Back in my life, and back in my heart. For a long time she has been absent, and her void was filled by a certain cheeky American treasure hunter going by the name of Nathan Drake. But now Lara has burst back in, guns blazing (well, arrows first, guns come later) and has since happily reclaimed her place as one of my favourite gaming characters.
The Tomb Raider reboot is an excellent game, and I’m enjoying it far more than I thought I would. I last dabbled with Lara in Tomb Raider: Underworld, and while that game was OK, it wasn’t a patch on any of the Uncharted series. I didn’t really care for the characters, and not knowing much of the previous games’ backstory (my last lot of tomb raiding came in the shape of Chronicles on the PC), I just couldn’t get as involved with it as I had with Drake.
But with Tomb Raider, I’m hooked. Hooked, attached, involved and engaged. I’m rooting for Lara, I care for her, and I want her to survive and conquer this Lost-like island that’s she’s found herself stranded on in her latest outing. I think what really works for this game is the open world element. You certainly do get the feeling of being stranded out there, and I’m enjoying being able to look around and re-visit areas before moving on to the next section of the story – something you’re not able to do in Uncharted.
But the game also doesn’t leave you totally out there on your own. The story moves along at a good pace, and guides you through the terrain with gentle encouragement. It keeps you wanting to know what exactly is happening on that crazy island – although, not wanting to blow my own trumpet or anything, I think I’ve already figured that out a quarter of the way through the game. There are also some good ‘shock’ elements to the storyline, such as unexpected deaths and the like, in the beautifully rendered cutscenes.
The gameplay also ‘feels’ good. Lara’s animation is a lot more fluid, and feels ‘lighter’ than previous incarnations. She’s fast and agile, and responds well to the controls. She’s got some new moves too (new to me at least), like throwing dirt in an enemy’s eye to temporarily blind them, or using her axe to scale rocky walls.
And then there’s her weapons. Her bow is surprisingly great, and can be used for a variety of functions. The guns also feel more sturdy, and seem to offer a higher degree of control than I’ve experienced in other Tomb Raider games (and kind of reminds me of Uncharted a little). Having the ability to upgrade Lara’s weapons and skills gives the game a more inclusive feel as well – something you don’t get with Uncharted.
The graphics are pretty damn amazing, and while I was initially shocked to see what they’d done to my beloved Lara (giving her a facelift and a breast reduction – this new Lara is only 21, after all, and so they had to de-age her somewhat), this newer, younger Lara has certainly grown on me. The violence and gore is satisfyingly realistic, and the environments are of cinematic quality.
My only gripe about the game (so far) is the voice acting. The new Lara sounds a little bit too un-posh for me, and *gasp*, slightly American? And also, she’s lacking any real drama in her voice. She’s being knocked out by pirates, tied up and dropped onto spikes, falling down cliff faces and being almost devoured by wolves, and all she can muster after these pant-wetting and death-defying stunts is a feeble ‘God, that was close’.
It just doesn’t quite do her justice.
Overall I was massively impressed with this game, and can’t wait to see where it goes. It really is an excellent origin story, and it does an excellent job of understanding what shapes Lara and made her into the kick-ass Tomb Raider she was when we first met her. I can’t wait to get to the end of this adventure, and hope the developers carry it on in such fine style soon. Watch out Drake, you’ve got some competition.
(For the record, there is a multiplayer offering included with the lengthy singleplayer campaign, but it’s not very good anyway.)
*First published on Andy Hemphill's blog, which you can find after the jump