Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Tomb Raider Vs Uncharted

It’s quite a while ago now that Lara Croft and her improbable proportions bounded onto the screen. Game series seem to have difficulty enjoying a prolonged longevity. Sonic was really popular for the first 2-3 games, but he became outdated, and even the very long-lasting Final Fantasy seems to be doing its damnedest to shake off the last pesky fanboys (if I want something entirely linear I shall read a book).

The early success of Tomb Raider was due to a few factors. Firstly, Lara Croft. A lady protagonist was certainly not the norm in 1732, or whenever the first game was released, especially not one so well-endowed. Secondly, raiding tombs for treasure is cool. It was cool when Indiana Jones did it, it was cool when Lara Croft started doing so, and it remained delightful when her bête noire Nathan Drake appeared. Thirdly, there wasn’t really any rival (so far as I remember) so she had the entire antiquities thievery market to herself.

This year a rebooted version is to be released (unhelpfully entitled just Tomb Raider). This isn’t the first time such a thing has happened, but it will be the earliest Lara Croft we see (she’s not a veteran of theft and slaughtering endangered species, but a novice). Some say, and I agree, that this is make or break. The reboot, with a new, more realistic, Miss Croft design and voice actress, is an opportunity for a clean break. However, if it flounders she may well suffer terminal decline, not unlike the Roman army after the ill-conceived reforms of Marius which transformed the military into a more mercenary force with loyalty reserved for generals rather than the state. Ahem.

Uncharted is a new series, with three instalments thus far. I’ve played the first two (developed a habit of buying the inevitable platinum edition) and liked them both a lot, although I didn’t replay them much. The platforming is probably a shade better than Tomb Raider, but it’s in the gunfights that Uncharted really thrashes its older rival. Drake also seems a lot more likeable, and the graphics are fantastic (small and irrelevant anecdote: I played the first Uncharted game on a standard TV initially, and was really surprised just how big a difference the HD 720p definition made).

The individual treasures that can be found (and it’s hard not to find most of them) in Uncharted are a nice touch, although the generic treasures of Tomb Raider are actually more challenging and therefore rewarding to locate.

Apparently the new Tomb Raider will take Uncharted’s good points into account (which probably means copying them), and will have certain survival elements. I think this sounds pretty good, but, as usual, execution is what matters. If the survival elements are pathetic and tokenistic then there’s no point. If they’re all-encompassing and the mainstay of the game it might be enjoyable but wherefore art thou named Tomb Raider if that be so?

I hope the new game works well. I’ve played perhaps a third of the Tomb Raider series, and found it to be quite enjoyable, but not enthralling. Some extra realism, survival elements and a reboot, going back to Lara’s first adventure, might be the adrenaline shot the series needs.

There’s no solid release date, but it’s pencilled-in for Q3.


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