Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light – The PS3 Attitude Review
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light takes the well known tomb raiding heroine on her most enjoyable adventure yet. Gone are the days of solo expeditions, slow methodical platforming, and clunky gunplay mechanics.
Instead, the Guardian of Light is a faster paced action platformer with an emphasis on cooperative gameplay and clever puzzles. Even the viewpoint is different, with the camera now taking an isometric perspective instead of the 3rd person viewpoint the Tomb Raider series is known for.
Lara Croft fans will not be disappointed with this much needed departure.
At the start of the game, Lara tells the tale of an epic war that occurred two-thousand years ago in Central America and the lost mirror that was a result of it. Lara eventually finds the mirror of smoke and gets ambushed by a group searching for the same treasure. They successfully steal the artifact, which just so happened to set free Xolotl, the keeper of darkness. As Xolotl destroys everyone in his path, the Guardian of Light, Totec awakens from a stone statue. He then teams up with Lara to put a end to the evil spirit once and for all. Yes, the storyline is pretty ridiculous. Aside from the intro and ending, the story sequences are minimal with Lara and Totec speaking very rarely in between. And when they do speak, it’s usually nothing too interesting.
The gameplay, however, absolutely delivers. Each level is filled with creative puzzles that take the best elements from the Tomb Raider series and makes them fun again. Despite this being a much smaller title, the visuals are definitely impressive and that great sense of exploration is still intact. A few of Lara’s favorite traps make their return as well, including the dreaded floor spikes. The pacing is easily the best it’s ever been, with a perfect blend of shooting, platforming, and puzzle solving.
Since this game is viewed from an isometric perspective, the gunplay mechanics are handled through the use of the right analog stick. It’s the standard dual joystick format. All you need to do is point and shoot and it works wonderfully. You’re able to carry four weapons at a time, with each tied to a direction on the dpad for quick weapon swapping. As you progress through the game, you’ll also find relics that improve your abilities. It’s a nice touch that adds a bit of customization to your character.
When playing cooperatively, Totec will accompany Lara the entire time. Totec’s abilities consist of using his shield to block attacks and using his spear as a platform for Lara to stand on. Totec’s shield can also be used as a platform if he holds it over his head. All of these options create new possibilities for accessing areas that would normally be impossible to reach.
Lara has unique abilities as well. Not only is she the only character that can use spears as a platform, Lara still carries around her trusty grappling hook. Normally, the grappling hook allows Lara to rappel down, climb up, or run on walls. When playing cooperatively, Totec can actually walk on the ropes and use it as a bridge. He can also use it to climb up or rappel down walls the old fashioned way. It really depends on the situation.
The levels will change accordingly when playing solo and this allows Lara to complete them on her own. Totec won’t even follow her, which means there is no AI to babysit. She will even be given Totec’s spear so she could use it whenever it’s needed for platforming. Crystal Dynamics handled this aspect of the game very well. Whether you’re playing alone or with a friend, you’re always in for a treat. Neither option will give you a gimped experience, although playing cooperatively is so much more enjoyable.
Lara Croft ATGOL has tons of replay value. There are hidden weapons, treasures, relics, and powerups in every stage and you most likely won’t find them all your first time through. Each level also has a set of challenges to complete and this gives you even more of an incentive for multiple playthroughs. This game will last you quite some time. You’ll even have fun along the way.
On November 22nd, the long awaited online patch was released. The first thing I did after completing the game offline was jump straight into the online mode. I joined some random person’s game and we played through the entire game from start to finish in one sitting. It was an absolute blast to play and many laughs were had (especially after ‘accidentally’ making mistakes that result in your partner’s death). I just love the way these puzzles were designed and the way they make you think differently. Depending on someone else because only they have the necessary skills means that teamwork is a must. I highly recommend playing the game cooperatively even if you already finished the game alone. It’s different enough of an experience to be worthwhile.
The online structure is pretty simple. You can create and join rooms, choose the level you want to play, and that’s pretty much it. What’s really neat is that every detail is shown for both players during the level select screen. Even if you’re playing a game with someone random, you’ll always know exactly what they’ve already done and still need to do.
There is only one problem. There is lag and it’s very apparent when picking up items. While this doesn’t hurt the gameplay at all, it is something to take note of. Lag does manage to cause problems at certain points, most notably whenever an abundance traps with spikes are present. It was often the case that spikes would magically kill us even if we saw our character running through the trap safely. One of the boss fights against a T-Rex saw a similar situation, with the giant dinosaur warping to different locations due to lag. Somehow, these issues only added to the hilarity of the game.
Since the game’s release, Lara Croft has received three downloadable challenge packs. Each pack adds four new challenge maps with various puzzle designs. These extra levels are definitely worth it and only adds more replay value to the overall package. Many of the puzzles make you think in ways the single player didn’t and that’s quite refreshing. As with the levels included with the game, each Challenge Pack can be played alone or with a friend locally or online.
Crystal Dynamics also released a free add-on pack featuring Kane and Lynch as playable characters. While this pack doesn’t add any new levels, it does slightly tweak the story mode and adds voice overs for both characters. If you’re familiar with Kane and Lynch at all, you’ll be happy to know that their signature vulgar language is still intact, but with bleeps replacing the curse words.
The DLC doesn’t stop there. Raziel and Kain, from the Legacy of Kain series, will be featured as the next downloadable character pack. Let’s hope this means that the LoK series is not long forgotten. Keep your fingers crossed.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a refreshing way to revitalize interest in a character that hasn’t been relevant in quite some time. The perfect execution of gunplay, exploration, and puzzle solving will keep you entertained from start to finish and you’ll want more. At the very least, you will get about six hours of enjoyment from a single playthrough. With that said, this is a game that begs to be replayed numerous times. And now that online multiplayer has finally been added, there are no excuses as to why you shouldn’t play this game cooperatively. It’s definitely one of the best co-op experiences you’ll have on the PSN.
By far, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is one of the most impressive downloadable titles released this year. Buy it now if you haven’t already done so. You won’t regret it.