The latest game in the long running archaeology (well in theory… it’s not quite Time Team) series. Though lets face it, it’s better known for the heroine, her assets and somewhat spray painted on outfits. Personally I loved it, although it felt rather short. Don’t go expecting it to change the genre, everything you would expect is still in there. For better or worse depending on whether you’re a fan of the series.
I’ve been a long running fan, starting out at a friend’s house with the canals of Venice in TR2. The game follows on the story from the first of Crystal Dynamics contributions to the series in Tomb Raider: Legend, including a video catch up for those who had forgotten anything, although you can dive in fairly easily regardless.
The traditional hallmarks are all there, athletics, infinite pistols, globe trotting locations, spliced in with a lovely mix of mythology and fantasy.
The scenery is gorgeous – par for the course with next generation games, though I was slightly disappointed with Fable 2’s visual look so this was a nice refreshing feel for me personally. I loved the rich forests and under water levels. Other graphical improvements included even more effects applied to Lara herself – she can now get wet and increasingly dirty… Thankfully they’ve resisted a Lara mud wrestling game, for now.
She of course has a range of weapons for use at all times, including some grenades which I have to confess – I kept blowing myself up with when I accidentally threw them at close quarters. Other nice introductions are a new range of moves and motions for Lara, stop captured – full works again, to be expected now but very nice all the same.
Round house kicking enemies like Chuck Norris? Sure why not.
The story is still delightfully far-fetched, Lara hunting down mummy dearest across the world, attempting to reach the relevant underworld. I have no expectations for literary thrills and amazing drama from a title of the series, but I found it a great bit of escapism, and in a time of gritty games focussed on realism – often by draining the colour from everything – the reality of Tomb Raider felt very vivid and lively, a nice change for me personally.
The traditional flaws are all in there, camera controls being always a little special needs, the routine of not quite making a jump and plummeting to a painful death is a staple diet of Lara’s day to day life. She does now have a more realistic take on gravity, perhaps too realistic as if you’re low on health and you fall down a small distance it acts like her bones are made of glass and she’ll crumple. Poor Lara.
Her new-found roundhouse kick is also her method of opening priceless artefacts – frustratingly if you merely hit the command to sweep her legs dramatically at these pots, and not when the button highlights, she’ll sweep through them and you’ll have to reposition yourself so you can kick them correctly to get the goodies within.
I thankfully find these to be minor gripes, but I’m someone who would have been quite happy with the Bond films not being reinvented – I liked them silly, far fetched and comfortable.
Tomb Raider isn’t about to be incredibly innovative, it sticks to what works for it, and that works for me too.
Underworld follows the traditional elements – a whimsical and fantastical storyline, untrustworthy villains, very rich and lush environments to rampage through – she certainly has no qualms about wildlife conservation. All to a strong and beautiful soundtrack which brings the game to life.
Perfect? Ground breaking? No, of course not. Fun, entertaining escapism. Does the trick for me.