It's been over 10 years since I fully got into a Tomb Raider game, not because I didn't like the series but more because I was too engrossed in other games. Then missing out on one too many Tomb Raider games made it feel pointless to jump into the series. If you're in a similar scenario to me then a reboot of the series is a welcomed starting point to get back into the adventures of Lara Croft. The first thing I noticed when playing was that Crystal Dynamics pulled tons of inspiration from Naughty Dog's Uncharted games, such as the triggered events causing Lara to fall all over the place. It's a comparison that's been made ever since this Tomb Raider was first revealed, but actually playing the game makes you realise just how much like Uncharted it really is. It's not a bad thing, not at all - in fact the feeling of not knowing when something is about to collapse underneath you works really well for this game. Also there's the fact that the Uncharted series is very much inspired by previous Tomb Raider games itself.
One thing Uncharted lacks is the ability to hunt for food. Tomb Raider makes this feel incredibly natural, almost like it was foolish for any game leaving you stranded in a jungle to ignore that hunting is crucial to your survival (shots fired). Before beginning my hunt I had make Lara rip a bow and arrow from a skeletons possession. The bow and arrow controls so fluidly that it needs little to no tutorial. Holding down the left trigger will ready the bow and holding the trigger will pull back on your arrow, letting go will fire.
The demo was very short lived and offered no real gun-play, but yet I still find myself begging for more. The mix of jumping, climbing and hunting was enough to get me excited for this game. We were presented with a montage at the end of the demo which left me with a sure feeling that this game will do more than satisfy upon release.
When Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was first announced for the Playstation 3 many gamers condescendingly described it as “Tomb Raider with a dude”. Time would eventually prove that the Uncharted series was in fact light-years ahead of any product bearing the Tomb Raider name and as a result, Lara simply faded into the background.
Not content with settling for second best, Crystal Dynamics have given the Tomb Raider franchise a major overhaul with this prequel/reboot which is a drastic departure from the fantastical games that came before it. Lara is no longer a busty, backflipping badass who pumps bullets into dinosaurs. She is now a feeble, young adult who without warning is forced to put her privileged lifestyle behind her and rely solely on her survival instincts.
After briefly playing 2013’s Tomb Raider at Eurogamer Expo last week, it’s understandable why the game is being referred to as “Uncharted with a girl”. Sure both games are set in a jungle and both protagonists continually fall from broken ledged while narrowly escaping death, but there’s one key feature that potentially makes Tomb Raider an overall more compelling experience, and that is vulnerability.
In the Uncharted games you never get the feeling that Drake is in over his head. The wisecracking adventurer is notorious for taking down planes, trains, submarines and pretty much everything that moves. On the other hand, Lara seems like the complete opposite. I’m extremely interested in witnessing her mature from a young’un who mentally struggles with the idea putting her life before a innocent deer's, to a brave heroine who is shotgunning enemies in the face while they're on fire.
If handled correctly, Lara’s metamorphosis could be a catalyst that pushes videogame storytelling one notch forward. However there’s also a chance that her transformation will be severely rushed in an effort to put a gun in gamers hands before they trade the game in for whatever generic shooter is hot that month.
Before Tomb Raider was delayed until next year it was my most anticipated game of 2012. I’m still hopeful that Crystal Dynamics will be able to develop one hell of action game that goes on to define this generation but I’m not quite ready to put my money where my mouth is just yet.