on December 20, 2013
Having played all of the other Tomb Raider games on Xbox and/or Playstation consoles, I looked forward to playing this latest installment on my newly-acquired uber-powerful gaming PC. Yay!
EDIT from my initial one-star rating now that I have played most of the game:
After playing the game to around 75% completion, I find that while the story and graphics in this game clearly rate 5 stars, the avatar-movement control setup is non-standard for PC Action games and very difficult to use for anyone used to other 3rd-person action games on PC.
In all other action games I have played on PC (Everquest, World of Warcraft, Rift, Star Wars The Old Republic, The Secret World, Guild Wars 2), avatar movement can be controlled by the mouse, while the left hand does the button-mashing to control various skills- mostly combat skills- using the number keys across the top of the keyboard. In fact, there have been numerous "tutorials" online pertaining to those games, WoW in particular, stating that using the WASD keys to control avatar movement while fighting with the mouse was not the best idea and in fact is a really good way to die in those games- the absolute best way to play these games is to move with the mouse and fight with the left hand on the number keys. It is surprising to me that no option to move with the mouse is available in Tomb Raider.
In most games that use (whether required or optional) the keyboard for movement, the universally-standard key setup is: W = move forward, A = turn/pivot left, S = move backward while still facing front, D = turn/pivot right, Q = strafe left (move sideways to the left while still facing forward) and E = strafe right. In Tomb Raider, the movement controls are: W = move forward, A = an unpredictable combination of turn/pivot left and/or strafe left, S = turn around with back to enemy and move toward the camera, D = an unpredictable combination of turn/pivot right and/or strafe right, Q = "Survival Instinct," a non-movement-related ability, E = "Interact" which includes opening boxes, lighting the torch and/or other combustible objects, grabbing onto various ledges and walls in midair, and F = melee attack. Thus, not only is the keyboard control scheme non-standard and with somewhat unpredictable results, it requires the player to continually be able to press one or more of the W, A, S, D, E and F keys on a split-second basis. The S key is especially annoying, in that it makes your avatar turn around with her back to people who are shooting at her and run toward the camera instead of backing up while still facing (and being able to shoot at) enemies!
In Tomb Raider's normal gameplay and movement, while it is not possible to make Lara run by pressing the left and right mouse buttons simultaneously as in most Action games, it is possible to drag the mouse left and right to steer her movement while holding the W key to make her run. However, during the numerous Quick-Time Events scattered throughout the game, this ability is suddenly removed: the mouse has absolutely no effect on her movement, and the A and D keys transmogrify from turn/pivot to strafe! At the same time, these QTE's require the player to press and/or hold the E and/or F keys at random intervals while steering with the A and D keys or "struggling" by rapidly alternating A-D-A-D and aiming/shooting obstacles with the mouse.
So as it stands right now, the greatness that this game offers with its stunning graphics and absorbing story is marred by the difficult and goofy PC controls. My recommendation would be to buy the console version OR plan to use an Xbox USB controller to play it on PC.
TLDR: This game is graphically stunning and undoubtedly the best of all the Tomb Raider games on consoles, but the PC port is greatly hampered by its non-standard, restrictive and goofy keyboard control scheme. Plan to buy and use an analog controller to get the most out of it on PC.
FINAL EDIT AFTER GAME COMPLETION:
My Xbox 360 controller (for PC, Windows software included) finally arrived from Amazon, in time for me to play the game from 90% to completion with it. What a difference! The game is 100% more playable with the controller than it was with the awkward keyboard controls. I am now able to move, look around, aim, shoot, run, walk, jump, pick stuff up, blow stuff up, loot corpses... all fluidly and seamlessly... and do most of those actions at the same time! For me at least, switching from the keyboard controls to the controller was like night and day. A completely new experience, and all changes were positive. I can't find one single drawback to using the controller instead of the keyboard for this game!
Tomb Raider 2013 is good enough to rate 5 stars, but I just can't bring myself to join that herd due to the awful keyboard controls. If I were the publisher (or seller) of this game, I would add a recommendation for a gamepad (such as the Xbox 360 controller, but there are others out there) to the "recommended hardware" section. Absent that recommendation, and given the awkward keyboard controls, I must leave it at 4 stars.
PS: You do not have to buy a new Xbox 360 controller if you already have one. The console controllers will plug right into a USB port on your PC, and you can download the required driver software for it free from Microsoft. You can also use an existing or new wireless controller, but in that case you will need a receiver dongle to plug into your computer's USB port.