Since Uncharted made its enormous debut back in 2007 as a PS3 exclusive, it has stirred up waves of endless arguments between gamers who have long fought over who the best action/adventure hero was, Nathan Drake or Lara Croft?
While some thought it impossible to distinguish who the greatest adventurer was between the two colossal heroes, we at Hardcore Gamer are certainly not in that camp. There’s no time better than the present to determine who holds the E3 2015 action/adventure crown, so let’s dive right into it.
Tomb Raider has had more of head start on Uncharted as it was established back in 1996. Lara made her debut on the Sega Saturn, PlayStation and PC, and was the lead character in one of the key titles that was accountable for PlayStation’s success back in the 90’s. Tomb Raider is essentially the mother of action-adventure games, that much is for certain. Lara’s roots may stem from video games but her reach in pop culture does not stop there, as she has had many film adaptations, comic books and even a theme park ride come out of her original conception. Tomb Raider has more time, experience and titles under its belt with gamers who hold nostalgic memories of their adventures with Lara, but Uncharted revolutionized the action/adventure genre as a whole.
As was previously stated, Uncharted was established back in 2007 on the PS3 with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, and has also become one of the key flagship titles for PlayStation since its initial inception. Nathan Drake, the protagonist of the series, is seen as PlayStation’s mascot and the series has received worldwide critical acclaim, most notably from the second game in the series. What’s more, Uncharted has also grown to produce comic books, novels, a up and coming feature film and various spin-off games. But does its popularity sales and various forms of media determine whether or not Nathan Drake is the best action hero? Of course not; the answer lies in these respected titles games, stories, characters and overall fun they can bring to the consumer.
There’s no ignoring the parallels between Uncharted and Tomb Raider, Nathan Drake, the wise cracking, cocky treasure hunter who has an overwhelming longing for adventure, and Lara Croft, whose tireless attitude has molded her from victim to hero whom also has an unquenchable thirst for adventure. Lara and Nathan both hold a flaming passion for ancient mythology, so much in fact that they willingly put themselves in danger just to trail their own novelties. The areas they explore and the paranormal twist on historical treasures are both prevalent throughout their games as they both bring a sense of summer movie blockbuster style to their stories. Both of these characters have taken the bar for action/adventure games in terms of story and set pieces that rival movie franchises such as Indiana Jones and rocketed it to the outer reaches of space, they have shaped what many now expect from action/adventure titles in games and other respected forms of media.
While the two series are definitely similar, they also have many differences. The most important feature to any tale is its story; without story the characters we grow to admire and care for cannot thrive. The Tomb Raider reboot tells a story about a British archaeologist in search of ancient relics who has been marooned on a peculiar island after a brutal storm destroys the boat she was traveling on. She has only one goal: to survive. This is where the reboot fell short; the characters were weak, bland and stereotypical to the point the player had no investment in them, and it seems as though Rise of the Tomb Raider will continue that trend. During the Rise of the Tomb Raider tech demo, we see Lara in Siberia where she is accompanied by Jonah Maiava; the two are in search of an ancient city called Kitezh, which Lara believes to hold the secrets to immortality. Soon Maiava splits off from Lara and she continues the journey on her own once more. Uncharted, on the other hand, has a plethora of interesting and well crafted characters who not only push the story forward and demand that you actually care about their well-being, but they also add a lighthearted sense of humor during stressful situations that can’t help but make players laugh.
One of the most important, if not the single most important factor in this debate is gameplay, which is always critical for a game’s success. Tomb Raider brings unique and impressive platforming and shooting mechanics, but in Uncharted, some points of the gameplay felt more like a chore than anything else. Going through the levels killing enemy after enemy in four or five waves repeatedly is not necessarily the most gameplay mechanic in the world. Uncharted 4 seems to be continuing this trend to some degree, as shown during its demo, but Naughty Dog is not afraid to implement new mechanics into the gameplay to even out this issue (like adding a non-linear Jeep segment during a convoy chase). Tomb Raider was similar in this aspect, as it also sends wave after wave of enemies, but because of the immersive and dense shooting mechanics the gameplay always felt pleasurable and entertaining especially with the implement of the bow and arrow, which I hope makes a return.
What is a major factor for action/adventure titles are the set pieces, and Tomb Raider’s reboot has been attempting to do many of the pulse-pounding things the Uncharted franchise does in a much smaller scale. In Uncharted there are always unforgettable sequences in each game; in Among Thieves, Drake is on a train that is slowly falling off a cliff as he makes his way back up it, or in Drake’s Deception where he is chasing after a plane and then immediately after he finds himself free falling outside of it. Now in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End we see Drake hanging from a convoy under a bridges overpass by a rope dart tool that Drake now frequently uses. Rise of the Tomb Raider had some great set pieces, but none of which were very memorable or as nail-biting as each set-piece is very predicable and the viewer can almost guess what is going to happen. Many, if not all of Rise of the Tomb Raider‘s pulse-pounding set pieces were chopped up into small segments during the trailer, and viewers were treated to a very underwhelming, predictable and typical mountain traversal set piece that bored some viewers during its tech demo.
Although Tomb Raider has only just begun its run of new games for this generation, it is a timeless franchise that will continue to go on through out each generation, whereas Uncharted will likely see its end with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (though another Sony studio might pick up where Naughty Dog leaves off). In this authors eye’s the winner of E3 2015 is Uncharted 4 as it beats Rise of the Tomb Raider because it has more emotional value with all of the characters involved and its branching narrative arch. Whereas Tomb Raider is just always going to be another game set in the same universe focusing mainly around just Lara with a band of uninteresting characters.
The debate between who is the best adventurer of all time will always rage on without a definitive answer, but the power of each of these respective franchises’ fans will allow us to get as close to a decision as we will probably ever get. At E3 2015, we had some healthy competition between the two franchises, and maybe, when gamers finally get these games into their disc trays we will be able to make a clear-cut decision on which new installment is superior. As of right now, Rise of the Tomb Raider will be a Xbox One timed exclusive so at least for the early stages of these games life-span the two of them will be competing for our attention during their release schedule on separate consoles.