Have you ever raided a tomb? I mean, when you actually think about it, it's kind of a pretty messed up thing to do, desecrate some poor deceased guy's last resting place, almost certainly on ground sacred to some religion or other, just in order to make off with an armload of shiny stuff.
Lara Croft's raided a couple, as I'm sure you already know unless you've been living under a rock - and even then you probably do, as that's exactly the kind of place where she likes to get her raid on.
And here we are right at the start of the Tomb Raider story. Lara is out there in the ocean south of Japan, looking for a mysterious lost island, when suddenly there's a huge storm, her ship gets wrecked, and she washes up on the shore of a mysterious lost island. Which is either terrible news or incredibly good fortune, depending on how you look at it.
The first ten minutes of gameplay are a smooth blend of linear exploration and frenetic QTEs, and introduces the shove-things and counterweight-things old-timey Tomb Raiders will no doubt find familiar.
Speaking of familiar, the entire thing bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain successful TV show which also features castaways on a mysterious island. Downed aeroplanes, overgrown concrete bunkers and bloodthirsty 'others' who prowl the island - Tomb Raider owes a significant debt of gratitude to JJ Abrams.
But hey, that's not such a bad thing. The story in Tomb Raider - or, more precisely, stories, as there are multiple interweaving tales being told here from throughout the span of human history - are tightly-written and intriguing. But come on, Squee - what of the game?
Well, my friends, it's an absolute beauty. The set pieces are particularly imaginative and the game sprints from one memorable moment to the next through some of the most enchanting and evocative scenery I've seen in a game. There is plenty of exploring to be done and collectibles to gather for those as wants 'em, without devolving into random open-world ambling. You're always on-track, but how fast you plough through is a matter of personal taste. Although the optional tombs are really excellent, and are well-thought-out and interesting. You'd be missing out if you passed any over.
Much has been spouted about the buggy PC version, and while I really do sympathise I've had next to no trouble other than the occasional messed-up re-skinning of certain sprites which clears up once the game is restarted.
Lara is a complex and interesting lead, and the sheer mental and physical toil she endures is counterpointed by her determination and self-belief: "I can do this", she'll mutter before scampering up a wartime bomber before it falls through the jungle canopy, or as she pelts it across unstable rooftops of a village built into a cliffside. The other characters are mostly well-written, with the odd exception.
All of the common denominators of modern action games are here, too, of course – upgradeable weapons and skills, and a spooky sense mode that helps you to see useful objects in the environment and to spot enemies. The game's survival theme is clearly displayed through the story – Lara gets bashed from pillar to post throughout – but ammo is never desperately scarce, and timid little Lara becomes an action hero in suitably short order. That said, Lara's sidesteps look suitably desperate – even when you have the hang of nimbly sidestepping wolves, she still looks like she's bricking it.
In previous Tomb Raider games I've found the pace can be slowed by a particularly fiendish puzzle, but this time around it feels that telling a great story in a cinematic way and pacing it appropriately was more important to the development team than trying to slow you down with mind-bending traps.
Flaws? Well, there are a couple, I suppose, but they're comically minor compared to the good points. Sometimes moving so you can pick up an item or activate something is a little fiddly. See? It's hardly a huge failing. Sometimes the game can slightly bog down at a multi-part QTE-fest where repeatedly mucking up and replaying can become a bit of a chore. Getting the top-flight graphics settings to run smoothly will require quite a beast of a machine - Game Debate's own Chillaxe managed about 40-ish frames-per-second on Ultra settings (which, it's important to note, is a lower setting than 'Ultimate', which the Chillaxe couldn't really handle very well).
Just go and get it. The devs clearly had a tale to tell that they had fallen in love with, and that enthusiasm comes through in the game from the juxtaposition of different architecture to the often-fascinating collectibles. I love for a game to tell me a great story - and I love you, Tomb Raider.