Published on March 19th, 2013 | by Kiron Ramdewar0
Tomb Raider – Uncharted terriroty
Square Enix will have angered thousands of fans with their reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise. When they announced that Lara Croft’s breasts would be deflated, hips narrowed and that the game would have a more realistic approach, fans quivered with fear. Surely Miss Croft is defined by all these attributes, they have become synonymous with her, so why change the winning formula? If that wasn’t enough, the game would take part on one island with a focus on action. So have these changes left Lara dead and buried?
Well, let’s get this out of the way quickly. Tomb Raider is awesome. The characters and settings that you may know and love are dead. Long gone is the buxom heroine that sports hot pants and fights off dinosaurs after swimming through underwater mazes. Likewise, the old tropes of puzzles and pin-point precision platforming have vanished too. If you are a fan of the old games then you may enjoy this one, but it is not the same series that you grew up loving.
Things start off with a bang as Lara convinces her travelling ship of explorers to travel to the Dragon’s Triangle in search of an ancient lost land. Unfortunately this particular area has more mystery and horrible weather than the Bermuda Triangle. After a very nasty crash she winds up onshore a random island and slowly realises there’s something not quite right about the island’s current inhabitants, who are hell-bent on stopping Lara and her crew from leaving the island.
The story is pretty cliché and there’s nothing here that wowed me, but its all in place to push our heroine to her limits, to break her and build her back up again. Tomb Raider’s story is focused completely on Lara’s own growth into a strong woman rather than the grand spectacle of things. Camilla Luddington has done a terrific job with voice acting and motion capture work and this reflects throughout the game. By the end of my journey I felt a lot more connected to Lara than I had in any of her previous games.
The biggest change for Tomb Raider comes in the form of a new emphasis on action. Most of the game will either have you climbing up a burning building or having a shoot-out with half a dozen enemies. The former works extremely well with the camera leaping and panning around to create a cinematic experience that at times tops the great Uncharted series. There’s very little to it though; one button jumps while another is used to thrust your pickaxe into softer walls. It may not be the most demanding game ever, but it’s a blast running through gunfire as a building crumbles above you. While it may not have the varied locations to beat Naughty Dog’s PS3 exclusive at its own game, Tomb Raider certainly puts up a good fight.
Lara is now well equipped to take down the hordes of human enemies against her, dispatching them using an assault rifle, pistol, shotgun or bow. Generally you will find yourself traversing an area, only to then get ambushed by a bunch of angry natives. We found most of our time shooting was spent using a bow and arrow; other weapons just didn’t feel as satisfying. There’s also the added stealth elements too. Instead of entering areas guns blazing you can sneak about and stealth kill enemies up close or with silent weapons. Going all Solid Snake on enemies works pretty well, letting you take down enemies in your own time. We never felt betrayed by the AI, although it’s about as smart as Paris Hilton.
You have several relics and items to collect around the island, all of which will improve your level, this encourages you to traverse each nook and cranny of the map. The only problem with this was that the challenge tombs were the only thing that made me retread my steps to an old location. These special areas feel like they have been put here to appease old school Tomb Raider fans with old puzzles dividing you from special treasure. While I really enjoyed these, there are not enough of them and the rewards are not varied enough.
Tomb Raider is an impressive effort at rebooting a series that was getting stuck in its old ways. Old fans will be annoyed by its change of direction but we feel it’s for the better. Crystal Dynamics have now forged story our favourite British explorer – with beautiful graphics and cinematic action and set pieces – hopefully in her next game Lara will get to explore exotic sights, with more exploration and puzzles.
Summary: A brilliant reboot from Crystal Dynamics has been well worth the effort. We look forward to venturing with Lara on her next outing.