Tomb Raider 2013 Review


New member
Mar 8, 2012
[HEADING=1]Tomb Raider 2013 Review[/HEADING]
I know this is REALLY long. It's an attempt to cover everything about the game (I don't really know if I've succeeded to be completely honest, if you feel there is something I left out, feel free to post a comment below).

I played the game on PC, partly because I liked the idea of TressFX and partly because I don't own a console yet. Interestingly, at somewhere around 65% the game decided that my save was corrupted, so I had to begin a new game (which swiftly turned into more of a speed run to be totally honest).

Tomb Raider (2013) is a 3rd Person Action-Adventure game made by Crystal Dynamics/Eidos Montreal and published by Square Enix/Eidos. It uses Steam as DRM and so far as I know nothing else.

It's actually kind of strange that this is called a Tomb Raider game, seeing that they only share the main protagonist (Lara Croft). And it's even more surprising that the controls actually work (as opposed to TR:Legend which had incredibly fiddly controls even with a PS2 style controller).


In this screenshot, you can see that the game tells you what button to press. It doesn't seem to do that too often later on, so you'll be failing QTEs over and over and over again.

Let's get this out of my system first: if you don't like QTEs (quick itme events), please don't buy this game. The QTEs in this game are the worst kind of them all. RE4 style insta-death-if-not-perfect QTEs. Absolutely no possibility of knowing what button you're supposed to mash (at least on the PC, no idea if that's better on the consoles), absolutely no way to get them done on the first try (When the ZP episode on this comes out, expect A LOT of QTE criticism). The only good thing I can actually say about the QTEs is that there are always checkpoints before them, and you normally don't have to watch a lengthy cutscene before getting to it.
In the later stages of the game (after passing the 30% mark basically) QTEs show up less and less, but that doesn't change the fact that the first few hours of the game are a sequence of frustrating, stupid, lazy and - most importantly - unnecessary QTEs.

[HEADING=3]Cutscenes, Graphics & Aesthetics[/HEADING]

Moving on to the cutscenes: they are all, so far as I can tell, rendered in the game. That means that whatever outfit you were wearing before the cutscene started, and whatever weapon you where holding before the cutscene started, will all show up in the cutscene. Cutscenes are normally fairly short and far in between, delivering nearly all of the dialogue (excluding enemy dialogue of course, which is always funny to listen to). Except in the last half hour of the game, where there are really too many cutscenes which drag on for too long, interrupting gameplay.
The graphics are very nice, I only noticed a very small amount of glitches and the textures are (mostly) better than average even on medium settings (with the 4X anisotropic filter turned off of course). There's another issue I have with games today: they force an Anisotropic filter that hugely impacts performance, and do so on medium settings already (Crysis 3 has this as well, but there it's much more extreme: it sets 16X AF as the default, and that can't be handled by a lot of graphics cards). A unique new feature is TressFX, which gives a much nicer hair appearance. The downside is that it doesn't run well on nVidia cards.
I guess this is because nVidia cards are, generally speaking, less powerful than AMD/ATi cards. Why is this? Because AMD/ATi cards have a lot more cores (shaders) that are less specialized. This makes AMD/ATi cards ideal for things that require many straightforward things to be computed at once, like for instance Bitcoin Mining or, in this case, calculation of hair physics.
The overall aesthetics of the game are somewhere between the original Tomb Raider games and a survival themed game and are mostly appropriate.


The most central part of the gameplay is the bow, with which you can fire rope arrows, fire arrows, and insta-kill nearly any enemy with a headshot. Recovering arrows is a skill one must (strangely) learn, but it's also a fairly useless one, considering the game loads you down with arrows and ammo at every corner. And this is where the survival aspect begins to fall apart. Run & Gun is a tactic that's fairly discouraged, but you need to stay mobile nonetheless, because nearly all enemies either have Molotovs or explosives in addition to their normal weapons (which are bows, machetes, WWII shotguns and WWII assault rifles so far as I know). However, here the stupidity of some of the environment design truly shines, as you normally only get between 1 and 2 pieces of viable cover that are sometimes even far apart, leaving you vulnerable to the AR fire and deadly arrows of your opponents. This is, thankfully, compensated by the fact that the gameplay flows well and Lara hides behind cover when going near it, instead of having to press a button to glue her to it.

Jumping isn't as fiddly as in the older Tomb Raider games (I've only played Legend, mind you) and the camera is, in most parts of the game, reasonable. The problem with the camera here is, just like in DmC4 and the Resident Evil series, that the game often doesn't let you rotate it when you'd actually need it to rotate. This is especially annoying in one of the parts where you have to run down a bridge that is falling apart, where the camera is off slightly enough that you don't notice at first, but it fucks you over when doing one of the jumps, which leads to another trip to the Jagged Rock Plains. Getting back to jumping: it works a lot better than in TR:Legend, mostly because it's always clear what you can and cannot jump onto. This is even more simplified by the fact that you'll be "travelling" by rope pretty often.

Enemy variety is nearly not there at all, with only very few types of enemies. Amongst the enemies are also ones with big shields that presumable came over to visit from Borderlands 2 and decided to stay. Thankfully they're not as annoying here, because you can dodge-counter and then give them a taste of your 12 gauge shotgun.

It seems as if every game now needs to have RPG elements, and so has this one: There are weapon upgrades and a skill system. The skills give you different abilities like the mentioned dodge-counter and retrieveing arrows from dead enemies... there are also skills that unlock headshot reticles (a crosshair that grows thicker when pointing it at an enemies' head) for the bow and pistol (another reason to use the pistol more often).


There are four weapons in the game: the bow, the handgun, the assault rifle/SMG and the Shotgun. Lara carries all of them at once (thank god there's no 2 weapon limit) and upgrades them once you've found the parts (example: once you find enough bow parts, Lara upgrades her makeshift longbow to a recurve bow; once you've found enough AR parts, Lara upgrades the WWII SMG into an AK-47 lookalike). The weapons feel good to shoot with, and the shotgun sounds nice (not like god slamming his car door, but you might want to turn the volume down when using the thing in confined spaces). Just like nearly all other games (except BFBC2) this game has the "Assault Rifle Peashooter syndrome" where ARs just always sound like peashooters, even compared to the pistol.

Upgrades for the first handgun receiver.

All weapons have between 9 and 11 upgrades at their final stage, which are purchased with salvage you find in specific containers, tombs, on animals and on enemies. The upgrades are more or less organised in tiers where new ones get unlocked when you find all the parts for a new receiver. Upgrades get preserved between receivers, so you don't have to grind for salvage or anything like that. Upgrades include things like Napalm arrows, grenade arrows, taped magazines, larger magazines, barrel changes etc.
You'll find yourself using all of your weapons (though some more than others, obviously). The only weapon that hasn't got a special attachment for environmental destruction is the Pistol, but it compensates for it by being incredibly accurate and killing almost any enemy with a single shot to the head.

[HEADING=3]Boss fights[/HEADING]

Every single boss fight except the final one isn't a QTE and does require some sort of tactic to get through. The final boss fight at first seems to be a lazy QTE, and it turns out to be for the most part. It also explains how Lara got her dual pistols.


Yes, the enemies will turn their backs to you like that... not a very smart move on their part.

The AI is sometimes completely retarded, but acts more or less intelligent most of the time, hiding behind cover and trying to get you out of cover with Molotovs and Dynamite. Their conversations are interesting to listen to though, and actually give you a strong sense that it's actually you who is the bad guy, and not the leader of the cultists.

[HEADING=3]Sound Design & Voice Acting[/HEADING]
Not really much to complain about here. Voice Acting is pretty good throughout, and it's always interesting to hear the conversations your enemies have (can't say it's got bad dialogue writing...).
The weapon sounds are OK, again with the exception of the assault rifle that sometimes feels like a peashooter because of it.


This was one of the weak points of the older Tomb Raider games, so it's surprising that this game gets it right. The survival aspect wasn't used enough and OH GOD QUICK TIME EVENTS. Thankfully, compensating the QTEs, there is only one forced stealth section (near the start of the game) that is pretty hard to thoroughly mess up.
The story boils down to "get back and escape".
The story isn't without its faults though: Characters get killed off for no good reason just to encourage character development where none occurs and Lara's character arc goes from the start of the game to the base exterior section. Concentrating on that character arc though, it isn't very good. Lara has one freak-out the first time she kills a guy, then she kills a bunch of idiots and is just mildly upset about it. Afterwards, call her "Lara Croft, Brain Matter House Painter" (I know I took that shamelessly from Yahtzee's video on the subject, but it fits incredibly well).
The end of the story is OK, and it seems to be meant to set up the events of all the other TR games. Looking at it though, I think that this would've been a lot better as a new piece of IP. There, I could see a lot of potential for good sequels with good gameplay, instead of the mess the older TR games represent.


People who liked the previous Tomb Raider games will be disappointed that the tombs are optional and that they're a bit on the easy side. That said, I still had to look nearly every single one up on the net because I couldn't understand what I had to do, because nearly none of the tombs have any kind of common elements whose function I could always identify (like in Portal: white walls- portal wall, not white - no portal; laser beam emitters, buttons,...). Towards the end, I didn't even bother though. I had over 1000 salvage and nary a thing to spend it on, because I couldn't find any of the last needed weapon parts (which you randomly find hidden somewhere in salvage boxes)

-removed image-

Multiplayer seems like a good idea IN THEORY. It doesn't seem too bad, and if Eidos wanted to throw more money out the window, so be it. But instead of doing it right, with drop-in drop-out matches (like BF or CoD or Blacklight or...), they decided to go with a lobby system and no way of setting up dedicated servers. What then ends up happening is: There's nobody you can play with because either somebody like me would need to host the match (Somebody with a terrible upload bandwidth, that is) or the game just flat out can't find enough players. Also sometimes there are unbearable amounts of lag too. But most of the time, lag is not noticeable.
When you do get into a match though, it's really not bad. The gun handling is exactly the same as in the single player story, so no problems there. I was going to complain about how you need to unlock everything and how that's at level 60 and everything, but the truth is: the game already starts you out with a good set of weapons, and it takes nearly no time to level up (for example: I went from level 1 to level 11 in 6 matches).
There are a few different modes: TDM, DM, medical supplies and cry for help. They aren't very innovative, but all of them work and you can generally find players for them during times when you'd expect a lot of people to be online (7-9PM).
There are hackers, and I've noticed everything from aim bots to speed hacks being used (sometimes even by the same player). Hacking isn't very rampant though, and most hackers are such bad players anyway that you can kill the m off just fine (I haven't noticed anybody using an invincibility hack yet).


Why they thought that they need to program a new engine for this game I can not understand, but it seems pretty good at what it does. It's just as technologically advanced as the CryEngine or Unreal, but seems to also support fully destructible environments (a feature that Unreal doesn't support at all and the CryEngine only to a very small degree or with quite some scripting). The HUD is surprisingly light and non-intrusive, never getting in the way. All of the rest of the UI has a common style that it keeps throughout, it also has full mouse and keyboard controls for the whole UI (which is rarely seen executed as flawlessly as here).

[HEADING=3]Technical Difficulties[/HEADING]

The game crashes sometimes (admittedly I'm using fraps, but that hasn't been a problem for anything except Gamebryo games until now). Mostly when 2 animations are called for the same character at the same time (that is, should happen at the same time to the same character), but also plainly when UI elements for the Multiplayer part of the game are open when ending a match. There are no game-breaking bugs that I would have noticed, and no glitches except a few in Multiplayer (but those are only related to animations).


Tomb Raider is a good game, but it has its faults. The QTEs are very annoying and nearly all of the set pieces are annoying as hell and require several tries due to simply stupid design or fixed camera angles (I thought everybody except Capcom had abandoned this shitty practice - apparently not). When there is gameplay, it's always fluid and running at a reasonably fast pace. It is third person cover-based shooting though, and it doesn't fit the story too well. Just like DeWitt in Bioshock Infinite, Lara murders literally hundreds of cultists and other... things, and still considers herself one of the good guys.
The length of the game may vary depending on how collectible-happy you are and how many times you fail the QTEs an set pieces, but it took me around 11 hours to get through the whole story.

Please comment and tell me if I got something wrong.

Played on:
i3-3220 @ 3.3GHz
Gigabyte HD6670 2GB
Gigabyte B75M-D3H
1366x768 @ 60Hz
Exclusive Full screen on
Medium Texture resolution (turned down to medium after I saw the benchmark results)
Post-processing off (it can get annoying)
Medium level of Detail
low shadow resolution (shadows are a performance hog as well)
Hair Quality: Normal (TressFX makes the frame rate drop like a rock)
Bilinear Filter (nice that it permits that setting, since the Anisotropic Filter forced by most games is a performance hog)
Anti-aliasing off
SSAO off
Depth of Field (DoF) on low
Reflections on normal
Tessellation off
60 fps constant

(will see how it runs on my Dell M6600 with 32GB RAM, i7-2760Q @ 2.4GHz and M8900 2GB. Results will come at some unforeseeable point in the future when I feel the need to play it longer than one or two multiplayer matches)

Older Reviews:​
Bioshock Infinite []​
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Multiplayer []​

EDIT: If the game is performing poorly for you (on Windows 7), you might want to force the game to use DirectX9 instead of the newer DirectX11:
Tomb Raider forums said:
Launch the Registry Editor (open the Start Screen/Start Menu, type regedit, hit Enter).
Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Crystal Dynamics\Tomb Raider\Graphics
Modify RenderAPI value to 9.
Attention Radeon HD7XXX series users: don't do this, it will actually decrease your performance because the newest series of AMD graphics cards is optimized for Direct3D 11 and not for D3D9 like the previous ones.
Another thing to note is that TressFX seems to be a D3D11 only feature. Though why you'd want to use it when you've got a low performance card so that you need to force usage of D3D9, I've got no idea.

EDIT 2013/09/10: Did away with all typos, corrected a few mistakes that were left.