Notebookcheck

Tomb Raider Benchmarked

Florian Glaser (translated by Ariana Brodsky), 03/12/2013

Reboot. Crystal Dynamics breathes new life into the time-honored action-adventure series. With their renovated new piece, Tomb Raider, the developers hope to attract not only veterans of the series, but also newbies from the Uncharted Generation. This article mainly examines the single-player mode and the game's hardware hunger.

Tomb Raider Logo

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Description

For the original German review, see here.

The reintroduction proves to be a complete success. The dramatic intro video, already familiar to those who have seen the render trailer, instantly pulls the gamer into the Tomb Raider universe. The young and now more accurately proportioned Miss Croft is shipwrecked with several colleagues on a lonely and mysterious island. There they must not only survive, but also search for their missing friends and unravel many secrets.

Does the initial situation remind you of another action game? The overall story isn't the only thing Tomb Raider and the recently released Far Cry 3 have in common. As our several hour long test session revealed, there are several parallels between the Square Enix and Ubisoft productions. Both, for instance, start off with a survival atmosphere. After the female protagonist escapes from the clutches of a strange cult, armed with nothing but a torch, we need to find a suitable fire pit where the wounded woman can warm herself.

Lara Croft goes on an adventurous expedition.
Lara Croft goes on an adventurous expedition.
Her character is now much more believable.
Her character is now much more believable.
Every once in a while the gamer has video flashbacks.
Every once in a while the gamer has video flashbacks.
Atmosphere deserves to be spelled with a capital A in this game.
Atmosphere deserves to be spelled with a capital A in this game.
The gloomy mood keeps us waiting with baited breath.
The gloomy mood keeps us waiting with baited breath.
Tomb Raider is tailored to a grown-up audience.
Tomb Raider is tailored to a grown-up audience.

Since we're on the topic: The fire pits, found in many places throughout the game, are conceived as both "speed travel portals" and central drop-in centers for the skill and crafting system. Like in Far Cry 3, the weapons and main characters can be tuned and/or improved by the gamer. Tomb Raider uses the experience points system, rewarding the player for all sorts of things - whether it be killing and gutting animals or recovering secret items spread all throughout the gaming world (relics, documents, etc.) Unfortunately the developers commit the same error as Ubisoft and mine the island with so many objects that the believability factor takes a significant hit. Particularly as not every action-adventure fan appreciates the new role-play and achievement trend in video games. The secondary pursuits rob the game of its focus and divert attention from the core story. But the collectible objects do intensify the player's thirst for adventure.

The mixture of linear indoor levels and half-open outdoor areas is reminiscent of Crysis 3. Although the technology isn't on par with the Cry Engine 3, Tomb Raider creates a first-class atmosphere. The reason: Most of the levels were obviously created by people with an incredible love of detail. The outdoor areas especially flaunt an amazing vegetation density. The sound quality is also very good. The thoughtful use of music and endearing sounds of the surrounding environment plunge the gamer deep into the game world. Add to that the professional (English) speakers.

The frequent quick time events are a matter of taste.
The frequent quick time events are a matter of taste.
The rich detail is phenomenal.
The rich detail is phenomenal.
In the beginning the young woman has to go it alone.
In the beginning the young woman has to go it alone.
The light, weather and water effects are wonderful.
The light, weather and water effects are wonderful.
As we travel onward Lara takes a bit of a beating.
As we travel onward Lara takes a bit of a beating.
The developers put a lot of effort into the level architecture.
The developers put a lot of effort into the level architecture.

In terms of gameplay, Tomb Raider makes a good though not outstanding impression. The series veterans will enjoy diverse riddles and lots of climbing; the interspersed battles and (sometimes unfair) quick time events won't appeal to every gamer. Whether it was a good idea for Lara to have to prove herself against several opponents using an automatic rifle (did someone say Call of Duty?) is an open question. From our point of view the action-oriented nature of the game doesn't quite fit the series. There are already enough competitors in that genre.

But if you're worried the game will be a mindless Rambo-shooter you can take a deep breath. Opponents can be eliminated silently with the stylish bow the gamer receives shortly after the start of the game - just like in Crysis 3 or Thief. Thanks to the active cover system and the fact that you can strangle or knock the daylights out of enemies from behind, the stealth mechanics make a good impression on you. You can comfortably control the game with your hands. Unlike other third-person titles like Dead Space 3, the controls aren't overloaded; they're limited to a few practically located keys.

The mysterious island raises a ton of questions.
The mysterious island raises a ton of questions.
With the bow Lara becomes a hunter and stealth-expert.
With the bow Lara becomes a hunter and stealth-expert.
The thick vegetation and crisp shadows fill you with wonder.
The thick vegetation and crisp shadows fill you with wonder.
Innumerable secrets await you in the game world.
Innumerable secrets await you in the game world.
The secondary characters have detailed faces too.
The secondary characters have detailed faces too.
Sometimes we are accompanied along our way.
Sometimes we are accompanied along our way.

In terms of storyline Tomb Raider didn't exactly knock our socks off. Despite the exciting starting situation and the cool staging, which is achieved with tons of videos, flashbacks, tracking shots and script sequences, in the end you just clatter up the rung to the next level. The secondary characters could have had more depth to them as well.

The story's greatest point of weakness is the abrupt change from a scared, careful Lara to a tough power girl blasting guns everywhere. In a rather short amount of time our protagonist can use a bow perfectly, accomplish great climbing feats and shoot a number of enemies from a tree - none of which is particularly believable. But anyone who is looking for a sensational adventure and doesn't care whether the story is completely thought through will be able to overlook this discontinuity easily. The story is certainly superior to any standard shooter game.

What happened here?
What happened here?
Despite a good setup the story isn't quite convincing.
Despite a good setup the story isn't quite convincing.
We scale steep cliffs with a climbing axe.
We scale steep cliffs with a climbing axe.
The action-adventure game offers a rudimentary cover system.
The action-adventure game offers a rudimentary cover system.
The instinct mode shows not only mission goals...
The instinct mode shows not only mission goals...
...but - depending on the upgrade - also enemies and animals.
...but - depending on the upgrade - also enemies and animals.

Benchmark

Tomb Raider has an integrated benchmark, which is comfortably accessible through the main menu. In the 70-second sequence the camera turns around Lara 360° and affords an impressive view of the extensive, deserted beach. In our experience, the integrated benchmark does lend itself to an easy assessment of gaming performance. For a fluid overall gaming experience you'll need at least 30 FPS.

Graphics

Nixxes, the studio responsible for PC porting, put a lot of work into the controls and graphics options. The Dutch company was also responsible for the PC conversion of Hitman: Absolution and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Super: The graphics settings can be altered both inside and outside the game. Changes are adopted immediately and no reboot is needed.

Low Settings
Low Settings
Medium Settings
Medium Settings
High Settings
High Settings
Ultra Settings
Ultra Settings

While the "basic" menu covers the basic options like resolution, refresh rate, aspect ratio, vertical synchronization and the general quality level (there are five presets), there are over 10 more options in the "advanced" menu. Alongside tessellation, the game also supports other graphics delicacies, such as the ambient occlusion SSAO. In terms of anti-aliasing, the game offers FXAA and 2x to 4x SSAA.  Anisotropic filtering, which displays sharp textures even from a distance, is also on board.

AMD's hair technology TressFX is only activated at the "Ultimate" preset by default. In order to ensure equal opportunities we limited ourselves in the review to the presets "Low", "Normal", "High", and "Ultra".

Bonfires serve as travel, training and crafting sites.
Bonfires serve as travel, training and crafting sites.
The survivor category of course revolves around the art of survival.
The survivor category of course revolves around the art of survival.
Hunter is primarily concerned with battle skills.
Hunter is primarily concerned with battle skills.
Weapons are upgradeable.
Weapons are upgradeable.
We can return to areas we've already visited.
We can return to areas we've already visited.
The map helps to get us oriented.
The map helps to get us oriented.
Discussion

The graphics quality differs greatly between the presets (especially between "Low" and "Normal"). Advantage: Tomb Raider's performance is tolerable on weaker notebooks too, provided the game is on a lower preset. At high or very high settings the action-adventure is definitely a feast for the eyes. Crisp textures, detailed characters, atmospheric light, weather and shadow effects: The developers hardly made any compromises. Our only complaint is that there could have been a little more variation here and there. The game gains even more points for the beautiful animations and the modest load times.

Low Settings
Low Settings
Medium Settings
Medium Settings
High Settings
High Settings
Ultra Settings
Ultra Settings
Low Settings
Low Settings
Medium Settings
Medium Settings
High Settings
High Settings
Ultra Settings
Ultra Settings

Results

The hardware demands are reasonably high, but considering the high graphics quality they are by no means excessive. With an entry-level GPU, like the popular HD Graphics 4000, the game can be enjoyed at low settings (~50 FPS @ 1024x768). For the normal preset a graphics accelerator from the lower middle class will suffice. Nvidia's GeForce GT 630M, which has a great price-performance ratio, reaches over 30 FPS on average at 1366x768 pixels.

Those who wish to play Tomb Raider at high settings, however, should have at their disposal a graphics card from the upper middle class, like the GeForce GT 640M (1366x768) or the GeForce GT 650M (1600x900). To play the game at Full HD resolution and on the "Ultra" preset, you'll need nothing less than the current top models GeForce GTX 680M and Radeon HD 7970M.

As a glance at the benchmark table will tell you, AMD takes a significant lead when the game is at maximum settings (Tomb Raider is part of their own "Gaming Evolved" program). For example the Radeon HD 8870M: With 21 FPS the DirectX 11.1 GPU comes in before the GeForce GTX 670M, though the GeForce model generally does much better than the Radeon (compare the same test on the Samsung Chronos 770Z7E). We assume that Nvidia will optimize the driver in the coming months.

Benchmark table: Tomb Raider

Verdict

Tomb Raider is a top-class action-adventure. Despite small weak points in the story and logic, the game is a ton of fun. But we wouldn't call the reboot a smash hit; for our taste the battles play a little too dominant a role, and the developers could have focused a little more on the puzzles and climbing passages.

Lara and an automatic rifle? Does that fit?
Lara and an automatic rifle? Does that fit?
Some passages are quite linear...
Some passages are quite linear...
...and win points for their cool script sequences.
...and win points for their cool script sequences.
Emotions are conveyed well.
Emotions are conveyed well.
The motion sequences barely leave room for criticism either.
The motion sequences barely leave room for criticism either.
Now and then we stop to marvel at beautiful panoramas.
Now and then we stop to marvel at beautiful panoramas.

Test Systems

We thank Schenker Notebooks very much for the following three test devices (mysn.de):

  • XMG P502 (Core i7-3610QM, GeForce GTX 660M, GTX 670M, GTX 675M(X), GTX 680M, Radeon HD 7970M & HD Graphics 4000)
  • XMG A502 (Core i5-3360M, GeForce GT 650M)
  • Xesia M501 (Core i7-2630QM, GeForce GT 630M & HD Graphics 3000)
  • Each with 8 GB DDR3-RAM (2x 4096 MB @ 1600 MHz), 160 GB SSD (Intel 320 Series)  & Windows 7 Professional 64 Bit

GPU drivers: Nvidia 314.14 Beta, AMD 13.2 Beta 7 & Intel 9.17.10.2932.

from left to right: Schenker XMG A502, Xesia M501 & XMG P502
from left to right: Schenker XMG A502, Xesia M501 & XMG P502

Overview

Show Restrictions
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Pos      Model                                     Tomb Raider
 Tomb Raider (2013)
low
1024x768
Low Preset
med.
1366x768
Normal Preset
4xAF FXAA
high
1366x768
High Preset
8xAF FXAA
ultra
1920x1080
Ultra Preset
16xAF FXAA
 1NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080
265
 2NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 SLI (Notebook)
548
520.8
506.9
276.9
 4NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti
219
 5NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M SLI
588.5
569.7
446.62
199.42
 6AMD Radeon R9 Fury
464
421
324
169.7
 7NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
491.4
402.4
323.6
151.22
 8NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 (Notebook)
497.92
467.92
338.13
1595
 10AMD Radeon R9 390X
550.6
417
314.9
155
 11NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M SLI
519.3
465.4
357.752
165.82
 12NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
485.5
391
309
148.6
 13NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970
554.3
433
285.8
122.1
 15NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M SLI
426.6
367.4
296
141.8
 16NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M SLI
365
273.1
130.1
 17AMD Radeon R9 290X
266
137
 19NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M SLI
244.5
117.6
 20AMD Radeon R9 M290X Crossfire
379.1
353.2
295.9
127.2
 21AMD Radeon HD 8970M Crossfire
378.752
279.752
126.252
 24NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M
417.054
3635
246.913
104.513
 25NVIDIA Quadro M5000M
471.92
335.82
233.952
90.72
Pos      Model                                     Tomb Raider
lowmed.highultra
 26AMD Radeon R9 280X
486.2
310.5
207.8
101.1
 27AMD Radeon R9 380
528.5
287.9
216
104.5
 28NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960
484.4
301.2
187.5
89.1
 29NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
342.28
279.910
187.117
86.717
 31NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M SLI
384.8
275.5
167
80.6
 32NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
280
242
173.3
58
 33AMD Radeon HD 7970
161
72.5
 38AMD Radeon R9 M295X
277.1
172.6
110.9
61.1
 40*AMD FirePro W7170M
375
224
167
51
 42AMD Radeon R7 370
423.89
207.45
161.29
69.14
 44NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M
339.82
249.12
165.754
73.84
 45NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950
454.5
255.4
163.7
74.9
 47NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti
304.4
222.5
135.3
48.1
 48NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760
398.7
235.8
167.1
72.9
 49NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M
385.1
231.9
1553
65.46
 50NVIDIA Quadro K5100M
203
128
58
 53NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M
358.25
216.55
132.45
595
 54*NVIDIA Quadro M3000M
255.1
185
82.1
 55NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M
300.654
166.554
129.35
59.85
 56AMD Radeon R9 M290X
287.5
193.9
137.3
62.7
Pos      Model                                     Tomb Raider
lowmed.highultra
 57AMD Radeon HD 8970M
310.7
188.4
133.3
57.952
 61NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M
283.8
169.552
108.52
39.62
 62NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M SLI
388.4
223.1
135.852
64.652
 64AMD FirePro M6100
295
119
81
45
 65AMD Radeon HD 7970M
249.3
164.8
99.3
46
 66*AMD Radeon R9 M390
195
150
64
 67NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti
347.4
179.3
109.9
49.5
 71NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M
281.616
17220
112.1524
50.825
 72*NVIDIA Quadro M2000M
348.7
162.8
107.3
51.5
 73NVIDIA Quadro K5000M
222
16.9
 74NVIDIA Quadro K4100M
196
118
76
36
 75NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770M
270.954
149.45
97.256
41.456
 76NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M
307.356
162.49
9715
44.5514
 79NVIDIA GeForce GT 755M SLI
164.6
122.1
51
 82NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675MX
212.5
117.2
76.9
23.4
 83NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M SLI
142.7
105.8
45.3
 84NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M
226.77
122.810
70.5510
33.111
 85NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M
230.710
12311
67.513
31.613
 86NVIDIA Quadro M1000M
279
144
98
43
 87AMD Radeon R9 M280X
135.5
106
64.6
15.5
Pos      Model                                     Tomb Raider
lowmed.highultra
 91NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470
305.6
155.5
115.2
44.1
 92NVIDIA GeForce 945M
233.3
117.6
68
31.4
 93NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M
203.63
113.656
72.256
32.25
 101NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675M
211.2
116.7
76.4
22.6
 104*AMD Radeon R9 M385X
133.1
125.4
98
43.5
 109AMD Radeon HD 7770
188.8
95.6
63.3
27.7
 114NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 768MB
34.6
 117NVIDIA Quadro K3100M
197.152
114.5
85
25.752
 119AMD Radeon R9 M370X
195.3
94.2
62.8
28.5
 120NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670MX
201.1
104.9
66.5
28
 122NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760M
99
65.62
28.42
 123AMD Radeon R9 M275
122.5
62.9
44.1
25.2
 124NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670M
184.3
96.1
61.6
18.6
 125*NVIDIA GeForce 940MX
137.052
63.52
35.952
18.5
 126NVIDIA Maxwell GPU Surface Book (940M, GDDR5)
161.5
82.8
55.2
25.8
 130AMD Radeon HD 8870M
117.052
80.43
55.33
25.53
 135AMD FirePro M5100
172
82
57
26
 136NVIDIA Quadro K2100M
1333
743
49.93
213
 141AMD Radeon R7 250
165.8
83.3
55.3
24.1
 142NVIDIA GeForce GT 755M
90.8
64.7
26.4
Pos      Model                                     Tomb Raider
lowmed.highultra
 143NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M
131.7
72.6
48.5
14.1
 144NVIDIA GeForce 845M
47.3
36.7
14.8
 145AMD Radeon HD 8850M
67.2
47.9
21.8
 147AMD Radeon R9 M265X
135.92
74.24
51.84
22.954
 150AMD Radeon HD 8790M
127
57
42.5
19.7
 151AMD FirePro W4170M
131
61
42
11
 158NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M
124.558
67.29
40.211
17.8510
 160NVIDIA Quadro K1100M
1033
56.93
39.13
163
 161NVIDIA GeForce 940M
130.211
62.113
34.213
17.0512
 162AMD Radeon R9 M375
50
36.2
17.8
 165AMD Radeon R7 M370
105.5
55.4
42.7
18.6
 167NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M
113.93
62.73
37.83
14.43
 168NVIDIA Quadro K620M
134
66
36
 169NVIDIA GeForce 840M
128.1520
61.5520
32.820
16.518
 170AMD Radeon R7 M275DX
103
73
44
22.1
 171NVIDIA GeForce GT 745M
114.154
61.94
37.34
16.64
 174AMD Radeon R7 512 Cores (Kaveri Desktop)
103
53
34.5
17
 175Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200
123.1
58.6
35.3
18
 176*AMD Radeon R7 (Carrizo)
56.33
32.63
22.93
11.62
 178NVIDIA GeForce GT 740M
89.621
43.121
23.821
11.112
Pos      Model                                     Tomb Raider
lowmed.highultra
 179NVIDIA GeForce 930M
121.74
58.75
335
15.654
 180*Intel Iris Graphics 550
77.2
52
23.6
 181NVIDIA GeForce 830M
109.23
55.33
31.13
14.73
 182Intel Iris Graphics 540
1112
59.62
39.852
20.6
 183*NVIDIA Quadro M500M
137.8
62.7
34.4
17.3
 184NVIDIA Quadro K2000M
100.3
54.1
33.6
14.4
 187NVIDIA GeForce GT 735M
84.14
40.75
235
10.2
 189NVIDIA GeForce 825M
90.62
43.62
24.052
 191AMD FirePro M4000
62
23.5
16.5
8.1
 198AMD Radeon R7 M260X
108.5
51.6
35.1
15.8
 200AMD Radeon HD 8550G + HD 8750M Dual Graphics
72.4
54.7
36.6
 201*NVIDIA GeForce 920MX
104.2
52.6
30.6
14.6
 202NVIDIA GeForce GT 730M
83.32
41.23
233
10.3
 204*NVIDIA GeForce GT 645M
97.2
52.7
34.2
13.1
 205AMD FirePro M4100
59
9
 206AMD Radeon HD 8750M
93.34
45.74
30.84
13.552
 208AMD Radeon R7 M270
78.052
41.22
28.72
13.852
 209AMD Radeon R7 M265
71.56
45.46
31.156
14.85
 213NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M
87.6
50.1
38.5
9.9
 214AMD Radeon R7 (Kaveri)
65.352
35.352
23.92
14.2
Pos      Model                                     Tomb Raider
lowmed.highultra
 215AMD Radeon R8 M365DX
643
66.82
38.32
18.92
 216*AMD Radeon R7 M460
80
39.9
30
14.7
 219AMD Radeon R7 M360
78.14
40.54
29.354
14.74
 222AMD Radeon HD 8690M