Lara Croft: The woman all girls wanted to be and all the boys wanted to make do the crawl action at all times.
For years, she has been the leading female character in video gaming and is still loved to this day in whatever form you cherish. I remember when I first played the original Tomb Raider, the annoying bats, the bear and those blooming wolves in all their jagged edge glory. I loved it and believe I still have most of the games to this day with my collection of original PS copies. But I for one always wondered whether Lara would resurface and bring us some new and exciting storied of far off lands full of puzzles and more to do than going back to the Croft mansion and trying to lock the butler in the food store once the game was over… I can’t be the only person who did it after all.
Then came the announcement. A Tomb Raider origins story that in my honest opinion, is pretty damn good. So I thought I would do a little article in tribute to the 2013 reboot as I have completed it on both PS3 and PS4 as well as streamed the game live on Twitch. This isn’t a review as such, but is just a look back at the game ahead of the release of the highly anticipated Rise of the Tomb Raider.
So first off, Lara. Young, pretty, lithe, surprisingly resilient and very British. Pretty much straight away the proverbial whatsit hits the fan and throws you into a dark, blood stained and slightly horrific place. When I first started the game, that is not what I was expecting. I wasn’t planning for sexy pillow fights or anything like that. But being thrown straight into the water and abandoned on one messed up island was not on the menu. The game really doesn’t give you time to appreciate how lovely Lara’s design is because you’ve got to turn her into a survivor pretty darn quickly. She’s also pretty intelligent as when it’s too dark she will light her torch, when you have to crawl under obstacles she just does it and also announces that she can’t ‘do that yet’ when you try to make her do something before she’s good and ready. But she is a little slow at times which isn’t entirely helpful during those heavy combat scenes when you could really do with her being a bit more hasty with the scrambling away.
A big change of course is the ability to ‘upgrade’ your weapons but also your skills which you can pick and choose as you go along. I personally love upgrading my weapons. The satisfaction of getting your arsenal up to scratch to take on the mofos that are getting in your way of discovering the true power of the island. I would love to complete the game just using the bow, but I get annoyed and want to shoot the hell out of everyone. As Lara becomes more badass, so do your weapons and your ability to use them for cheeky killer finishes and getting through some of the combat heavy sections.
Speaking of finishes, I am ashamed to say that I actually get a small amount of pleasure in watching Lara get impaled on trees, squished by falling boulders or getting her head smashed by rocks in the sea. After years of watching her spasm while drowning or just collapsing in a heap, the deaths in the reboot are brutal and make you want to avoid doing that again. All in all, the graphics themselves are pretty amazing. There is a slight difference in clarity between the PS3 and PS4 versions as the picture is clearer and a little more detailed for the latter platform. In all honesty though, I just wanted to play the game again on my shiny new console as I enjoyed it so much the first time I completed it. It was great to revisit the tombs to where trying to get to the loot is a puzzle which requires the skills you pick up along the way, they aren’t difficult but take a few minutes to work out without many hints of what you should do next.
The story itself is pretty solid. It’s a mysterious island, linked to a member of the crew. There’s some penis who thinks he’s going to win awards for documenting the discovery and the rest are like Lara, trying to survive and get out alive. You have your heroes, villains and the annoying ones who you wouldn’t miss if they get shot. But there’s also a lot of bad guys and you have to wonder… why the hell are there so many people on this island? But it’s not worth focusing on because, hey, you’re going to shoot the hell out of them anyway! There are some emotional moments too but you don’t really get time to pause and reflect, the game is so fast paced that you have to get it together and move on to the next part of the island before everything goes to hell. It’s not just about raiding tombs for precious treasure, this is the background behind the legend and when Lara starts screaming ‘I’m coming for you, you bastards’ you are behind her all the way.
It wouldn’t be a ‘modern’ game without the side quests and mini challenges in the sections of the game. They gain you XP so they are worth spending some time on if you want to continue building on your skill points to make Lara more badass for those sections you want to replay. I spent some time going back and doing these side quests on the PS3, but some of them are best completed during the game otherwise you can’t get back to them because you’ve destroyed the only route to the very last piece that you need to find. Still, if you’re desperate to 100% the game then you’ll find a way.
So why write about it when it’s been reviewed hundreds of times? Why stream it when it’s been out for over a year? Well I enjoy this game and since the announcement of the next game I’ve wanted to play it again! I suppose writing about it was originally going to do a ‘should you bother buying it again for the next gen consoles’. Instead it has turned into a homage to Lara and how she has developed and the reboot has given the series a little bit of a boost. If you have already played the game and love it, then play it again. If you have it on Xbox 360/PS3 and are thinking of getting it on Xbox One/PS4 then you might as well. I have a version with a digital copy of the artwork for the game which is nice to flick through if you’re taking a break after one of the shoot outs and I’m a sucker for artwork because I can’t draw for toffee and I love seeing how the characters come to life from a storyboard drawing. If nothing else the graphics benefit from the upgrade to next gen but overall, it doesn’t detract from Lara starting out mildly weak willed and turning into a cold blooded killer who still knows her stuff about the relics that you find along the way. She may not have ‘the boobs’ but sexy is smart, right?
I still love Lara, in whatever game she is in and look forward to Rise of the Tomb Raider to see where they take her next and how badass she will become. I pretty much have all of the bits and bobs I need to cosplay Lara, so maybe I’ll work on that for the next con I go to, even if she is overdone, she’s too awesome not to cosplay at least once! If you wanted to watch any of my streams for Tomb Raider then there are on my past broadcasts for a short time on my Twitch page (twitch.tv/lefranzine), feel free to watch and come join me the next time I play some games and talk random rubbish!