Tag Archives: Adventure

“Tomb Raider” – Lara’s Renaissance

To quote Lady Croft herself, "I can do this..."

To quote Lady Croft herself, “I can do this…”

TL;DR verdict? “Tomb Raider” is a fantastic game.  Buy with confidence.

Whether or not Lara Croft‘s latest Crystal Dynamics game is a true entry in the series or such a departure that it constitutes an adjunct spin-off is worthy of further discussion, but the title stands on its own.

It’s a little too early to start shouting about ‘game of the year’ considerations but this latest Lara adventure is a cinematic adventure of such quality that it rivals generation-defining PS3 titan “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves” for sheer thrills, visual splendour and storytelling.  Given that the second Nathan Drake game is probably in my top two games of this generation, that’s no small complement.  I’d hope to see this title get it’s due come the end of the year, but I suspect that “Bioshock: Infinite” has game of 2013 all wrapped up unless the shipped product has been somehow inadvertently swapped out in the disc-pressing stage for a tie-in “Smurfs” shovelware effort.

Katniss who?

Katniss who?

Having listened to this week’s episode of the “Weekend Confirmed” podcast, I know that redoubtable host Garnett Lee will disagree in particular with my estimation of the story, and he’s entitled to feel misgivings towards it, but I really feel that this tougher survival story achieves the difficult balance of giving equal importance to character and plotting, pitching a younger Lara Croft through the proverbial mill whilst sketching out some of the elements of her persona in a way which should please long-term fans and players who’ve never picked up a “Tomb Raider” game before.

No game is perfect and often bears the hallmarks of influence . This game at least has the taste to be influenced by really good stuff. As well as the aforementioned Naughty Dog‘s awesome PS3 adventure series, you can pick out gameplay mechanics popularised by Rock Steady’s “Batman”games (Lara has a ‘detective vision’-like ‘survival instinct’ which highlights useful equipment and environmental tools), a gear and skills upgrading system which recalls latter-day “Call of Duty” multi-player perks and the foreboding dread of classic survival horror title “Resident Evil 4” as well as a scene in a charnel pit which is right out of Neil Marshall‘s magnificent horror film, “The Descent”.

The gore and combat can get a little overwrought, it’s true, and might put off some long-time fans who’ve felt that Lara is better when she’s exploring and traversing than when she’s sneaking up on some misogynist cult member and sticking arrows in his gullet but I see this as a real step forward for the character and a tantalising glimpse at what Crystal Dynamics might do with next-gen hardware – the PS3 version that I’ve been playing is utterly beautiful to behold.

Lara’s next game (and the inevitable “Uncharted 4”) might just be the reasons that I pick up a PlayStation 4.

 

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“Ready Player One” is the best book of the year.

The best book of 2011. Please kiss my ass, Booker Prize judges.

Not many novels hold my attention long enough for me to finish reading them.  I used to have a fifty page test, which gave any book that I was reading a reasonable amount of time to get its hooks into me and compel me to finish it.

With not enough time to do all of the stuff that I really want to do, a book/movie/game/album really has to grab me in order for me to keep going with it – there’s always something else out there that I could be enjoying and if I’m not into the world that the artist is creating, I don’t see the point in continuing the charade that I’m enjoying it.

I can honestly say that Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One” is the best thing that I’ve read in a while – Cory Doctorow’s “For the Win” comes a close second – and is certainly the best book that I’ve read this year.

If you grew up in the 1980s, then this book is absolutely and completely for you.  It’s a dynamic, propulsive adventure tale driven by puzzles, nerdy arcana, a dizzying grab bag of pop cultural references (I promise you – at one point in the novel, I found myself thinking “Y’know, it sure would be great if Cline found a way to work  ‘Real Genius‘ into this story”, only for him to do just that, mid-way down the page that I was reading. Spooky).

The plot revolves around a fairly grim future, beset by environmental blight, energy shortages and mass poverty – a world which most people willingly escape from by logging into OASIS, a virtual reality evolution of the Internet which allows users to submerge themselves in an infinite series of user-created worlds, games and quests.

When the reclusive inventor of OASIS James Halliday dies, his last legacy is to leave the users of the OASIS a game whose eventual prize is control of OASIS itself and of Halliday’s vast fortune.

It’s Xbox Live meets Second Life and Facebook on Energy Drinks informed by the pop culture of the 1980s and far more glorious than that pat series of analogies can possibly do justice to.

The novel’s blurb from “True Blood” author Charlaine Harris absolutely says it best – “I loved every page”.  I did too. And she, by her own admission, is not a gamer.

Not that you have to be, because Cline does an excellent job of explaining the likes of “Zork”, “Pac-Man” and “Joust” to people who may never have picked up a controller or jabbed buttons in a furious effort to stave off imminent virtual death.  Similarly, if you’ve never seen an eighties-released fantasy film, this novel will have you seeking out the Jim Henson back catalogue, “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension!” and “Ladyhawke” so that you can see what you’ve been missing.

Given that 80’s pop culture seems to have been directly influencing contemporary music and fashion for at least the last five years (being of a certain age, it’s impossible not to watch Lady Gaga and feel that her stuff’s fine but you preferred it when it was called “True Blue” and by Madonna) it seems like the perfect time for this book to have been written.  If you can’t understand a reference – and there were a few which had me hurtling in the direction of the internet for confirmation – you’ve got a damn good chance of decoding it with a brief diversion to Google on your smartphone.

And how much like science fiction does that last sentence sound to anybody who remembers loading their home computer games from cassette tapes?

I should do some summing up.  This is a wonderful novel.  If you loved the pop culture of the 1980s, consider yourself an unashamed geek and need to read something which will leave you a warm glow for hours after you’ve finished it, you need to pick up this book.

It’s sheer, nerdy undiluted joy.

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Filed under Books, Gaming, Geekery