If series reboots are the new black (and let’s face it, it’s either that or brutal melee takedowns), then it’s safe to say Lara wears hers well. And while Tomb Raider‘s origins story leaves many of the franchise’s traditions at the door, Crystal Dynamics’ cobble job is thankfully far more Batman than Conan; more Street Fighter than Duke Nukem. It cribs heavily from the top dogs in its own as well as other genres, but it does so sensibly and effectively, while throwing in a handful of neat new features along with an enjoyable (if not always totally coherent) shipwreck storyline.
Tomb Raider PS3 review
There’s no denying the biggest influence behind Lara’s ninth canonical outing is the Uncharted series, and as such we’ve come full circle. Back in 2007 Nathan Drake was cited as the new Lara, and now (at least until Nate-dog returns), Lara is the new Drake. Or the new old Lara. Or something. Raider falls just short of Uncharted in most regards, but that the distance is not overwhelming should be deemed cause for celebration – let’s face it, you’d be pretty chuffed if you could run the 100m in 9.8 seconds.
And, in fact, there are a couple of areas in which our heroine outshines Sony’s golden boy. When climbing, for instance, your hand isn’t held to quite the same degree, and nor are routes so immediately obvious as with Uncharted’s bright yellow piping. After making the bigger jumps you often need to tap Square in time to stop Lara from losing her grip, and later in the game you have to construct your own routes to the top using rope arrows and various gizmos purloined during your adventuring. The more manual nature of the mechanic means that there’s a genuine sense of peril to traversal, and a number of leaps get the ‘will she/won’t she?’ doubts circulating in your mind.
Tomb Raider also gives you more reason to explore your lush surroundings. While the Uncharted trilogy (and the latter two games in particular) provides plenty of moments where you stop and stare at the beauty and detail around you, there’s little to do away from the game’s beaten track. Which isn’t a problem when that track is so compelling and brilliantly realised, but the structure here does well to fuse that linearity with some open-world tendencies.
At numerous base camps throughout the game you’re able to both fast travel back to previous locations, and see how many of the area’s collectibles and secrets you’ve discovered. In the same fashion as the Arkham games, some of these are only accessible once you’ve gotten your hands on better bits of kit at later points in the story, meaning that when you revisit locales (the plot takes you back through previously visited sites, à la Bioshock) there’s actually some fun to be had in looking around.
How compelling you find these collectibles of course depends on your completionist bent, but they’re as appealingly integrated as collectibles can be, and their more active nature certainly elevates them above Uncharted’s scattered treasures.
One place where Naughty Dog still undoubtedly leads the way is in storytelling, although Raider’s origins tale does what it sets out to do, and Lara in particular is a pleasingly well-rounded (no, not like that) lead. After a storm leaves her and her crew shipwrecked on a mysterious and – shock horror – deadly Pacific island, the team’s archaeological mission is put on hold in favour of saving their skins and getting away from the Isle Of Maneaters.
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