Lara Croft is right up there as one of the most iconic and influential female video game characters of all time. Since her creation back in 1996 there have been 10 games and 2 films dedicated to the women herself, I’m honestly struggling to think of another character that can say the same; male or female! I’ll admit it, when a Tomb Raider reboot was announced I had my reservations, but it seems to be one of the ‘in things’ at the moment, to reboot a franchise. Sadly, on many occasions we’re all left with a bitter taste in our mouths and wondering, “was it really worth it?” – thankfully, Tomb Raider is NOT one of those occasions…
Rebooting a series such as Tomb Raider comes with a large risk; a series spanning across nearly two decades will have it’s highs and it’s lows, and the team at Crystal Dynamics have had the pressure to make sure it wasn’t a low. It is with huge credit to the games’ writer, Rhianna Pratchett (daughter of Terry Pratchett) that the Tomb Raider reboot has become the game that is. In a recent interview with Pratchett, she announced she had decided to give Lara Croft a reboot saying “I think she became a bit colder in the movies, a little bit untouchable in some ways” and she hits the nail on the head, especially with the sequel The Cradle of Life, nothing seemed to phase her!
It is a stark contrast to the Lara who we find travelling on the vessel “Endurance” commanded by Conrad Roth. You can still see that spark of desire with her as she sets off on her first adventure. It’s a breath of fresh air, noticing the apprehension and slightly naive-excitement Lara shows. As the story unfolds you see Lara mature and really struggle to survive, giving the game a very dynamic feel. Lara Croft is no longer a perfectly-figured, down-and-dirty, gun-slinging, teenage-heartthrob, but a 3-dimensional character you feel you ought to protect and cherish.
Her first challenge occurs when the Endurance is struck by a violent storm and split in two, Lara and many other survivors are stranded on an isolated tropical island in the Dragon’s Triangle. Lara finds herself on a beach battered and torn by a shipwreck, visibly shaken by the events she has a glimpse of her friends before she she knocked unconscious by a dark figure. Lara comes round to find herself hung by her feet from the ceiling as she manages to free herself only to fall onto a spike which pierces her, your first job is to remove the spike and to get your bearings. You swiftly discover that life on the island isn’t going to be all palm trees and cocktails as you see sacrifices within the cave system that you are trying to escape. The quick time events in Tomb Raider aren’t shy in, they come by the bucket load but really work well when climbing up the side of the cliff, fighting off bad guys or removing those accidental body piercings. The QTE’s offer a real variation in gameplay and breaks up the boring “go-here-and-do-this” feel.
Here is the opening 10 minutes of footage for your enjoyment :-
[youtube link="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEDfI5962sI" width="590" height="315"]
Lara manages to escape the cave system, but in a case of “out of the frying pan, into the fire”, she realises that this trip won’t just be scaling the inside of abandoned tombs in search of relics and treasures, but she’ll now be fighting for her life. One of the things I found that worked very well during the game is that Lara will often talk to herself and tries to motivate herself to push on, giving the feel of real desperation. There are a few moments that really stand out during Tomb Raider and these occur when Lara has to make a difficult decisions, one of the earliest ones happens just after Lara gets her bow. Hungry, she is left with no other option but to hunt down and kill a deer before cutting and cooking it. You see the emotion on her face and that she really would have rather done anything to avoid it but knows it is a question of survival. That marks Lara’s first kill within the game, however it isn’t until Dr James Whitman and Lara are captured by people on the island. Lara is caught trying to escape and after a struggle has no option but to shoot the man who attacked her. Lara is obviously shaken and extremely emotional however knows two things, the first being that she had no choice, the second is that she now knows that she can do whatever it takes to get off the island.
The game features seven tombs hidden throughout, all featuring a puzzle. These can be quite tricky and often are located off the beaten path, so you’ll end up having to search for them. You’ve also got numerous challenges to complete throughout the game as well as a stack of collectibles including GPS cache’s and artefacts. The added extras and side-missions will all give you a slightly larger look at the back story and history of the island.
Progressing through the game, we see Lara becoming a stone-cold killer. Thankfully, Crystal Dynamics have scrapped Tomb Raider’s notorious combat system for a fresh, new and slick one. Our protagonist now has a fighting engine that matches her badass attitude.
With the changes to the combat system, you also have the ability to unlock skill points which you can put in any of the 3 skills types, Survivor, Hunter and the later unlocked Brawler – these are all accessed from “Base Camps” dotted around the game which also act as a handy save location. Throughout the game you will also salvage materials which you use to increase the effectiveness of your weapons, given them much needed upgrades to level the playing field.
Sadly, Tomb Raider has one flaw, and that lays with the multiplayer aspect of the game. At the end of the day, Tomb Raider has and always should be primarily a single player game. I appreciate many of us won’t do anything but play competitively, but Tomb Raider shouldn’t have even bothered including multiplayer.
Other than that, Tomb Raider has been one of the best Croft games I’ve ever played I’d like to take my hat off to the team at Crystal Dynamics for doing such a brilliant job. Well done!