On Tomb Raider and appealing to the Uncharted crowd

Tuesday, 26 February 2013 12:59 GMT By Johnny Cullen

Comparisons between Uncharted and Tomb Raider shouldn’t put you off the anticipated Crystal Dynamics reboot, says Johnny Cullen. Similarities are there, but Lara’s revamp stands alone.

By revamping the series, Crystal Dynamics has made Tomb Raider viable to the Uncharted audience.

Next week, Crystal Dynamics, the custodian of Lara Croft since 2006, will release its anticipated reboot of Tomb Raider. The game has been compared to Uncharted since the first gameplay was shown at E3 nearly two years ago. Similarities have been noted before. When Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune first released in 2007, comparisons were made to the older versions of Lara’s adventures.

It’s obvious the new Tomb Raider has been inspired by Naughty Dog’s work with Nathan Drake, but that doesn’t hinder it. If anything, it works in Crystal Dynamics’ favour.

For example, Tomb Raider’s combat is a key inspiration from Uncharted. Fighting can get frantic, close and personal (though it does take three or four shotgun shots sometimes rather than one or two to take an enemy down) while a stealthy approach is utterly satisfying. Tomb Raider’s stealth aspect is something I consider to be better than the Naughty Dog version. There’s a forest section halfway through the game in which you need to take out a group of enemies. When stealthily murdering from behind or with Lara’s signature bow from afar, there’s something giddy about it.

Uncharted has a basic slump and die if you succumb in battle, slip up on any of Tomb Raider’s big bits and Lara can die in very gruesome and gory ways (like to see her head pierced by a tree branch during the parachute bit? Thought not).

Traversing the environment draws from Uncharted to an extent, with colour-highlighted pillars telling you where to climb. But Tomb Raider builds upon the concept by adding various ways to let you get from A to B rather than the climbclimbclimb of Uncharted, allowing you to shoot a hook onto a catchable surface to zipline down the bottom or use the climbing axe as an aid.

The one thing Uncharted and Tomb Raider are matched at is big action set-pieces. Crystal Dynamics has a heap of them throughout, from the first playable section to the last.

New map

I didn’t play the majority of the PSone Tomb Raider games, and even playing Anniversary or the post-Uncharted 2 Underworld didn’t exactly make me click with the series. But there’s plenty in the reboot for fans who’ve been around since the beginning. You can still explore tombs as an optional side (I only entered one or two due to wanting to stick to the story), and there are still puzzles in both the crypts and main game.

By revamping the series, Crystal Dynamics has made Tomb Raider viable to the Uncharted audience. I’m in love with Uncharted and Naughty Dog in the creepiest way possible, and Lara Croft’s origin story caters to the Drake fanboy in me.

But while the comparisons are easy, Uncharted was all about a big payday. Tomb Raider – which could only have been written by Rhianna Pratchett – was about building a character from vulnerability to strength out of the bleakest of situations. Crystal Dynamics succeeds in taking one of gaming’s most successful franchises back to roots it never knew it had.

A solid foundation has been set from the next phase of the Tomb Raider series. Whether it’ll revert to retellings of old installments or continue with the origin thread is unknown, but it’s unlikely Crystal Dynamics will need to look in Naughty Dog’s direction again.

Tomb Raider releases on March 5 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. Read Dave’s opinion on the final code and check-out all the review scores.

Disclosure: This opinion is based on a final Xbox 360 retail copy of Tomb Raider, provided by Square Enix.