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Tomb Raider vs. Uncharted 3

Before Uncharted, there was Tomb Raider, and before Tomb Raider, there was Indiana Jones, an archeologist with dashing good looks and a talent for turning dusty old dig sites into exciting, adventure-rich territory. We have the fedora-topped professor to thank for one of the greatest video game heroines to date: the sexy British treasure hunter, Lara Croft. Whereas Indiana Jones trembles only at the sight of a snake, Lara refuses to let any force impede her—whether the threat is a Tyrannosaurus rex, mummies, or bad reviews.

Nathan Drake, the newest in his class of respectful relic hunters, has the same can-do attitude but is closer in personality to Jones. His PlayStation-exclusive series has given Sony a great leg up on the competition and helped to prove that blockbuster games can hit it big in quality, not just budget. Uncharted, which first came to the PS3 in 2007 with Drake’s Fortune, gained rapid success. It continued to win over gamers with its sequel, Among Thieves, which did even better in ratings. This installment added a multiplayer mode that is making a return in the third game.

Tomb Raider, on the other hand, has had a longer and rougher track record. It was introduced in 1996 and started to fall apart around the third and fourth games. It reached its lowest point with Angel of Darkness, which both the developers and the fans swept under the rug out of embarrassment, and redeemed itself with Legend, which received the strongest response for the series since Tomb Raider II. Crystal Dynamics rescued a once popular series that had been limping on for years, helping it to regain confidence—enough to prove it wasn’t tired material with the release of the inventive fan-pleaser Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, which came out last year. The downloadable title pushed aside the long-held third-person perspective for a fixed overhead view, similar to isometric type games, and a co-op mode. At the same time it was new and exciting, it still felt like traditional Tomb Raider: she was still shooting dinosaurs and rolling around the screen to dodge.

Wherever Lara is going in her next entry, it’s a leap of faith that isn’t so hard to take. Crystal Dynamics is giving her a fresh start and a fresh face, and considering how well that worked for Guardian of Light, the heroine seems to be in safe hands.

Naughty Dog, the developer behind the Uncharted series, has never steered gamers wrong. Thanks to the company, some of the best platformers have come into existence: Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter, which rivaled the booming Ratchet and Clank series when Jak was still handled by the canine-friendly developer. We got a few good Jak games out of them before they moved on, their departure dooming the series to lose its solid reputation just like Crash, which got shuffled around to different third-party developers for far longer than it should have.

As long as Naughty Dog has Uncharted in its care, we can expect good results. For those who like to keep moving, only stopping to rest and solve the occasional puzzle, Uncharted is a reliable pick. It’s got top-notch writing, excellent voice-acting, Hollywood-scale explosions, plenty of betrayal, and humor to round it off. The only drawback is that Xbox 360 and PC players are out of luck—they’ll have to play at a friend’s to try out this series and its upcoming game, Drake’s Deception.

Tomb Raider, coming in fall 2012 (Uncharted: DD is set for November of this year), probably won’t lighten up the mood with too many jokes, but from the looks of it, gamers can expect just as much drama. Promotional posters show the young Lara tending to a nasty wound, blood and lacerations covering her body. In the teaser trailer, we watched as she jumped off a sinking ship and grabbed the hand of her mentor, only to slip and fall into icy waters. She’s on her own, and she has to learn to survive—all over again.

The series is known for its abundance of puzzles (many of which are slow to solve), mythological monsters, exotic environments, and frantic gunplay. Uncharted isn’t so different. It too has ancient legends and artifacts, tangles with creatures from the underworld, and gorgeous settings in remote locations. Both Drake and Lara have mastered an assortment of guns, both have suffered their fair share of back-stabbing, and both have preserved through extreme odds and harsh weather.

Drake hasn’t slain a dragon, but both heroes can tell a story or two about yetis.

So which title, Uncharted 3 or Tomb Raider, is a better bet for players? Each game stands a fair chance of earning favorable review scores and offers the same brand of adventure and gameplay. Choosing one over the other isn’t going to be easy (unless you have the money to afford both).

Due to its unfailing performance and the importance of its success for Sony—guaranteeing quality attention and detail—we recommend making Uncharted: Drake’s Deception your first choice. We’re certain that however well (or poorly) the Tomb Raider reboot does, Uncharted 3 won’t disappoint.

If you don’t have a PS3, though, Tomb Raider is as close as you’re going to get to the action, story, and gameplay of the Uncharted series. It’s a risky contender, and the series has had more than enough chances to improve itself, but with Crystal Dynamics determined to save the Tomb Raider name, we can’t help but want them to succeed.

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