Afternoon fellow sentient humanoids, or if you are reading this in space, potential galactic conqueror slime creatures…. Please don’t eat me, not only am I bony and but I probably don’t taste nice either and would be of much more value to you as some sort of mustache twirling collaborator.

This weeks Vs. grudge match is a toughie; we have Sony’s best franchise Uncharted, up against the surprising majesty that is the Tomb Raider Reboot. The main problem with comparing these two games is their quality as both were some of the best games released in their respective years, with more Game Of The Year awards under their belt than £1 coins in Barnsley strippers thong. For fairness we are comparing Tomb Raider to Uncharted 3, as they were the closest in release terms.

In the very manly corner we have Uncharted 3: Drake Deception, released in 2011 to a bigger fan-fare than a royal wedding by AAA developer Naughty Dog and with an impressive Metacritic score of 92.

In the female shaped but still hard as nails corner we have Tomb Raider, released in 2013 by Crystal Dynamics to a slightly cynical public but garnering impressive Metacritic scores of 87 (for the PS3 version).

The main problem with comparing these two games is their quality as both were some of the best games released in their respective years, with more Game Of The Year awards under their belt than £1 coins in Barnsley strippers thong.

Also, for transparency, whilst both games have had a quality remaster of late, the titles review are their last-gen counterparts as this contributors have played both of them (and i haven’t played the PS4 collection). However, given that the recent updates are mainly cosmetic in nature, the result could equally be transferred across to the current gen. Finally, we have compared the single player only as this is the main draw for both titles.

Let battle commence! (sounds huge klaxon and grabs a bad of nachos)

Story

Uncharted 3 is an epic, globe trotting tale, taking place over a number of continents from London to the Middle East. Narrative wise it’s the strongest of the series, pulling in intriguing back-story elements and confidently introducing a range of characters (both new and old). It only occasionally falters trying to fit in a myriad of double crosses (that even a blind hedgehog could see coming) and plot contrivances to include older franchise characters which don’t quite land.

Uncharted 3 has confident narrative and characterisation.

Uncharted 3 has confident narrative and characterisation.

Narrative wise it’s (Uncharted 3) the strongest of the series, pulling in intriguing back-story elements and confidently introducing a range of characters (both new and old).

In terms of the actual cast, Nathan Drake himself is one of modern gaming’s biggest pin-ups and whilst occasionally you would wish the devs would reign in his smugness and quips just a little, he is still a fun guy to get behind through a 12 hour game and its the ubiquitous Nolan North’s performance which sells him. Sully, Elena and the rest of the crew are fine but it’s bad-guy Katherine Marlowe who is the standout of the other characters for me a (surely destined/designed to be played by Helen Mirren in the film version?).

Tomb Raider is somewhat more simplistic in it’s story; charting Lara Croft’s journey from super-green archaeologist and shipwreck survivor to bow-wielding bad-ass. Although the story itself is more simplistic, given its origin story roots, it was certainly the right creative direction to go in and provides a good foundation to reboot the franchise from.

Although the story itself is more simplistic, given its origin story roots it was certainly the right creative direction to go in and provides a good foundation to reboot the franchise from.

TR5

Tomb Raider’s elegance is it’s main strength.

Lara is debatably a more sympathetic character than Drake, here ably voiced and mo-capped by Camilla Luddington. Although, occasionally her English accent is a little over-enunciated (like many Hollywood-based actresses do…yes I am aware Luddington was British born but she lives in US now) and occasionally her constant yelping and sobbing can get a little annoying, there is less self-assuredness about her and not an ounce of smugness, making her an easy person to relate to than the unflappable Drake. The supporting cast is a little more forgettable with a bad-guy who is on screen for less time than it takes to cook a Pot Noddle, but in reality the island and it’s various challenges is the antagonist.

Winner – Both games have a lot of strong points and represent some of the best story-lines in recent action gaming but  for it’s brash confidence and global scope, Uncharted 3 edges this round. However a bundle of gold stars go to Crystal Dynamics for making Lara not only realistic, but likable.

Gameplay

Good lord this is tough….. Both games are hugely playable, mixing the combat with climbing and rudimentary puzzle solving in a heady and enjoyable mix.

Uncharted’s set -pieces are pretty much unmatched in the pantheon of action gaming; elaborate, wildly inventive and exciting, they set a bench mark so high it seems unlikely to be beaten. Whats also astounding the the fact that there’s a multitude of these great action beats in the game, not just one. Even the less on-rails sequences, such as the young Drake being involved in a roof-top foot chase are sublime.

A seriously great action game but combat  controls irk a little.

A seriously great action game but combat controls irk a little.

However, peronally speaking I don’t find Uncharted’s controls quite as good as Tomb Raider’s, especially in the combat. It may well be personal preference but Naughty Dog’s staunch refusal to allow you to map fire/aim to the actual triggers and instead use this for reload and grenade is counter-intuitive when those buttons fit more comfortably in that slot and don’t result in your hands being scrunched up in a claw shape for 3 weeks after.

It may well be personal preference but Naughty Dog’s staunch refusal to allow you to map fire/aim to the actual triggers and instead use this for reload and grenade is counter-intuitive…

Tomb Raiders combat and controller layout on the other hand is pretty much perfect, and it contains the best bow combat mechanic in any game I can think of. The bow is often the last bastion of a series running out of ideas with weapons (Cough …Crysis 3), but in Tomb Raider’s case not only is the narrative reason for its inclusion solid, but its the funnest weapon of them all.

Tomb Raider also feels less linear in its structure, with its almost hub-like environments and most importantly its optional tomb puzzles, which are debatably the best bit of the game.  So much so that the sequel (due soon) is upping the number of these puzzle challenges.  Linearity and set-pieces may go together like peas and carrots but what Tomb Raider loses in orchestrated bombast, it gains in exploration.

The set-pieces don't quite match but it's exploration is superb.

The set-pieces don’t quite match but it’s exploration is superb.

….what Tomb Raider loses in orchestrated bombast, it gains in exploration.

Both game also represent supremely good value for money with well-paced and hefty 12-15 hour campaigns that don’t feel padded or slight.

Winner – Neither game in a slouch in the gameplay department. Tomb Raider has better combat and exploration but Uncharted has some of gaming’s best set pieces so this is a close call. Tomb Raider wins by the merest hair on my balding head.

 

Presentation


Uncharted 3 and Tomb Raider 2013 are clearly expensive games with a lot of care and attention put into the presentation, both represent some of the best looking games on their respective last-gen platforms.

Uncharted 3 looks stunning, even by modern standards.

Uncharted 3 looks stunning, even by modern standards.

Sony’s contender uses the power of the console and the storage of the Blu-ray to great effect  and Uncharted 3 has some sparkling environments, which are as beautiful as they are varied. The music, aforementioned voice acting and cut-scenes are all slick as a sea otter in a bath of olive oil.

Tomb Raider matches Uncharted pretty much beat-for-beat and only really loses out in respect to its environments. It may be unfair as it is narratively constrained to its island environment, but it is mostly brown and grey in its palette. When facing Uncharted mix of London town to Shangri La, with a million different colours and environments, it could come across as a little muted and dull. Thankfully it does match its tone and story but Uncharted world is still a more fun and exotic place to behold.

Tomb Raider's muted colours match the story but are a little samey.

Tomb Raider’s muted colours match the story but are a little samey.

Uncharted 3 and Tomb Raider 2013 are clearly expensive games with a lot of care and attention put into the presentation, both represent some of the best looking games on their respective last-gen platforms.

 

 Winner – I think you can probably guess from the above but although both games truly feel like triple-A titles, with the accouterments to reflect that, Uncharted 3 wins by virtue of feeling more varied and exotic.

 

 

VERDICT:

Uncharted 3 (or the first 2 in fact) and Tomb Raider 2013 are both fantastic titles. Given franchise exclusivity, to some the choice has been made for them and the only way to experience anything like Nathan Drake’s misadventures is to play Lara Crofts latest effort. However, to anyone lucky enough to have both platforms, these are two games worth playing to anyone who loves action  and adventure games.

It’s fair to say Tomb Raider borrows greatly from the Uncharted series, but being the originator of something only goes so far and realistically speaking Sony’s series is undoubtedly influenced by the early Tomb Raider titles, so like the Bourne vs Bond debate, neither could exist with out the other, leveling the playing field.

When the dust settles and all the fan-boy and exclusivity pomp has fallen by the wayside where it belongs, the objective eye reveals that these games are very similar but both have their unique charms. Tomb Raider’s mix of exploration and combat is a winning one and Uncharted’s set-pieces and character is also delightful.

When the dust settles and all the fan-boy and exclusivity pomp has fallen by the wayside where it belongs, the objective eye reveals that these games are very similar but do both have their unique charms.

The winner by a nose as small as a field vole is Uncharted 3.

How do you feel about my verdict? Let us know below.

Thanks!

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Ed F

I am a keen amateur gamer who has always found himself slightly behind the times. My interest in gaming piqued with jealous looks at my friends copy of Duck Hunt on the NES all the way back in the early 90’s. Since then I graduated to a Sega Mega Drive of my own, a late 90s obsession with PlayStation One and then an ill-advised GameCube phase in the early noughties. Since my relatively late introduction to the Xbox360 in early 2009, I have being playing catch up. Among my other interests are comics, movies and boring my wife to death with talk of ‘cinematic tropes’ and ‘narrative arcs’. I am currently gorging myself on the next gen whilst keeping one foot in the previous one.

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4 Responses

  1. gordon says:

    Tomb Raider has always been about the exploration from the start , it is about the return factor

    Remove the scores that Uncharted and Tomb Raider are given and consider the games themselves then you start to get an idea of where they actually have strengths and weaknesses

    AmUnRa if it wasnt for Tomb Raider we wouldnt even have anything to compare Uncharted to , put it simply Naughty Dog didnt create Uncharted they built on what Core Design/Eidos had originally created

    Best example of this is Goldeneye 007 (N64) is actually where Halo (XB) got its inspiration from with Halo 2 (XB) taking it to its pinnacle once you realise this you then stop looking at things through rose tinted glasses and start to admire the fact that the only reason Uncharted is at the level it is at is because Tomb Raider was there first showing them how to do it not the other way around

    mind you since my first machines for games were ZX Spectrum and Amiga my opinion doesnt count does it

    • I don’t 100% agree with your “if it wasn’t for…” comment.

      3D adventure game or even first person shooters would have come around sooner or later, even if Doom/Goldeneye/Tomb raider never happened. If you look at these kind of games, they are trying to mimic a real world perspective, which is natural for us humans to do – do you think we would never have any other portraits if it wasn’t for the first person to paint one?

      Without Tomb Raider, maybe it would have been a bit longer until we got something like uncharted but probably not significantly so. Maybe the gameplay would be a bit different but we’ll never know if that’s a good or bad thing.

      For me, when I compare Tomb Raider with Unchanted, I would go with Tomb Raider if only to reminisce of how I used to find angular mammary glands a thing of desire.

  2. AmUnRa says:

    No just no. Uncharted is and will be the better franchise. Zabor you are so wrong, i dont know where to begin. Everything in Uncharted is just better than in in TR. Your last sentence gives it away, you are a fan of the xbone. Dont worry, when TR comes to the PS4 i buy it second hand cause TR is simply not as good as the Uncharted franchise.
    The Uncharted games sold are the proof in the pudding. I going to buy the Uncharted collection day one, o and of course Uncharted 4.
    I trust NaughtyGod to make that game a masterpiece and fantastic end of the story of Nathan Drake.

  3. Zarbor says:

    Gameplay trumps it all. Tomb Raider wins for me. I downloaded the Uncharted demo and the set pieces seem so scripted but no game does it better. The gameplay is lame and the game feels so linear. They better fix it in the next game but I doubt they will. Once you finish Uncharted, you don’t want to touch it again….unlike Tomb Raider.

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