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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Transcript Edit

Oh, look, everyone! It's the game that was one of the two that came out on November 10th, but doesn't require a prolonged leave of absence and a doctor's note to get through, so it's getting reviewed first. Rise of the Tomb Raider (also known as "Exertion Noise: The Game"), long-awaited... well, awaited... well, acknowledged matter-of-factly sequel to the unhelpfully titled Tomb Raider, in which Lara Croft first began her life of adventure but apparently didn't sufficiently rise for Crystal Dynamics' tastes.

This time around, rather than being thrust into a desperate survival situation, Lara Croft has taken a great big crunchy bite out of Nathan Drake's hairdo and plonked herself into one, ensuring that she has no one but herself to blame when she has to use the ruined exterior wall of an ancient Sumerian temple to whimperingly smash her compound fractures back into place. As before, there's something rather manipulative about all this, but I think the writers need to accept that they're banking on a finite resource. Yeah, maybe the first time the ickle girly-wirly got her shit ruined, it triggered a protective instinct, but by incident umpteen-squillion, I wouldn't lend her bus fare to the Hospital of Saint Gives-A-Shit.

The game opens with Lara Croft climbing a big mountain, for you see, the Tomb Raider is quite literally rising. Yes, make the most of that, it's about as good as the writing gets! As is swiftly illustrated when she and her sidekick ineptly bellow their lines at each other because I guess the actors were told the background wind was going to be really loud, but it wasn't, so they ended up looking like they're trying to get fired from the school play. At least Lara has finally figured out how to wear jackets in cold weather, although she still shivers like a carefree playboy trying to urinate. Do the fucking zip-up, lady! The wolves don't care what your collarbone looks like.

But a bite on Nathan Drake's hairdo is, strictly speaking, a nibble on Indiana Jones' hat brim, and so the plot wastes no time in ripping off The Last Crusade. Lara's looking for a magic thing (so poorly defined it might as well be the Holy Grail) and proceeds to murder and collateral-damage her way towards it, and we're supposed to hate the villains for doing the exact same thing, despite the fact that they actually have a coherent idea of what they're going to do with it. And obviously, there's a group of locals who have guarded the Grail for millennia, and who constantly drop hints to which Lara remains totally fucking oblivious.

"We have dedicated our lives to prevent the Grail falling into the hands of outsiders, especially British ones with names that rhyme with 'soft!'"

"That sucks! Still, at least you'll have some free time on your hands soon."

And take a wild guess: do you think someone will actually take away the Holy Grail at the end of this plot, or will the hero undergo some kind of snap revelation and dramatically smash and/or lose it because the world isn't ready? And I think I speak for the world when I say, "Could we at least have had a 6-week trial period first, you fucking asshole?" So all in all, it's even more of a Last Crusade rip-off than Uncharted 3 was. It's even got the daddy issues, and the thousand-year-old Grail knight knocking about, who never in all the intervening years learned about wet shaving.

But let's at least briefly acknowledge the gameplay. It's the classic Tomb Raider formula, by which I mean, mostly more of what the last one did. One part faintly obnoxious collect-a-thon, to one part meaningless action sequences, all of which I now struggle to remember individually because I saw enough collapsing structures when I worked at Discount Stairlifts for Fat People. As before, I liked the bits when you're, you know, raiding tombs, climbing around ancient puzzles created by people who mastered camshafts before they invented the wheel. But with the usual sterling logic of AAA, these bits are mostly optional, whereas the combat you're stuck with. By the end of the game, Thighs of the Tomb Raider has the Metal Gear Solid problem of giving too many solutions for problems that aren't very hard. And by "problems", I mean "human skulls." I literally upgraded the pistol for no reason except to make the menu stop bugging me about there being upgrades available - between the assault rifle, shotgun, melee attack, stealth attacks, crafted bombs, crafted Molotovs, arrows, poison arrows, bomb arrows, and Mia fArrows, the pistol spent the entire game dangling off my arse like a can on the back of a wedding car.

Don't forget character perks as you level up, such as the one that tells you you're aiming at someone's head when you aim at their head! "Wow, thanks for the help, game! I thought he was balancing a pineapple between his shoulder blades." If your game's a side-quest-a-palooza with collectible upgrades bursting out of its tear ducts, I want to know they contribute to something other than, all together now, [singing] 100% completion - like there's some ultimate challenge we're preparing for, 'cause otherwise, it's like putting on deodorant before going to the whorehouse. What's the point? They have to fuck you anyway! No, you can finish the critical path using nothing but what it hands you and two bits of old twig. Yet again, a Triple-A game treats its own content like dead wasps in the salad and suggests we eat around it if it bothers us. The most challenge I had was created by the weird time delay that seems to be on the camera controls, like Lara's wearing her depleted-uranium friendship bracelets. But no side quest was going to fix that, unless you count the mystical journey to the options menu to find the sacred aim-sensitivity slider of Khakunbabu.

"Yahtzee, are you trying to inflate the gameplay problems in this bland, but let's face it, perfectly functional piece of middle-ground tosh?" Probably, yeah. Something about the new Lara Croft rubs me up the wrong way, unlike the old Lara Croft, who rubbed me up in a perfectly satisfactory way, especially when I was stuck opposite her on a packed subway train. So what is it that annoys me about her? Maybe it's the way she's constantly out of breath. She pants all the way through the gameplay, and in cutscenes, she's [breathy voice] always talking like she's about to have an asthma attack! I want to give her a damn good shake and yell, "Take a breath, Lara! Fill that chest with air! Seems like there's plenty of room."

Or maybe it's just the shitty dialogue. Wanna play the Tomb Raider drinking game? It's easy: drink once every time Lara makes that one exertion noise that raises in pitch and sounds a bit like Yoshi doing a flutter jump, and drink once every time she says she's got to do something, and good fucking luck still being coherent by the end of the prologue. "I've got to climb this priceless ancient monolith! I have to find a way to zip up my jacket! I must go down the chemist and get some refills for my inhaler!" Take some fucking responsibility, Lara Croft! Don't talk like you're some helpless piece of chaff being tossed about by the swirling eddies of whimsical fate. Say, "You know what? I don't have to climb up this burning ski resort and and zip-line off it onto a tiger, and I don't have to ensure my father's legacy either. I'm gonna do it because I want to! Because I have a death wish the size of William Howard Taft's trousers and an Electra complex the size of my tits."

Addenda Edit

  • Croft in the head: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • But seriously you should always show respect to your prostitute because your future is in their hands
  • William Howard Taft was the fattest president that was the joke
Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time · Middle-earth: Shadow of War · The Evil Within 2 · Super Mario Odyssey · Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus · Assassin's Creed Origins · Sonic Forces · Star Wars Battlefront II

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