Guess who’s back? Lara’s back. This time around, the adventure is much larger than before. Once again, we get to travel through many exotic locales and kick back to the Tomb Raider roots. So, do we have a winner this time, or will it suffer the same fate as Angel of Darkness?
As hard as it may be to believe, it’s been almost 10 full years since the release of the first Tomb Raider game. What that game brought to the table was exploration through various exotic locales, puzzles that actually make you think, in addition to some great combat. Of course, a voluptuous heroine certainly didn’t hurt things either.
Since the first game, a very weird roller coaster happened. The first game immediately attracted a huge fan base, and 2 seemed to further that fan base. Tomb Raider 3 was my personal favorite because of difficult puzzles and extremely cool locales that the levels were set in. After that game, the series seemed to plummet. This of course is not counting the very popular movies that have been released. Chances are that they could have had a part in saving the franchise as a whole. Tomb Raider 4 and 5 were decent games, but they lacked the original style that made the first games so great. Then came Angel of Darkness, but we won’t even go there.
Since AoD, Eidos passed the game on to Crystal Dynamics, to see if they ‘could’ revive the series. Crystal Dynamics were the people behind one of my favorite game series, Gex the Gecko. Not too many of you may remember that one, but it was basically a fun James Bond type of adventure where you were a Gecko. Regardless, Crystal Dynamics have produced some great games, and without a doubt, they were likely wary jumping into this one.
Lara Croft is in a race, a race against time. We’ve all heard this before, but this time we actually have an interesting plot. She is on the hunt for an ancient relic of utmost power. The relic is actually a weapon, that’s so powerful it could threaten all of humanity. The story begins off showing Lara as a little girl, in a flashback scene, on a flight with her mother. Both of them survive, and stumble upon a massive artifact. Lara accidentally ‘nudges’ it, and it sucks her mother in.
This is the first of many flashbacks, but they are streamlined into the story arc perfectly, and help fill you in on anything you should know. Lara must traverse through many exotic locales in order to track down various pieces of this ancient weapon. The locales are one area of the game that reminded me a lot of Tomb Raider 3. In that game, you traveled through the Amazon, Arctic, London.. etcetera. The same goes here. Not only do you stick to tombs, which there are many, but you also will visit places with gorgeous landscapes.
Of course at each of your major way points, you will run into huge boss battles and people who don’t want you to acquire various pieces of the artifact. All of these are well connected into the gameplay and really help make it a memorable story.
Gameplay is one of the biggest issues that Crystal D knew they had to face. Though TR has it’s major fanbases, many people were turned off of the game due to it’s clunky control scheme. The most notable is having to stand in a very precise spot before you jump, in order to nail a ledge perfectly. All of those issues were well handled though, and you will never have to stress out trying to line up for that jump. Overall navigation is very well done, but sometimes the camera can get in the way. If you are hanging off of a vine or a pole [get your head out of the gutter guys], then the camera can get quite annoying.
The control scheme overall is pretty straight forward. Your left analog stick is to run, and the right is to control your camera. The D-Pad is what controls your health packs, grapple hook and so forth. To fire the currently selected weapon you use the right trigger, and the left trigger to aim. Overall, I had zero issues with the button configuration; it worked very well. At some points throughout the game though, the control was very clunky. Most notably in boss battles where you are almost always trying to face the monster directly. In conjunction with trying to fire at it/him, you are trying to control the camera and not run into anything to slow you down.
One specific problem that bothered me was during one certain part of the game, where you are trying to avoid a monster while firing at an object. After firing you need to pull out your grapple hook to continue along. Well, this was extremely clunky, because sometimes I found I was not putting the gun away quick enough, and that even though I was facing directly toward the object, the grapple hook went elsewhere. I found this problem was only evident during boss battles, but where time is of the essence, these problems were stressful.
During the adventure, you will hop various vehicles, most notably a motorcycle. These were all amazingly simple to control, and most importantly.. fun. Even though the speeds were quite fast, I never found it to be a problem to stay on the road, and while you are shooting at as much as three other people at one time, that was important. There were not too many of these events in the game, but as we soon find out, it’s not a long game.