I remember my first encounter with Lara Croft, it was 1996 and I was 15 years old and it was Christmas, my parents bought me Tomb Raider for the Playstation and I disappeared into my room for hours on end, only surfacing for food and water. Today I remember that same feeling of intensity and once again I found myself only leaving my control pad for food, water and the extremely quick toilet break.
When you first load Tomb Raider you will get a sense of nostalgia but this is different, forget everything you ever knew about Lara before, this is her origin story, this is how she became the strong adventurer that we all came to love in 1996… This story is raw and filled with emotion, this time you meet the real Lara, not just curves any more.
From the start you will be faced with extremely tense story-telling backed up with a dramatic sound track that literally grabs your head and pulls you into the game, the sound itself is so crisp and so realistic, it really goes to show how far technology has advanced, even since the launch of the Xbox 360.
Don’t expect to have to fight T-Rex’s, gorillas or crocodiles in this game, it’s very much a far cry from earlier Tomb Raiders hits, instead you will have to battle wolves, savages and another enemy which I’m keeping tight-lipped about in the interest of spoilers. You can’t merrily bounce your way around the levels, everything about this game is as raw as it comes and I can’t help but feel that Crystal Dynamics have looked at Naughty Dogs’ Uncharted franchise and said “It’s good, but we can do better” and without a doubt they have.
While most can compare the game to Uncharted it would be wrong too, seeing as Uncharted very much took the idea of Tomb Raider and replaced the lead with a male, this worked for them but Tomb Raider has scrambled the idea again by replacing the lead with a vulnerable female, Lara needs to learn how to live with situations thrown in front of you and you’re there beside her along for the journey.
Graphically the game is very much stunning, Lara herself has changed significantly, she’s not modelled on sex-appeal any more, this is the first time we have seen her in trousers which I think actually increases her sex-appeal, in fact I’d say the ‘raw’ Lara is the best Lara we have ever seen. The scenery changes on a level-by-level basis, one moment you will find yourself in a jungle whilst the next moment you are battling through a shanty town only to find yourself in a tomb, all of these locations offer excellent lighting dynamics and really contrast the scenarios that you find yourself in.
Tomb Raider seems to have lost its passion for puzzles though, puzzles are very few and far between only really appearing in hidden tombs, they’re not overly difficult to solve either although the rewards are extremely enticing, solve a hidden tomb and you’ll be gifted a treasure map that highlights all of the hidden collectables on that section of the island. The collectables are also very good and help fill in the blanks in the storyline, some times games can suffer because of collectables but in Tomb Raider they serve as an integral part of the storyline and help enhance the player’s experience.
All in all I feel that Tomb Raider is setting a new benchmark for action / adventure titles, it offers everything you need from this genre and then offers more with an extremely rich story and being alongside Lara as she grows as a person on the road to destiny. This is a game that belongs in every gamer’s collection.