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 was fairly sceptical as it was announced during that time where it was one of the ‘in things’, 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 was NOT one of those occasions…
The choice to release the Definitive Edition on next gen has been met with it’s critics who claim that “it’s the same game as it was on the PS3” and while there is a touch of truth in that the game has been massively improved at a graphic level. I was amongst those who were eager to play the game on the PS4. My reasons behind it were really simple and they were that Tomb Raider was such an incredible game that I wanted to play through it again, and that this would be Crystal Dynamics first Next Gen game and would give us an insight into what the sequel will be look like.
That’s correct, if you missed the announcement by Square Enix at the tail end of last year the CEO of Square Enix America and Europe Phil Rogers announced via Square Enix Blog that a next gen sequel is well into development.
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 became quite the success that it did . In an interview when the game originally was released last year Rhianna Pratchett 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. While there are a number of quick time events in Tomb Raider they seem to be very well thought about and well placed, as opposed to just being included because it’s a done thing.
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.
Tomb Raider has one flaw, and that lays with the multiplayer aspect of the game. Tomb Raider has always been a single player game and although the inclusion of multiplayer will please a cross section of the public, for me it still needs a lot of work, thankfully this time round there appears to be enough people on the PS4 to make the multiplayer work and they have fixed the issues with people not having correct map packs. So yes it has been improved on the game that was released last year however if Crystal Dynamics are going to run with the multiplayer aspect it needs tweaking to keep it entertaining.
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