If you go back quite a long way in gaming history one series that will pop out is Tomb Raider, it provided gamers with not only challenging puzzles, exciting action and fun story-lines but also a lead character that you could drool over. Despite having once been one of the most powerful franchises in video games the series took a dive in both quality and sales particularly since the 360 and PS3 came out with no releases that stood up against the competition. So it really was high time that if Tomb Raider was going to continue it needed to be completely rebooted. And with this new release that’s exactly what developers Crystal Dynamics have done. But the question is does Lara Croft still hold the cultural significance she once did? And with a new market leader, Naughty Dog with the acclaimed Uncharted series, what could Tomb Raider give us anything that sets it apart from the competition?
First of all the graphics are absolutely stunning, as you can see from the screenshot above the look of the game is one of the most attractive out this year, far surpassing the visuals games like Dishonored and Metal Gear Rising boasted and that’s no mean feat. Lara is more attractive than ever too, and the casting of Camilla Luddington as her voice was a great move bringing back the sexiest video game character of all time. The gameplay’s fun and fluid too incorporating a number of different elements making no two levels the same, with well designed gunplay, enjoyable QTE’s and gripping platform sections. It’s clear that the developing team really have worked to make this game stand out as good as can be. It’s a shame really then that so many elements of its gameplay is nothing but a straight copy from Uncharted, especially the climbing/platform aspects of Tomb Raider seem to use the exact same features from the Uncharted games. It’s obviously become more action orientated much like Naughty Dog’s equivalent. On top of this Tomb Raider’s story is much shorter than any of the Uncharted campaigns and it lacks the tongue-in-cheek vibe that makes Uncharted so much more enjoyable. It also falls short on the puzzles, in old Tomb Raider games the puzzles used to take me hours and were infuriating but very cleverly made, in this new incarnation there are only a handful of puzzles to be figured out and all of them take a maximum of about five minutes, I think they missed a trick here as the Uncharted puzzles are fun enough but if this reboot could have captured some of the old puzzle elements it could well have outdone the franchise on this aspect at least.
While I had a great time playing through Tomb Raider it ultimately fell short of the new top franchise in adventure gaming. There very little replay value here either and you just wish they ditched the pointless multiplayer mode and instead extended the story because there is a lot of potential here despite the fact it spends most of it’s time copying Uncharted. Worth a play but in the end its a hollow experience, a sequel could bring about an improvement though and the graphics deserve merit on their own.
The time has finally come, if you’ve been following the blog you will have seen that in the build up to this release I’ve been reviewing all of Biffy Clyro’s albums and now we come full circle; to the reason all this hype began, the Scottish trios new double LP Opposites. Now the only question left to answer is whether the album lives up to expectations?
Everything kicks off with Different People which starts off softly before bursting into a windy, ripply guitar heavy track, its a strong opener that sets a tone for the whole record which makes a point of mixing light and shade, obviously reflected in the title. One of the big claims the band made in the build up to the album was that it should have material to keep the old and the new fans happy, effectively incorporate all their previous styles into this one record. On first listen it may be that this album is a million miles away from their old stuff but on repeat listens it becomes clearer that there’s sprinkles of their old heaviness throughout. Black Chandelier for example features a solo that wouldn’t have been out of place on Infinity Land. There’s bits that sound like Blackened Sky too, the chanty choruses of Picture a Knife Fight or Victory Over the Sun. The orchestral elements that have been a part of the band’s work since Vertigo of Bliss is apparent in Opposites in it’s most complete form yet making it the most epic sounding album they’ve ever made surpassing evenPuzzle which was their previous best in terms of scale.There’s improvements on the poppy sounding pieces familiar to that of Only Revolutions Little Hospitals being a one example and one of my favourite tracks of the whole album.
When stacked up against all their old albums I think Opposites stands up very well among all the bands previous efforts perhaps not reaching the heights of their masterpiece to date, Infinity Land, but certainly improving on both Only Revolutions and Puzzle and there is certainly more here for fans of the old stuff, with Opposites the choice to have it as a double album has really worked in the bands favour giving them the opportunity to put out a more holistic record painting a more complete picture than their last effort. Biffy have done it again.
So Biffy Clyro’s new double album, Opposites, will be upon us in exactly twenty days meaning the time has come to review their last studio effort, Only Revolutions and thus leave you with a review on every Biffy album to date. Released back in 2009 Only Revolutions had the almighty challenge of following up the bands most successful album, Puzzle, making it their first release as a huge commercial band. They had the task of pleasing their old fans and new ones in an album that was expected to be a big commercial success.
It has since become the bands biggest selling record further cracking the mainstream and bringing the Scottish trio to the forefront of British music. It received good press as well, the album has a score of 79 on Metacritic and was nominated for the Mercury Prize in its year of release which further boosted its sales. Despite all this, though, I have to say it is my least favourite album of theirs. My friends who knew back when this came out may call a hypocrite now because when it came out I made a rather rash statement that it was their best but like me explain how my mind has changed over time.
Biffy’s first three albums all had a much more raw underground sound that gave their music a lot more depth making it more rewarding on repeat listens. With Puzzle a lot of their more heavy sounds were no longer present but the record itself worked as a whole better than anything they’d done before which sort of made up for the lack of hard rock. Only Revolutions on the other hand, seems as if the heavier stuff is still missing and the album is not as much a complete piece as Puzzle feels. It is their only album of theirs which has some dud tracks such as Many of Horror and Know Your Quarry both of which are bland and far too normal to portray Biffy’s famous awkwardness, perhaps pushing the band in a more mainstream less interesting direction. Having said that there are tracks here as well that are quite the opposite fully showing how weird the group can be making for much more interesting and unique listening, Born on a Horse, Cloud of Stink and Whorses for example but all of which still lack the real visceral punch that was present on Infinity Land and its predecessors. It comes as a surprise as well that despite said tracks giving you a bit more of a taste of authentic Biffy the stand-out track is the acoustic track God and Satan a song which features some of Simon Neill’s most interesting lyrics to date but it seems a shame that a band I previously loved for their heavy tracks have lost a certain edge making the album as a whole feel disappointing.
From some things I’ve heard from Opposites I think we can expect a good mix of old and new Biffy styles, perhaps the choice to make it a double album will provide the band enough scope to fully flesh out both of their creative sides, perhaps Opposites could be the bands true masterpiece, we shall have to wait and see, watch this space for my review once the album’s out…
Welcome to freezing cold of December, here in the student house things are getting pretty horrific regarding the temperature but still I’m just about keeping up on the blogging and this weeks had its fair share of media consumption. First of all was the second part of Green Day’s trilogy with my review of ¡Dos!. Then my cinema trip of the week was to go and see Silver Linings Playbook, the new rom-com starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Then finally with a lack of stuff I felt like I could be bothered to write about I continued on with review of Biffy Clyro’s discography, this time it was the turn of Puzzle.
Next week will see the arrival of the final part of Green Day’s trilogy but I won’t leave with anything as bad as that so here is something wonderful:
Continuing on my series of reviewing Biffy Clyro’s discography we’ve reached number 4. 2007’s Puzzle saw a rather major change in direction for the band but also became the groups biggest commercial success as yet. Toning down the screamy, more disjointed sections that appeared on previous albums Biffy started to move more in the direction of indie while still holding onto their uniqueness in the process.
I, personally, think Puzzle is under-rated among original Biffy fans and is, in fact, their most coherent album as an album. Throughout the album there’s little hints towards the epic climax to come in the form of ‘9/15ths’ a song with such charm that a few minutes in you’ll be chanting ‘We’re on a hellslide help us, help us’ along with them. It’s this grand scale that shows the biggest difference between Puzzle and its predecessors, although it’s not the first time the band use orchestration its easily the most reliant on a backing up of orchestra. Particularly in ‘9/15ths’ and ‘Living is a Problem Because Everything Dies’.
Many fans would argue that the album doesn’t have enough bite but I think it does just in different places, whereas their older albums were more prone to descend into madness at the first chance Puzzle is all about the build up and perhaps that is both it’s greatest achievement and its biggest stumbling block. From the points I’ve been making so far it would appear I think Puzzle is their best album, however I don’t and I think the reason is this: The build up is so epic but we are left with something that doesn’t quite live up to our expectations. And it appears the band didn’t even think the finale quite had enough power to finish the album off having to round it off with, the great but much more understated, ‘Machines’. It all just feels like the scale had just been blown out of proportion marginally too much. It misses out on being as good Infinity Land because it focusses to much on bigging self up whereas Infinity was happy to burst out at you at any moment. Puzzle is still nonetheless a very good album.
If you’ve been following my album reviews you will have seen I have been working my way through Biffy Clyro’s albums in the run up to the release of their new album Opposites. Well today is the turn of Infinity Land, the groups third album and the moment when they really put their mark on the world. Infinity Land is almost certainly they’re best album and I’m going to try my best to explain why.
When I first listened to Infinity Land I have to admit it wasn’t my favourite, I always preferred it to Vertigo of Bliss but I was for a long while adamant that Blackened Sky was their greatest. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly when but there was a point about a year and a half ago that I realised what a truly great album Infinity Land actually is. It takes the grand scale and awkward, disjointed nature of …Bliss and builds them into what is a more complete, fully realised vision.
Right from it’s opening track it’s clear that this is something completely different. ‘Glitter and Trauma’ starts off with an electronic build up flowing into a head banging riff that forms the basis of the song. But this more mainstream sounding riff is broken up at various intervals to be replaced by strange plucky, off-beat sections making the song jittery and messy. This, essentially, is what the album does as a whole. Just as you get into the flow of a song that sounds more normal you’ll be jolted into absurdity. But it is in these moments of absurdity that Infinity Land improves massively on …Bliss because these sections are done with so much more aplomb. It is very interesting to see how the band grew after that record and they became so much more able to reflect their vision within their music. The multi-layered ‘Wave Upon Wave Upon Wave’ is perhaps the best example of what the record has to offer and is, maybe, my favourite Biffy song altogether.
Infinity Land marks the end, really, of this era of Biffy, their next album Puzzle would see them start in a new direction, but Infinity Land also marks their most fully realised unique album they have done so far. This album is one of the greatest rock albums of all time.