CROFTY AM­BI­TION

BUT TOMB RAIDER LARA’S LAT­EST OUT­ING IS SOME­THING OF A MIXED BAG

Ruislip & Eastcote & Northwood Gazette - - Game On -

SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER Xbox One, PS4, PC ★★★★★

THE word iconic is bandied around so much these days, it’s al­most lost all mean­ing. But when it comes to de­scrib­ing Lara Croft, the char­ac­ter that de­fined gam­ing for a gen­er­a­tion, I’m hard pushed to find an­other ad­jec­tive.

With the pas­sage of time, it’s easy to for­get just how ground­break­ing the first Tomb Raider game was.

When it landed in 1996, its 3D graph­ics and game­play were revo­lu­tion­ary, cre­at­ing a tem­plate for ac­tion-ad­ven­ture games for years to come.

But nearly 20 years on, the gam­ing in­dus­try had dras­ti­cally changed, and Tomb Raider was in dan­ger of be­com­ing a nos­tal­gic foot­note.

While Lara is one of the most recog­nis­able gam­ing char­ac­ters, noth­ing had ever been done to flesh her out – very lit­tle was ac­tu­ally known about the woman be­hind the raider.

So in 2013, the fran­chise was re­booted with Tomb Raider, a game which sought to re­con­struct Lara’s ori­gin story, and fol­lowed the ex­plorer in her early days. Puz­zling was an af­ter­thought in this game, the fo­cus was more on ac­tion. It failed to do the char­ac­ter any jus­tice.

That was ad­dressed in 2015’s Rise of the Tomb Raider – and the fi­nal part of the tril­ogy, Shadow of the Tomb Raider has just landed.

This is Lara as we’ve al­ways known her – tough, smart, and bat­tle­worn.

It may have been three years since her last out­ing, but Shadow is set merely months after the events of Rise – with Lara ven­tur­ing through

Me­soamer­ica and South Amer­ica to the hid­den city Paititi, in a bat­tle to stop a Mayan apoc­a­lypse that she her­self has put in mo­tion.

This fi­nal piece of the story has been de­vel­oped by Ei­dos Mon­tréal, which pulls no punches in putting our hero through the grinder. Within sec­onds of the game start­ing, Lara is thrust into the midst of a plane crash, be­fore be­ing jammed into an un­der­ground cre­vice which sees her hack­ing at rocks and her own legs, with a blade, to free her­self.

Stealth plays a huge part in this game, see­ing Lara evolve into a silent predator who picks off her foes from the shad­ows with a bow and ar­row.

Oddly, that feels far more sat­is­fy­ing than sim­ply point­ing a gun and spray­ing bul­lets.

When you have a long stand­ing

per­sonal his­tory with a char­ac­ter, it’s dif­fi­cult not to bring your own pre­con­cep­tions to the ta­ble when it comes to that char­ac­ter’s per­son­al­ity.

There are parts in this game when Lara strayed so far from how I see her, it felt jar­ring. She is so ob­sessed with her work she’s de­tached from the prob­lems her raid­ing causes oth­ers – although her hu­man­ity is al­lowed to shine through in places.

The level of vi­o­lence she rains down on what are es­sen­tially vil­lagers is hor­ren­dous is places – im­pal­ing them with her pick­axe, or emerg­ing, cov­ered in mud like Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger in Predator, to cut them down.

New ad­di­tions to the game­play mean there are some quite claus­tro­pho­bic un­der­wa­ter sec­tions which, with the ad­di­tion of air

pock­ets, means you can stay sub­merged for longer.

Lara’s new over­hang and rap­pel abil­i­ties give her a di­verse set of move­ment op­tions, which al­low for much more in­ven­tive – and ver­ti­cal – level de­signs.

Craft­ing starts as a fun en­deav­our, un­til you re­alise ma­te­ri­als are so plen­ti­ful there’s lit­tle point to it – like­wise the game’s skill­tree is one of the most point­less I’ve ever en­coun­tered.

Com­bat takes a back seat in favour of puz­zle-solv­ing, which is es­pe­cially sat­is­fy­ing. If you de­cide to tackle some of the more dif­fi­cult tombs you’ll be pleased with just how chal­leng­ing they can be.

Vis­ually the game is stun­ning. The lush, green vis­tas, wide open skies and beau­ti­fully re­alised relics com­bine to cre­ate an invit­ing world you want to ex­plore. The plot though is in­con­sis­tent, with holes so large you could drive a bus through them.

Ul­ti­mately Shadow is a mixed bag of a game, but not a bad one.

Is it the most sat­is­fy­ing end­ing for Lara’s tril­ogy? No, but what the story lacks in terms of pol­ish, the puz­zling and plat­form­ing make up for in spades – although I’d have liked a bit more con­tent to en­cour­age ex­plo­ration after the main story ended.

■ Buy it: £41.99, cd­keys.com

Tomb with a view: This time com­bat takes a back seat to puz­zle solv­ing for Lara Croft

Take a breath: Air pock­ets mean you can stay sub­merged for longer What’s new, pussy­cat? Stealth plays a huge part in Shadow

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