I’m about to say the thing you’re not supposed to say. My nine-year-old self who would cut cardboard dual pistols out of cereal boxes and somersault off my bunk bed would feel betrayed. Current me, who looked high and low to find Croft Apple Larazade like it was bottled from the Fountain of Youth, doesn’t want to say it out loud. But here goes … I might actually prefer Uncharted to Tomb Raider.(“I know Lara, I’m sorry.”)
I have just completed a month long run of all main series Uncharted games. It started out innocently at first. I had finished playing through all Shadow of the Tomb Raider DLC and with no more adventures on the horizon, just wanted something to fill that Lara Croft shaped void in my life. So, I picked up Uncharted 4. It was supposed to be a one-time thing, a cheap £14.99 thrill, but here we are, countless late-night rendezvous later and I’ve romped with Nathan Drake everywhere from ancient ruins in the Amazon Rainforest to the back of a cargo plane in the desert.
To be fair, I’m specifically talking about post-2013 reboot Tomb Raider here. One, because it wouldn’t be right to compare a game that’s over two decades old to something that’s been remastered for a current generation console. And two because, let’s get it right, without Tomb Raider there probably wouldn’t be an Uncharted series in the first place.(“The maths checks out Nate, you are a cheap copy.”)
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some anti-reboot, ‘not my Lara’ forum dweller, I very much enjoy the current generation Tomb Raider games. The first is my favourite, Rise of the Tomb Raider is a stunning game, and like the sucker I am, I’ve bought just about every bit of unnecessary merchandise flogged with each instalment (yes, I’ve even kept a few of those Croft Apple bottles because I like them and also because people will buy anything on eBay). But I knew my new feelings were real when the sneaky Uncharted art books and vinyl started to show up on Amazon Prime delivery.
The problem is, as much as I love Lara Croft and the world around her (see here for proof), by the time Shadow came around the spark had just kind of disappeared. Sure, I liked the company and familiarity, but I wasn’t raring to kick off my shoes and jump back in the second I got home from work.(Jesus, even Lara looks bored.)
It was different with Uncharted. From the opening action sequence and cut scenes which made me feel as though I had known these characters my whole life, I was hooked, desperate to get home so that we could hide behind some more relics and pick up where we left off. It felt comfortable, I knew all of the moves; the jumping, climbing, swinging that Lara had introduced me to, but it was also new and exciting at the same time.
(Just another day at the office.)
It didn’t matter that I was meeting these characters several years into their story, I cared about them and each game’s narrative immediately. I’m not saying they’re perfect, the first instalment certainly had its pacing issues where it seemed like the constant spawns of repetitive enemies were just an unnecessary block getting in the way of the story, and I could have done without the mythical U-turns in the closing chapters, but I powered through because I was desperate to know what happened next. While everything about current Tomb Raider feels super serious and the secondary characters somewhat interchangeable (though Shadow did offer some light relief – two-player action with Jonah and selfies with llamas), the jokes been Nathan and Sully made me laugh out loud, the dialogue and relationship with Elena was so believably sweet and fun – yes, I may be the other woman, but I was shipping them all the way.(“Sooo, wanna come back to my place and..you know…play Crash Bandicoot?)
It’s sounds cliché but it’s not you, Lara, it’s me. I met you as a mere child who would throw the controller at her dad any time a bat or bear showed up, and left you a woman, a full-on murderer, snapping dudes’ necks and hacking away at their heads with a rusty old pick axe.
I needed a change and maybe I expected you to change with me. With Uncharted, we see these characters grow, go through the ups and downs of relationships, and progress. Sure, Lara is showing signs of change, and the inner turmoil of believing you may have just inadvertently started the Mayan apocalypse is bound to get you down, but even after a trio of adventures I still don’t feel like we’re anywhere near to getting back to that arse-kicking, motorcycle-riding, sharp heroine that we all know and love. As one producer noted at the time of the 2013 launch, you’ll want to “protect” Lara. I really don’t, I want her to point a gun at my face because I’ve just interrupted a perfectly relaxing bath time, a la Tomb Raider 2. In another life (or several detailed fan fics as I’ve since discovered are a thing) this Lara and Drake would have been friends.(“Aaaahhh…that’s the stuff!”)
Lara, I can’t promise Uncharted is just a phase, but right now I am looking for a bit of fun. But as I boot up Uncharted 4 for the second time, and feel that pang of guilt, just know that like any first love, you will always hold that special place in my heart.