Tomb Raider: Welcome to the new Lara Croft
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Lara Croft and I go way back. I can remember playing the very first Tomb Raider huddled in my bedroom at my parents' house on my 14" monitor and marveling at the brilliance of the gameplay and quality of the graphics. I even borrowed a graphics card from a friend so I could play the game as God intended.
Over the years I have returned to Tomb Raider and the world of Lara Croft time and time again, even watching both the trips she made to the silver screen.
So it was with a certain amount of nostalgia that I dropped the latest iteration of Tomb Raider into my console. I had high expectations of this. It is, after all, the latest reboot of the series after a few years' hiatus.
This is not a continuation of the series, but rather a reboot of the series à la the current Hollywood series of super-hero films.
The original Lara Croft was a hard-assed devil may care adventurer. The Lara we meet at the beginning of this game is 21, idealistic and has never killed anyone before.
The difference between her and her previous incarnations is evident from the opening cinematic where she escapes (just) from a sinking ship and ends up washed up – with the rest of the crew – on a mysterious Japanese Island, populated by a vicious, murderous religious cult.
From a philosophical standpoint the clear difference between this Tomb Raider and all the ones that have come before is that Lara Croft has morphed from a cardboard cutout of a character for young boys to lust after alone in their bedrooms to a real character, with emotions, weaknesses and vulnerabilities, who cares more about the safety of her companions than her own well being.
Part of the reason for this is that, this time, the studio employed the services of a real script writer, Rhianna Pratchett, the daughter of legendary fantasy author Terry Pratchett.
Having a woman script the story has made a massive difference in the way Lara interacts with other people and how she evolves as a person throughout the game.
The world of the latest game is not open, in the way that games like Red Dead Redemption, Grand Theft Auto and Far Cry 3 are open.
Rather you are given specific arenas to explore, but there is still a clear path that you are supposed to take through the area.
The game returns you to some areas multiple times so those players who like to gather everything before moving on will be frustrated by not being able to do this in some of the areas.
This game is not, however, about the expanse of the world. It is all about the story and here it doesn't disappoint.
I found myself willing Lara on in her quest to rescue her friends and not worrying all that much about finding every last piece of treasure.
That said you can't avoid collecting salvage altogether as this is what allows you to upgrade your weapons, adding speed and strength to your arsenal.
Fighting enemies also generates XP, which you can use to improve Lara's abilities.
Upgrades can only be done at camp sites which are scattered at strategic points across the maps and which you can use to fast travel to areas you have previously explored to gather additional resources at any point.
A lot has been made about how much more human Lara is in this game and this is true, but expecting realism from a game is a futile exercise. Lara is still one tough cookie who kicks ass across the island and by the end she goes Rambo on the enemies, wading with everything she has to take out overwhelming odds.
For a long-term fan of the series, the latest outing to the world of Lara Croft left me breathless and wanting more and that is really how you should feel after a game like this.
More human, and less sex-object, Lara Croft
Story is too short
Open world is only an illusion