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PCGamer - Hands on with Tomb Raider - "A lack of meaningful interaction"

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Initial post: Dec 28, 2012, 4:42:29 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 28, 2012, 4:47:51 AM PST
Minor early game spoiler alert below, but nothing we haven't seen from the trailers if you've watched them.

Tomb Raider hands-on: "a lack of meaningful interaction"
Comments 8 Rich McCormick at 12:00pm December 28 2012

This preview originally appeared in issue 248 of PC Gamer UK.

On screen, Lara Croft is inching her way up a rock face. She's wedged in a narrow vertical gap, chimneying her way up. It's complicated, gruelling work. She grunts as she works her way past outcrops, exerting herself totally with the effort of remaining suspended some 40 feet above the jagged ground below. She slips, losing her footing for a second, before she jams her boot against the wall, steadies herself, and heaves a lungful of air. She climbs on.

In a chair, I'm pushing the thumbstick on my gamepad forward. I've been pushing it forward for almost all of Lara's ascent. When she slips, I take my thumb off the controller for a second. I do this because the game makes it clear that I have no way to stop the event or assist in her righting process, and because my thumb is getting mildly numb from the effort. Three quarters of the way up, I release it again, interested to see what'll happen to a visibly knackered Lara left to dangle. Nothing. She stays there, wedged in the rock, her superhuman core strength keeping her legs stable for - presumably - eternity. I go back to pushing the thumbstick forward.

"Did I lock the front door..."
A quick note: I'm pushing the thumbstick forward - not pressing W on a keyboard - because journalists are only able to play Xbox 360 code at this stage in Tomb Raider's development. I've been pushing it forward for most of the three hours of Tomb Raider I've played so far, from Lara's shipwreck at the opening, through her escape from local madmen down a perilously narrow and conveniently sized cave, during lengthy climbs up the side of a variety of precarious structures and rock formations.

Sometimes, Lara slips and tumbles as I'm pressing the thumbstick forward: collapsing into a heap after diving past a falling rock, missing a handhold halfway up a radio mast. It's meant to feel thrilling, moments of near-death to keep the pulse racing. It succeeds instead in frustrating me. I can see the obvious coming, but I can't avoid it. I can't do anything but press the thumbstick forward as control is wrested away from me, keeping the scene rolling as Lara finds out about her own survival instincts on her own.

The closest parallel is the PlayStation 3's Uncharted series. But where the linear leaping of those games was leavened by Indiana-Jones-style humour and silliness, Tomb Raider is pitch black in tone. Lara starts the game by unceremoniously dropping onto a spike, which pierces her clean through and obliges her to clutch her side as she tries to escape from a cave. The idea is to express human frailty, but what it's doing is hamstringing a character defined by agility. For the next 20 minutes, Lara is left wheezing, gasping, and chattering her teeth, unable to sprint or jump thanks to the low cave roof, until she finds a fire at an island camp.

"Lara!" "Wooden frame building!" It was years since they'd last met.
Tomb Raider opens up at this point. Lara's first camp is on the side of a bluff, where an overhanging rock provides shelter from the incessant rain. The fire provides a place to upgrade equipment and spend experience points. Upgrades are earned through the collection of salvage - found in containers strewn around the island - and applied to Lara's survival tools. I turn a makeshift pickaxe into a stronger makeshift pickaxe by applying some metal to it at one of these fires.

A short way on, one of Lara's shipmates - all of whom seem to have survived the shipwreck and meet up with her shortly after her escape - leads me toward a vast temple door. He's an archaeologist, and needs Lara's help to turn the door's crank. I apply the newly upgraded pickaxe to the relevant hole, and get cranking.

The area around the temple is large and lush. Deer frolic nearby. A few minutes previously, I put an arrow through one of those hart's hearts when the game told me how hungry Lara was. There's no obvious debilitating effect to signify hunger, but the story wouldn't progress until I'd murdered Bambi's mother, so down she went.

She'll be fine and killing yetis in a few years.
Lara's longbow is just as effective a weapon against human targets, and offers the potential for a silent kill. I'm able to clear out a whole camp by loosing arrows into necks as backs are turned, making Lara Croft play like a bruised version of Sam Fisher.

The open areas around the camps can feel more like a staging posts than places to truly explore: regions to collect stuff and gather your thoughts before being funnelled through a cave or a tunnel. Pressing on, I find some welcome offshoots. Tombs are small, self-contained, and optional. I find one and creep in, solving a weight-based puzzle to nick some treasure. Once done, I make my way back and rejoin the main path, pushing Lara's story forward. Always pushing forward.

Crystal Dynamics want players to guide Lara through adversity, to help her find her strength and will to survive. Her predicament looks harrowing, but such is the lack of meaningful interaction, she might do just fine without your help.

Posted on Dec 28, 2012, 5:01:15 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 28, 2012, 5:08:36 AM PST
MrFoxhound says:
So.. The tutorial area isn't action packed and meaningful? I want previews that are more discerning in their content other than just a bubbly "we got to play this early and it's awesome!" But this guy seems to complain about silliness. Every game has you pushing forward. Would adding in a jump button really have made that climbing that much more interactive or entertaining?

I think I would have been more frustrated if they put in some stupid QTE and a cinematic of her "falling" off the rocks 2 or 3 times while climbing.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 28, 2012, 5:06:05 AM PST
A customer says:
Here's the demo, enjoy the full game.

Was the guy wanting to get a full glimpse at the entire game or something? lol

Posted on Dec 28, 2012, 5:09:31 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 28, 2012, 5:13:14 AM PST
got mayo?™ says:
All of these previews ultimately are pretty worthless to me. I just want to play this already. Its Crystal Dynamics, this is their baby, their vision going forward. I'm not really going to measure it against Uncharted or Lara games of old, not in the mechanics dept anyways. My biggest intrigue here is what has always been missing, deeper meaningful character development. She's always been an awesome character, yet in so many ways this game has made her more awesome than i thought her to be. You see her in this vain and you already thirst for her adventures going forward, having not even played this yet...

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 28, 2012, 5:13:16 AM PST
A customer says:
I want to play this on PC just to get a look at how gorgeous everything is. Not to mention my anticipation of playing a new CD Tomb Raider project.

Posted on Dec 28, 2012, 5:18:43 AM PST
Is it really that big of a deal that the character on screen shows the adversity that she's going through? Should they have placed some QTE's in there while she's struggling to climb up a cliff so you have some buttons to press? I would think that, if they did that, people would try to avoid climbing to avoid those things. I'm not saying that those events are all bad, but they shouldn't be a common occurence in a game like this. I LIKE the fact that Lara is a scared girl that is struggling to survive and the scenes that they have placed in the game to show that she didn't start out the way that she became later in her life. It's much easier to feel for someone who shows some frailty, and I'm sure that by the end of the game we'll start getting glimmers of the person that she'll become.

Posted on Dec 28, 2012, 5:19:40 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 28, 2012, 5:21:34 AM PST
Alien Fodder says:
*facepalm* I'm thinking this guy had a deadline to meet for his article and he really couldn't find anything more interesting to write so he opted for bashing the demo of game, knowing full well that it certainly doesn't give a complete picture of the game. Looks like he was frustrated that the demo wasn't available on PC.... Just kidding!! :D

You guys should watch this instead if you can:


Adam Sessler also got to play the demo and somehow he found a way to get past all that "tedious" thumbstick pushing and give an interesting review that really makes you want to play that game. :)

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 28, 2012, 5:23:29 AM PST
Thanks for posting the link. I haven't seen this, but I've really enjoyed watching Sesslers Something for a while now and will watch it when I get home. This guy is at least in the industry for the correct reasons, as he ultimately really gets what video games are about and he's passionate about the industry.

Posted on Dec 28, 2012, 5:25:46 AM PST
I have mixed feelings about the climbing stuff. On one hand, having a number of fail-if-you-miss QTEs while climbing would get extremely frustrating. On the other, the whole "whoa, I almoat lost my grip there!" thing is overplayed and loses its dramatic tension when you can see it coming from a mile away but you know it's mechanically meaningless. This is a problem in the Uncharted games as well.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 28, 2012, 5:30:17 AM PST
MrFoxhound says:
I'm all for previews to be critical of a game. There is nothing worse than a glowing preview that gets me to put money down on a game only to read the final review and the game gets a 6. Those issues were there during the demo, especially when the game is so close to release. That being said however, I do think that this guy was a little over critical on this preview.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 28, 2012, 5:31:03 AM PST
MrFoxhound says:
I thought that climbing in Uncharted only gave you a limited time to get to a new hand hold if the one you were on was about to break away.

Posted on Dec 28, 2012, 5:33:37 AM PST
Honestly, I'm hoping that my predictions on the game is correct, but I'm really just basing it on what I've seen and my own preferences. In all fairness, this guy has at least played part of the game so i can't just say that he's blowing complete smoke. We all like different things, so this guys preview(opinion) can be just as "correct" as any others as long as he's being honest and not just trolling to get hits.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 28, 2012, 5:37:30 AM PST
There are the ones that break away, which are a different color than the other stuff. You can usually tell those are gonna break. But I'm talking about the ones where he leaps, grabs a ledge, then loses his grip with one hand for a moment.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 28, 2012, 5:39:08 AM PST
MrFoxhound says:
I never really thought of those as anything more than just the developers trying to mix it up. I never thought I was going to fall, but if the devs didn't put in sequences like that then there would be complaints about how bland and mechanical climbing was.

Posted on Dec 28, 2012, 5:40:07 AM PST
This type of game is supposed to be a cinematic experience. I can't count the times my wife wanted me to fire up uncharted, heavy rain, or FFXIII(it's a shame that this one is on the list with those others) so she could watch and see how it's going to go.

Posted on Dec 28, 2012, 6:12:35 AM PST
Subject7 says:
Every demo I've seen of Tomb Raider has her climbing or walking on something that breaks "unexpectedly" <--- and I use this term VERY loosely. I understand it's to make it more exciting but it's too frequent and predictable. Uncharted 3 had the same problem.

Posted on Dec 28, 2012, 6:13:30 AM PST
So, let's get this straight. A magazine called PC Gamer is complaining about something? I'm shocked, shocked to find PC gamers complaining!

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 28, 2012, 6:18:41 AM PST
*kicks rocks

Posted on Dec 28, 2012, 6:21:07 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 28, 2012, 6:21:23 AM PST
Benpachi says:
So it's ok for Uncharted to play itself half the time, but not ok for other games. Got it.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 28, 2012, 6:36:34 AM PST
Alien Fodder says:
The way I see it, with Uncharted the climbing and leaping is a very secondary gameplay mechanic, as opposed to the Tomb Raider games where it's always been a major one. Platforming in TR has always been rather challenging compared to games like Uncharted and Assassin's Creed, for example.

Posted on Dec 28, 2012, 6:38:27 AM PST
John McClane says:
The 360 is the lead platform, good to know.

Posted on Dec 28, 2012, 6:42:41 AM PST
StriderNeo15 says:
Sounds pretty good to me, but then again, I'm a Sonymite.

Most of my gaming is pushing the thumbstick forward.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 28, 2012, 6:47:20 AM PST
I don't think I'm being clear. It's fine that it happens. I think it happens TOO MUCH.

There is probably a very fine line here between making stuff interactive enough to be frustrating (multiple ways to fail a climbing sequence via QTE) and making it too safe and predictable to be exciting (you can see it coming, you can't avoid it but you know you won't fall).

Some people will like one way, the other way, or a mix.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 28, 2012, 6:48:50 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 28, 2012, 6:51:27 AM PST
I can't play Uncharted 2 unless my wife is there. She wants to watch the story and stuff. No, she doesn't think it's a movie lol.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 28, 2012, 6:49:44 AM PST
The preview doesn't say that.
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Discussion in:  Video Games forum
Participants:  22
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Initial post:  Dec 28, 2012
Latest post:  Dec 28, 2012

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