MUCH TO THE DELIGHT of video game playing teenage boys across the world, and maybe their dads too, famed gaming icon and poster girl Lara Croft has returned to consoles and PCs in Tomb Raider, the first title in the eminent action and adventure platformer series to appear for almost five years.
The long awaited release is a prequel to the series enjoyed by a largely young male crowd for almost two decades, portraying the female protagonist at her most vulnerable. In Tomb Raider, Lara is a young lady of 21 years with no prior experience of crawling through tight holes, swinging from vines in short shorts and carrying an array of weaponry in a small backpack.
It's almost 17 years since the first Tomb Raider release in 1996 that shares the same name. It's also the first Tomb Raider game to be given an "M" (Mature) rating by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) and an 18+ rating by Pan European Game Information (PEGI). So we knew before powering up our Xbox console to play Tomb Raider, that we were in store for so something either much more gory and intense or filled with more foul language than the previous games.
Although you're not far into the game before you realise that both of the above are true, what we weren't expecting was how real and stimulating Tomb Raider is compared to its predecessors.
Right from the get-go, you're immersed in gut-tugging action, with Lara bearing the brunt of it. Finding herself kidnapped, stabbed in the hip with an iron bar and subsequently beaten and bruised during an escape from a shipwreck, you must guide Lara from the caves to the open air, dodging rocks, fragments of wreckage and ambiguous characters clasping sharp objects.
Once Lara is safe from shards of debris and powerful torrents of water, the game's narrative soon becomes clear when Lara retrieves a video camera from the wreckage.
The camera details Lara's journey to this point, where she arrived as part of a documentary film crew sailing on a ship, searching in a region called the Dragon's Triangle for a remote Pacific island called Yamatai. A freak storm smashes the ship onto Yamatai's shores, leaving the crew stranded and separated.
At this point, Lara is nothing but an inexperienced archeologist. Because she has been stripped of her history of the previous Tomb Raider games, the narrative begins as a mission of survival. However it soon becomes apparent that her quest is not only to escape the island, but to find her friends and unravel the island's mysteries.