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Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
Rise of the Tomb Raider

First Rise of the Tomb Raider PC patch mostly just makes sure you can go 'sploring


And murdering too, I guess
Feb 05
// Brett Makedonski
Rise of the Tomb Raider is quite the good showing from Crystal Dynamics. Good enough, in fact, that we awarded it our Best Xbox Game of 2015. But, when we put it through its paces on PC, we found performance to be lackin...
Steam Chinese New Year photo
Steam Chinese New Year

Steam Lunar New Year Sale has thousands of discounted games


8,910 games on sale all week
Feb 05
// Steven Hansen
Steam has a massive new sale going on through next Friday, February 12, in honor of the Lunar New Year (known 'round San Francisco as Chinese New Year). You can get hits like Romance of the Three Kingdoms 13 for only $90! The...
News roundup photo
Strangely lenient towards cock fighting
I am very pleased to announce that this week is 100% bodily fluid-free. There’s no wee, no poo, no nothing. It’s been a totally wholesome, family-friendly week in gaming news! The most NSFW thing you'll find is th...

Deals photo
Deals

Cheap XCOM 2 & Rise of Tomb Raider in Weekend Deals


XCOM 2 discounts sighted
Jan 30
// Dealzon
Oh, you thought you saved humanity when you beat XCOM: Enemy Unknown? Nope! XCOM 2 says you didn't (or at least that humanity surrendered at some point). Come next week Friday we'll all be forced to reverse the fortunes ...

Review: Rise of the Tomb Raider - Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch

Jan 29 // Laura Kate Dale
Rise of the Tomb Raider - Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch (PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Crystal DynamicsPublisher: Square EnixMSRP: $9.99Released: January 26, 2016 Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch is a short, story focused piece of Tomb Raider DLC that focuses on creepy supernatural elements, tough environmental puzzles, and exploring the complex relationship between Lara Croft and her father. Set in the Wicked Vale, a new region exclusive to the DLC, Baba Yaga tasks Lara with hunting down Baba Yaga, a witch who has allegedly terrorised locals for generations. Gone are the enemies that make sense, replaced by ethereal tormentors. While these foes and obstacles may be mechanically very similar to enemies in the base game, they feel very tonally different in practice and work well to emphasise the game's narrative themes. Oh, and the fact the DLC culminates in an over the top awesome supernatural boss battle, which provides satisfying amounts of conclusion to the plot, is fairly impressive. While most of the DLC is set in the Wicked Vale, an environment that was fascinating to explore, one section does throw you back into a combat arena from the main game. With the DLC only clocking in at two hours long, it's disappointing that any of it was retreading old ground. [embed]337554:62045:0[/embed] While the gameplay in Baba Yaga is unchanged from the main game, the difficulty of environmental puzzles is nicely ramped up, paced for progression from the end of the base game. Completing it unlocks a new weapon that fits nicely with the themes of the DLC as a bonus, but the lack of any new post game challenge tombs meant I had very little incentive to try my new weapon out. So, here's the deal with Rise of the Tomb Raider's newest DLC. If you're looking for several hours of story content that's supernatural in nature, yet offers very little additional content post story? Well, Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch is probably your thing. Just be aware it reuses some assets in that two hour length and offers very little in the way of options for using your weapon once the story is over. [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.] 
Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
That's one freaky temple
Rise of The Tomb Raider's main campaign, while lengthy, tries to keep its gameplay grounded for the most part in realistic threats. The game's first story DLC, Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch, turns that on its head, repla...

Deals photo
Deals

All the deals for this week's Rise of the Tomb Raider on PC


Discount up to 30% off (yep)
Jan 27
// Dealzon
Laura... I mean Lora... I mean Lara Croft's latest adventure is leaving the Xbox One exclusivity. Come tomorrow Rise of the Tomb Raider goes live on PC (check out the port review here). Below are three big discounts...

PC Port Report: Rise of the Tomb Raider

Jan 27 // Joe Parlock
Rig: Intel i7-4790k 4GHz 4-core processor, 16GB of RAM (2x Corsair Vengeance 8GB DDR3), GTX 980. Windows 10 Pro 64-bit. Framerate measured with Steam. Game played at the “Very high” preset, with anti-aliasing and ambient occlusion slightly lowered. [Update: Due to playing a pre-release build, I did not have access to Nvidia's Game Ready Drivers while writing this. I can now confirm that installing the Game Ready Drivers that were released today (January 27) did not fix the problems I discuss below. In fact, I would say it's made things worse: the stuttering is more frequent and the loading times are now two or three times longer than what I saw pre-drivers.] The options menu is comprehensive, with menus both inside and outside of the game. Rise supports up to 4K resolutions for those with a PC strong enough to run it, which is a decent boost from Xbox One's native 1080p. The options include all of the usuals you’d expect in a decent PC port, such v-sync, anti-aliasing, and ambient occlusion. Full key rebinding is also available, with the ability to set both a primary and secondary key for every action. You’re not exactly spoiled for choice when it comes to anti-aliasing options, with only four options that might end up not being the most efficient for your graphics card. Being able to force your preferred style of anti-aliasing in the graphics card control panel means this isn’t a huge problem, but I would’ve liked more in-game settings. I also appreciate the existence of a few quality-of-life settings that I've I’ve never seen in other games before. They’re not huge additions: simple stuff like each character having their own subtitle colour and full support for Razer Chroma hardware, but I like that they’re there. Weirdly there aren’t any colour blind options, though, which would have been useful for some players considering how the game relies upon discerning different shades of the same colour for navigation. Visually, Rise is gorgeous. The textures are insanely crisp and detailed, and even when I rammed the camera right up against a wall I struggled to see much blurring. The lighting effects are also wonderful, and really add to the atmosphere of the many tombs and caves Lara has to jump through. I thought 2013's Tomb Raider was pretty, but when you pump Rise up to the maximum settings it really is a visual treat... if you can get it to run properly. [embed]336747:62000:0[/embed] As far as the port goes, that’s unfortunately where the positives end.  Playing it with keyboard and mouse is a mixed bag. While aiming and shooting feel nice and responsive, movement is slow, sluggish, and generally difficult to control. Climbing was the biggest challenge, as I’d often find Lara leaping to her death or in a direction I wasn’t even pressing. I heavily recommend you use a gamepad if you can, as standard PC controls can be quite a nightmare in the more fiddly portions. That's peanuts, though, compared to the biggest problem with Rise of the Tomb Raider’s port: the numerous, terrible, and sometimes even game-breaking performance issues. It’s worth noting that I have a new, beefy PC that is way above the already fairly high minimum requirements, and yet I still suffered from inconsistent framerates and memory usage problems that made playing Rise a chore. At some points, I was able to enjoy a solid, smooth, and stutter-free 60FPS, but then only a minute later my game would be dragged down to a low of 20FPS for seemingly no reason.  For example, a very chaotic set-piece with lots of explosions, snow, and flying debris had a totally stable 60FP, but then I was lucky to get 25 in the small, dark, undetailed cave that immediately followed it. I’ve even gone to an area running at 60FPS, briefly ducked into a cave, only to come back out in the exact same place and find the game was now running at 40FPS instead. Even putting the game on the lowest possible graphics quality settings didn't help, which makes me think this probably will affect everyone regardless of the strength of their rig. I’m not a programmer, and so I can't conclusively identify the cause, but I think it might have something to do with the game’s fairly significant memory usage problems. Sometimes it was using upwards of 6GB RAM, even in relatively quiet and simple areas. This is the only game I have ever had crash due to my PC running out of memory, and on 16GB of brand new RAM and a new video card with 4GB VRAM, that shouldn’t be happening. It especially shouldn’t be happening after only about an hour of play. I don't want to definitively say this is a memory leak, but it sure as hell feels like one. Overall, Rise of the Tomb Raider’s port is a strange one. It has all the hallmarks of a good job: lots of graphics options and it supports both a higher framerate and resolution than its console counterpart. It’s such a shame that those positives are then dragged down by numerous, unacceptable performance issues, even for PCs much higher than the minimum spec. If my brand new, high-end PC is having trouble running this game smoothly, I dread to think how it affects those who are closer to the minimum requirements. I have to admit, I wasn’t wowed by 2013’s Tomb Raider. On its own, it was a pretty good game. It had stunning visuals, exciting set-pieces, and great exploration, but it didn't feel like a Tomb Raider game. I felt that Square had pulled out the campy, trap-avoiding, dinosaur-shooting heart of the previous games, and replaced it with a generic, edgy, and sometimes borderline sadistic husk. Fortunately, Rise of the Tomb Raider feels like a great midpoint between the solid game design of 2013 and the campy, silly fun of the original games. It has a sinister organisation racing for a powerful ancient artifact, and it’s up to you, badass archaeologist Lara Croft, to beat them to the punch. If every animal in the area hasn’t become an endangered species by the time you’re done, you’ve been playing the game wrong. Mechanically there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between Rise and its predecessor. It’s still essentially Uncharted by way of Bear Grylls, but those mechanics are put to much better use in Rise, and you're given far more varied locations to play in. Whereas Tomb Raider 2013 rarely deviated from its green island setting, within the first hour of Rise you’ve been to a wintery cliff face, a vast network of desert ruins, and then eventually dropped into the forests of Siberia. And there are tombs! Actual, honest-to-God tombs that you can raid! In the previous game, tombs were rare as hell, and when they did finally show up they didn’t amount to much more than a single room with a simple puzzle. In Rise, not only are there are far more optional tombs to explore, they're well designed, lengthy, and actually worth doing. Exploring the world feels much more satisfying when you know the stuff you're going to find isn't unmitigated arse for a change. While I agree with Steven that Rise of the Tomb Raider is basically more of the same, it does feel a lot more confident in its execution. The story and dialogue aren’t afraid to ham things up, Lara is finally a decent character, and there’s a much greater variety of locales to explore.  Nice job, Crystal Dynamics. You've successfully got me back into a series that I've been turned off from since Legends. Here's hoping you're able to fix the port-specific problems soon. [This PC Port Report is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Tomb Raider PC Port photo
Rise of the Performance Issues
After being an Xbox One exclusive for all of five minutes, Rise of the Tomb Raider is finally making its way to PC. As the follow-up to the popular 2013 reboot, it certainly had a lot to live up to. Back when it originally la...

Cracking photo
Cracking

Far Cry Primal and Rise of the Tomb Raider will use the Denuvo anti-tampering system


Hopefully it won't hurt the performance
Jan 25
// Joe Parlock
The PC releases of both Far Cry Primal and Rise of the Tomb Raider will make use of the controversial Denuvo anti-tampering software. Denuvo isn’t technically DRM because it doesn’t manage content licenses. Howeve...
Square Enix - Activision photo
Square Enix - Activision

Rise of the Tomb Raider director leaves Crystal Dynamics for Infinity Ward


Now art director at Call of Duty studio
Jan 16
// Kyle MacGregor
Tomb Raider Senior Art Director and Rise of the Tomb Raider Game Director Brian Horton has left Crystal Dynamics, the developer announced via the official Tomb Raider Tumblr account Friday. "It’s been a huge honor to be...
Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider minimum PC requirements


Can your PC run the new Tomb Raider?
Jan 14
// Steven Hansen
Very fine game Rise of the Tomb Raider is headed to PC this month, January 28, after releasing on Xbox One in November as a timed exclusive. It's still not coming to Sony's PlayStation 4 until closer to the end of the year. I...
Game Writing photo
Game Writing

The Witcher 3, Pillars of Eternity score Writers Guild Award nominations


Assassin's Creed gets 9th nomination
Jan 12
// CJ Andriessen
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an unstoppable, award-winning machine. While it failed to take home the industry's top prize, the Destructoid Game of the Year Award, it has secured victories from other, lesser organizations ...
DEALS photo
DEALS

25 percent plunge on Rise of the Tomb Raider PC port


Weekend deals to dive into
Jan 10
// Dealzon
Did you run out and buy an Xbox One just for Rise of the Tomb Raider? Our magic eight ball says: "Probably not." The timed exclusive heads to the PC later this month (January 27) and Lara's latest escapade on Steam can curren...
Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider officially coming to PC on January 28


Adventure time
Jan 05
// Brett Makedonski
As Lara Croft is constantly in search of treasure, Tomb Raider developer Crystal Dynamics is constantly in search of sales. After hitting the one million mark right out the gate on Xbox platforms, the game's fortunes wil...

Review: Rise of the Tomb Raider: Endurance Mode

Jan 05 // Chris Carter
Rise of the Tomb Raider: Endurance Mode (Xbox One [reviewed], Xbox 360, PC, PS4)Developer: Crystal Dynamics (Xbox One), Nixxes Software (Xbox 360)Publisher: Microsoft (Xbox One, 360); Square Enix (PC, PS4)MSRP: $9.99Released: December 29, 2015 Endurance Mode is very light on story, offering up a shaky excuse for its existence which isn't even all that necessary. Lara, seemingly breaking from her travels, is in search of artifacts as is the evil mustache-twirling Trinity organization. Her job is to locate caves and recover said artifacts, then signal a helicopter and high-tail it out of there with as many goodies as she can grab. The catch is, players now have a food and warmth meter. Grabbing supplies such as bark and berries (or killing animals for food) actually has a point now, rather than a gamified version of an upgrade system like the core story. Hilariously, it even goes as deep as needing resources to light the signal fire to even escape, something I failed at in my first run. Ammo is often much more scarce a la Resident Evil as well, which is a nice touch -- I'd almost always find myself out of arrows during nearly all of my runs. Relic caves are actually mini-crypts, and are roughly 5-10 minute, bite-sized dungeons of sorts with random trap types. They're fun to play through, and don't overstay their welcome given their short length. Additionally, the rewards for actually exploring these caves are decent, including credit payouts for more Expedition rewards, and new weapons. I would prefer a lot of these elements to just be baked into the core game, but since I assume a lot of folks would complain that it's "too hard," we have this mode instead -- a risk-reward, arcadey score attack concept. It even features challenges (locate five crypts), which are an achievement-ception of sorts. At times, it feels like a rushed bit of DLC. There's only one Endurance sandbox for starters, and as a whole, the map feels rigid and forced -- with plenty of ways to corral players into specific zones. All of that cheapness generally washes away when you're in caves, but I would have preferred the overworld to be just as enjoyable. The best part is that it involves cards. If you're into that aspect of Rise, this is probably the best game type for it, in fact. For the uninitiated, cards modify the experience -- making it tougher or easier -- depending on what cards you play before match. For example, you can up your rewards by making enemies do more damage, or lower them by taking a specific outfit that automatically grants you the entire Brawler skill tree. Some cards are limited to a one-time use, but tons more, including a large pack that comes with the Survival DLC, are permanent. Deciding whether or not to buy Endurance Mode for Rise of the Tomb Raider is a pretty easy decision. Did you play and enjoy the Expeditions? If so, go ahead and grab it, if not, skip it.
Tomb Raider DLC review photo
Don't starve
I'm surprised how much mileage I've gotten out of Rise of the Tomb Raider. While most developers are keen on stuffing multiplayer into every single project, Crystal Dynamics did the right thing but nixing it in Rise, instead adding in a much more enticing Expeditions gametype. Endurance Mode isn't exactly as thrilling as it sounds, but it expands upon Expeditions quite well.

GOTY 2015 photo
GOTY 2015

Mike Cosimano's personal picks for Game of the Year 2015


The People's Choice(es)
Jan 04
// Mike Cosimano
2015 was a divisive year -- tremendous in terms of media (TV like Master of None and The 100; movies like Spotlight and The Force Awakens; games like...well, keep reading) and a garbage year in terms of my life. Entertai...
Xbox holiday fallout photo
Xbox holiday fallout

Well, Rise of the Tomb Raider hit 1 million sold, at least


Xbox's weird boast for low numbers
Jan 04
// Steven Hansen
What notable exclusives graced the PlayStation 4 and Wii U over the past two months? Xenoblade Chronicles and...? With help from the Uncharted 4 delay and brief Rise of the Tomb Raider exclusivity, the Xbox One had the strong...

Why are the only interesting parts of Rise of the Tomb Raider's story buried in audio logs?

Dec 29 // Zack Furniss
Remember when Rise of the Tomb Raider was announced at the Xbox's E3 press conference? If not, here it is: [embed]330081:61668:0[/embed] Lara is at a therapy session, and a psychologist is telling her that despite the trauma she faced, she needs to reintegrate into society, maybe "take up some hobbies". She impatiently taps her foot, clad in a hood, eyes downcast, obviously beyond uncomfortable. Her hands are wounded, a fact that she's trying to keep a secret from the psychologist. This all adds up to a surprisingly human look at what someone would face after the (admittedly ridiculous) harrowing events of the first game. That images of her continuing to delve into dangerous situations are woven throughout the trailer add an uncomfortable, yet empowering edge. Most games shy away from dealing with trauma, yet from the outset Rise of the Tomb Raider looked like it might have something to say about the subject. Some viewers interpreted the teaser as showing Lara as damaged, but as someone who regularly goest to a therapist, I saw it as a strength. However, this scene is nowhere to be found in the finished product. These therapy sessions are relegated to simple audio logs, and even worse than that, they aren't ones that you find lying around on the floor. At some point after Ana, Lara's father's lover (and member of Trinity, the capital E evil ancient order that's searching for immortality) betrays Lara, a pop-up tells you that you've unlocked some audio logs. It's easy to miss. If you give these a listen, you'll find an extra layer of fucked-up. These therapy sessions were actually orchestrated by Trinity, and they're pushing Lara to go in the direction that they want. One recording shows that they're trying to separate Lara from Jonah, her friend and fellow survivor. Each tape ends with Ana scheming about how best to further manipulate Lara. This is good stuff, and is so much more interesting than the rote plot that ended up in Rise. Therapy in general seems to be a big no-no in game stories, but this could have been handled in a way that gave depth to Lara's character, giving her more of a reason to detest Trinity. It also makes them seem like a more dangerous enemy, secretly pulling global strings instead of just giving an army of idiots guns so that they can all be massacred by a young woman who built a bow out of sticks. Ana's brother, Konstantin, is a leader of one of Trinity's battalions, and is memorable for three things: a gravelly voice, an under-cooked boss battle, and stigmata on his hands that bleed when his prayers are answered. Sure, I can believe in a holy figure that responds to prayers in a game that has immortal soldiers that explode into blue flames when you blast them with a shotgun. But another audio log from Ana's perspective reveals that Konstantin was directionless, lacking faith. One night, she decided to stab both of his hands so that he would believe he was chosen by God. This gave him the necessary push to keep him searching for the secret to immortality so that he could save Ana from a terminal illness. Why was this not touched upon in-game? Ana abusing her brother's buried zealotry for her personal gain, and him re-opening his wounds because he so desperately wants to believe in a higher power is a huge bit of character development that goes a long way in making these people at least somewhat believable in Tomb Raider's cartoonish world. I'm all for adding a human element into this series instead of making Lara an indestructible globe-hopping terminator (even though that's...still what they're doing), but someone is clearly stifling the writers' potential here. I'm curious how much of what Rhianna Pratchett is writing is getting thrown out in favor of "more explosions, less exposition." Again, I found plenty to enjoy in Rise of the Tomb Raider for the most part, and I'll play a sequel. Hopefully there'll the more thoughtful ideas will be allowed to float to the surface. And seriously, why isn't Lara using two pistols yet, especially since she used them for the final encounter in the first game (in a QTE, but I digress)? I promise you, it's not any less believable than her killing a billion guys. One last thing. Are we taking bets on whether or not Sofia was supposed to be another player character in a scrapped co-op mode? She has braids, a bow, and all but disappears in the last quarter of the game. I have a feeling there was a more volatile development cycle here than we know.
Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
Short answer: because it's a video game
Pretty boy Steven Hansen enjoyed  our Xbox One Game of the Year Rise of the Tomb Raider, saying that it was "perfunctory Hollywood boilerplate, down to the set up for the sequel, but competently done." I agree with ...

Humble Bundle photo
Humble Bundle

Square Enix adds more Tomb Raider to its Humble Bundle


Legend, Anniversary, Underworld
Dec 29
// Jordan Devore
The bonus games for the Humble Square Enix Bundle 3 have stepped out of the shadows. Folks who buy the bundle's second tier (which is still under $6) will now also receive access to three additional Tomb Raider titles: Legend...
Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider's Minecraft-like $10 Endurance Mode DLC is out today


Build by day, fend off the wild by night
Dec 29
// Chris Carter
If you've done all that you can do in Rise of the Tomb Raider, you may want to take a look at this DLC that just dropped today. It's called "Endurance Mode," and essentially adopts the core Minecraft gametype (yep, ...
Tomb Raider photo
Tomb Raider

Steam: Rise of the Tomb Raider hits PC in January


The sooner the better!
Dec 26
// Kyle MacGregor
Rise of the Tomb Raider is coming to PC next month, according to the game's Steam page. While Square Enix hasn't yet made any official commitment to releasing the title (our favorite Xbox One game of the year) in any specific...

Destructoid's award for Best Xbox Game of 2015 goes to...

Dec 23 // Brett Makedonski
[Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles and episodic games that are not fair to assess as standalone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
GOTY 2015 photo
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Before Nathan Drake, there was Lara Croft. This is important to note because recently, for a good number of years, Nathan Drake was Lara Croft. Shrewdly, developer Naughty Dog took the cinematic action baton and ran far,...

Humble Bundle photo
Humble Bundle

Square Enix's newest Humble Bundle is worth a look


That $1 tier!
Dec 22
// Jordan Devore
Square Enix is back for yet another Humble Bundle. You probably own at least some of these by now, but if not, your patience has paid off. Pay $1 or more: The Last Remnant Life is Strange Episode 1 Tomb Raider I, II, and III...
Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider just got a demo, so give it a shot


On Xbox One
Dec 21
// Chris Carter
Sorta kinda (but not really) Xbox One exclusive Rise of the Tomb Raider is really good. Like, just as good, if not better, than the recent Tomb Raider release. Everyone who is able to should play it, whether or not ...
Lara Croft photo
Lara Croft

Lara Croft goes on an acid trip in the Rise of the Tomb Raider 'Baba Yaga' DLC


Coming in January
Dec 04
// Chris Carter
Rise of the Tomb Raider didn't get nearly enough respect, but that's partially on Microsoft and Square Enix, who divined the odd "is it or isn't it a timed exclusive" strategy that's confused people for months now. The ...
Tomb Raider photo
Tomb Raider

Microsoft and Square are both happy with Rise of the Tomb Raider


Neither seem concerned by low sales
Dec 01
// Laura Kate Dale
While official sales data for Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox One is still not publicly available, numbers being unofficially thrown around for the timed exclusive have suggested that it's currently selling incredibly poorly....

Lara Croft GO's new expansion is sadistic

Nov 29 // Kyle MacGregor
The team at Square Enix Montréal has been listening to feedback, and "The Shard of Life" expansion is targeted squarely at players who wanted something more complex out of the base game. Comprised of 26 new puzzles, the free update has a high floor in terms of difficulty, picking up right where the main story left off and ratcheting up the tension from there. The Shard of Life sees Lara descend into a new ancient burial chamber, the Cave of Fire, where she comes across a new obstacle, immortal enemies, en route to pilfering the grotto's hidden treasures. The invincible creatures can be stunned, but will eventually rise back to their feet (or insert turn of phrase that better applies to snakes). This adds a new dimension of challenge, requiring players to approach puzzles from different vantage points and hastening the window of opportunity for certain obstacles to be surmounted. In addition to adding a new dimension of challenge (these immortal enemies often make it so precise movements must be made, narrowing the window of opportunity for you to get by them), they inject a new element to puzzle solving, where their felled-bodies might hold a switch down, but only for a certain amount of time before they start moving again and alter the landscape. While I confess I wasn't among the virtuosos who completed Lara Croft GO without breaking a sweat, The Shard of Life never feels unfair. That said, I've probably spent more time dealing with some of the individual rooms in the add-on content than I did with entire stretches of the original game. It definitely has me thinking more, as each puzzle is a multi-step process with nary an easy solution. At times, there's a bit more mental gymnastics involved than I might have preferred, considering I was comfortable with the campaign, but it's difficult to get too broken up over some mild frustrations in a sizable, free update to an experience I already love and enjoy. If you've yet to try Lara Croft GO, it's currently 40 percent off via iTunes and Google Play for $2.99.
Lara Croft GO impressions photo
But I still love it
Lara Croft GO might just be my favorite mobile game of the year. Having played through the campaign twice now, I can safely say there isn't much I'd change about Square Enix Montréal's minimalist puzzler -- though...

GameBarcodes photo
GameBarcodes

GameBarcodes distill games down frame by frame


Journey's is the best
Nov 19
// Darren Nakamura
A couple weeks ago an imgur page was floating around the Internet showing various films with each frame reduced to its average color and represented as a single vertical line in what turn out to be often vibrant barcodes. Thi...
Tomb Raider photo
Tomb Raider

Xbox mullers Tomb Raider fans in London for publicity


It's okay, they were willing volunteers
Nov 13
// Vikki Blake
Microsoft celebrated the release of Rise of the Tomb Raider by challenging eight Lara Croft fans to survive 24 hours on a billboard while being mullered by brutal weather conditions.  Of the thousands of applicants, just...

Is Rise of the Tomb Raider the best Uncharted?

Nov 11 // Steven Hansen
Now, though, Lara's come out ahead. It was a mild challenge during the Rise of the Tomb Raider review to not compare it to Nathan Drake's adventures. The things that excited me about Uncharted 4, that differentiated it from its stale third entry, a lot of those have -- at least superficially -- been done by Rise of the Tomb Raider. The contextual stealth bushes (as seen in the upcoming Horizon Zero Dawn, too), the grappling hook. Uncharted has always had stealth and its grappling hook might prove more meaningful than Rise's I-can-jump-further-now tool, but those things might not feel like meaningful additions with two games from a direct competitor now released since the last Uncharted five years ago. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception was less than well-received for bringing little new to the table, instead offering a disjointed series of set-pieces that could have been strung together by throwing darts at a board. Rise of the Tomb Raider threads its hub worlds and set-piece sections -- a derelict Soviet gulag built vertically into the side of a mountain -- together much more organically. It also basically mushes Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3's antagonists into one game (spoilers in this paragraph). Konstantin is a Burberry-clad Lazarević, just as driven and merciless -- a common trope of a character -- and even serves as Rise's final boss fight in full tactical gear, not unlike in Uncharted 2. Here, though, it's a stealth affair with Konstantin disarming Lara, who must sneak around the ruined arena and stab him a few times. Meanwhile, equally posh Ana, the character really running things, has shades of Katherine Marlowe. Superficial, maybe. Maybe it stands out because of the general rarity of older-aged British women as villains. Rise of the Tomb Raider also handles the requisite third act turn to the supernatural better than any Uncharted since the first, which became a creepy, horror-tinged affair to smartly contrast all the lush jungle violence. In Rise, it means expansion to the visual palette with all the blue flames and orange embers (shortly after introducing the new class of regular enemy with the lens flare-ish flashlights and dot sights -- a good look). The enemies' melee focus makes sense and moves the third act away from strict cover shooting, which is welcomed for its variety but also because the cover shooting is probably Tomb Raider's weakest part. Then there's Rise's position as one of the prettiest games of the year, an Uncharted staple. It isn't just the technology or graphical fidelity, but a new focus on using color, lighting, and other visual cues to set the mood. It is colorful without Uncharted's more cartoonishness. Had Uncharted 4 made its holiday 2015 release, it mainly would've been up against itself, or its past self. Being better than Uncharted 3 would've been enough for a lot of people. Rise of the Tomb Raider raises the standards though, by iterating in a lot of areas where Uncharted excels. The former is still bogged down by bloat (crafting and skill trees and static menu audio logs and so on) and a go-nowhere story that was more than tired by the time Uncharted got to it (protagonists want thing, antagonists also want thing), but it nails movie-like visual direction (down to the color grading) and exhilarating platforming.
Rise of expectations photo
Standards up five years post Uncharted 3
Both Crystal Dynamics and Microsoft lucked out that the tumult behind Uncharted 4: A Thief's End's development shift and scrapped work pushed Naughty Dog's adventure into 2016. It gives Microsoft the best exclusive holiday...

Review: Rise of the Tomb Raider

Nov 09 // Steven Hansen
Rise of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One [reviewed], Xbox 360, PC, PS4)Developer: Crystal Dynamics (Xbox One), Nixxes Software (Xbox 360)Publisher: Microsoft (Xbox One, 360); Square Enix (PC, PS4)MSRP: $59.99Released: November 10, 2015 (Xbox One, Xbox 360); Q1 2016 (PC); Q4 2016 (PS4) Having previously glimpsed the supernatural, Rise of the Tomb Raider's Lara is open to the wild theories of ancient immortality that consumed her father. A brief trip into Syria introduces the new enemy, a highly-funded, obviously evil group called Trinity led by Konstantin, a religious zealot and less comic book version of Uncharted 2's Lazarević. Lara then tries to beat the stonejaw-led shadowy entity to the Siberian wilderness, where most of the game takes place. The first thing I noticed in Syria was its rich orange sands, a strong contrast to the last Tomb Raider's much more muted palette. Then it was Lara's powerful blue glow stick as she began navigating tombs, providing the same orange/cyan look you find in most Hollywood movie color grading. Naturally, when Lara goes to off to Russia and the blue-white snow and ice, she's suddenly packing orange glow sticks. It's not a bad thing, though. Rise of the Tomb Raider is not shy about using unrealistic lighting to set a mood and it works, like when the blizzarding night sky is illuminated with an eerie deep red light thanks to Trinity flares. It's one of the best-looking games this year, but it also goes beyond stylish at times and helps set the mood. Coupled with a camera that occasionally, but never annoyingly, takes control from you to frame the next impressive mountain establishment or some such thing you have to climb. [embed]319740:61038:0[/embed] The combination of framing, use of color, and lighting are welcomed Hollywood cribbing. Most of the additions since the last entry are welcomed, too. The stealth options make more sense in a supposedly serious game hellbent on showing the brutality Lara deals with (gruesome death close-ups are still plentiful), rather than the more discordant Lara-as-Terminator that doesn't jive with the story being told. That said, you can still mostly do that. Even when the game hinted I could stealth through an environment, unless I saw an obvious path, it was easy to loose bows from afar into enemies' heads. Rise also touted the tombs pre-release, which are peppered throughout the world. They're probably the highlight. I think Tomb Raider is a better platformer than shooter and working out these beautiful, often complex environmental puzzles had me yearning for a more ICO-like distribution of puzzle/platforming versus murder. The stealth, too, kind of hints at a game that could've made death and killing meaningful in line with the narrative, but instead we're left with a refinement of the Uncharted series sans one-liners.  Except for the bloat, which kind of flies in the face of the snappy movie cues and Uncharted's beats. Rise borrows slightly from the Legend of Zelda formula in that there are distinct areas ("hubs") organically woven together, but requiring back-tracking with new gear and items. It's a very game-y conceit. In the cinematics I asked why Lara hadn't a camera (or even a cell phone) to prove (evidence!) the things her father died over, but she didn't even slip an iPhone out of her pocket. At the same, coming across a rope and being told I can't cut it until I find a knife, well, why the hell does Lara not have a knife? People who like busywork will probably appreciate the hub areas replete with open-world style challenges (burn all 10 communist propaganda posters, cut down all the snared rabbits, etc.), but it kind of grated on me. I didn't open the map until a few hours in and I immediately wanted to slam it shut after seeing the Assassin's Creed-style unreadable mess of icons. And while these tasks often yield rewards, including XP, it just feels to unnecessary. Which is kind of true, given that I got through the game fine without doing anything but the most convenient extras, and didn't find a +2 damage Polished Barrel to affect my capacity to kill folks all that much. So why's any of it there at all? Rise has a very pressing, dire narrative, and is a joy when you're moving around and exploring the gorgeous environments. Constant IU flashes (10XP!!!) only serve as an intrusion and gum up the works. Having to pause the game and look at a static menu screen to hear picked-up audio logs (already a bit of a lazy, all too convenient way to shove more story into your game) kills momentum, tension, excitement. You just have to stare at a render of a tape recorder if you want to know why the big bad bleeds from his hands. The story handles the necessary, telegraphed third act turn to the supernatural well, but generally suffers from a glossing over. The Burberry-clade arm of Trinity trying to beat Lara to the punch are well-acted, but pretty one-dimensional (even with everything wrapped up in explanatory audio logs). An entire society isolated in the Siberian wilderness speaks perfect English. It's perfunctory Hollywood boilerplate, down to the set up for the sequel, but competently done. Worth noting: I ran into an odd problem late in the game where enemies would disappear. First right before me when I was swinging an ice axe at them as if Lara did so with enough force to banish them from this plane of existence, but then sometimes they'd vanish completely on their own. Once this locked me in a room because whatever needed to trigger to open the door couldn't and I had to restart (not losing much progress), while it also happened during the game's final boss fight, which was anticlimactic. The loss of XP from these tactical Houdinis might impact games on harder difficulty settings where the leveling and crafting system could prove more necessary, though on normal I got to a point where I didn't even care to spend my skill points. That excess is a problem shared with the last Tomb Raider, which bills itself (and thematically tries to be) a survivalist game, but simply isn't. It's a bit goofy ruining the beautiful colors of the world by constantly jamming down the "survival instincts" button to light up objects of interest and clambering around to strip trees of their boughs. Eventually I stopped going out of my way to pick up trash, yet I still always had ammo and arrows. Crafting, skill trees, open-world-style quests: it just feels like bloat. Busy work. And it isn't consistent with the story. Moving around, on the other hand, is sublime. It is odd, though. There's an animation for when Lara is pushed up against a short, maybe knee-high lip; pressing the jump button has her labor up it a bit. Yet if you push the jump button otherwise, she will leap clean four feet into the air like a cat. That amusing inconsistency aside, Lara's movement animations are all so fluid and impressive. If she barely makes a jump, she can slip and fall if you don't press a button. But rather than her needing to get a grip be a recurring quick-time event, it organically happens every time you barely snag a ledge. This means you can tell if that prompt is about to come up and can preemptively push it, and Lara will secure her grip and you can continue about fluidly climbing around. It's a good bit of adding interaction to the platforming without having to pre-plan bits of structure that will start to crumble when you grab them. Rise of the Tomb Raider is better than its predecessor, but only because of its additions; it doesn't fix any of the things that were wrong with Tomb Raider (2013). The story is smoothed down, much of it hidden away in dull audio logs. It's not about "survival" as billed, given the ease of mowing down dozens of folks and plenty of resources. But finding tombs wherein to clamber about ancient Rube Goldberg machines, coupled with the gorgeous visual flair and diverse environments, make Rise's wilderness one worth exploring and elevate Tomb Raider's otherwise perfunctory take on the third-person action platformer. I still get a strong sinking feeling in my stomach when I've misjudged a jump and watch Lara careening towards a splat. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
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