Quick reviews: Tomb Raider and Bioshock Infinite

Two quick reviews / comments on the video games I’ve been playing most recently, if you’re after full reviews then I’d suggest heading towards a dedicated review site which will have covered the games in detail.

Tomb Raider

tombraider

The new Tomb Raider, a reboot of the franchise, was a game I had been waiting for since its announcement and I’m happy to say that it didn’t disappoint. It’s an excellent third person action game but more than that the characters and story not only drive the game but also mesh well with the gameplay. Through the course of the game Lara is transformed from a scared and unsure individual into a survivor. She’s not out for adventure and certainly isn’t enjoying the experience the island puts her through. There’s no brash Nathan Drake / Indiana Jones here, just who is fighting for their life against events that are, at least initially, beyond her control and understanding. Supporting all of this is a strong visual style that brings the island on which Lara has been shipwrecked to life, I played it on the PS3 and the world looks amazing, I imagine it’s even better on a high end PC.

I have, ultimately, only two issues with the game. The first is the lack of tombs and puzzle elements, which have always been central to the Tomb Raider series. While there are some optional puzzle tombs they’re not essential to the game or story and are also rather simple compared to what the series has provided in the past. My second issue isn’t with the game itself but with the sequel that will almost undoubtedly follow. The plot of the game provides a strong and believable reason for Lara why Lara ends up killing a lot of people, she simply has no choice after being shipwrecked on the island. She is, in every sense, fighting to survive and escape. My concern though is how they’ll follow this up in later games, as I’d rather avoid the issue present in the Uncharted series where Nathan Drake alternates back and forth between loveable rogue (in the cutscenes) and merciless killer (gameplay). Guess only time will tell on that one.

Overall rating: 4.5 / 5

Bioshock Infinite

Elizabeth

The original Bioshock was one of those games I still feel conflicted about due to its great setting and plot combined with what can only be described as a fairly generic gameplay. I was therefore hesitant about Bioshock Infinite and on reflection, I still feel it has the same issue of the original, an amazing story and plot inserted over what I can only describe as ok gameplay. As with the underwater Rapture of the first game Columbia, the steampunk city in the clouds provides an intriguing and detailed setting and surpasses Rapture as it is presented as a living, inhabited city as opposed to one which has already been, for all intents and purposes, destroyed. Again the plot, with its reveals, turns and dimension twisting (courtesy of Elizabeth) surpass that of the first game.

As I stated though the game is, in my opinion, let down by the gameplay. The combat is fairly formulaic and Elizabeth’s ability to summon features from other dimensions is the only thing that feels novel. Similarly the weapons rarely feel like they differentiate themselves and once you’ve settled on a couple of them you can ignore most of the others as ammo is rarely in short supply. That, however, is often down to Elizabeth’s ability to scrounge ammo, especially useful given the frequency with which dead enemies will mysteriously lack any ammo despite the fact they were shooting away at you only moments before. Perhaps the most annoying aspect of the game was the constant searching of crates, drawers and desks, a mechanic that feels like it’s in there purely because FPS games tend to have that mechanic. While this ensures a constant supply of money, health boosts and ammo it does nothing to progress the story and quickly becomes a bore, I found myself regularly searching and simply taking everything without paying attention to what I had just picked up. So in wrap up, buy the game for the story but don’t expect anything new from the gameplay itself.

Overall rating: 3.5 / 5

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