Sunday, March 10, 2013

Tomb Raider is totally derivative.

I cut this from the Tomb Raider review today and have errands to run.  So here's today's post!

Katniss Everdeen plus John McClane equals awesome

Video games can be derivative.  Are derivative, as a general rule, but we don't mind - we never would have gotten Uniracers were it not for Sonic the Hedgehog.  Heck, we prefer it that way.  If you didn't adopt Resident Evil 4's over-the-shoulder camera placement for your third-person shooter, you were doing it wrong.  I'm all for originality, but originality often lacks refinement, to the detriment of a player's pleasure - and pleasurable mechanics are found in iteration.  In the refinement of what came before.

Consider, simply, Sucker Punch's platforming mechanics - slowly honed over a decade through the Sly and inFamous franchises - getting better and smoother and sharper through repeated re-examination and improvement of standards.   Consider the ubiquitous cover system - introduced to modern 3D gaming in Winback, to be later smoothed out by Kill.Switch and most famously Gears of War, which was then mixed with comfortable platforming for Uncharted.

Ah, Uncharted - which took the cover system from Gears and put it to work within the framework of the classic adventure template - platforming, puzzle-solving and combat.  Uncharted was viewed as largely derivative of Tomb Raider when it appeared, but it operated at such a high level that all comparisons were soon set aside - because Uncharted wasn't just Tomb Raider - it was so much more, so much better.

When you take what someone did before and evolve it into your own beautiful beast, it may end up siting comfortably among the hallmarks of its genre while staking out its own place, forging its own identity, attaining its own value.

(This can, of course, totally backfire.  Rumor has it Visceral Games were told to make Dead Space more like Gears of War, and the result was Dead Space 3 - which lost its own identity, and ended up feeling like neither Dead Space nor Gears - and not as fun as either.)

So when one points out that Tomb Raider has ripped deeply into the cinematic presentation, narrative structure and gameplay balance of Uncharted, don't think it a mark against developer Crystal Dynamics.  When one suggests that this new Tomb Raider smacks of countless glorious games - Resident Evil 4, Dark Souls, Uncharted, Far Cry 3 and... well, The Last of Us - keep in mind that, when a game rips off other games well, the results can be spectacular.

The Tomb Raider franchise hasn't been an important or particularly good franchise in... a very long time.  Where Crystal Dynamics discovered an ability to produce games of this caliber is totally beyond me, but let it be said that Tomb Raider rips off other games really, really well.


  1. Don't know if you're thinking of picking up citadel for ME3, but I say think about. loudly.

    it's wonderful.

  2. I am kinda' thinking about it as I've heard nothing but good things, but let's be real:

    -I still have to write the Tomb Raider Review
    -God of War: Ascension drops tomorrow
    -Sly 4 is still on the backburner
    -Ni No Kuni is still on the backburner
    -BioShock Infinite drops on the 26th.

    No, I suspect I'll be waiting for a $20 copy of the Ultimate Edition of ME3, which will then just get filed away in the library and never played anyway.