t get games unless they are movies.
        -Games are now communally shared, spreading the joy around while limiting it for the person who plays (and paid for) the game.
        -QTEs equal suspense (the ad featured at least one.

        Now, the ad-campaign for anything related to the PS3 has been a G4-worthy trip through the swamp of lowest common denominators of gaming, but this ad…
        Games are not movies. Women play games, we don’t just watch our masters enjoy them.
        How hard a lesson is that to understand?

        • Logoboros

          And I think it this idea to the gamer him- or herself — the gamer also becomes a spectator of the game. The presumed mindest of such a gamer is: “I want to have a cool ‘experience,’ I want to see cool things happen, but I don’t want to have to work too hard to get the cool stuff. In fact, the more you can deliver bigger and cooler spectacle with a minimum amount of effort required on my part to see it, the better.” A ton of AAA games seem to be sold these days on the premise that they’re going to give you the chance to experience effortless mastery — that’s practically the selling point. Look at the incredible acrobatic feats you can make Ezio do in Assassin’s Creed, and all without doing much more than pressing in one direction and pounding a button.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          @Logoboros:disqus: I can make Ezio do incredible acrobatic feats? So far, I’ve made him trip over his own feet, stab innocent bystanders with his sword, crash into a couple of prostitutes, and jump sideways off a building to his death.

    • AmaltheaElanor

      Because they’re both visual mediums, and they can learn a lot from one another.  Television, while a more interesting format than film imo, has learned a lot from film, and has grown immensely from that.  Movies don’t attempt to be radio and vice versa because they’re pretty dramatically different outlets.

      I look at the opening to something like Mass Effect 2 and find that pretty dang cinematic – and I think the game (and series) is better for it.  It gives the game a grandeur, and if the story is essential and well-told, then I think cinematics can play a pretty fantastic role. 

      • Effigy_Power

        That’s all fair enough, but I still don’t like the use of the word “cinematic” as an indication of quality.
        The word isn’t used to describe a certain type of game, but every game allegedly good enough to be called “cinematic”.
        The way I see it is that we have been dealing with TV and movies for far longer than games, so that they are trying to butt their way into a medium that really needs the leisure and opportunity to grow on its own, rather than emulate one that is currently stagnating on every creative and culturally viable front. My mindsets for watching action and making action happen are utterly different. Pressing “X” 20 times to see Nathan Drake not fall off a train is the same as pressing “Play” on a remote to me.
        Cutscenes are cutscenes, with or without occupational button-mashing, and they take away from the process of gaming. They may be cinematic, but they are not games.

        • Steve McCoy

          “Cinematic” is like “operatic” to me: it’s a shorthand for a general feel of storytelling and expressing emotions, but not a prescription for specific elements.
          That said, there is definitely a de facto canon of critical tiers that most people (including critics) succumb to, and striving for one of the upper tiers is seen as noble-but-impossible:

          books > movies > TV > video games

          where each is supposedly less legitimate than the previous, and through lowered expectations, brings down both critical discourse and the overall quality of the forms. (Heck, for anything but books, it’s easy to be accused of “overthinking it”. Maybe because high school english class anti-trains people by forcing them to apply a single metaphor to every word of hundreds-pages books. Anyhow…)

          I do think that button-mashing QTEs have a place, though. They can provide a great catharsis after particularly tough bosses that can’t simply be button-mashed. DmC and MGR:Revengeance contain good recent examples of this for me.

        • valondar

          I like cinematic in terms of describing a game style, and I genuinely love a lot of cinematic games. I’m very divided about cutscenes though – I really enjoy them if there’s a reasonable level of interactivity (like in a BioWare RPG); but if I’m not participating in the conversation or interested in the game’s story then I prefer they don’t go on too long.

          There are certain genres I feel cinematics just kill game flow, too – not keen on them in FPS titles.

        • AmaltheaElanor

          I agree that cinematic is not mutually exclusive with quality.  But I feel like it’s probably a matter of personal preference here.  For instance, the train sequence in Uncharted 2 is considerably more complicated than just pressing X 20 times.  I find it thrilling because I’m on a moving vehicle, and while the environment around me shifts, I leap from car to car, sometimes where I’m immediately forced to duck into cover and pick off enemies, sometimes where I’m forced to hang off the edge, sometimes where I’m hanging along pipes.  It borrows heavily from action movie standards, but manages to uniquely tool it to many of the games mechanics, making it feel like I’m actually experiencing it, and I find it thrilling.

          Another argument for personal preference: this may come in large part from the fact that I love RPGs, but I generally enjoy cutscenes.  I feel they’re generally necessary for telling a good story, and while story (good or otherwise) is not requisite to make a good game, it is becoming increasingly relevant.  And I find most of my favorite games are such because in addition to being an enjoyable play, they have really great stories.  (See: almost everything made by BioWare.)

          As is, video games already borrow so heavily from the very basics of film and tv that it’s difficult to imagine what they would be like had they come first.  Dramatically different, I’d imagine.

          I’m curious, @Effigy_Power:disqus do you dislike cutscenes across the board?  I can’t think of the last game I played that didn’t have any.  Even in games where story is minimal (like Metroid Prime or almost anything Mario) there are still a few cutscenes here and there.

        • Effigy_Power

           @AmaltheaElanor:disqus: I do actually, yes. It used to be different, but now cutscenes invoke the same feeling inside me that commercial breaks do on TV.
          It’s a period of pre-engineered stuff that the developers were either unable to fit into the workings of the actual game or think we are too dense to get during, in my opinion.
          There are good cut-scenes, no doubt. Some of them precious little movies in their own right. But that’s not why I play a game.
          Playing is about interaction and stuff happening because I make it happen. Every time a game tells me to sit back and basically stop playing, so that the rarely great plot goes forward, I feel the game diminished and rather less fun.

      • valondar

         Mass Effect 2′s opening is unbelievably annoying for one very specific reason:

        You don’t create your character, you sit through a cinematic and some brief gameplay and THEN you create your character. That’s fine the first time you try, but not the second or fifth. And when you just need to recreate a specific face type to port it over to Mass Effect 3 because that didn’t work at launch and I’m leaving Mass Effect 2 running just to get to that screen I mean fuck.

        Don’t ever get between me and a menu, games. I don’t like it and I don’t find it cute.

    • Professor_Cuntburglar

      There are only three games I can think of that are “cinematic” in a good way: Shadow of the Colossus and Uncharter 2 and 3. Neither game is cinematic because it has a lot of movie-like cutscenes (well, Uncharted does sometimes, but it also has cinematic gameplay). What all three games do is acknowledge that the camera that you watch your character through is still a camera, and as such you can use composition and camera movement to influence that player’s experience.

      For example, when you ride your horse across the plain in SOTC, the camera always puts your horse in the lower thirds of the screen, and it will pan up if there’s something big to look at. Also, when Drake approaches the final temple in Uncharted 2, the camera pulls back to reveal the entire temple. In both cases, you still have full control over the character, but the action is framed in a more effective way than just “pointing at the player.” This is what I wish developers meant when they refer to cinematic gameplay.

    • valondar

      I actually like interactive movies. It’s a genre of game I enjoy playing, but it should be recognized as one route one can go with game development rather than a route all games should emulate.

      Because I also like puzzle platformers, and the last thing a good puzzle game needs is the game to explain the puzzle to you so you can see the next cinematic.

      I’d say the comparison between interactive movies and cinema is like… ah… let’s say stage plays adapted to film. You know, like the Hitchcock Dial M for Murder or Rope. They’re good films, but they’re also restricted by the mechanics of the stage plays they adapt. They use these restraints well, but nobody would expect all films to behave like them.

      And that’s what interactive movies are – not better, but more restricted by their emulation of another medium, and while that restriction is again basically fine and I enjoy it (see also Bergman’s chamber dramas because fuck me I’m pretentious) it’s not something the medium needs to aspire to.

  • Simon Jones

    1. This game really is kind of unimpressive. I mean…it’s not bad but it’s not really all that good either. It’s just kind of there.  I think it’s biggest problem is that it has to hold itself up against Far Cry 3, which was actually interesting.

    2. I realise Rhianna Pratchett has become ‘The Lady In The Game Industry Who Writes For Games’ to a certain but has she actually been attached to anything that wasn’t really workmanlike as far as writing goes? You could make a case for Mirror’s edge, but it’d be a pretty tenuous one.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

      Rhianna Pratchett does a fine job considering the lack of any real creative control she has.

    • Moonside_Malcontent

       I’ll carry some water for Prince of Persia, here.

    • Treymoney

      I’ve read that Pratchett had to graft a story onto a halfway completed game in the case of Mirror’s Edge. And that they only used a quarter of what she wrote anyway.

    • Effigy_Power

      It’s hard to judge either way, since writers so often are curtailed by the development process.
      From gaming samples it’s hard to tell whether she is a good writer or not, since as mentioned here, her work rarely makes it through the integratory process without being messed around with by someone who doesn’t know how to write, but thinks they know what gamers want.

      I do wonder if she wrote in all those groans and moans and if yes, whether she is single and wants to come around my place. For game-talking.

      • valondar

         Rhianna Pratchett actually gave an interview to Eurogamer a while back. IIRC she specifically said that the groans and moans were not her idea and she has no involvement in that end of the game.

        Her comments were interesting – she felt Lara Croft was too much like Batman in the sense she was invincible and she wanted to show her as more vulnerable and becoming harder and so on… but I just kind of preferred her as a dashing Indiana Jones type. Sure there was a time she wasn’t always awesome, but the same is true of Indy (and Batman) and neither of their growing pains involved this kind of weird horror stuff the new Tomb Raider game has.

        • Simon Jones

           This is kinda my issue with the direction the game took, regardless of who wrote it.

          Uncharted is right fucking there.

          And I’m not saying I want an Uncharted clone.

          But I am saying Uncharted is right fucking there, being really good at being a game about raiding tombs.

      • uselessyss

        I never really understood the argument that Lara Croft’s groans sound sexual. I mean, I get it, but can’t most moans and groans sound sexual in a certain context? Yeah, if you close your eyes and put yourself in a certain mindset, Lara’s “oohs” and “ahhs” might sound like she’s enjoying (?) some particularly rough sex, but I don’t find them obviously orgasmic.

        I would guess that if you took the “pain sounds” of any game character and presented them as “sex sounds,” they would be pretty convincing. Case in point:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sf9Xzu3bIv4

        • Effigy_Power

          Yeah, I think that goes for every grunt, moan and sigh that games have somehow associated with every move game characters do.
          The “ung” sound every time someone jumps is really just silly.
          But it has to be said that Lara’s new ones are particularly sexual sounding. Mind you, that’s a small matter compared to other things, but in context with the hideous ad-campaign and things said, it probably has to appear worse than it is.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          Yeah, a couple of hours in, I have to say: the moans and pants don’t sound sexual in context. Like, at all. I dunno, maybe if you’re just watching a gameplay video, it might come across differently. But it’s not the impression I get from actually playing the game.

    • Simon Jones

      My issue with that is that’s pretty much the lot of every game writer except for a couple of big names.

      While she’s not terrible, she’s not a singular talent either so it just kind of makes me wonder why she’s singled out when she really hasn’t been involved with a game with anything that you can really point to and say ‘Hey, that’s some nice writing there.’ So it does make me wondered why people feel the need to point to her as a major contributor to these things or to make her the standard bearer for female gamewriters beyond having a noteworthy last name when what she’s done just isn’t that interesting.

    • valondar

      The story was the least interesting part of Mirror’s Edge, but to its credit, Faith is a good IDEA for a character (and really a game protagonist needs to be nothing more than that, if that).

  • Steve McCoy

    This game is still a bit appealing to me after reading the review, but I am taking pause because it apparently continues the trend of “how about I just tell you how to solve this puzzle”. I have to ignore most of the other criticisms, though, because I haven’t played a lot of games in this genre, so a lot of the experience would probably be fresh enough for me.

    • SamPlays

      But everyone realizes that games like this use self-solving puzzles as a way to add pacing, right? No one interested in solving puzzles – and we all know Teti is a puzzle enthusiast – would legitimately play an action game to scratch that itch. I’m curious if the game instantly gave the solution or if Teti was mucking around for 4-5 minutes before the game offered assistance. I also think it’s unfair to suggest that someone who plays a game like this doesn’t like to challenge their intellect. That’s a pretty gross assumption considering we play different games for different reasons.

      • AmaltheaElanor

        The most prominent example I can think of where I’ve encountered this is Uncharted, when Nathan Drake tends to make a, “Gee, look up that – I think that’s what we’re looking for comment,” and then it’ll usually take me 20 minutes to figure out how to actually get up there.  I probably would’ve preferred figuring that out on my own, but what usually annoys me more is that he keeps repeating it over and over again until I actually get to the thing he keeps indicating.  And it does feel like something incorporated for mass market appeal, the gamers who hate being bogged down by puzzles they can’t solve.  As someone who hates the frequency with which I’ve been held up in a game by puzzles, I can see both sides of it.

        • Patsy Badvideo

           Love Uncharted, especially the second one but this drove me mad too.  I already knew when I got in the room the rough idea of the puzzle, Drake pointing it out made it a confusing chore because it broke my train of thought and had me solving his sentence rather than what was happening.

    • DrFlimFlam

      I don’t like puzzles, and solving them for me helps me. It’s probably not faithful to the franchise, but I hate puzzles in games. I’m an “experience” player.

      • Steve McCoy

        For me, it’s more of a “why bother having them” thing. When a game does this, I habitually start to brainstorm solutions, but then the game just deflates the mental challenge, usually leaving no skill challenge, and my actions turn into chores. (Ni no Kuni, a game I otherwise really like, is the worst recent example of this.)

        @SamPlays:disqus makes a good point that they can be used for pacing, and it’s true that puzzles that are too difficult can kill pacing and make me put a game down for a long time, but I think that this can be accomplished in other ways.

      • valondar

         I love puzzles!

        In particular I love puzzle platformers.

        I’m not very good at puzzles, but I like puzzles that give you a certain internally consistent set of rules and then expect you to combine these rules to find solutions more than I do adventure game’s fridge logic, but a good puzzle game can keep me going all day.

        But I guess here’s the thing.

        Tomb Raider is a game series with puzzles. If that’s not your thing, then there are other games without puzzles – the answer shouldn’t really be to dumb down the puzzles just to appeal to people who don’t.

  • Canadian gamer

    Any comments on gamification of games? From other reviews, I’ve gathered Tomb Raider – the rebooted one – encumbers the player with shiny stats at every occasion it can. This strikes me as annoying at least, and a poor design choice at worst. What use is it to build a convincing world and write the heroine a credible personality if you are to shatter disbelief every two seconds with a “500 XP – You’ve climbed 25 ledges”? When a game’s core mechanics are well-honed, it doesn’t need to provide numbers to make the player feel rewarded, the action is its own reward. 

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      If you play at a high enough resolution, the XP alerts are just tiny blips in the corner. I don’t find them annoying, because they fit with the fiction that Lara gains experience as she progresses through her ordeal.

      On the other hand, the alerts that I’ve unlocked new artwork or extras are really annoying, because they don’t fit with the fiction and they take up a lot more screen real estate.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/DJKNTOVDAF2D6RRJLUTLHRTTWI Marbles

      “gamification of games” is one of the fucking stupidest thing i’ve ever heard.

      it’s called ‘gamification’ because it’s what games have done since the beginning: keep track of what you’re doing and and give you a score. you may not *like* it, but it’s not “gamification” like its something that’s happening *to* games, it’s just *games being games*. maybe you want games to be less like games? that’s fine, you’re entitled to want whatever the hell you want, but the whole concept of games somehow becoming gamified is so mind boggling to me it makes me want to start a eugenics program to weed out the morons who utter the phrase. 

      • Canadian gamer

        Geez. This is harsh. 

        Data-tracking is something games have always done, indeed, but I dare say it hasn’t always been as blatant as it now often is. For instance, just take COD:MW2 and COD:MW3 and compare their Spec Ops modes. In MW2, you won’t see any numbers. In MW3, you’re treated to a constant shower of digits (yeah, I know, it’s because it’s tied into the multiplayer). Or take the Splinter Cell Series. It wasn’t up until Conviction that SC games felt the need to congratulate you for having used flash grenades 5 times or evaded enemies 50 times. 

        In a game like Tomb Raider where immersion is key, I believe an excess of statistics-based rewards can be a bad thing. 

        So up to a point, “gamification of games” can be somewhat misleading, but it nonetheless highlights a particular phenomenon: data-tracking applies to more things than before and is used more often and more visibly in genres where it used to be invisible.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/DJKNTOVDAF2D6RRJLUTLHRTTWI Marbles

          you’ve called attention to the most obvious thing ever: people like positive feedback. it’s why call of duty’s post-mw1 online is so popular, and it’s why “scores” have always been offered to players, and why developers are figuring out ways to provide them in ways that expand beyond a number in the corner of the screen. i’m not arguing against the validity of you not liking it – that’s fine. it’s just the concept of games being ‘gamified’ that drives me crazy, and i wouldn’t be so kind as to call the term merely ‘misleading’. gamification means making something that isn’t a game provide feedback like games do. saying “games are becoming more like things that aren’t games that provide feedback like games do” is silly, to put it as nicely as i can. argue all you want against over enthusiastic feedback systems (good luck with it though, more people like it that not), just don’t call it ‘gamification’.

      • Logoboros

        The thing you’re missing is that games aren’t all about scores and points. Only *some* games are about scores and points. Some games don’t even have winning conditions — they are more purely forms of play, without competition (even the form where you’re just trying to beat the machine or course, as it were). So “gamification” of a narrative game, for example, would not be about bringing out the essential game character of that game, but rather about foisting the standards and goals of a particular kind of game onto that game. So games can be gamified, because the reward-system that gamification is all about is NOT, in fact, a universal feature of all games (especially not when you consider what “gamification” is used to mean in most practical contexts, which is the incorporation of micro-goals — an even narrower subset of feedback mechanisms).

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/DJKNTOVDAF2D6RRJLUTLHRTTWI Marbles

          first of all – 99.9% of all games are about progress. that used to be quantified almost exclusively by points and by ‘level’ number. it’s often more complex now, but the concept is still the same. narratives have been introduced, but the idea of progress is still there.

          secondly, i’m not talking about the value of what you call ‘gamification’, but the notion itself. gamification is introducing game-like feedback to a task or activity. if that task or activity *is* a game, then you’re adding game-like feedback to a… game. you’re making a game game-like. how does that not strike you as anything other than painfully idiotic?

      • Professor_Cuntburglar

         Calm the fuck down.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/DJKNTOVDAF2D6RRJLUTLHRTTWI Marbles

          1. right now, i’m only equating my self worth with how much better i am than you.

          2. gamification of games is not a real thing. when you say a game is being gamified, you’re saying ‘a game is providing feedback in a games-like way’. which, yeah. that’s what games do. they provide feedback in a games-like way. because they’re games. you’re allowed to not like it (believe me, i honestly couldn’t care less what you think), that’s not the point.

          3. for many people, a progress notifier *is* compelling. why do you think achievements/trophies are so popular? BECAUSE PEOPLE LIKE THEM! doesn’t do much for me, personally, but i’m not going to condescend them like they have no value, when the obviously do for a vast portion of the gaming population.

        • Professor_Cuntburglar

           Your self worth must be in negative values then. I’m sorry.

          [drops mic]

          BOOM

          CUNTBURGLAR OUT

      • Bad Horse

        whoa there hitler

      • Tom Jackson

        Marbles, stop being such an antagonistic douche.
        You’re all over these comments throwing insults around like you can’t find your bridge.
        So you don’t like the term, great. Try framing your response in a way that doesn’t result in the suggested genocide of people who mention it.
        You’re totally welcome to your opinion but don’t rage about like a toddler, just say what you think in a constructive manner and we’ll actually listen to you instead of throwing back more insults.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/DJKNTOVDAF2D6RRJLUTLHRTTWI Marbles

          yes, my eugenics comment was totally serious and i actually want to kill people based on how intelligent i perceive them to be. i’m glad you caught that and didn’t misinterpret it as hyperbolic sarcasm. kudos. 

          • Tom Jackson

            Nice, thanks for proving my point.

        • Tom Jackson

          Nice, thanks for proving my point.

  • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

    Occasionally it bums me out how much you don’t like shooters Teti. We disagreed on Max Payne 3 and we might disagree on this.

    I beat all the old Tomb Raiders but that’s only because I knew how to do the R2-L2-R2-L2-whatever level skip cheat, so my fondness for making awkward jumps and pushing urns is minimal.  What I am interested is this game’s throwing off of the Gears of War sticky-cover mantle and it’s refined shooting mechanics.

    As anyone who has played a shooter in the last 6 years know, all cover must be slammed against with a button press, then awkwardly fidgeted with to finagle your way off of, but apparently the new Tomb Raider’s claim to fame is that they created an organic cover system where taking cover is as easy as moving your character up to it then moving away. No dedicated “Press A for Cover” mechanic, just the ability to walk up to a wall for cover and walk away to slink out.  I know little things like this can seem irrelevant to some people but considering how universal the idea of cover has become in modern games (thanks Cliffy B), a game that can finally make it feel organic, and not like wearing a magnet vest, is worth checking out.

    But this is all hearsay technically as I haven’t played the game yet myself so who knows.

    • DrFlimFlam

      The one thing that still drives me bonkers about Mass Effect is running into walls and getting off of them.

      • Professor_Cuntburglar

         Or when you accidentally hop over a barrier, and then have to steer Shephard around 180 degrees before you can hop back, and all the while you’re being filled with laser bullets.

      • Bad Horse

        It was so wonderful to roll in and out of cover in 3. By comparison Shepard just felt like a tank in 2.

  • Alkaron

    The super-obvious hints a game vomits out at you whenever you seem to be the slightest bit stuck on a puzzle or a decision is one of my least favorite videogame trends. The worst example I can think of is Bioshock 2. There’s a part at around the midpoint where you burst into the hiding place of some coward who has some important information. After you interrogate him and discover that he might have helped Sophia Lamb, the game gives you a choice: believe his pleas of innocence and have mercy, or decide that he’s lying and murder him. (Or decide that he’s lying but let him live anyway.) It was actually a really interesting little moral choice, the sort I like in games. There was no benefit to either choice; it was pure role-playing, and I had to decide what kind of person I was going to be.

    So I’m sitting there for a couple of minutes, trying to think through my feelings and motivations and puzzle through the facts, when that damn telepathic daughter breaks in over voiceover and tells me, “Yep, he totally did it. Kill him.” Boom—no ambiguity, no moral decision, no puzzling over whether I can trust this guy. No thought. And this was Bioshock, a series whose big selling point is the supposed big moral dilemmas. That choice was THE GAME, but Bioshock 2′s designers decided to take the game away from me just when it was getting interesting.

    Anyway, I decided I wasn’t all that interested in Bioshock 2 after that moment and quit soon after. Still holding out hope that Infinite will be worthwhile, though.

    • DrFlimFlam

      Let’s be real, here. There is a game called BioShock 2. It is, technically speaking, a sequel to BioShock. But it’s a lesser son, a Snow against a Stark, if you will.

  • hastapura

    Goddamn it Teti I just got this from Redbox because Tomb Raider II is one of the earliest games I can remember playing and now you’ve dashed all my hopes like a fragile teenager falling half a mile onto some jagged outcropping, her final sound a teasing, ‘nearly-there’ coo

    • SamPlays

      Just go to another site that has a positive review. IGN were big fans of this game and their review seemed pretty rational. Again, this comes back to the lack of a grading system and that readers need to read these reviews critically. There’s nothing in this review that would prevent me from trying this game in the future. I can handle an action/platform game that is light on the puzzles. I can also reconcile “generic” game mechanics with a well-designed environment. If you focus on the closing lines of the review, it’s apparent that John would have liked the opportunity to spend more time exploring the island rather than be funneled through “set pieces”. It’s a fair criticism, especially as more games seem to streamline the player’s involvement to rudimentary tasks. Just realize that it’s okay to enjoy something even if it’s completely dumb.

      • valondar

         ’IGN were big fans of this game and their review seemed pretty rational’ is something you can actually say about the vast majority of Triple AAA titles. I wouldn’t trust a single word from that website.

        But yeah, it’s totally okay to enjoy Tomb Raider on its own terms or to buy it now, and it does look like the kind of game which, if you buy into its linear cinematic experience, you might have a good time with.

      • Professor_Cuntburglar

         I’m pretty sure that IGN are big fans of Tomb Raider’s advertising dollars, not the game itself.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/DJKNTOVDAF2D6RRJLUTLHRTTWI Marbles

          yes, and actually, every positive review of the game, regardless of whether the outlet presented advertisements for the game, has been tainted by those marketing dollars. it’s actually just a safe bet in general: if teti disliked a game that has been generally well-reviewed elsewhere, what we’re really seeing is the insidious tainting of review scores by bribery, not a simple difference of opinion. 

        • valondar

           @yahoo-DJKNTOVDAF2D6RRJLUTLHRTTWI:disqus We’re talking about IGN, not every website ever. Is the idea that IGN complicit (or that review scores are grossly inflated) really that new to you?

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/DJKNTOVDAF2D6RRJLUTLHRTTWI Marbles

          @google-ad11b5fc6e812fcfddafc59b953591fe:disqus the idea isn’t new to me, but that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous. ign gives plenty of negative reviews to games that advertise on their site. 

        • valondar

          @yahoo-DJKNTOVDAF2D6RRJLUTLHRTTWI:disqus It goes far beyond advertising. For the purposes of comparison, consider Roger Ebert’s ‘Little Rule Book’ about professional conduct:
          http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2008/10/eberts_little_rule_book.html

          In particular, his stressing the need to distance oneself from accepting any kind of favours from directors or other celebrities is key. You know, like maybe an IGN employee getting a part in a videogame and yet they see absolutely no conflict of interest inherent in reviewing the said title?

          Add to this the complete uselessness of inflated grades (where a Triple AAA title has to have serious problems to score below 80%) and yeah, I do not trust IGN.

          In fairness, I don’t trust most gaming review sites or gaming journalism. I’ve learned not to.

        • Professor_Cuntburglar

           @yahoo-DJKNTOVDAF2D6RRJLUTLHRTTWI:disqus I know you’re being sarcastic, but unfortunately you’re right.

          It’s a pretty widely accepted fact that most popular game site’s reviews are just another branch of a AAA game’s marketing. The sooner more gamers realize this, the better.

        • zpoccc

          Actually, the sooner gamers realize that video game reviews aren’t a vast conspiracy the better. Get ready for your mind to be blown – some people’s opinions are going to be different than yours. the user metacritic score for the game is at 87 – that’s real, normal people who aren’t being paid to write reviews giving their opinion. And it happens to align with ::gasp:: ign’s score!!! WAIT. They must actually be an extension of ‘a AAA game’s marketing’ too! You’re unraveling the plot! ‘cuntburglar’ is here to pull the blinders off our eyes! Teach us how to see, cuntburglar! TEACH US HOW TO SEE

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          I have a feeling that far fewer people would accuse IGN and its ilk of lining their pockets with ill-gotten cash from publishers if they just dropped review scores entirely, leading readers to focus on the actual content of their reviews.

        • SamPlays

          @Merve2:disqus I think you’re right on the money with your comment. If anyone bothered to read IGN’s review, it’s obvious there’s some overlap with Gameological’s pros and cons. Take the grades away and read the criticisms for what they’re worth. I think this debate about the validity of review sites that charge advertisers for marketing space is totally bonkers. If you take this argument at face value, it suggests that some people will believe the AV Club, one of the best sources of pop culture criticism, is not worth reading because *GASP* they sell ad space. 

        • Professor_Cuntburglar

           @zpoccc:disqus Yeah, if anything that proves my point. Those average person reviewers are always, always super inflated, because those people aren’t professional reviewers. Check any other site that has both critics reviews and “fan” reviews; the second scores are always way higher. Gaming websites are the exception to this, which is suspicious.

          And please, please stop with the “whoa, looks like people have different opinions than you!” That annoys me to no end. I know they do. That doesn’t mean their opinions are valid.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/DJKNTOVDAF2D6RRJLUTLHRTTWI Marbles

          @Professor_Cuntburglar:disqus yeah dude that makes PERFECT SENSE. you are so smart!

          regular people’s reviews aren’t valid because they “aren’t professional reviewers” and professional reviews aren’t valid because they’re tainted by advertising dollars. got it.

    • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

      You’ll never get those 2 dollars back

  • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

    Great review, John.

    I feel like the issue of player-hand-holding has been pretty prevalent with most major releases for several years now. I think it ties in to the rest of the watering-down issues of AAA titles, such as making games more action-oriented, and tacking on multiplayer, and things of that nature. It’s all about marketing, mass appeal, and attempting to recoup giant development budgets. They do all of these things to cover the broadest spectrum of players possible, but at the same time it alienates all the niche audiences who made many of these franchises a thing in the first place. They are scared of possibly offending anyone with challenging ideas and gameplay, because they need to ship 8 million units or the project will be a “failure.” 

    The gamble they make is that those in the niche audiences who actually are offended by the homogenization make up much less people than the mass middle-of-the-road market that will hopefully buy the game. I’m really not sure it’s working, though. For example, there are already rumors that EA is cancelling the Dead Space IP after the performance of this last outing. These games all sell quite well, but still not well enough to be deemed a success by the publisher (which is apparently only gauged by Call of Duty and Halo numbers). 

    If this needs to continue being a thing, I think the best way to compromise is by having more intelligent gameplay modes. Some games do this better than others, but having different difficulty settings, essentially. Maybe on easy mode, Lara Croft offers up blatant solutions to puzzles by talking to herself, but in harder modes, you are left to figure it out on your own. 

    It’s also a question for the “cinematic” games debate. If the developer wants to guide you through a story and set pieces, and really wants you to see things the way they intend and no other way, then treating the player like an idiot is the easiest way to accomplish that. You never meander from the path they set, or pause for too long to break up the flow of their story. 

    • Goon Diapers

      I feel the same way about the Assassin’s Creed games. When you get inside one of the tombs or crypts or whatever, you just kind of jump around on a fixed path until you get to the end. No problem solving. Even figuring out how to assassinate a target requires little problem solving. Unlike the old Hitman games where you would try all kinds of ways of doing it stealthily. Compare this with dungeons in Legend of Zelda and I will choose Zelda any day of the week. Or even more recently, Arkham City has a similar feel to Assassin’s Creed, but with much less handholding. Figuring out all the Riddler puzzles is kind of hard. A lot of the battles require more problem solving, especially ones like Mr. Freeze. And challenge rooms can be great puzzles as well. But games like Assassin’s Creed you just kind of walk through and mash a bunch of buttons.

    • valondar

       I think the issue with cinematic gameplay in Tomb Raider is this: Tomb Raider is not Heavy Rain. It’s a franchise of 3D platformers. One assumes, I guess, if you buy the latest Tomb Raider you are getting an experience similar to the previous Tomb Raiders. I suppose that implies a bit of franchise stultification (like Nintendo’s endless churning sea of Mario and Zelda titles) but if you’re  actually dumbing down the game’s puzzles so they don’t interrupt the flow of the story it’s fair to say that’s doing it wrong.

  • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

    “multiplayer, not reviewed”

    hahaha, I like that because honestly, who gives a shit? why did they feel the need to put multiplayer in this?

  • http://larsenb.tumblr.com Larsen B

    A thoughtful review, John.

    Though one thing I’d flag up is that the Look Around You sketch isn’t so much “ha, you look a fool playing these games”. It’s a masturbation joke.

  • zpoccc

    you talk about “The misogyny that characterized much of Tomb Raider’s marketing” but offer no examples – how exactly has the marketing for this game been misogynistic?

    even ignoring the begged comparison with the depiction of female leads in other games, movies, and tv shows and just looking at the game on its own terms, i’m failing to see where this assessment is coming from.

    • valondar

       Uh there was a huge controversy about Tomb Raider’s marketing to the point Rhianna Pratchett had to give an interview explaining the game wasn’t as misogynistic as assumed.

      I mean that’s pretty much all I knew about the game.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/DJKNTOVDAF2D6RRJLUTLHRTTWI Marbles

        do you even know what thing you’re specifically talking about? there was a trailer that shower lara being threatened by men, and there was an (arguably) sexual undertone. did you actually watch it? anyway, the game media smelled blood (and ripe clickbait) and went wild  - imagine something similar happening for a movie that includes a scene of sexual danger – just doesn’t happen.

        the fact that the author had to go “hey, i’m a woman, I wrote this, it’s not misogynistic – I was just trying to portray the danger a strong but isolated woman surrounded by criminal men might have to face” is such a sad indication of how video games are written about and perceived by the media and culture in general that i don’t even know quite what to say. the reaction to the trailer was far more misogynistic and troubling than the trailer itself.

        • valondar

          Yes. I know exactly what I’m talking about. It is demonstrably true that these advertisements were controversial. You don’t actually dispute that. I do feel that it’s tonally the wrong choice for a Tomb Raider game but that’s a whole other conversation.

          Specifically one that’s been hashed out further up the thread – in comments by @Merve2:disqus , @Effigy_Power:disqus  et al. I suggest you skim those.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/DJKNTOVDAF2D6RRJLUTLHRTTWI Marbles

        it is also demonstrably true that something being ‘controversial’ is not the same as something being ‘misogynistic’.

        • valondar

          Are you not a native English speaker? If so, I apologize, because I thought this was pretty cleanly worded.

          The controversy was ABOUT misogyny.

          That this Tomb Raider game has had a controversy regarding misogyny in a direct reaction to its early interviews and advertisement campaigns (the assault on Lara Croft, a game dev saying you’ll feel the need to ‘protect’ her) is fairly well documented.

          And since this is documented I don’t think a review of the game needed to get into it again.

          Now if you disagree that the marketing is misogynistic or whatever, fine. But like I said, that’s a slightly different discussion.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/DJKNTOVDAF2D6RRJLUTLHRTTWI Marbles

        are you retarded? if so, i apologize, because i thought this was pretty cleanly worded.

        “Now if you disagree that the marketing is misogynistic or whatever, fine. But like I said, that’s a slightly different discussion.” 

        no, dummy, that IS the discussion. the OP said they didn’t see misogyny in the marketing. i agree with that assessment. the fact that that trailer was called out as misogynistic is a sad example of how fucked video game journalism really is. in no other form of media would this even take place, yet we’re supposed to take these dimwitted, click-baiting controversy-mongers seriously? fuck that. the marketing wasn’t misogynistic, but the idea that a woman can’t write a story that even hints at rape in a male-dominated medium sure is.

        • Professor_Cuntburglar

          “are you retarded?”

          Are you 13 years old?

        • zpoccc

          aw, @Professor_Cuntburglar:disqus  got offended by the word ‘retard’. poor little cuntburglar.

          what a fucking douchebag.

        • Citric

          I don’t get it. If you speak with a degree of maturity people respect you and will listen to your opinions. If you speak with immaturity - copious profanity, personal insults, that kind of thing – people don’t respect you, and will disregard anything you say. So why not be mature?

          I mean, I might actually find your argument about people projecting their own misogyny onto the advertising worth considering if it was presented with a degree of eloquence.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/DJKNTOVDAF2D6RRJLUTLHRTTWI Marbles

          @Citric:disqus if i’m going to be condescended to, and have things like ‘english must not be your first language’ said to me because because i disagree with someone, then i will respond with the level of discourse they deserve. until that point i was believe i did speak with “a degree of maturity” and “a degree of eloquence”. i don’t have patience for patronizing dimwits, though.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/DJKNTOVDAF2D6RRJLUTLHRTTWI Marbles

          “@Professor_Cuntburglar:disqus”?

          are you a rapist?

        • Citric

          Well, you weren’t, all of your posts are laced with unnecessary vitriol and the angry lashing out of a 13 year old mid-tantrum. 

          Lowering the tone doesn’t give people of “level of discourse they deserve,” but instead makes you look worse, and makes it significantly more difficult to respect you. Sorry if I come across as condescending, but maybe you need to grow up a little.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/DJKNTOVDAF2D6RRJLUTLHRTTWI Marbles

          @Citric:disqus wow, you’re so mature. a real beacon of light for the rest of us to aspire to. thank you for being you. 
          btw, is “the angry lashing out of a 13 year old” a euphemism for jism? pretty good one!

        • valondar

          The OP felt that John Teti should have explained his statement that the marketing is misogynistic.

          I pointed out that this was such a commonally repeated argument it does not need to be repeated. The argument about Tomb Raider’s marketing was thoroughly hashed out last year, and a review of the game does not need to go over that ground again.

          But yeah, you may want to moderate your tone if you expect to be taken seriously around here.

        • Professor_Cuntburglar

           So the answer, for both @zpoccc:disqus  and @yahoo-DJKNTOVDAF2D6RRJLUTLHRTTWI:disqus, is yes. At least, they are mentally and emotionally still 13 years old.

  • Professor_Cuntburglar

     While the sexism in that is bad, I do like it when games encourage a non-internet communal experience, mostly because sitting in a room staring at a screen for two hours feels less lonesome when other people are with you.

    Uncharted is also one of the very small number of games that are actually fun to watch other people play.

    • Simon Jones

       I think that comes down to the idea that Uncharted is cine…You know, in this case let’s call it Filmetic, since the other term is so weighted, Filmetic in a good way. It’s a game that’s embraced the idea that it’s essentially a cheesy action film and everything about the games presentation reflects that.

  • The_Quirk

    Previous reports on the game made it sound . . .  icky, so I wasn’t getting my hopes up.  I’ve been seeing a lot of anticipation around guro sites about this game, and I’m not surprised it lives up to them.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/EUPDMNIW75KUMC4KJOJUG5WZAU Wade

    The original PS1 Tomb Raider was a classic. The puzzles were rough! Not only were they hard to solve, they could be actually hard to do. And the graphics were amazing for the time, it really stretched the capabilities of the machine. 

    One of my most memorable moments of all games is from that one. You get Lara through some tomb, she walks through a narrow opening into a bigger room… and the camera flips and pans back from her, and it goes back and back and back, until she is a tiny little character… standing on top of a GIANT Sphinx, in some massive cavern. The animation is great, the art is jaw dropping.  There were a lot more moments like that to come, but that was maybe the first time I watched the recent generation (late 90s til now)  of games and consoles that made me think, wow, we can do a lot with this stuff now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andy.tuttle.79 Andy Tuttle

    I don’t need to play a game that has a grunting and squealing little girl running around in a tank top. I’m a gamer not a pervert, thank you very much.

    • zpoccc

       yeah! real, non-perverted guys only like to play games that have MEN grunting and squealing running around in a tank top! high five!

  • Tiako

    I really liked the part where she uses her plumb bob to carefully record the elevation of every artifact she finds. And the four hour long mini game where you put a broken pot back together again was thrilling. They really showed their work in the accurate depiction of archaeological practice and I think the game is better for it.

  • Duck Pirate

    There’s some good thoughts here, I just thought I’d mention, what is with Gameological hating on Uncharted?  They’re not perfect but they also rule, number two especially.  

  • The Contrarian.

    “The joke is that the game is hopelessly rudimentary and makes the player look like a fool.”

    Partly. The joke is really that gaming is a form of masturbation.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      Wait…my hand is supposed to be on the controller?

  • http://twitter.com/Bazzelwaki Ben Prager

    I’m a bit surprised at how played up the negatives of this game are here. None of the critisisms are unjustified, though I suppose in the heaps of praise, it’s good to get an article that points out flaws.

    The game DOES spell out too much for you, rushes you through it’s playground environments, and the story started off expecting me to care that Lara was hanging upside down and that thigs had gone horribly wrong, when we got no time with her on the boat?

    I REALLY wish the game started with her on the boat NOT having things go horribly wrong. This sort of adventure story would have hit home immediately, and not  taken until after escaping that first pit in the ground to make me feel tense.

    As a PC gamer I have heard more of games trying to put in in the action instantly more than seen it. What a rubbish idea.

    But overall, this game IS very good. If you like adventure/survival games, it’s not perfect, but it’s a lot of fun.

  • http://twitter.com/vowelsagogo Kilzor

    This is a test comment.

  • Jonathan Dewar

    Lara has more humanity than Nathan Drake?  I don’t think we played the same game.

    If there is one area where the Uncharted series walks all over this newest Tomb Raider game it’s in the characters and story department.

    Nathan Drake is a much stronger character.  He’s lovable, he’s flawed, he’s oafish.  More importantly, he’s consistent.  Nathan makes choices in line with his characterization.  The Uncharted games are a series of cascading failures that are directly caused by Drake’s inability to make rational decisions.  He’s cocky and it gets him into a situations he could have avoided.  He barely gets by purely on luck.  And the games never forget that.  They don’t try and make him out to be something he’s not.  To top it all off though, there’s an area in Uncharted 2, a village high up in the mountains where some kids are running around with a soccer ball and there’s some oxen.  If you’re the kind of player who likes to explore, you can have Drake kick the ball around with the kids and pet the oxen.  That one area gives Drake’s character an immense amount of depth, and it’s something that I can’t say I felt was matched on any level in Tomb Raider.

    But now let’s look at Lara Croft in Tomb Raider (and the other characters).  Her friends are all one-note.  The only one that seems to have any believable motivation (unless you read all of the journals, which are options, because character development is apparently optional in video games) is Reyes, though even her character is handled with the grace of Ford pickup truck.  When it comes to Lara herself, the end of the game (spoilers!) sums up perfectly why her character is still written so utterly terribly.  She’s just gone through this harrowing, traumatic experience, escaped a crazy cult, half her friends are dead and as she standing there on the rescue boat, she muses to herself that they aren’t going home, they’re going globetrotting.  For a character that is portrayed the entire game as smart (or more specifically, people keep telling her she’s smart), this is a stupid decision.  It’s not a human choice.  It’s not consistent.  It’s terrible writing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004110637590 Aurélien Flieger

    I’ve been disappointed with a lot of this generation’s games, because I think a lot of them are shallow and flat, so this game surprised me. It’s not a revolution, but it’s really, really fun.

  • spicollidriver

    the things with those QTE is, they could at least try to make it seem more “interactive”. for example: let’s say there are rocks falling and I have to get out of the way. if they really feel like they need to build a QTE out of this why not have several choices of actions, even if all but one fail?

    in this scenario it could play out like this: you press the jump button and the character tries to jump but it’s not far enough. you try the shoot button and the character tries to blow up the smaller rocks by shooting. you push the doge button and the character tries to roll out of the way.

    that way they could still have their over-the-top cinematic parts while maintaining more of a “real game”.

    • Bad Horse

      Then even if you pass the reflex check, you can potentially fail twice more. I would snap a game in half that did that.

  • Matthew Smith

    Nice Title
    That is all.

  • Tom Jackson

    This review gets me down a little because I found Tomb Raider to be one of the most enjoyable games so far this year. I read a lot of complaints in the review about QTEs and a lack of freedom and how these things are basically game breakers but I didn’t have a problem with either.
    QTEs are in a funny place right now, there’s a lot of hate for them because instead of actually controlling and acting out the action on screen we’re forced to simply push a button or waggle a stick and watch. On the other hand, they’re kind of necessary to inject some form of interaction into cutscenes otherwise you might as well just be watching a movie. There’s a lot of criticism on both ends with some critics saying QTEs are irritating and intrusive while others saying there’s not enough interaction in cutscenes. Recently, Metal Gear Rising comes to mind with a lot of critics saying the cutscenes weighed down the pace and a lack of interaction was frustrating during certain moments.

    At this stage in video games I’m yet to see a better implementation of cinematic interaction than QTEs. They serve as a very easy to grasp concept which allows the player to interact with the action on screen without having to quickly introduce new game mechanics through tutorials or instructional dialogue. I found Tomb Raiders QTEs sections to be mostly engaging and beneficial to the experience, they’re not really that frequent and when they are present they do what they need to do well.

    To Tomb Raiders credit a vast majority of the most cinematic moments in the game are fully playable and are quite engaging. As the review mentioned these set pieces usually consist of simply moving with the joystick and jumping occasionally but I can’t really see how this is a negative thing. The mentioned bridge section as well as all the set pieces in the game are built around the established game mechanics of climbing and interacting with the environment, the difference here is that instead of leisurely strolling through the environment you’re being bulldozed through it by things like collapsing platforms, explosions and gunfire. It’s interactive, it’s cinematic and it’s easy to understand immediately without the need of extra information.

    As a contrast if you look at the other example the review mentions where Lara is grabbed by the leg in the cave it’s almost impossible to pull off this section using the currently established game mechanics. If we imagine for a moment that the QTE doesn’t exist and the cutscene played out uninterrupted the following things would happen: The player controls Lara as she moves uphill in third person, control is taken away as a sudden camera pan and zoom changing perspective from behind Lara to in front of Lara, loud shouting between Lara and the assaulter, wild camera panning as Lara struggles free, rocks collapse and crush the assaulter, camera and control return to third person behind Lara. Now let’s imagine that to break free of the assault you needed to use L1 and R1 to prep each leg for a kick and use L2 and R2 to execute the kicks. Seems reasonable enough in theory and would probably work fine in practice but the problem is that there’s no time to explain this control scheme without breaking the flow of the cinematic. There’s also no time for the camera to realistically provide a visual cue of ‘you need to perform an input now’ without again breaking the cinematic flow. The whole scene is over in about 5 seconds and it creates an impact because it both arrives and leaves very rapidly.

    Giving full control over to the player at this point would need to allow a second or two for the player to pick up on a visual clue, indicating that they need to actually do something followed by another several seconds to explain what they actually need to do most likely through on-screen prompts or *groan* a popup instructional menu. On top of this is the fact that this moment never returns so if a new control scheme was implemented for this single moment it would never be used again ergo what’s the point? It would convolute the standard control scheme by remaining in the players mind under a section entitled ‘but what if i need to escape with my legs again?’. Instead a simple QTE is implemented and it grants the scene it’s full impact while allowing the player to interact with it. It’s cheap and it’s simple but it works fine and the cutscene has the exact impact on me as the developers want it to. Until developers can come up with a better way of introducing new control schemes at short notice or simply creating more engaging and dynamic core control schemes that can react with cinematic moments, I’m totally fine with QTEs.

    On the point of linearity I don’t really see a downside, I think linearity when done well is a reflection of preference and not necessarily good or bad game design. A bad linear game can be extremely boring and limiting but when done well in titles like Uncharted, Metal Gear Solid, Dead Space, Portal 2 etc it creates a level of focus and cinematic quality that can’t be touched by other games. I don’t believe for a second that ‘opening up’ Tomb Raiders core design to incorporate more open world mechanics would make the game better, if anything I don’t think Tomb Raider is a linear or ‘narrow-minded’ experience but more of a focused one. The game pushes you along a very predetermined path but it’s an expertly designed one that features phenomenal pacing with barely a dull moment. The game takes full advantage of it’s core elements and features some light Metroid-like moments of exploring old environments with new abilities to reach new areas. The enemy AI is intelligent and can spot you and call for backup if you’re in their line of sight or make too much noise, they also take cover and are quite accurate with their dynamite and molotov throwing. One of the smartest things the game does is allow survival mode view to be optional. As the review mentions, Lara ruins many puzzles throughout the game but only if the player engages the survival view. It’s a totally optional mechanism that is expertly implemented for people who aren’t really too keen on puzzle solving. The game never forces you to use it so i can’t really see how it’s a deal breaker or how it detracts from the integrity from the optional tombs.

    Tomb Raider is great and I think it’s a little disappointing to see this review discredit it for the use of QTEs and a lack of interactivity. I don’t feel the game tells you off for not playing it correctly and I don’t feel it’s restricting in the slightest. The game lays down it’s ground rules from the very first moments and I was immediately able to grasp what sort of experience i was in for. It’s a reboot that knows exactly what it wants to achieve and It does it very well. I was engaged the whole way through and it’s one of the most exciting games I’ve played in a while.

    • Patsy Badvideo

      You take a breather, try have a smoke and suddenly fail at the cut scene.  Qtes in this respect are awful

      • Tom Jackson

        So you should’ve be paying attention and it’s your fault if you failed, if you take a breather during a cutscene in game that has repeatedly explained to you that there will be QTE’s during cutscenes it’s totally all on you.
        Tomb Raider is really forgiving when it comes to QTEs and failing one usually means re-watching a maximum of around 5 seconds of cutscene.
        Barely anyone bitched about it when Resident Evil 4 did it because it apparently ‘kept you on edge’.
        Resident Evil 4 is a pretty nasty offender though, I think everyone had to watch that god damn knife fight with Krauser about 6 times because they hit the wrong button combo.

  • Eco1970

    I finally borrowed this from a friend, and it’s terrible. I hate it. I’ve played it all the way to the annoying burning palace interior where you fight your way down a very long narrow coridoor with hordes of irritating wankers attacking you (as opposed to getting the hell out of the burning building), and I’ve found a grand total of 2 tombs.

    It’s Tomb Raider. So where are the fucking tombs?

    Awful. The devs should be kicked in the face.The damn ‘push forward whislt a cutscene happens to you’ bits are long and often, the Uncharted ‘funnel player into arena where enemies come at you in waves and you can’t use any stealth’ bits are every ten minutes, and the climbing and puzzles are just sparse.

    It’s a /facepalm of epic proportions IMO. I just looked at Metacritic and my jaw dropped at all the 10s and 90%+ scores from the gaming press.

    I despair nowadays.  If the next Batman: Arkham Whatever game turns out shit, I’ll give up gaming, I think.

    • Patsy Badvideo

       To be honest I thought Arkham City was shite compared to the first one.  Just a few shitty side missions and everyone lost their shit.  Not half as compelling as the first one which cribbed perfectly from classic games.

  • Patsy Badvideo

    Took my time playing and this glorified cut scene still only lasted 10 hours