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Old 04-02-16, 16:49   #21
Daring Do
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Ooh, sounds fun! Can't wait for the rest!
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Old 04-02-16, 19:23   #22
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That sounds nice that you're reviewing the next levels soon.
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Old 05-02-16, 04:34   #23
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VENICE
Level 2 - "Venice"




"The Human Problem"

Venice is the first level of the Tomb Raider franchise to break from the common theme of lost, ancient environments. The original classic was known for being the Indiana Jones of video games - no high-tech action in buzzing cities, no masses of humans to mow over - just Lara and these long forgotten places that were teeming with mysteries from civilizations past. The Great Wall is a similar case, and it kickstarts Tomb Raider II off in perhaps the best way that any game of this franchise has thus far.

So with a solid opener under their belts, Core Design tried their hand at this new, uncharted territory in the second adventure of what is likely the most critically acclaimed game of this series.

And interestingly, this is the level that highlights a lot of Tomb Raider II's most prominent faults... despite that acclaim.


"Right. Now I'd better take off these wet clothes."

The biggest overarching problem of Venice (and to no one's surprise, the entirety of Tomb Raider II) is its heavy emphasis on combat. Deadly Mafia gang members are everywhere in this water-logged city, often times in locations that really shouldn't make sense or end up feeling like overkill once you've mowed through about 30 or so of them by the end. Some drop items, so do not; some have clubs, some have guns. I do appreciate the small amount of variety, but in a game that is as human-heavy as Tomb Raider II is, a little variety is simply not enough, and this will continue to burden the game as we get further and further into it.

This brings to light another interesting point: Venice does not suffer from what I will here on out refer to as "the human problem", because it's the first level of the series to really exercise it. However, by the time the game hits the offshore rig area and the underwater levels, fatigue really sets in as you're facing the exact same gun-toting fools for the sixth or seventh level in a row. That's when it becomes a problem. That being said, there are several instances in this level where the use of a human target - a mere 30 seconds or so after dispatching the last one - is simply annoying.



But then again, the human problem is a a direct result of the decision to place Lara in an environment where fighting animals is simply not plausible. Interestingly, Lara fighting corrupt Mafia thugs by the Venetian canals is actually more realistic than fighting panthers and crocodiles inside of century-old underground chambers... but is it more fun? I would argue no. The one benefit that human-based combat has is the tactical decisions you have to make to account for long-ranged weaponry, but taking actual human lives in such a casual manner seems a little off from what this series was founded on.

Despite that criticism, it is not TR2 that will have a problem so much with the morality issue, but rather TR3, which sees Lara dispatching innocent prison guards and museum workers...

An Environment Worth a Thousand Words

By far the greatest strength of Venice - as well as this level's successor - is its ability to construct very colorful and aesthetically pleasing environments for us to maneuver around in. If you remember the Greek levels of Tomb Raider, there were many cases where the words "aesthetically pleasing" were probably the opposite of how one might describe a certain room or area. Here, however, the designers put a lot of thought into the level's details and color schemes, and it does brighten the experience quite a bit. One might even call Venice one of the most cheery levels of the series, despite its fetish for spilling human blood.


Grand Theft Auto: Tomb Raider


No, really, this is some serious ****. Someone call the police.

Venice... A Lot of Nothing to Do

It's funny, because for as big and sprawling as this level feels, there is not actually a whole lot to do in it. The waterways are big and open but offer little exploration outside of the very main tasks of reaching the underground tunnels, using the boat lock, and finding the two keys to open the gates. There are a few henchmen scattered about for good measure, but I'd argue that this is not a positive in a level that is horrendously riddled with them.

What Venice gains in beauty, therefore, is lost in terms of actual gameplay. I think the reason that Venice is such a hit, however, is because of its use of the speedboat. It's clever, it's not required to finish the level, and it was the first vehicle to ever be introduced in the TR series. I can respect this level's popularity for that reason, but I'm not sure the speedboat's novelty value is enough to hinge this level's success on, because for all intents and purposes, it is lacking in many regards.


Mafia henchmen are known for their incredibly flexible dodges.


Let's see, that's theft, property damage, and unlawful weapons discharge all at once. Naturally, Lara will get away with it.

Conclusion

Pros:
+ Aesthetically perfect
+ Excellent use of speedboat
+ Enjoyable musical score

Cons:
- Heavy on human combat (this will become a recurring theme...)
- Big areas, but not a lot to explore
- Generally lacking in gameplay

Despite my obvious reservations towards it, I will say one thing about Venice: it is extremely memorable. More so than the next level, actually, even though I like it better than this. Still, Venice relies a little too much on its aesthetics and novelty value to be a truly fantastic Tomb Raider experience.

Rating - 7/10
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Old 05-02-16, 10:54   #24
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Nice review! From reading your analysis, I would have expected a 6/10 at most.

In my review I praised the gameplay:
Quote:
The concept is very simple but effective. The speedboat is easy to control and the puzzle that revolves around navigating it is enjoyable. On Core's first attempt at a vehicle-based level, they pass with flying colours. I would suggest that no other vehicle-based level ever topped Venice. Perhaps TR4's Jeep chase as a close second. The level is jammed full of combat and it is only here that frustration tends to rear its head as skillful movement is required to jump out the boat and onto a solid surface to take out your guns and eliminate the men taking shots at you at any given moment.
So the reason I see Venice as an 8/10 is because it is probably the most memorable and successful vehicle-based level there is. The snowmobile later on in the game is frustrating to use and the vehicles in TR3 mostly forgettable. The timed run with the boat concept might seem obvious to the seasoned player, but figuring out that one boat is needed to detonate the bombs, then another to reach the timed doors on time (at least for first time players) is novel. The little canal puzzle which gets the first boat into the latter area so you have two at your disposal is quite clever. What I like about all this gameplay and puzzling is that it is logically consistent. Every bit of the puzzle makes sense and there are no arbitrary keys or levers to pull. I agree about the combat though as you say, this is an issue that runs throughout the game.
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Old 05-02-16, 16:54   #25
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Thanks Reggie for the comments, I much enjoyed your TR2 review back in the day...

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What I like about all this gameplay and puzzling is that it is logically consistent. Every bit of the puzzle makes sense and there are no arbitrary keys or levers to pull. I agree about the combat though as you say, this is an issue that runs throughout the game.
I would say that I partially agree with this assessment. Some of the level's puzzles are consistent and make sense, like the boat lock and the timed run at the end. But other times there are random switches that open doors far away, and this is a problem in an urban environment where things like that really should not happen. I do not think it detracts too heavily from the overall experience, though, and Venice does not lose any memorability as a result.
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Old 05-02-16, 17:04   #26
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I'd give venice an 8/10.
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Old 05-02-16, 17:11   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sheepman23 View Post
Thanks Reggie for the comments, I much enjoyed your TR2 review back in the day...



I would say that I partially agree with this assessment. Some of the level's puzzles are consistent and make sense, like the boat lock and the timed run at the end. But other times there are random switches that open doors far away, and this is a problem in an urban environment where things like that really should not happen. I do not think it detracts too heavily from the overall experience, though, and Venice does not lose any memorability as a result.
Fair enough, can't remember though which doors you're referring to!
Oh and let's not forget the wonderful Venice Violins track. That's surely the highlight of the level, good things its in your 'pros' list.
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Old 06-02-16, 07:06   #28
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I have to say that Venice is my least favorite level in TRII. The repetitive combat and constantly getting off the boat was pretty tedious. I think the combat was very unfair in this level. In TRI, we only had 6 gun battles at most? But this level forces you to fight goons every corner you turn and every lever you pull. It would've been better if they saved the heavy gun combat for the next two levels. And constantly having to ride and dock the boat was pretty annoying too. All it felt like we were doing was riding a bat around and killing goons. I did enjoy the outside environment though, which was a nice change of pace from the isolation feeling in TRI. And the soundtrack while riding the boat was one of the best in the whole game. This level would've been better if it relied more on platforming and less on the gun fests.
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Old 06-02-16, 08:26   #29
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Yeah this level was quite memorable, particularly for the speedboat, which ran quite smoothly. Even through the snowmobile was fun to use still later on, the speedboat felt better.
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Old 06-02-16, 21:17   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WolfRaider View Post
Yeah this level was quite memorable, particularly for the speedboat, which ran quite smoothly. Even through the snowmobile was fun to use still later on, the speedboat felt better.
The speedboat definitely had good mechanics, and I do wish we would have seen it more in Bartoli's Hideout. Tibetan Foothills gives us a lot of good opportunities to use the snowmobile to its full potential, but control-wise the speedboat is a lot more fun.
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