If you’re a fan of the Tomb Raider franchise, this game looks to be a return to form. If you’re not a fan of the franchise, this game should sway you because it’s finally grown up.
Tomb Raider is pretty much known for one thing. Well, two things. Namely the two things under the loosely fitting clothes of Lara Croft. Straight away this new entry wins points by scaling down the sexuality and actually writing Lara as if she, say, had character. The demo starts with Lara’s ship crashing on an unknown island and she is separated from the rest of her companions. This is a reboot-via-prequel approach, so Lara is far from the gun toting badass from her previous incarnations. She’s scared, anxious, and lonely. It’s a relief to have a female protagonist in an action game who isn’t the cliché warrior-princess cardboard cut-out, and it seems like they’ve thought this through.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is the favourite game of at least half of the development team for this. In the same way that MGS3 showed the growth of Big Boss into the heroic villain (play the game, that is literally the only way to describe him) this Tomb Raider is showing us Lara’s growth into the battle hardened mercenary-for-hire we know she will become. Then there’s the whole survival-in-a-jungle thing, which is unmistakeably Snake Eater-esque in it’s implementation.
So, the gameplay. Have you played Uncharted? Good, because here’s some more of it. Maybe that’s unfair, because Uncharted was of course a clear spiritual successor to Tomb Raider, so maybe it’s just reclaiming what it once owned. Either way, I have no problem with having more of it. Exploration is at the forefront, with a focus on platforming which actually exceeds that of Uncharted. In the demo we were given we had to make a base camp and then hunt a deer for food. The controls are tight, the aiming mechanics are perfect, and it looks great. I’m interested to see what becomes of the survival elements of this game. The deer section worked really well, you had to stalk the prey slowly, get into the perfect position, and then strike, and strike hard. It was actually a little harrowing, which proves the effectiveness of the games storytelling. In a series that has never interested me, this has swung me into being a believer.