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18 cert, Square Enix, Xbox 360 (alsoPS3, PC)
“Extraordinary is in what we do, not who we are,” says Lara Croft at the beginning of the Tomb Raider reboot. The words are perfectly chosen: Croft is iconic as the curvy adventurer/ archaeologist, but there are some key changes here.
Her ponytail, combat fatigues and refined accent remain, but gone are the hot pants, one-liners and comical proportions. This is a younger, more vulnerable and more complex Lara. The game’s environment has undergone
a makeover, as well, with glossy exteriors making way for muddy, rain-flecked, harsher landscapes.
Following a spectacular shipwreck, Croft is left fighting for survival on a remote Asian island. As well as hostile animals such as wolves, the island is home to seedy mercenaries and ominous graffiti that warns “no one leaves”. Lara must learn to survive the hard way, turning from hunted to hunter.
Like the Deus Ex reboot (also from Square Enix), Tomb Raider is a triumph on nearly every level. The characterisation and story (by Rhianna Pratchett) are engaging; Camilla Ludington has the right pitch to voice the fierce but frightened Lara; and it plays extremely well.
The gameplay is part exploration, part third-person shooter and part stealth. The latter is the most satisfying, as Lara uses skill and cunning to thin the enemy ranks. Fire a bow to distract someone, or light a fire to trap them, or simply engage in a good old fashioned gunfight. It’s fun to scale cliff faces and buildings (as in the Uncharted series), and in levelling up Lara’s weapons and skills. There are nifty quick-time events too.
However, it’s the character moments that really make it special. Croft is a reluctant heroine fighting to survive while maintaining her humanity – at one stage she even apologising to an animal after she hunts it down.