I’ve just finished playing last year’s reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise, called – funnily enough – Tomb Raider.
And it was good. I mean, Uncharted 2 levels of good, if widescreen, epic-setpiece and press-x-not-to-die QTEs are your bag. I mean, check it out:
It’s a gorgeous game. I must qualify: it’s largely muddy browns and greys, all snow and storm – but it is certainly the best-looking game I’ve played on the PS3 thus far. And while Lara Croft is hardly the most well-rounded female character in gaming, here she’s turned into something slightly better than spanky shorts and pneumatic cleavage – this is a story of growth and strength, and it’s surprising to find how much I’d come to care about the character by game’s end.
An example: there’s lots of deaths in the game. Lots. Some are due to wonky edge detection, some due to camera fritzing, but a lot are due to the difficulty of some events, which seem to ramp up randomly. Each time you fail, you see a gory death sequence, each of which induces a kind of urgh! moment. So when you transition from an all-elbows approach to a more fluid, ledge-to-ledge kind of action ballet, it’s a great feeling. Additionally, though there’s a lot of deaths, they don’t feel too unfair. After a while I began to see these inevitable failures as part of the getting-stronger story which is at the heart of the game.
(Of course, the whole set-on-a-Japanese-island-with-roaming-oni thing really does tweak my dials, so I suppose I was in from the get-go.)
The game has gathered a bunch of praise, and I can easily see why. It’s a very polished, stupidly fun popcorn game. Lots of explosions, lots of eek moments, and obviously crafted with lots of love. It’s the sort of thing you want to press on people to play, just because it’s so fun. Which is kind of the point of gaming, really.
That’s not to say there’s an absence of grinding. The game has that too, but not quite as much as the game I’d finished before it, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. There’s a game which’ll have you sailing for hours and hours attempting to finish it off by forcing your pirate/assassin/rogue guy to open every chest on every godforsaken cay from here to Havana.
On the plus side, there’s shanties. LOTS of shanties. See here:
And even though that’s a lot, there’s no way it’s enough to cover a 40-hour-plus playthrough. I’m pretty surprised how many of them I know the words to now, though. I was, however, to see this one in there:
I guess ACIV was the Assassin’s Creed series’ equivalent of Tomb Raider – a retooling which was, at heart, fun to play. Of course, I don’t think Edward Kenway was quite as engaging as Lara Croft in the story stakes, but he was a lot of fun to play, just because he was an opportunistic bastard who also could engage in pretty much every piratical cliche there was, all with added kohl.
I’m now up-to-date with the Assassin’s Creed series, having played through all their PS3 offerings within the past year. And as much shit as they receive for being reiterations of basically the same game, it’s been a worthwhile experience to play them pretty much end-to-end – the narrative does hold up, though it doesn’t quite excuse the amount of grinding necessary to round out the games. Like Tomb Raider, though, there’s a big feeling of action, and of cinematic reaching – even when the hardware’s not quite up to it.
Hell, what am I gonna play next?