Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 14th October 2018.
Closing the Lara Loop
LARA Croft is the ultimate warrior queen — but now she is far more than a mean machine. The team at Eidos Montreal wanted the final game in the reboot trilogy to show Croft with a consicience, but without losing her brutality. Games lead writer Jill Murray and senior game director Daniel Bisson told me how they brought the latest incarnation to the gaming screen. Jill said:
“Lara starts the game at the height of her powers — she is strong and capable and is racing to get to the artefact ahead of Trinity and take it before they can use it. But she is also trying to take out their whole organisation. She unknowingly sets off the apocalypse, so she learns quickly that even though she is very powerful she can also make incredibly big mistakes. Her challenge in the game is to define her role as a hero after coming face to face with her own mistakes and failures. This will take her to some very dark places, but this is also a very optimistic game because it is all about how she confronts these challenges and ultimately overcomes them.”
Lara and the world she is battling in shape the core of the new game. Daniel added:
“The difference between the three games is between the character and the world itself, that is the biggest change between Shadow and Rise. It’s a much bigger jump forward then the changes between Tomb Raider 2013 and Rise. The world is completely different because Lara is at the apex of her skills. That brings in a lot of new abilities that we need to showcase. That changed how we built the world — for example the game has the biggest hub we have ever created in the series. Then there are the new controls — we always want you to feel like you are in control so combat has moved into more open areas and it feel more like a sandbox. Lara has all the skills that she had at the end of Rise. People had complained that they had to relearn all the skills in Rise after Tomb Raider 2013, so we made sure that she is skilled up with everything she learned from Rise.”
The team also enjoyed bringing in some typical globe-trotting excitement. Jill said:
“The game will see you go from Mexico to Peru but it is all contained in the world map.”
“There are a lot of differences in the environment. Tomb Raider 2013 was set on an island in Japan which was a cemetery of boats whereas Rise was set in snow and was bare. But Shadow has mountains and jungles as well as underwater sections and villages and cites. There are so many sections that you will feel like you are moving from place to place.”
Despite pushing the limits, the guys hope newcomers will love the new adventure. Jill said:
“To anyone who hasn’t played the series or any Tomb Raider game this is a perfect jumping on point — we have the complete Lara Croft experience. It has all the key features you would expect from a Tomb Raider game but it feels like a more complete package. Everything we have added to the game is in response to what we know fans love. For us, it’s a really strong end to the trilogy.”
Shadow of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £49.99)
ALL great tales must have an end — and Shadow Of The Tomb Raider looks to top off a great reboot trilogy about our favourite explorer badass, Lara Croft. Shadow is going for the big finish — ramping everything up to 11 with a bigger challenge, deeper story and more skills for our heroine. You are right in the action from the start — on a plane that is crashing to the ground — and don’t expect the tension to lift as you bounce from location to location. The main tale is a simple lesson: if the sign says “Do Not Touch” then do not touch. Croft thinks she was doing the right thing in removing an artefact and stopping the evil corporation Trinity, but she actually starts the countdown to the apocalypse. Standard day at the office for Lara then.
Lara’s character grows as the story develops. There is some deep emotion which helps you bond with her. The actual gameplay is a step back from the action fest of past games. There are epic gun battles, but this is more of an exploration test than the past two games. There are crypts, puzzles and tombs and each one poses a mental teaser. These are easily the best puzzles in the series. All that is not to say there is no action — be prepared for a mix of stealth and full- on assault to get the job done. That dangerous ballet provides the most fun — you aren’t always on the back foot like in previous games. You take the fight to the enemy. You can hide in over-grown vines or string up mercenaries. You are the predator this time around. Add in a health large map broken up into areas full of side quests and bonuses to find like new kit and gear and you won’t need to look for stuff to do.
The game looks stunning — the lush green jungle and ruins coated in the glow from torches will really impress you. There is a real depth to the world and the characters look great. The soundtrack walks a fine line between awe and tension, depending on the situation, but the voice acting is well handled, with Camilla Luddington giving Croft a real human touch. It is good, but the game is not perfect. The stealth can be a bit hit and miss at times and the sound doesn’t impact how the enemies react. It is a bit weird to kill someone just yards from his comrades yet they hear nothing. Shadow Of The Tomb Raider is a strong final chapter to the tale. The developers have taken all the good bits across the series and added a few new tricks and some heavy-duty polish. It all serves to bring Croft’s tale almost full circle to where the series was before the reboot.
F1 2018 (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £39.99)
LEWIS Hamilton may be cruising to his fifth F1 world championship, but there is a way YOU can beat him. Race game experts Codemasters have served up F1 2018. The rule is: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Codemasters have almost followed that — but they have tweaked things and this game runs faster than previous generations. If you played F1 2017 then a lot of this will feel familiar but the biggest change is the depth to the career mode. You can do research and development for your team to improve performance and the points you need to unlock these parts are easier to get than in last year’s game. And the overall tech tree is a bit more user friendly.
Add in post-race press conferences and interviews where what you say can affect team morale and you get a feel for the real life in the fast lane. There are new regulations that can kick in during a session which can nobble your development plan but you can also safeguard your investment. The racing is typically Codemasters brilliant. You can alter the skill bar to your level — from Sunday driver to full-on SIM. And you get all the official teams and tracks. The photo-realistic look is stunning and the sound is spot on, but you may be disappointed by how much feels re-used from before.
Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 3: Vehicle Kit (Switch, £59.99)
NINTENDO Labo is a play, construction and education fun fest with cardboard. It launched earlier this year with two sets — a giant robot suit and a mix of little models like a fishing rod and motorbike controls. The third set is definitely aimed at gearheads. Toy-Con 3 Vehicle Kit lets you build a flight stick as well as the controls of a submarine and a steering wheel with a pedal. Everything is marked and colour coded so it should be simple, but building a working steering wheel out of cardboard will test your patience. The educational side also comes to the fore — it’s easy to see how younger gamers would enjoy building these complex kits . . . maybe with a bit of adult help.
There is an in-depth instruction guide on the game cart which lets you see each piece in a 3D space so you are sure you have done it right. Then, once it is built, it is playtime in the sandbox where there is a host of fun tasks. You can also look at the the engineering aspect. It would have been nice to be able to use the wheel with other racers on the Switch and the £60 cost is an issue. It is a step up from the first two kits. It is aimed at younger gamers but who can resists the thrill of building a steering wheel from cardboard and rubber bands?
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…