Review: Tomb Raider
by PsYcHo KiLlEr

Author - EIDOS Interactive, Inc.
Title - Tomb Raider
Type - 3rd Person 3D Action / Adventure
Homepage -
75 %
70 %
90 %
78 %
     Over the past months, I have seen countless glowing reviews of Tomb Raider. I simply don't see it. It's not that inventive, as well as too chunky, overly system demanding, and boring.

     First off, Tomb Raider is not as fresh as everyone seems to think it is. Third person point of view has been used before in games like Duke Nukem 3D, Eradicator, and quite heavily -and better- in Mario 64. The third person view does offer some originality, but in a game where the graphics choke your average PC, all the view does is increase your line of sight, forcing your PC to do even more work. In a first person perspective game, you see less of the playfield area, so the processor does not have to render too much. In a game with a third person view, however, you almost double your line of sight and viewing area. I have to admit that in a game like this the third person view is needed, though it does have some drawbacks, beyond the one mentioned above. I often found myself unable to find my enemies or the way out, because of the views the third person mode sets me in. While fighting enemies, I may jump or slide into a corner, only to have the “camera” show me an upclose view of Lara's face and not the battlefield which I really need to see.

     Another reason this game loses points is the lack of innovation. We've seen the third person view, the detailed animations, and the puzzle element in other games. Speaking of animation, this game has frequently received high marks for it's very detailed character animation, but not from me. The animation is reminiscent of earlier games like Flashback.

     The graphics, quite simply, aren't that good! The choice of colors is often absurd, which left me thinking "Were the programmers high when they choose to put pink as the color ancient Americans used on walls?" Though the designers did a great job on the enemies and characters, it looks as if they randomly picked backgrounds off somebody's homepage and used those for the game. The walls and objects in this game are often pixelated blobs of color -Even in SVGA, for the two seconds I could bare watching my screen refresh as I turned.- The graphics are just far too chunky and the colors are unnecessarily bad for Tomb Raider to get high marks in the graphics department. Worse still, the VGA mode in which most players will be playing this game seems to be an after thought. The chunkiness and pixelation is grossly enhanced in the VGA mode even on HIGH DETAIL! Granted, there are 3D enhanced patches for this game, but they're only designed for video cards no one I know has or even wants to be cursed with possessing.

     The thing that ticks me off the most though, are the system requirements. On my three test machines, high resolution SVGA and full detail were out of the question. On the Pentium 133 machine, the game absolutely choked when set to SVGA in high detail. Although it did get a good frame rate on low detail, there were often areas where even that suffered. The Pentium 90 machine even found VGA to be a challenge sometimes. As for the poor DX4/100, it died on VGA even in low detail. This game just requires way too much for the average PC (and PC owner).

     The sound is acceptable, and some of the sound effects are suprisingly great and realistic when compared to the usual bleeps and blops we hear. Also, the CD audio tracks are a nice touch.

     About puzzle solving: I did like how Tomb Raider forced me to think, but eventually I got to a point where jumping and grabbing for ledges and just plain being lost in levels that look identical became no fun. The majority of puzzles in this game consisted of pulling levers, pushing rocks, finding stuff only odd people would possibly collect, and trying to find out just where in the heck I was. My patience for puzzles became thin in “The Lost Valley,” where I was to hunt down three machine cogs. Did anyone tell me this? No. Did I even get clues to where they might be? No. In fact, two of them were hidden in remote, obscure places. Worse yet, were the puzzles that required timed leaping and cliff hanging. By the end of this game, I was exhausted from leaping rock to rock, column to column, and so forth. The design of the levels and textures did not offer much help either. I often found myself disoriented and lost due to the level designs, which made things too hard to view. Rock formations, for example: There might be a way to climb up on them, but you won't see them unless you inspect closely. The textures they chose often mask passages or obscure items you might need.

     And why no automap? You think Lara would at least track where she's been so she wouldn't get lost and die of starvation! But no, there is no automap to see where you've been.

     Plus there are a few bugs, the first of which is polygon clipping. When a door is seen through Lara's head... that's polygon clipping. More importantly, the “Auto Aim” is not too intelligent. Lara will continue to pump round after round into dead enemies until you cease shooting and actually aim for the other enemy. Which often got me hurt and even killed once (being gored by a bear really sucks)!

     All in all, this had the potential to be a great game, but a few things simply aren't right.

The Highs

Great character graphics with detailed animation; lots of polygons; a game that actually requires thought; Lara's a babe; get to kill tons of wildlife; nice controls; Lara acts alive; some fresh ideas

The Lows

Chunky, ugly textures; WAY too system demanding (even more than Quake); far too slow on the average home PC; only has 3D versions for two chipsets (it would be nice to see a Win95 Direct3D version); a few minor bugs: auto aim is not smart enough; Lara is still kind of demeaning towards women (Lara is supposed to be this kick-ass commando / warrior from hell, yet she looks like the stereo-typical bimbo); the levels are often disorientating and too fake; enemies are lost in background polygons and the characters look cartoonish


How about you make games for PCs people actually own and then come back with Tomb Raider? After all, none of us have an SGI sitting at home. And why make 3D versions for chipsets? Why not just make a Direct3D Win95 version and save yourself some time? Also, it would have been very cool if this game had a DeathMatch mode, or if you could have chosen to play as the other adventurers that Lara comes across.

-- PsYcHo KiLlEr, 01/13/97

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