EG Retrospective: Tomb Raider IV

By John Walker on August 2nd, 2010 at 9:00 am.

Yeah, just steal it. Who cares?

Peering back through time, my retrospective hands seized upon Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, which I use as an excuse to explore the Tomb Raider series a little. It contains a paragraph that says this:

Lara is, let’s not forget, a truly dreadful person. Much has already been written about how she’s a grave-robbing thief, uncaring about either history or wildlife. And despite her having encountered dinosaurs, dragons and giant killer statues, she’s utterly blase about ignoring ancient texts warning of terrible plagues being unleashed upon the Earth if she takes one trinket or another. Screw Earth! She wants the shiny thing! Yeah, just steal it Lara. No one minds if you KILL EVERYONE ON EARTH. But of course Von Croy is the baddy, because he tried to do the world and its history a favour by killing her when she was a squawky teenager.

The rest is here.

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17 Comments »

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    P7uen says:

    Horuslol

  2. Spacewalk says:

    I keep forgetting that there have been nine or ten games in the series.

  3. joe balls says:

    The Last Revelation is interesting for another reason: it’s pretty good. It’s easy to forget that. It reviewed reasonably well too …

    Surely if a game is good then it gets good reviews? But we all know this not to be true. So what? So do I just choose a reviewer who I like (read “has the same tastes as me”)? If not then what are the criteria for choosing a game reviewer

  4. Clockwork Peanut says:

    nice retrospective, never did play tomb raider IV, having played the first 3 after having played indiana jones and the infernal machine. I never quite understand why people discredit the gameplay in the old or the new tomb raider games, god knows that the controls for the old ones are infuriating, but the gameplay is pretty timeless.
    It was these games which got me into gaming and though I mostly play other genres now, platforming does make you feel great when you do it right, and I think that is dependant on being stumped, failing a jump, dying ALOT. The difference is now we blame the game rather than ourselves, I’m not sure whether that’s right, but I know my attitude has changed along with everyone elses.

  5. Carra says:

    She might be evil but who doesn’t enjoy walking after such a finely formed ass?

  6. Bobsy says:

    It’s like an FPS ending with your character being shot by an enemy.

    Modern Warfare 2. Twice.

    Or a strategy game ending with your troops being overwhelmed by a more capricious army.

    Starcraft 2, Protoss mini-campaign (admittedly, it’s just a “vision”).

    This happens all the time now. It’s a bit odd continuing to get worked up about Tomb Raider IV as if it’s an isolated incident. The standard script format for most games these days is the ‘cinematic’ style, where the player’s own actions aren’t considered part of the story, just the button-pressing which moves you towards the next slice of narrative.

    • CMaster says:

      @Bobsy
      Also Starcraft 1.

      And several other examples and all, but that’s an early and significant one.

  7. Meat Circus says:

    Playing any of the classic Tomb Raider games now teaches us a very important thing: control systems were unbearably shit in Those Days. Whoever thought that Lara’s handling should be broadly reminiscent of driving a tank was clearly mental.

    It’s got to the point where modern expectations about how control systems should operate have made the games unplayable.

    Which is a pity, as structurally I remember Tomb Raider IV being the best of the five.

  8. bill says:

    The first 3 games (didn’t play this one) really were a lot better than people give them credit for these days. I even preferred the old style controls (terrible as they were at times) to the new ones on the current gen remakes.

    Sure, you had to struggle with the old controls, but when you nailed it it felt special, and it kinda WAS like a racing game at times, driving your Lara through obstacles at speed.
    The level design, feel of exploration and puzzles were awesome though. Current games can’t capture that anymore.

    As for the “can’t end a game with a death” thing. I’m not sure I buy it. At first it sounded reasonable, but it’s about STORY. Quickloads clearly aren’t part of the story, an retrying missions clearly isn’t part of the story – it’s something we accept as part of the game, and we’re able to separate it out from the story. Ultimately, if we say that the character can never die, then the story must always be about winning, and the game has no threat. Clearly I’m invincible because I can reload and try again, but I shouldn’t feel like that as part of the story.

    Otherwise you could apply the same logic to other characters. Oh no, the cute girl character was killed in the game, I’ll just reload and save her. Huh – it doesn’t work! She’s still dead! This game is stupid!
    At least they did it properly and dropped a whole temple on her. What IS annoying is when you take 1000 bullets in a level, and then a cutscene has you taken down by a single pistol shot.

    (NB/ Bioshock had the best way to deal with it – Give the character infinite spawns due to in-story items, and then take away that ability near the end due to an in-story event. Unfortunately they messed up the implementation by including quicksaves so I never once used a vita chamber, and by not clearly explaining why you suddenly lost them at the end).

    More games should end with the character dying. More RTS games should end with being overrun by an unstoppable horde.

    • bill says:

      Or sands of time with it’s story in a story “oh no wait, that’s not what happened…”

    • BooleanBob says:

      Bill, this is a great post! Really scratched the mental itch I came away with from John’s (otherwise excellent) article.

      (I do love it when other people do all the thinking for me. Probably not the wisest impulse to live one’s life by, but…)

  9. Berto says:

    The Last Revelation is indeed a good game, its a pity people tend to overlook it just because they were fatigued by the (already) aging formula.

    You said Lara is suddenly ressurected in Angel of Darkness, however the last cinematic in Chronicles we see that she *probably* survived… yeah its a bit too vague and we never know how she made it, but it was not a complete surprise to see her in Angel of Darkness though (have you played it recently? It is indeed anawful game plagued with technical problems, but it has a few strong and interesting aspects)

  10. Wulf says:

    Don’t worry, Von Croy, you can be my good guy.

    A clairvoyant trying to save the future from a rabidly psychopathic mass-murderer, that Von Croy. I always saw Lara Croft as an Extinction Event, waiting to happen. She’s the asteroid, and the rest of humanity are the bloody dinosaurs.

    All the apocalypse needs is an appealing bum and none will have a care about the fire, brimstone, slaughter, and end of the world stuff. They probably all deserved to die anyway, because supposedly one can’t argue with a bum that fine.

    Some days one wonders how we make it from day to day. >.>

    *idly wonders if female gamers have such an idyllic view of Lara Croft.*

  11. airtekh says:

    This was one of the better Tomb Raider games.

    My abiding memory of it, however, is getting hopelessy and completely lost in both the Alexandria/Ruins section and the ‘Trenches’ section (the one in a city at night).

    I suppose you have to give it credit for introducing a bit of non-linearity though. I just wished they had given the player a bit more help in navigating the levels.

  12. Mman says:

    I’d put the “dumbest ending” thing in a different way, in that my main problem with TR4 is that it goes massively downhill about 3/4 in when you reach Cairo (and one of the longest downhill spirals I’ve seen in a game). If it had kept up the quality of the earlier areas it would be one of my favorites, but it’s hard to ignore such a large chunk of the game being so much worse. You can spend hours in samey looking City environments, with near-identical lighting throughout and it’s all much more obtuse than anything earlier in the game. The final Valley of the Kings section is arguably better but it’s still much lesser than earlier and has some really bad stuff like the Mastabas level (pretty much just several flat mazes in a row). The ending is just a final kick in the balls.

    The thing about the controls is that once you get past the learning curve they are almost 100% consistent and skill-based (bar a couple of things in TR1 which were fixed for subsequent games), something I can’t say about all but one or two newer games (let alone the newer TR games, which have some major consistency issues and remove player skill as a factor in the platforming). The problem is that it’s one HELL of a learning curve, and as accessibility is so important I’d have to put newer schemes above it just for that. Since I’ve been past that curve for years though I end up getting more out of the older controls than a lot of newer ones, since I know everything I get wrong is my fault, compared to many newer games where there are moments like your character just not grabbing a ledge they should, essentially punishing you for playing correctly.

    Another part of that is that the original games are designed in a way where the only world limits are Lara’s limitations, and there are no invisible walls or similar things to get in the way (outside the end of the world and a few overdone mesh collisions that don’t really stop you getting anywhere); you can frequently reach areas not intended by the designers when you’ve mastered the limits, and there’s nothing artificially stopping you from doing so. A small but important thing that most newer action-adventures miss when they cloak everything not needed in arbitrary invisible walls and give no consistent limit to what you can do (and the newer TR’s are horrendous offenders in this regard).

    These things make me end up getting irritated about the reputation of the original controls (I should note this article was much better at it than most), because there’s a constant focus on what the older controls (are perceived to have) did wrong, rather than what they did right and that few other games have copied (on the other hand it’s hard to place blame when you need to get past that learning curve to “get” it). Which means I’m still waiting on a scheme and design that combines the accessibility of newer games with the consistency and freedom of the older TR’s. By far the closest I’ve seen is Mirrors Edge, which has a couple of consistency issues that makes me think it’s not quite there yet, but, in many ways is a spiritual successor to the original TR controls (the FPS controls stand in as an evolution of “tank” controls, there’s a quick-turn button, it’s heavily based on player skill and you are only limited by Faith’s ability and can frequently do things not intended when you know the limits).

    …That got long.

  13. Adventurous Putty says:

    So am I the only one here who actually likes the new Tomb Raiders for being well-written cheeky adventure stories with fine acting, gameplay, and globetrotting?

  14. Gwog says:

    Really nicely done. I’ve always liked the TR games and welcomed the new approach with the last three. Was sad to see this new shitty approach for the upcoming one (or has it come out now?). The Last Revelation was fun and pretty, for what it was.