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The Game Effect Editorial

Face Off: Tomb Raider VS Uncharted 3

We compare the two hits to see which comes out on top

By Daniel Jones on 3/12/2013
It's no secret that Crystal Dynamics' rebooted Tomb Raider is hugely influenced by the Uncharted series just as it's also obvious that Naughty Dog took more than a few cues from Miss Croft's early adventures on Playstation One. In fact, when Uncharted was first announced, it was jokingly dubbed "Dude Raider" by many skeptics. Being a big fan of Nathan Drake's latest outing and Lara Croft's newest incarnation, I can't help but compare the two. I could just direct you to read my reviews of each game (feel free to do that anyway Uncharted 3 earning a 9.5 and Tomb Raider receiving a 9.2), or you can just read this breakdown of each game based on several different categories.

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Graphics

Both of these titles are gorgeous, but there are a few notable visual discrepancies between the two. The most obvious difference Tomb Raider goes for a more monochrome color palette in favor of thematic consistency while Uncharted 3 goes out of its way to provide players with colorful scenes in various locales around the world. The characters in each game are beautifully rendered, but Uncharted's cast are slightly more detailed and smoothly animated than Lara and her supporting crew. Tomb Raider wins in the "microscopic detail" department however, with brilliantly rendered artifacts and buildings.

Winner: Draw

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Action

Both of these titles feature similar third person cover-based shooting mechanics. The cover mechanics in Tomb Raider provide some occasional frustration when the camera can't figure out which way you're trying to aim. Most of the time it works fine, but these rare frustrations hold it slightly behind Drake's Deception. On the other hand, Tomb Raider takes some healthy cues from games like Dishonored and Crysis by allowing players to to approach combat scenarios in various ways: use the environment to your advantage or lean on your bow and arrow for stealth assaults. The stealth is rarely scripted or forced as it is in Uncharted 3 and puts Tomb Raider just over the top.

Winner Tomb Raider 

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Set-Piece Moments

The Uncharted series pioneered cinematic set-pieces that accentuated the already intense action. Uncharted 3 expertly balances those cinematic moments with gunplay and platforming. Players don't simply watch Nate struggle to survive a plane crash, they control him as he dodges crates, explosions and bullets. Tomb Raider borrows this cue, placing Lara in precarious situations like parachuting through a dense forest or hanging upside down while shooting oncoming baddies. Again, Tomb Raider's strict adherence to plausibility holds it back from Uncharted 3 in this case. The bravado and creativity of the scenes in Drake's Deception aren't matched by Tomb Raider's set-pieces.

Winner Uncharted 3 

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Level Design

 Uncharted is unabashedly linear. The aforementioned set-pieces and the compelling story help alleviate any feelings of constraint that players might get from the franchise's rigid level design. Tomb Raider avoids this linearity by providing "base camps" in which players are free to explore a large area searching for secret tombs, hidden documents and animals to hunt. Tomb Raider certainly has its linear moments, but these hub areas help to provide a nice break in the action and add replay value for players who are compelled to earn a hundred percent completion.

Winner Tomb Raider 

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Story

Both of these games use actual historical myth as the catalyst for their stories, but it's the characters that become the driving force in each tale. Drake's Deception focuses on Nate's adventure-lust at whatever the cost while Lara Croft reluctantly embarks on her first life-changing adventure in the new Tomb Raider. Both games sport excellent writing, but the real difference here lies in the supporting casts. Characters like Sully, Elena and Chloe have a charisma and chemistry that is hard to find in any form of entertainment, while Tomb Raider's supporting cast includes fan favorites like... Roth and Sam... You know, those two. Looked at as Lara Croft's story, Tomb Raider holds up, but it would've been nice to have a more memorable support cast.

Winner Uncharted 3 

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Multiplayer

It might be too soon to call Tomb Raider's multiplayer a bust, but it's hard to deny the success of the online offering in Uncharted 3. Both multiplayer modes feature unique platforming/ shooter mechanics, but the maps, game types and customization of Uncharted 3 put Naughty Dog's game on top. Credit should go to Tomb Raider for also featuring dynamic weather and map-changing events like sand-storms and earthquakes -- however, even these events don't hold a candle to similar moments in Drake's Deception.

Winner Uncharted 3 

In the end it turns out both of these titles are excellent games that everyone should experience. Each has something different to offer and those with the means should try to play them. Of course, if you're an Xbox or PC gamer without access to a PS3 then this choice has already been made for you.
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btgrafix on April 17, 2013
Cool to see these guys go head to head. But in all honesty Tomb Raider has just been reborn, I'd wait for another tomb raider before comparing the 2 series since Uncharted series has had time to mature and grow. 
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tanHoisington on March 13, 2013
Aw come on Dan, you should have just stated the obvious: Uncharted 3 all the way.
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indiejones on March 13, 2013
I couldn't ultimately choose. I really do think that Tomb Raider does many things much better than Uncharted. Most notably the fact that it never denies that it's still a game and leveling up, exploring and experimenting are huge parts of the formula that Uncharted lacks. 
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tanHoisington on March 14, 2013
I have definitely heard the part about accepting it is a video game.
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SudoClarity on March 12, 2013
I have already played Uncharted 3 and it was huge fun to me. I was just very amazed by the detailed story, graphical details and the creativity used to develop the story and setting (e.g. walking around under drug influence or really thirsty in the desert was really nice implemented out of Nate's perspective). I am really looking forward to playing Tomb Raider because I believe, I will really enjoy it.
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