This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Rise of the Tomb Raider.
Oh, look, everyone! It's the game that was one of the two that came out on November 10th, but doesn't require a prolonged leave of absence and a doctor's note to get through, so it's getting reviewed first. Rise of the Tomb Raider (also known as "Exertion Noise: The Game"), long-awaited... well, awaited... well, acknowledged matter-of-factly sequel to the unhelpfully titled Tomb Raider, in which Lara Croft first began her life of adventure but apparently didn't sufficiently rise for Crystal Dynamics' tastes.
This time around, rather than being thrust into a desperate survival situation, Lara Croft has taken a great big crunchy bite out of Nathan Drake's hairdo and plonked herself into one, ensuring that she has no one but herself to blame when she has to use the ruined exterior wall of an ancient Sumerian temple to whimperingly smash her compound fractures back into place. As before, there's something rather manipulative about all this, but I think the writers need to accept that they're banking on a finite resource. Yeah, maybe the first time the ickle girly-wirly got her shit ruined, it triggered a protective instinct, but by incident umpteen-squillion, I wouldn't lend her bus fare to the Hospital of Saint Gives-A-Shit.
The game opens with Lara Croft climbing a big mountain, for you see, the Tomb Raider is quite literally rising. Yes, make the most of that, it's about as good as the writing gets! As is swiftly illustrated when she and her sidekick ineptly bellow their lines at each other because I guess the actors were told the background wind was going to be really loud, but it wasn't, so they ended up looking like they're trying to get fired from the school play. At least Lara has finally figured out how to wear jackets in cold weather, although she still shivers like a carefree playboy trying to urinate. Do the fucking zip-up, lady! The wolves don't care what your collarbone looks like.
But a bite on Nathan Drake's hairdo is, strictly speaking, a nibble on Indiana Jones' hat brim, and so the plot wastes no time in ripping off The Last Crusade. Lara's looking for a magic thing (so poorly defined it might as well be the Holy Grail) and proceeds to murder and collateral-damage her way towards it, and we're supposed to hate the villains for doing the exact same thing, despite the fact that they actually have a coherent idea of what they're going to do with it. And obviously, there's a group of locals who have guarded the Grail for millennia, and who constantly drop hints to which Lara remains totally fucking oblivious.
"We have dedicated our lives to prevent the Grail falling into the hands of outsiders, especially British ones with names that rhyme with 'soft!'"
"That sucks! Still, at least you'll have some free time on your hands soon."
And take a wild guess: do you think someone will actually take away the Holy Grail at the end of this plot, or will the hero undergo some kind of snap revelation and dramatically smash and/or lose it because the world isn't ready? And I think I speak for the world when I say, "Could we at least have had a 6-week trial period first, you fucking asshole?" So all in all, it's even more of a Last Crusade rip-off than Uncharted 3 was. It's even got the daddy issues, and the thousand-year-old Grail knight knocking about, who never in all the intervening years learned about wet shaving.
But let's at least briefly acknowledge the gameplay. It's the classic Tomb Raider formula, by which I mean, mostly more of what the last one did. One part faintly obnoxious collect-a-thon, to one part meaningless action sequences, all of which I now struggle to remember individually because I saw enough collapsing structures when I worked at Discount Stairlifts for Fat People. As before, I liked the bits when you're, you know, raiding tombs, climbing around ancient puzzles created by people who mastered camshafts before they invented the wheel. But with the usual sterling logic of AAA, these bits are mostly optional, whereas the combat you're stuck with. By the end of the game, Thighs of the Tomb Raider has the Metal Gear Solid problem of giving too many solutions for problems that aren't very hard. And by "problems", I mean "human skulls." I literally upgraded the pistol for no reason except to make the menu stop bugging me about there being upgrades available - between the assault rifle, shotgun, melee attack, stealth attacks, crafted bombs, crafted Molotovs, arrows, poison arrows, bomb arrows, and Mia fArrows, the pistol spent the entire game dangling off my arse like a can on the back of a wedding car.
Don't forget character perks as you level up, such as the one that tells you you're aiming at someone's head when you aim at their head! "Wow, thanks for the help, game! I thought he was balancing a pineapple between his shoulder blades." If your game's a side-quest-a-palooza with collectible upgrades bursting out of its tear ducts, I want to know they contribute to something other than, all together now, [singing] 100% completion - like there's some ultimate challenge we're preparing for, 'cause otherwise, it's like putting on deodorant before going to the whorehouse. What's the point? They have to fuck you anyway! No, you can finish the critical path using nothing but what it hands you and two bits of old twig. Yet again, a Triple-A game treats its own content like dead wasps in the salad and suggests we eat around it if it bothers us. The most challenge I had was created by the weird time delay that seems to be on the camera controls, like Lara's wearing her depleted-uranium friendship bracelets. But no side quest was going to fix that, unless you count the mystical journey to the options menu to find the sacred aim-sensitivity slider of Khakunbabu.
"Yahtzee, are you trying to inflate the gameplay problems in this bland, but let's face it, perfectly functional piece of middle-ground tosh?" Probably, yeah. Something about the new Lara Croft rubs me up the wrong way, unlike the old Lara Croft, who rubbed me up in a perfectly satisfactory way, especially when I was stuck opposite her on a packed subway train. So what is it that annoys me about her? Maybe it's the way she's constantly out of breath. She pants all the way through the gameplay, and in cutscenes, she's [breathy voice] always talking like she's about to have an asthma attack! I want to give her a damn good shake and yell, "Take a breath, Lara! Fill that chest with air! Seems like there's plenty of room."
Or maybe it's just the shitty dialogue. Wanna play the Tomb Raider drinking game? It's easy: drink once every time Lara makes that one exertion noise that raises in pitch and sounds a bit like Yoshi doing a flutter jump, and drink once every time she says she's got to do something, and good fucking luck still being coherent by the end of the prologue. "I've got to climb this priceless ancient monolith! I have to find a way to zip up my jacket! I must go down the chemist and get some refills for my inhaler!" Take some fucking responsibility, Lara Croft! Don't talk like you're some helpless piece of chaff being tossed about by the swirling eddies of whimsical fate. Say, "You know what? I don't have to climb up this burning ski resort and and zip-line off it onto a tiger, and I don't have to ensure my father's legacy either. I'm gonna do it because I want to! Because I have a death wish the size of William Howard Taft's trousers and an Electra complex the size of my tits."
- Croft in the head: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- But seriously you should always show respect to your prostitute because your future is in their hands
- William Howard Taft was the fattest president that was the joke