Nathan Drake's little big sister
1,659SRP: £39.99Think back to the days of PS1 when polygonal models were cutting edge and we couldn’t get a nice rounded edge even if we tried to buy one. As such, old Lara Croft looked pretty damn amazing back then even with her pointed breasts and repeated exclamations of ‘aha’ when she discovered new artefacts. But much like other games out there, old Lara found the transition from PS1 to PS2 hard and as such, the current generation of consoles was an even bigger mountain for her to climb.
Whilst the previous games were playable and functional, they proved to be nothing more than your average third person shooter with a few walls to hide behind before popping out and filling up your enemies with lead. Truth be told, they weren’t the best of looking games so, all in all, they fell short of people’s expectations.
Despite that she’s back and this time she’s sporting a new look and a new team is behind her on development duties. The original development team who created the Tomb Raider franchise, Core, are now under the Crystal Dynamics name. Publishing duties are down to Square Enix who have been on the up recently having picked up the Sleeping Dogs game and pushed it out to universal success and appraisal, so there are high hopes for this game as well.
So Lara has had somewhat of a rejuvenation here, not only in terms of her looks (she now looks 20 rather than in her yummy 30’s) but the gameplay is radically altered as well. The third person perspective stays but from there, it’s all territories new for young Miss Croft as Square follows a similar suit to the Uncharted series. They say mimicry is the best form of flattery but what happens when someone mimics you and does a better job than you?
The thing is the Uncharted games have been pretty much untouchable for the last few years with no other developers touching or going near their winning formula. Lara looks to challenge the status quo surrounding Nathan Drake however by shoving him to the side and proving there is enough room for two expert explorers in the gaming world. By god does she give him one hell of a shove too.
The youthful wannabe sets sail on her latest adventure looking for a lost kingdom in the East which nobody has ever found, leading it to be thought non-existent. After convincing her cohorts to divert their tour towards the destination she believes they will find fortune and glory through the hidden kingdom. As you’d expect however, this isn’t as straight forward or easy as it first sounds.
A freak storm causes their ship to crash and capsize on an unfamiliar island leaving them stranded with no means of communication to the outside world. From there on in Lara finds herself in all sorts of trouble ranging from some wild scrambling up falling rock faces to being on the nasty end of some crazy ancient ritual. If there’s one thing this game is it’s brutal and hard hitting. This is by no means a family friendly game and creates a genuinely disturbing and dangerous atmosphere throughout which is no easy feat.
Whether or not it’s because you play as a female protagonist or not I’m not sure, but there are very few games out there that genuinely make you feel concerned for the protagonist and how they might be feeling. Here though be prepared to feel every bone-crunching landing and injury to hit home.
Where the old games were more focussed on exploration than action, this iteration of Tomb Raider ramps up the action by ten which gives the game a full-on approach. You are never short of an intense fire fight or a section where you have to brawl your way out of a tight space which is both rewarding and, to the faithful, probably a bit annoying at the same time. As is the case with the latest Dead Space game, Tomb Raider has moved away from its original roots in favour of a more intense experience. It actually works here which is the amazing thing and Lara has never had a more complete and well-rounded outing.
The game unfolds in the way most games do today; you start out with nothing and gradually build up an extensive armoury to take down anything that gets in your way. Initially, this structure works very well as Lara is timid and reluctant to kill at first but soon forgets all of this and turns into a badass killing machine. It’d be nice if she showed some remorse every now and again for killing hundreds of guys or having the option to take them down in a non-lethal manner. Barring that though, she shows a genuine set of emotions throughout the rest of the game to make up for this shortcoming.
Early on you find an old bow which serves you well throughout the game even when you find the rest of the weapons at your disposal. Any guesses to what they might be? Correct! A pistol, a machine gun and a shotgun. Despite this predictive armoury selection, they are all deadly and effective in the right situation whilst they can all be upgraded throughout. Upgrades take place through collecting new weapon parts and mods or building new upgrades yourself with salvage that you find in the world. Whether it’s from dead enemies or boxes strewn across the land, salvage is in plentiful supply resulting in bigger and better weapons and features.
Even Lara herself can be upgraded in the form of new skills and abilities which result in her being able to outmanoeuvre her enemies and finish them off in a deadly manner. XP is the name of the game and currency for such upgrades which is acquired through the mass culling of all the religious nuts on the island you’re stranded on. Bonus XP is also dished out for discovering hidden objects, collectibles and locations throughout the game whilst completing bonuses harbours its own reward.
There aren’t a great number of enemies throughout the game as you get a select few grunts to tear through with different load outs and armour and the occasional creature will try and take you down as well. The enemies are quite intelligent however and will squeeze you for time and apply pressure where necessary meaning your accuracy has to be top notch. The people you encounter have an unhealthy obsession with fire though meaning your cover will always get peppered with Molotov cocktails forcing you out and searching for a new safe place to hide.
The fire obsession seems to be woven in throughout however as the whole game is chock full of sections where the environment is ablaze. Granted, you spend much of your time running through old wooden huts and buildings but they don’t have to be torched in every single section.
Visually Tomb Raider looks amazing throughout and the quality never let's up, it is beautiful from the off and right to the finishing post. Comparatively, it falls short of Naughty Dog's level of polish seen in the Uncharted games but let's face it, not many people can match that and it more than makes up for this in other areas.
As your adventure unfolds you will see all sorts of conditions and scenes from snow-topped mountains, intricate cave networks and beaches full of wrecked ships. What you don’t see much of however is tombs or hidden treasure troves waiting to be looted. There are a few scattered throughout the world for you to discover and explore if you wish, but the greater emphasis is on the story and main quests.
With the story being as well written as it is it’s hard to see how anyone couldn’t find it enjoyable with an entertaing script and an interesting story to keep you going right up until completion. This won’t come quickly as this game stays for several hours, there’s no sub ten hour campaign to be found here. You could easily play this game for at least twenty hours and not feel like it has overstayed its welcome.
The game's biggest downfall is its implementation and reliance on quick time events which don’t always suit, and more worryingly, they don’t always work. Each time someone inevitably grabs hold of Lara you have to break out of it through a QTE, the same can be said when you have to grab hold of ledges or dodge falling objects. There’s not really any other way of filling these sections other than with these quick time ‘hit the right button or die’ sequences but it’d be nice if someone did something a bit different.
There are a few too many chase sections as well which follow the suit of jump from platform to platform or slide down this slope and avoid random objects. They’re not intrusive but the strongest and best points of the game are when you’re free to explore the open sections and approach combat how you wish.
The package also comes with online multiplayer with some adversarial modes to dabble with which are functional but you can’t help but feel like they’ve been tacked on for the sake of it at detriment, possibly, to the the single player. If they had negated multiplayer and used the extra resources to polish this one off that little bit more then this could have been a perfect game.
- Interesting storyline
- Genuine sense of danger
- Open exploration sections
Heap of old bones
- Broken/ill-fitting QTE's
- Repetition of chase sequences
Tomb Raider PS3 Review
You can't deny that you could easily swap out Lara Croft for Nathan Drake in this title and he would not be out of place given the similarity in gameplay and mechanics. Even with this being the case there's something about this title that makes it stand out more than the Uncharted games and makes it that little bit more interesting. Granted the storyline isn't as strong, neither are the visuals, but they aren't that far behind and with the open sections (which the Uncharted series doesn't really have) Lara edges herself to the winning post by a nose. It's a big call, but with a heap of challenges and extras to dig away at to find/complete this one has a little bit more meat and longevity to it and thus makes this a potential game of the year contender.
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