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Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider photo
Tomb Raider

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

Neither seems 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 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.]
Tomb Raider review photo
Get to know 'er
I sometimes forget that Raiders of the Lost Ark came out in 1981. Its breezy pulp adventure quality carries only obvious signifiers of its era (like, Nazis), and the repetition of these tropes act as enough hand waving to the...

Deals photo

Cheaper Steam copies of Fallout 4 & Black Ops III in Weekend Deals

Open for business soon
Nov 07
// Dealzon
Another Saturday, another round up of usual gaming deals with nothing exciting-- holy shit Fallout 4 comes out next Tuesday. Holy shit I better prepare my goodbyes to the wife, daughter, gardener, guy down the street that wor...
Tomb Raider video photo
Tomb Raider video

Rise of the Tomb Raider actually has tombs

Just like what's in her name!
Nov 04
// Steven Hansen
The final "Woman vs. Wild" Rise of the Tomb Raider video has been released and it focuses on the thing many thought the reboot lacked: tombs what to raid. Lara actually does way more archaeology this time around, it seems.
Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider launch trailer features an original song by Karen O

'I Shall Rise'
Oct 30
// Darren Nakamura
Rise of the Tomb Raider is just a couple weeks from launch (for the Xbox One at least), so naturally we can expect a launch trailer to keep the hype train rolling. This one comes with an extra tidbit of news, past the new bit...
Halo primed for big sales photo
Halo primed for big sales

Microsoft man: 'Halo is to games' what 'Star Wars is to movies'

Pump the space breaks
Oct 29
// Steven Hansen
Microsoft must be pretty happy that for the second year in a row it has more big exclusives in its holiday lineup (what with Uncharted 4 delayed and the paid timed exclusivity for Rise of the Tomb Raider) than nearest competi...
Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
Rise of the Tomb Raider

Find out more about Lara Croft in this new video series

Insert "Wild 'n' Wet" jokes here
Oct 22
// Vikki Blake
As we countdown to the launch of Rise of the Tomb Raider, Microsoft has released a new video series called "Woman vs. Wild." The new series will offer "a deep dive into the gameplay mechanics" in Croft's journey. 
Tomb Raider photo
Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider has exploding chickens

If you pre-order at GameStop...
Oct 17
// Kyle MacGregor
In case you had any doubt about Lara Croft being a terrible person, in Rise of the Tomb Raider, her latest adventure, the sociopathic archaeologist has the ability to use chickens as explosives. Rather than use, say, an inani...
Lara statue photo
Lara statue

Free life-sized Tomb Raider statue for your Lara Croft shrine

Go get it, for our honor!
Oct 16
// Steven Hansen
Who says Twitter is not good for anything? Apparently PCGamer-et al publisher Future US is moving office and giving away this gigantic Lara Croft (or Future's president is a very small man) to anyone who "re-tweets" the post....
Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
Rise of the Tomb Raider

The history of Lara Croft

In video form
Oct 09
// Zack Furniss
Rise of the Tomb Raider will be ready for your nasty hands in a month. Brett had some time with it at gamescom, and came away feeling that it was "just as cinematic, dramatic, and action-filled as we'd expect," which, as...
Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
Rise of the Tomb Raider

Here is what's in Rise of the Tomb Raider's season pass

Well, kind of
Oct 07
// Brett Makedonski
It was just last week that we learned Rise of the Tomb Raider would have a season pass. We likely weren't meant to know quite yet, as it was a "oops, it suddenly showed up on a retailer's website"-type of thing. At the t...
Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider $30 Season Pass outed on Amazon

Another mystery pass
Oct 02
// Chris Carter
It seems as if every Season Pass these days is a mystery pass. That is to say -- you probably shouldn't buy it until you know what's in it. Having said that, Rise of the Tomb Raider is the next game in a long line of AAA...
Tomb Raider photo
Tomb Raider

Set aside almost 40 hours to completely beat the new Tomb Raider

20 or so to half-ass it
Sep 30
// Brett Makedonski
A fair contingent of game-players equate the amount of #content in a game to whether or not it's a "good deal." It's a mindset that has always struck me as odd. I'll take a streamlined shorter game over an unfocused sprawl an...
Tomb Raider bundle photo
Tomb Raider bundle

Tomb Raider is the star of Microsoft's first holiday Xbox One bundle

Just the first of five
Sep 28
// Brett Makedonski
Late last week, I warned everyone who's thinking about buying an Xbox One to hold off for the weekend. That's paying dividends early Monday morning. Microsoft has revealed the first of five holiday Xbox One bundles that will ...
Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider trailer shows off hot grappling hook action

Also: tomb exploding
Sep 21
// Darren Nakamura
Lara Croft probably has some sort of death wish. Mountain climbing can be good exercise and recreation, but I don't think anybody in her right mind would swing from a grappling hook, launch 30 feet, then catch on a vertical r...
Games with Gold photo
Games with Gold

Tomb Raider and Crysis 3 are in Games with Gold

I need to rewatch The Descent
Sep 16
// Jordan Devore
We're in the second half of September and that means fresh Games with Gold. With an Xbox Live Gold membership, you can nab Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition (Xbox One) and Crysis 3 (Xbox 360) at no extra cost. I doubt I ever wo...
Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox 360 looks surprisingly not bad

Xbox One on top, 360 on bottom
Sep 07
// Brett Makedonski
Microsoft's really leaning into this whole "Rise of the Tomb Raider is an Xbox exclusive for a little while" thing, so the game's coming out on both Xbox One and Xbox 360. But, last-gen is kind of an afterthought, and it...

Review: Lara Croft GO

Aug 27 // Zack Furniss
Lara Croft GO (iOS [reviewed on iPad Air], Android, Windows Phones)Developer: Square Enix MontréalPublisher: Square EnixRelease Date: August 27, 2015MSRP: $4.99 Lara Croft GO immediately establishes itself as a contemplative foray into a forgotten world. Meditative music gently ebbs and flows as Lara slowly walks up to a well-preserved ruin in one of the game's few brief cutscenes. The environments are vibrantly rendered in a simplistic yet gorgeous manner while gentle camerawork plays with the foreground, asserting a sense of depth. Lara's expedition takes you deeper into this ancient land, and before long a gargantuan serpent begins pursuing this new trespasser.  Similar to Hitman GO, you can only move along pre-carved lines on the ground and scalable walls, darting from spot to spot. Here, however, Ms. Croft is fluidly animated, doing somersaults and even her famous hand-stand ledge climb on occasion. It's initially jarring to see her do stilted little jumps between spots (there's no way to hold down a run button, as that would quickly end in death), but I stopped noticing it just a few levels in. Enemies and obstacles can only move whenever you do, so movement needs to be precise and measured. Unlike early Tomb Raider games, you'll never die due to stepping a tad too far or misjudging a jump.  Puzzles start as simplistic fare involving levers and floor panels that can only be safely crossed one time, but add elements every few levels (of which there are 40) to stave off repetition. Snakes, lizards, and giant spiders will do their best to prevent you from reaching your desired MacGuffin and each provide their own set of challenges. You'll eventually find single-use tools to combat them, such as a javelin and a torch. Then there are boulders, sawblades, and other traps that will make you doubt every step you take. Since the checkpoints are very forgiving and most levels will only take you a few minutes to complete, dying isn't discouraging. Death, more than anything, is your most reliable tool when it comes to deciphering the machinations of the deathtraps hindering your progress. You'll step on plenty of floor panels only to launch arrows into your soon-to-be lifeless body, but it's never a frustrating affair. While this is appreciated, the one and only quibble I have with Lara Croft GO is that it never quite feels like it fully ramps up to a satisfying difficulty. Despite a couple of "A-ha!" moments, the slow addition of complications and intensifying music build to a climax that doesn't deliver. It's always appreciated when a mobile game can be played in short sessions, but I wouldn't have balked at being stumped a few times. Perhaps it's my love towards past installments and the enjoyment of being utterly stonewalled by a puzzle, having to think about it even when I'm not playing. On the off-chance that you every get completely stuck, you can use microtransactions for hints (this feature was not online when I was playing for review). If you miss the older games in the series, you'll find cute references that aren't cloyingly nostalgic. The main menu is radial like it was in the olden days of yore, and that satisfyingly reverbed BRRINNGG sound effect denoting the discovery of a hidden treasure has returned. Find enough of those treasures and you'll even find costumes from the old games, like the wetsuit from Tomb Raider II. This affords Lara Croft GO some replayability (since you'll be able to finish it in around three hours depending on your skill level), but they aren't exactly well-hidden until the back half of the adventure. Though other games featuring Lara Croft have elicited a gamut of reactions such as horror and anxiety, I never expected to find spelunking so calming. The dreamlike soundscapes bring to mind a massage parlor and slowly slipping into sleep as someone caresses your tired feet. This is an easy game to fall asleep to, and I'm almost positive you'll have good dreams. I don't think Square Enix is claiming that one solely because of the lawsuits that will occur when players start rolling over and crushing their iPads. Lara Croft GO is clearly the product of a love for what the Tomb Raider series used to mean. Your pistols are more of a tool than a weapon, and you certainly won't be killing an island's worth of men. A lovely visual style and a zen-inspiring score provide backdrops to my favorite Croft adventure in some time. I'm now grateful for the delineation between the action-filled Tomb Raider and puzzle-focused Lara Croft games. Even though I enjoyed 2013's hectic reboot, sometimes you just want to stop and breathe it all in, tomb dust and all.
Lara Croft GO photo
Spa Raider
Last year, Square Enix Montréal surprised us by distilling the Hitman series into a minimalistic mobile game with a tabletop aesthetic. It was a risky move, but Hitman GO ended up a critical success that show...

Xbox Games with Gold photo
Xbox Games with Gold

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition slated for Games with Gold

September lineup announced
Aug 25
// Jordan Devore
The September lineup for Games with Gold should please folks who prefer bows over guns. On Xbox One, there's Tomb Raider, and on Xbox 360, there's Crysis 3. The former is good! With an Xbox Live Gold account, you'll be able t...
Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
Rise of the Tomb Raider

Lara doesn't need to murder everyone in Rise of the Tomb Raider

Just some people
Aug 21
// Brett Makedonski
The Rise of the Tomb Raider section of Microsoft's gamescom press conference was filled with knives to the back and arrows to the head. Given the large stage, it's obvious why Crystal Dynamics showed a violent slice of ...

Experience Points .22: Tomb Raider

Aug 15 // Ben Davis
T. Rex doesn't want to be fed, he wants to hunt One of my most memorable gaming moments was seeing the T. Rex in Tomb Raider for the first time. Keep in mind, this was actually the very first 3D video game world I was exposed to. So that, coupled with the fact that I was very young at the time, helped to make the T. Rex a very mind-blowing experience for me. Here's the scenario: As an eight-year-old exploring a three-dimensional cavern for the first time ever, pretty much everything in Tomb Raider seemed incredible to me. Running around, dodging traps, solving puzzles, and shooting at bats, wolves, and even frighteningly powerful bears, I was having an amazing time. Then I get to the Lost Valley, the third level in the game, and things take a surprising turn. Lara climbs up a high wall and drops down into a curiously lush jungle environment, very different from the rocky caves I was used to. A bunch of skeletons litter the ground, and there are some rather large, bird-like footprints all over the place. What could have possibly made these prints? Suddenly, the sound of something large can be heard coming directly towards Lara, and out of nowhere a huge red creature shrieks and lunges at her. It happened so fast that all I could think was, "What the heck is that thing?!" as I jumped around like crazy and desperately fired my pistols. Finally it died, and I was able to take a closer look at the corpse to find out, oh my god, it's a freaking raptor! At that point, dinosaurs were definitely the last thing I expected to see in this game. From then on, I explored the jungle area very cautiously. Soon after dispatching a couple more raptors, Lara approaches a broken bridge high above her. I was moving very slowly towards the bridge, looking up to try and see if there was anything up there, when suddenly the battle music started and the ground began to shake. I stopped dead in my tracks as an enormous T. Rex burst out of the shadows and quickly bounded towards Lara. My heart skipped a beat and I slammed the pause button and nearly fell off of the ottoman I was sitting on! A T. Rex? I have to fight a freaking T. Rex? How in the world? After mentally preparing for several seconds, I got ready to attempt to take down the dinosaur and pressed the start button to resume playing. The T. Rex immediately ran up to Lara, grabbed her in its jaws, thrashed her about, and slammed her limp body onto the ground. Welp. That sure was fast. Eventually, I figured out an effective, if rather cheap, method of killing the big dino, but that moment of seeing it for the first time will forever remain one of my fondest memories in gaming. The wrath of the gods My favorite level in Tomb Raider would easily be St. Francis' Folly. It's the first level of the Greece section, and introduces lions, gorillas, and crocodiles into the mix of enemies. But what makes this level so fun and memorable is the extremely tall, enormous room which leads to four other rooms labeled Thor, Atlas, Neptune, and Damocles. While it's admittedly strange that they included the Norse god Thor and the Roman god Neptune in this Greek ruin (they later changed the names to Hephaestus and Poseidon in Tomb Raider: Anniversary), we'll just look past that for now. These four rooms are some of the coolest areas of the game. They're all themed around the mythological figures they're named for, and they're all quite deadly. Thor's room is decked out with a ball of electricity that shoots lightning bolts onto random floor tiles which Lara must carefully avoid, as well as a gigantic hammer which falls in an attempt to crush her if she wanders beneath it. Atlas' room traps Lara in a narrow corridor with a deadly boulder, which is meant to symbolize the sky that Atlas held upon his shoulders. Neptune's room has a frighteningly deep pool of water which sucks Lara down to the bottom and won't let her back up until she finds a hidden lever. Finally, Damocles' room is rigged with a bunch of huge swords dangling from the ceiling, which fall as Lara tries to leave and even home in on her a bit in an attempt to slice her up. I always enjoyed the creativity that went into making this level. The traps based on mythological figures were a really neat idea and really well implemented, even if they mixed up some of their mythologies. It added a lot to the wonder of the game's world, and even inspired me to research some Greek and Roman gods as a young kid to try and figure out what the names meant. Levels like this are what Tomb Raider is all about. The temptation of the Sphinx This one is a little specific. It's more of a small ritual that I personally enjoy doing every time I play Tomb Raider, even though it's probably not a part of everyone else's experience with the game. But it's also possible that I'm not the only person that does this! Lara actually has two different kinds of jumps in Tomb Raider: a normal jump and a swan dive. The latter is basically just a fancy jump that's probably only meant to be performed around water. Except Lara can do a swan dive anywhere, and one of my favorite things to do is take advantage of this and have her perform swan dives in some of the most ridiculous locations. Sure, she usually breaks her neck, but at least she looks damn good doing it! When I first learned that Lara could do swan dives, I was pulling them off all over the place. I swan dived into every pool of water. I swan dived from the top of the waterfall in the Lost Valley. I even swan dived from the top of the really tall room in St. Francis' Folly (Sorry, Lara!). Then Lara made her way to Egypt, and found herself in the Sanctuary of the Scion. Eventually, she exited into a big, open room with a gigantic Sphinx statue. I took one look at the Sphinx, towering way above Lara's head, and immediately thought, "I have to do a swan dive off that Sphinx." I made that my primary goal as I navigated around the room in an attempt to climb on top of the huge statue's head. Finally, I arrived at the top. I stood there for awhile, surveying the massive, open room around me and the ground far below. Then I pulled off the most glorious swan dive imaginable as Lara silently plummeted to her death in the sand at the Sphinx's feet. It was awesome. Now, whenever I replay Tomb Raider or Tomb Raider: Anniversary, I make it a ritual to perform a swan dive off the top of the Sphinx whenever I arrive at the Sanctuary of the Scion. I wonder if anyone else does the same thing... Home sweet home One of the best parts of any Tomb Raider game is getting to explore Lara Croft's mansion. In many games in the series, including the first, the mansion acts as a tutorial level. It's completely optional to play, and even the tutorial sections of the mansion are optional as well. When Lara enters certain rooms, including a gym, a room with a tumbling mat, a room full of boxes, and a swimming pool, she'll announce to the player all the different moves she can perform and which controls to use. The player can either follow her advice or choose to just keep moving and ignore her if they want, and continue to explore freely. It's actually one of the best ways to include a non-intrusive tutorial that I can think of. Unfortunately, there's not too much to do in the first game's mansion other than tutorials. The second game introduces a bunch of neat little secrets to discover, hidden rooms to find, and a crazy old butler to mess around with and lock in the freezer (he's a hoot), all staples of Lara Croft's awesome home. It's still pretty neat to run around the mansion in the original game though too. Goldfinger This may sound weird, but one of my favorite parts of Tomb Raider is actually one of the death animations. The Tomb Raider series is known for having some pretty gruesome deaths. Even in the first game, I sometimes felt really bad about dying because of Lara's death animations and sound effects. Seeing her thrash about while drowning, hearing the horrible popping and squelching sounds when she falls onto spikes, and watching her get torn apart and tossed around by the T. Rex and the final boss... man, Lara had a rough time. But there's one death animation that had me literally laugh out loud due to how absurd it is. When Lara travels to Greece, she eventually finds herself in an area called Palace Midas. There's a puzzle in this level wherein Lara must collect a few gold bars, except the only things to be found nearby are lead bars. Perhaps there is some way to turn the lead into gold? Those who are familiar with the story of King Midas know that he was said to have the power to turn anything into gold merely by touching it. And wouldn't you know it, there just so happens to be a giant statue of King Midas in the palace, with one of his hands severed and lying on the ground. Obviously, the key to solving the puzzle is to place the lead bars onto the statue's broken hand, which then turns them to gold. But... does the hand turn other things to gold as well? Lara's curiosity gets the better of her as she jumps up onto the hand and, lo and behold, her body parts slowly transform into solid gold as she dies a horrible, yet totally glamorous death. I believe the first time I witnessed this death animation it was completely by accident. I walked into the room, saw the hand lying there, and thought, "I should jump on that hand!" The death that followed took me completely by surprise, but as I sat there looking dumbfounded at the continue screen, I slowly started to piece together what had happened. "Oh! King Midas, duh!" Afterwards, I had a really good laugh, and then promptly went back to the statue room to watch the death animation all over again. Horror in hiding Tomb Raider is one of those games where nobody seems to realize how terrifying and bizarre it is until they actually play it all the way through. It's kind of like Ecco the Dolphin in this regard. For the majority of the game, the locations and enemies remain relatively normal. Lara makes her way through caves and ruins, fighting against the sorts of enemies you might expect to find there, such as bats, wolves, bears, lions, and crocodiles. Occasionally, she'll also encounter some unexpected things such as dinosaurs, but even those aren't too disturbing. But everything changes once Lara reaches the end of the Tomb of Tihocan. The entrance to the tomb is decorated with two statues of centaurs. They don't actually do anything other than look intimidating, so she leaves to navigate the area to find a lever to open the door of the tomb. But as she begins to enter the tomb, the two statues unexpectedly spring to life and attack. And not only do they do that, but their stony exteriors crack open to reveal a truly grotesque sight of what looks like a skinless creature with muscle and bone clearly exposed to the elements. It's horrible, and the first time I played this level it scared the crap out of me! But the horror doesn't stop there. After the Tomb of Tihocan, Lara makes her way into Egypt, and of course the place is crawling with mummies. But these aren't ordinary mummies. You might expect mummies to be slow, lumbering, yet powerful monsters, but the mummies in Tomb Raider are anything but slow! These things freaking run and jump all over the place, making an awful shrieking sound the entire time as they're thrashing at Lara. Their movements are so sudden that they somehow manage to startle me every single time I encounter one. Finally, Lara discovers the lost civilization of Atlantis, which is not nearly as wondrous as you might expect. It's actually pretty nightmarish. The place is crawling with creatures like the centaurs from before, with exposed muscle and bone. Not only that, but the walls, floors, and ceilings are all pulsating and throbbing like the entire place is alive, as if Lara is walking through some massive creature's body. It's extremely unsettling, and very far off from the relatively normal caves that began the whole adventure. And then there's the final boss... I'm fairly sure nobody expected to find something so grossly horrifying from a game like Tomb Raider, but I love how unpredictable it is. Past Experience Points Level 1: .01 - .20 .21: Katamari Damacy
Tomb Raider photo
I'm sorry, I only play for sport
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

gamescom trailer photo
gamescom trailer

Watch the Rise of the Tomb Raider gamescom demo

Rise from your tomb!
Aug 10
// Steven Hansen
Brett caught up with (and previewed) Rise of the Tomb Raider at gamescom 2015 and what we saw didn't sound all that different from what I saw at E3 2015. Not too surprising this close to launch of a sequel that already has i...

Lara Croft GO captures the essence of pure Tomb Raider

Aug 08 // Brett Makedonski
Lara Croft GO fits soundly into that latter category by more than just name alone. Despite being a mobile title, it nicely captures the spirit of the very first Tomb Raider games. Donning her classic outfit, Lara works through level after level in search of an artifact. Puzzle-solving and exploration are earmarks, just as they had been all those years ago. However, the mobile format is what makes GO distinct. Rather than continuous action, this game is turn-based which places a greater emphasis on thinking before moving. A rudimentary example might be a pair of snakes that are facing opposite directions. You always have to attack from the side or back, lest they strike and kill you first. There's only one path that allows for the correct order of operations; the others just leave you dead. But, even when Lara Croft GO deals out frustration, it doesn't negate progress. This is the mobile crowd, after all -- a group that might not have the patience to have its time wasted. Checkpoints come frequently and everything is ever-so bite-sized. On a micro-level, the scale of each section is obviously intentional. Routon says that the studio knows who it's developing for. Despite Lara Croft GO allowing for minimal time investments, Square Enix Montreal is seeing a more encouraging trend. "People intend to play for five minutes, and they end up playing for an hour or more," Routon comments. "We tell playtesters they can leave, but they say they want to finish this puzzle first. I guess that's not a bad thing." [embed]297421:59880:0[/embed] It really doesn't come as a surprise that people don't want to put Lara Croft GO down. It elegantly encapsulates what makes Tomb Raider work, and boils it down to its purest form. Swipe, swipe, swiping on the screen is so simple, yet it doesn't feel cheap to lead Lara on an adventure in this fashion. Helping production values are the strong aesthetic and the narrative told only through gameplay details. Although it's in the mobile market, Square Enix Montreal prices its titles more traditionally. GO will be available on August 27, but the cost is unknown right now (Hitman Go released at $4.99). Once invested, this game is fully playable at any speed; there are no energy meters to temper progress. Routon confirmed that there will be microtransactions of some sort, but their nature will be puzzle solutions for those who are struggling. In a wasteland of freemium games, this price model is commendable. More commendable, however, is the way that Square Enix Montreal boldly gets back to the roots of Tomb Raider. Series veterans will rediscover a Lara Croft that they know and love in a format that's undiscovered to them. Fitting, seeing as Tomb Raider should be all about discovery.
Lara Croft GO preview photo
Swipe right
Antoine Routon grinned. "We have people knocking down our door saying 'Can you do our game too?'" Routon's the lead programmer at Square Enix Montreal -- the publisher's studio that's dedicated to mobile titles. Square Enix h...

Rise of the Tomb Raider is a little easier on Lara (but still kicks the shit out of her)

Aug 06 // Brett Makedonski
The most obvious example lies within the fact that Rise of the Tomb Raider places less emphasis on campfires. They're still necessary for fast travelling and general checkpointing, but they're no longer required to upgrade skills. That can be done on the fly, meaning that Lara can become a more formidable foe in the thick of the fighting. She also has the opportunity to use materials in the wild to her advantage. Rise of the Tomb Raider features a new crafting system (again, no campfire needed) that acts as further upgrades. The likes of berries and pelts can be collected and turned into items far more useful than berries and pelts. Hardly the first game to do it, but it'll place more emphasis on exploration and scavenging when that should be a pillar of Tomb Raider. Crystal Dynamics knows that was a drawback of 2013's game, and it's making right this time. Speaking with members of the development team at gamescom, they assured that there will in fact be more tomb raiding in Rise of the Tomb Raider. The early section we played was a critical path tomb, but there will be more optional ones -- they'll be more expansive and intricate, to boot. One of the more intriguing aspects of this is that Lara will have to become proficient in various languages to access certain areas. We saw her discover a religious-looking artifact that raised her Greek skill a level. It seems as if finding these along the way will be the only method of unlocking certain side paths. It can probably be assumed that these languages correlate to the many countries Lara will find herself visiting. The demo we played took place in Syria, and those events led to her winding up in Siberia (which was shown at E3). When asked where else she'll go, we were given the well-rehearsed PR-trained line of "We're not ready to get into that quite yet; right now, we're focused on talking about Syria." Though brief, the demo showed nicely showed what Rise of the Tomb Raider has in store. It's just as cinematic, dramatic, and action-filled as we'd expect. Lara's going to do plenty of rough falling, labored climbing, and "wow, you just barely made that" jumping. Even though it's an origin story, she should know by now that tomb raidin' ain't easy.
Tomb Raider preview photo
At least she might learn something
Lara Croft has never been the best archaeologist. Carefully digging for hours so as to not damage an artifact wouldn't make for a very good video game. Still, there's a disconnect when she knocks over human skulls that are pe...

August PlayStation Plus photo
August PlayStation Plus

Lara Croft leads a light August in PlayStation Plus freebies

Also God of War
Jul 29
// Steven Hansen
Look, PlayStation Plus' July free downloads gave us -- well, you, I don't have PS+ -- Rocket League. You aren't going to touch Rocket League. August is a bit slight, though. Maybe it will finally convince people on a wide sca...
Tomb Raider photo
Tomb Raider

Square Enix CEO on Tomb Raider exclusivity: 'It wasn't an easy decision'

Jul 28
// Chris Carter
Finally! We now know the exact details on the Rise of the Tomb Raider exclusivity deal that Microsoft worked out with Square Enix -- it took them long enough. But even with this information, the backlash that began with ...

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