I recently picked up three games I plan to review over the coming weeks, Crysis 3, BioShock: Infinite, and Tomb Raider. I decided to start with TR because I enjoyed the original back on the PS1. While the full review will hit sometime later this week, potentially even tomorrow, Steven said it would be cool to have a little write-up on what my initial impressions are, or a little history piece, etc. So I decided to write this article instead.
First off, let’s discuss my history with the Tomb Raider franchise. I played the very first Tomb Raider on the original PlayStation way back in 1996. I’ve been a longtime fan of the Indiana Jones movies, and thought this was as close as I’d ever get to actually playing a videogame in that universe. While I enjoyed the original’s environments and setting, I never really liked the controls. From what I recall they were exactly the same as the classic Resident Evil controls. While those controls may have worked well for RE, it was a slow-paced game. Replicating them in a fast-paced action game never felt right. I also vividly remember always hopping over ammo I needed because of Lara’s weird hop to run mechanic. That always aggravated me.
While I looked into the next 160 Tomb Raider games, I honestly never had that same feeling again. The series became more and more action packed, and I felt it was becoming more Syphon Filter than Indiana Jones. I also didn’t like the fact that Lara’s chest had become the staple of the series. Sure a little eye candy never hurt, but I have always been into the setting and gameplay more so than anything else.
When Naughty Dog announced Uncharted for the PlayStation 3, I felt that the time had finally come for me to play through an Indiana Jones-inspired videogame that actually played well, and that’s exactly how I walked away feeling once I had finished the game. Funny how everything always goes back to those movies. For the longest time I thought Uncharted would remain my action adventure fix, but that changed when I saw the first gameplay footage of this year’s franchise reboot, Tomb Raider. It finally looked like the developers got it right. That the emphasis would now be on the character and setting, and not on her mammaries. Gameplay looked like it had been ripped direction from the Uncharted series, and that for once, Tomb Raider would live up to its name.
I’m currently on chapter 20 of 22, and I can tell you right now this is a game you should all play, especially if you’re like me and love the Uncharted series, or the Indiana Jones movies. Lara has become a real person in this game, not just some buxom beauty. While her character development is a little flawed, the game itself is fantastic. The core concept is also excellent, how she’s marooned on some exotic island and how “a survivor is born.” I really love that concept, and it makes her feel that much more human. Being a franchise reboot, what an excellent way of revealing Lara to the world for the fist time. The setting itself also begs to be explored, which is something the other games never really had. Here, you can go back and revisit previous areas as you find new gear to help you traverse areas you couldn’t reach before. Yes, it actually has some Metroid flavor added.
Action is also fluid and natural, feeling very close to that of the Uncharted series. There’s a solid upgrade system that allows for progression based on your exploration. Just want to plow through the game, that’s an option, but if you spend a little time going back to previously visited areas you can max out your shotgun’s abilities, for example. This is done by finding spare parts scattered around the island. You can also hunt local wildlife for experience, which rewards skill points. Skill points allow Lara to become a better hunter, a better killer, and more well rounded overall.
I don’t want to give anything else away, but of everything, it’s the audio visual presentation that have been the most impressive. This island feels alive. Time hasn’t been kind to it either. The island was used as a bunker during World War II, and the game takes place many years after that, so you can imagine how everything is falling apart, or well used. The lighting and environmental effects will leave you floored. I’m playing the game on max settings and with an Xbox 360 controller on PC, and have been utterly shocked by some of the key scenes. Again, don’t want to spoil anything, but damn does this game look absolutely gorgeous.
If you haven’t played Tomb Raider yet, I highly recommend you pick it up for whatever console you’re currently gaming on. It’s available on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360, and I’d imagine that it’s just as impressive no matter where you play it. It deserves to be played though. It sold 3.4 million copies and Square-Enix said it failed to meet sales expectations. I’m not sure how many copies they planned on it selling, but I consider this the best franchise reboot of the generation, and one any action adventure fan should play.