Way back in 1996, the world was introduced to Lara Croft, a little lady with a big chest. The unlikely videogame protagonist, whose credit in the original Tomb Raider was reduced to a "Featuring Lara Croft" at the bottom of the box, proved videogame stars didn't need bulging muscles and frat boy attitudes to get things done.
Armed with dual pistols, a sharp mind and sexy bod, she redefined what a videogame hero could be. Sadly, Lara became famous for her looks, and most of her subsequent games relied on her ogle-worthy assets rather than the smart blend of exploration, puzzling and combat gameplay that garnered the original such success.
In recent years, Lara regained her groove with entries like Anniversary, Legend and Underworld, but she still hasn't fully crawled out of the abyss she was dropped into by titles like Angel of Darkness, which, in our opinion, is arguably the series' lowest point.
It's interesting then to see Lara star in a game that finally positions her for the comeback she so deserves, especially one that strays so far from the Tomb Raider formula that made her a star. Admittedly, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is smaller in scope than the titles we're used to, and it almost seems like it's meant to keep Lara fresh in our minds while Crystal Dynamics preps her next "real" adventure.
But don't let its reduced price tag fool you — Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is the best Tomb Raider game we've played in years. Maybe it was a more modest budget or lowered expectations, but something freed up Lara's handlers to take some chances and kill some sacred cows.
For starters, the game is a download-only entry with a focus on cooperative play, two firsts for the franchise. It also sports a new isometric perspective which, god forbid, doesn't allow gamers to get too close to Lara. This means no more panning the camera up her thighs or down her shirt (not that we ever did that).
These changes in Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light have already been well publicized, but lesser aspects like the dual-stick combat, RPG-like upgrades, and the amazing visuals also help make this a refreshing take on the series.