This months issue of Xbox World is their last ever before the magazine shuts down for good, yet another victim at the hands of the merciless internet. It’s not the internets fault – I’m not implying that it sits there in a massive chair stroking its moustache and plotting the downfall of print media, but it’s still largely the cause. So, before we leap into this story lets take a second for the fallen, for the staff of Xbox World that must now venture into the cruel world and attempt to secure new jobs, always a tricky proposition in today’s economy. I also urge you to go out and pick up a copy of the magazine, especially for a brilliant article regarding how the current state of videogames journalism has a lot to do with the internet community and the fact that you’re no longer allowed to have an opinion that goes against the herd. It’s a great read that provides a solid argument as to why we’re just as much to blame as anyone else.
Anyway, on to the story at hand. While it may have been their last issue the staff at Xbox World were still hard at work providing their usual reviews, articles and previews. In this instance they got some hands on time with Crystal Dynamic’s Tomb Raider reboot, and they weren’t that impressed by it.
“We’re ducking behind waist-high concrete block,” opens the preview, “taking potshots at some armed goons, and we’re thinking to ourselves, is this Tomb Raider? We played the game for two hours, and most of it was spent in combat – so it’s basically a third-person shooter, despite pretensions of it being a wilderness exploration game.”
They didn’t have much good to say about the exploration aspects, either, describing levels as “winding, linear trails”, and going on to say that “You don’t feel like you’re exploring at all. Some sections open up, which serve as Arkham Asylum-style hubs, but mostly you’re pushing forward through a set path.”
Xbox World did at least seem impressed by the story that has the young Lara Croft stranded on a mysterious island, having to come to terms with killing to stay alive, calling it “engaging”. They do note that the story is a bit at odds with the gameplay, though, with Lara one minute utterly distraught at having killed someone and the next slaughtering enemies like without a hint of regret during combat. The supporting characters were described as “a bunch of laughable stereotypes. A Scottish sailor? A nerdy tech guy with glasses? Spiritual Maori guy? Oh, please.”
“Tomb Raider is one of those ‘experiences’ modern developers love so much. Most of the time you feel like you’re just moving a cutscene forward by holding forward on the analogue stick.” said the magazine. “In one scene towards the end of our hands-on, she has to climb a huge radio tower atop a blizzard-battered mountain. This is ripe for an awesome climbing puzzle, but instead we just hold forward, and scripted scenes do the rest. It’s a well made game, with great production values and some dazzling visuals (especially the weather effects), but it’s a pretty big departure from made the old games so special”
“At least Crystal Dynamics are trying something different. It’s a reboot, after all”
Certainly not the most positive of previews for Tomb Raider’s return to gaming. Xbox World closes off their preview by saying “But we’ve only had a taste of the opening chapters, which feel like an extended tutorial. We really hope the game opens up more and gives the feeling of adventure that Tomb Raider is all about”
Xbox Worlds preview of the game is short, but straight to the point: they’re not impressed thus far with Crystal Dynamics efforts in bringing Tomb Raider back. Sadly they won’t be around to review the game when it comes out.
So, the Tomb Raider reboot. I’m interested, as always with a reboot, but are Xbox World right? Is it just another ‘experience’ that slams our face into the screen and tells us to look at this and that we should hand over control so that the developers can show off this really cool thing we have no genuine interaction with? Guess we’ll have to wait until release to find out.