Rise of the Tomb Raider – impressions


Tomb Raider 1

I have literally just finished Rise of the Tomb Raider, the latest game in the famed franchise starring intrepid explorer Lara Croft.  The previous game, simply titled Tomb Raider was a very well made reboot for the franchise and saw our heroine shipwrecked on an island with more than a few dangers and adventures hidden within.  This game has Lara more as the adventurer we know and love and is more a straight-forward expedition to discover the ‘divine-source’ somewhere in Siberia, following in the footsteps of her father before her. 

rise-of-the-tomb-raider-8Developer Crystal Dynamics have created a very polished and detailed gaming experience that has all the climbing, exploring and ‘tomb-raiding’ you could hope for whilst also crafting a compelling, very well written story and believable characters.  Doesn’t hurt that it looks drop-dead gorgeous throughout.  The visuals on display here, with a wealth of effects and an epic scale are some of the best yet seen on XB1, with realistic rain, wind, smoke, fire, snow and water – also the little details to Lara herself from getting wet and mucky in water to a gradual coating of snow and grime on her clothing is quite something.  She also reacts realistically to climbing, leaping and falling or getting hurt that not for a second do you feel like this is just some videogame avatar, but a real, living and breathing person.  Quite an achievement, carried over it has to be said from the previous game. 

It gets pretty tough in combat, where as outside of getting shot exploring and solving puzzles is more about thinking your way through an area.  The combat however is at times fiendishly unforgiving and if you haven’t got enough bullets or you’re a crap aim or you have run out of bandages, you’re dead.  It’s also mostly set in Siberia apart from an epilogue that has Lara exploring a more sunny climate.  Flashbacks to Lara’s past, glimpses of Croft manor would have benefitted from a bit of gameplay thrown in, but the rest of the game is pretty immense with large open areas to explore and find secrets and hidden tombs in … so I can’t say I felt limited at all.  Also stealth, something that was hyped up (stalking and killing enemies in the forest wilderness) isn’t perfect as with the last game and getting spotted is all too easy…so going in all guns blazing is usually the best plan in the end.

screenshots captured directly from my Xbox One

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This kept my interest throughout, and Tomb Raider has always been gaming crack for me – I just can’t get enough of it.  So this met and exceeded my expectations no doubt. 

An essential purchase.

The Definitive Lara


Look what popped through my letterbox this morning…

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Although having played, loved and completed last year’s Tomb Raider on the PS3 … as a long time fan of the series and with a bit of a gaming drought at the moment on XBOX ONE I thought it was a great excuse to dive back into arguably Lara Croft’s greatest adventure.

Taking advantage of the extra grunt inside Microsoft’s new console this new version carries over all the DLC that was made available originally, along with concept art, a digital comic book and in the limited edition I ordered, a very nice digi-pack art book.

The game itself has been enhanced with higher Tomb Raider_2_editedresolution textures, improved particle effects on weather, fire and water etc., better lighting and it all runs in native 1080p.  The XBOX ONE version apparently supports a 30fps frame rate compared to up to 60fps on the PS4 but is reportedly more consistent than the varying frame rate on the rival console … but I think this is only an issue for those that look for such things.  Playing it, and I have only had a short time with the game, it feels very smooth and looks superb – an extremely detailed forest / island environment and bags of atmosphere.

I am looking forward to experiencing Lara’s adventure again throughout (something I normally don’t do a second time) as it was a fun game with a good story and plenty of ‘wow’ moments.  Is it really worth double dipping if you’ve already played the first game?  Probably not but if you’re hankering for a decent game on the XBOX 1 (or PS4) until big hitters like Titan Fall and Watch Dogs arrive … you could do much worse.

Lara Croft in Limbo


I downloaded two very interesting games the other day via XBOX Live Arcade, and even though they were just the trials (you download the entire game, but can only play a small portion before having to buy it to unlock the full experience), I came away thirsty for more!

Lara Croft and the Guardian Of Light

This sort of spin-off from the famed Tomb Raider franchise is displayed in a unique isometric almost top-down view-point, but all the old Tomb Raider exploration and puzzling is intact.  Graphically the new look is very fresh and detailed and harks back to PC games like Diablo.  The trial lasts a while too and we get to experience some of the major gameplay, boss fights and different environmental exploration moves and gadgets. 

LIMBO

Getting lots of buzz this one, basically a 2D platformer set in a strange black & white netherworld that is supposed to be some kids dream as you control a small boy and traverse the environments with just the ability to jump and push / pull things.  The world is full of dangers such as bear traps and giant spiders (!), but the look and feel is captivating, creepy and full of atmosphere that like Lara, this is a game I will certainly be purchasing at a later date.

Tomb Raider Underworld


First impressions

I know, I am soooo late to the party on this one.  And what with the summer games drought, and having recently completed Resident Evil 5 (ahem, an easy recommendation, even if it seemed to lack the brains of previous instalments) – I was eager to get to grips with something new. 

Lara Croft the eponimous big busomed beauty of the franchise may have had a few rocky moments along the way with lackluster sequels and the eventual death of developer Core design.  Thankfully the franchise was taken over by American developer Crystal Dynamics of the mostly decent Legacy Of Kain series.  This resulted in the brilliantly executed but pitifully short Tomb Raider Legend.

So here we come to the hotly anticipated sequel, and boy was I excited as I fired up the trusty 360.  I am glad to say (at this point) that it plays brilliantly, looks fantastic, has many subtle and eye catching effects and very fluid animation.  Also it’s a breath of fresh air in this era of shooters and beat ’em ups to actually play a game that is all about exploration, where you aren’t constantly interrupted by a barrage of enemies when all you want to do is climb and jump and swing and explore (I’m talking about you, Prince Of Persia).

Update (22/08/2009):  Having played the game now for just over a week, here are my thoughts:  The environments are expansive and very detailed, with some good if not revolutionary lighting effects.  At times it looks a little last-generation, but then you notice things like the wet & dirt effects that accumulate on Lara’s body.  Puzzle-wise it can be tough going, but not overly fiendish thanks to a hint-system where you can at any time choose to either be given a clue or the solution, neither of which makes the game too easy as traversing the environment is still the main challenge.  Enemies whilst few and far between may be a touch cliched and dumb but offer a welcome sense of variety and aren’t overly intrusive.  Story wise the cut-scenes are of a high quality, voice acting is passable and it is all very compelling.  Overall a great entry in the long running franchise.