Lara Croft is back!
Now some of us will remember playing the original game back in 1996 on the PlayStation (or PC/Sega Saturn), but some of you (it pains me to say) are too young to remember the original game.
Developers ‘Core Design’ introduced us to this beautifully formed woman who is not afraid of getting her hands dirty. This meant Lara swiftly became every boys gaming crush.
This year sees the franchise return with the release of Tomb Raider. At the helm of this latest version are developers ‘Crystal Dynamics’. Have they managed to steer this game back on course to make us (now mature gamers) fall in love with Lara again?
This latest release has you take control of a young (and of course attractive) Lara Croft who sets out on a voyage aboard the Endurance to aid a Television crew on the hunt for the lost city of Yamatai.
Heading into the deadly ‘Dragon’s Triangle’ things soon take a turn for the worse leaving Lara and the remaining crew stranded on an island. Lara is split from the remaining group, captured by an unknown, mysterious figure, and wakes to find herself hanging upside down in a cave. This is where our story begins.
Tomb Raider at its heart is an action/adventure game with platforming and exploration elements, but this time ‘Crystal Dynamics’ have added to the mix character progression, skill upgrades and survival mechanics. These all being an added bonus but they also play a huge part in making you connect with Lara.
Starting off with a basic weapon and basic skills, throughout the island are boxes and parts that can be scavenged by Lara. You then have the opportunity to visit one of the many camps that not only give Lara time to reflect on the events so far, but allow you to use the scavenged material to upgrade your current weapons, adding things like better aim and more damage.
Completing missions, finding treasure, killing enemies and animals will all net you XP which unlocks new skills for Lara, from the ability to climb different rock faces to traversing zip wires. These skills progress well and play a fundamental part to the story line. Again ‘Crystal Dynamics’ have done a great job making you connect with Lara, as you witness her blossom from an innocent millionaire’s daughter to a survival and exploration expert.
Shooting mechanics work really well, with 4 different weapons to use, and thanks to great level design you will have to use each of these weapons to help you progress. A cover system is present but is not something you consciously need to think about, as when danger is imminent Lara will draw her weapon and crouch. This not only gets you in the stance to help you avoid being spotted but acts as a pre warning that something epic is about to go down.
There is nothing like being speared through the head by a conveniently placed spike.
Tomb Raiders’ focus is on survival and the environment you are running around in absolutely compliments this. The attention to detail is amazing and looks visually impressive but as with any adventure park comes danger. Not only are you hunted by killers and wolves, a lot of your deaths will be caused by the environment. Crumbling cliff edges, falling debris, sheer drops and water rapids all add to the list of various fatal dangers to avoid. This is where ‘Crystal Dynamics’ again draw you in to feel the pain of every bump and graze that Lara receives, but the deaths add shock factor and will definitely have you saying OOH or OUCH out loud. There is nothing like being speared through the head by a conveniently placed spike.
Audio is very good and does a great job in adding that extra depth to the already great story. On one hand you have the quiet tranquil environment where you can sit at the camp fire and take in the sounds of the waterfall, the crackling of the fire and the rustling of wildlife adventuring through the bushes. But on the other, the roar of the blistering cold wind, the whisper of an arrow flying past your head and of course the rumbling sound of explosions and falling rocks.
The voice acting is really well done and the voice of Lara (Camilla Luddington) adds the innocence that is needed to portray Lara and again compliments the story so well.
Multi-player mode tries to keep some of the essence of single player and it doesn’t do a bad job of this. There are two teams, one team take on the role of the Survivors and the other team are the Scavengers. There are several game modes, including team death match and another mode where you search for medical supplies to return to base (capture the flag style), with the ability to set traps this can get entertaining. I haven’t put many hours into the multi-player but as it stands it is a nice bonus to the epic single player.
Overall I think ‘Crystal Dynamics’ have done an amazing job on what is essentially a reboot of the franchise, with smooth gameplay, gripping storyline and an amazing environment, not forgetting the survival aspect which makes you feel like you are there with Lara feeling her pain and reward.
I think Tomb Raider is definitely worth your time and could potentially be GOTY for 2013.