Preview: Tomb Raider
If you had to ask me a year ago whether I’d be interested in playing a Tomb Raider game I’d have probably said no. The series was just so dead and lifeless after all these years and truth be told, boobs only goes so far as a marketing tool. So while I’m no advocate for the wanton reboots that are sweeping across both the gaming and film industries, Tomb Raider is certainly a worthy recipient of a much-needed reboot. This new game features a younger, fresher Lara Croft and serves as more of an origin story to tell us how she became the kickass, well-endowed Tomb Raider we all know so well. I’d wager part of the story involves a trip to a plastic surgeon but let’s not get caught up in Lara’s cleavage because this time around she’s not going to be a sex symbol and piece of eye-candy for all of us guys to ogle. At least, that’s what Crystal Dynamics is adamant about.
Title: Tomb Raider
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
Players: 1 – 8
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Expected Price: R619 (PS3, Xbox 360), R351 (PC)
Release Date: March 5 2013
The first thing you’ll notice about the new Lara is slightly altered looks. She’s younger and more human looking than the unnatural pinup that used to be the title character of this franchise. This is in line with developer Crystal Dynamics creating a character that is both likeable for her physical attractiveness but also has greater depth in an attractive personality thanks to her book smarts, ingenuity and enduring resilience in the face of adversity.
It’s a bit wishy washy and just how well Crystal Dynamics has handled the character’s sex appeal and all that goes with it remains to be seen in full. That’s all good and well but there’s so much more to talk about than the new direction taken with the character and frankly, the topic has been exhausted ad nauseum in the month leading up to the game’s release.
So let’s discuss the premise instead. The game starts with a 20-something Lara Croft aboard a cargo vessel and perhaps this is one of her first adventures as a young explorer and avid archaeology fanatic. The vessel meets with a storm and contrary to what The Life of Pi would have you think, this does not lead to an amazing and revelatory seabourne experience aboard a lifeboat with a tiger. No, the ship is wrecked on the shores of a desolate Island (see: Lost) and Lara finds herself in a hostile wilderness necessesitating the need to toughen up and fight to survive. However, much like In Lost, Lara is not alone on the island and will have to defend herself against the people who seem to be inhabiting this island. hey, this is starting to sound a little bit like Arrow too. It’s an origin story and as such we should see plenty of character progression. There’s also more to the island than meets the eye and the story of this will unfold parallel to Lara’s personal tale of endurance and hardship.
As the trailer’s have hinted at, this game takes a far darker and grittier tone than previous games. When will dark and gritty go out of fashion, I wonder? In fact, it is aimed as more of a survival game than an action title but there is still plenty of action. In fact, the developers had what was being called a “rape scene” where an attacker appeared to try and force himself on Lara before becoming the poster child for women against rape and fighting back. It caused much furor and much of it needlessly so but Crystal Dynamics did themselves no favours by drawing so much attention to it. Suffice to say the wailing and gnashing of teeth has died down for now and as long as we’re not subjected to something on the scale of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’s actual rape scene, there isn’t much to get iffy about.
With survival comes hunting which is a big part of the game and will assist Lara in upgrading her skills and tools/inventory. Lara will use guns as she always has but will also wield a bow which will help her in eliminating enemies stealthily and obviously will be invaluable when hunting. She will also scavenge what items she can from the wreckage littered across the island and abandoned outhouses etc in order to eat, keep warm and just generally stay alive. I think we’re really driving home that survival shtick.
Lara’s skills, inventory and tools will be upgradeable but little is known of the upgrade system at present. expect it to be a lite version of what we saw in Far Cry 3. The upgrade system will be quite linear and chances are you’ll be able to max out all your upgrades. Another thing that seems quite linear is the gameplay. Despite an expansive island that would be perfect for a sandbox exploration game as Lara attempts to endure amongst unfamiliar surroundings, the game looks to play in a very linear, typically Tomb raider fashion. The sweeping vistas and restricted paths give off a whiff of Uncharted but more on that later.
The campaign is said to last somewhere between 12 and 15 hours and there’s been no mention of side quests or optional objectives as yet. Truth be told, that’s a decent length for the game and it will be extended further by multiplayer. Yes, for the first time ever Tomb Raider will feature multiplayer. The Guardian of Light doesn’t count, evidently. This will be competitive multiplayer similar to that of Uncharted (no, we’ll talk about the comparisons later). The multiplayer will feature three modes. The first is Team Deathmatch where Lara’s companions face off against the deadly inhabitants of the island. This is a best of three affair with teams swapping sides each round. The second mode is called ‘Rescue’, in which survivors must collect med-packs and deliver them to various destinations around the map. Meanwhile, the other team – the ‘scavengers’ – must reach a certain kill-count. In this mode, the ‘survivors’ have a bleed-out time that can be cut short by dealing a melee finisher. There’s a third mode called Cry for Help which seems to put more focus on discovery and collection which seems more original than the previous two modes.
The multiplayer will feature climbable environments, and while map won’t be expansive they will be rich with environmental traps, destroyable bridges and low tech weapons such as the trusty bow and arrow. It appears to support up to 8v8 but details haven’t been abundant on that. Check out the multiplayer above.
Now we can talk about those Uncharted comparisons. Yes, they exist and yes they are quite noticeable in traversal, the cinematic nature of the game, the multiplayer, the gunplay and even ducking behind cover and the game playing out like a third person shooter at times but then Tomb Raider did heavily inspire Uncharted so it’s a needless comparison even if it’s one that is rather obvious. Personally Crystal dynamics could have gone a more sandbox survival route and that would probably have been great but they chose to do it this way and it seems like they’ve pulled it off in an interesting way. The game is certainly darker and more mature than Uncharted by all accounts. Less Indiana Jones than harrowing tale of survival.
I played the Hunting demo (above) at rAge last year and while it wasn’t amazing, I enjoyed the experience and was curious to see what the rest of the game had in store. The game looked good, I played smoothly and the controls seemed to work well. Despite its linearity, I think Tomb Raider will certainly bring a lot of new things to the franchise and certainly does some things a little differently to most action-adventure titles. There are certainly missed opportunities in not sticking to more survival-focused gameplay and choosing to make the game linear rather than open-world but Tomb Raider is looking quite interesting and might just be something special.