Lara Croft is Back | a Tomb Raider Preview
Tomb Raider is a game that is undeniably on the radar of most, if not all gamers by now, whether it be in lieu of interest or because they’re waiting to see if it lives up to the expectations set for it. Regardless of the reason, Tomb Raider is for the first time since the late 90s, a game that’s close to number one on the lists of the most anticipated and most discussed video games to be released this year. Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics’ plan to make Tomb Raider appeal to a broader audience, yet stick true enough to its roots to appease the fans has worked phenomenally. Tomb Raider takes inspiration from a select few blockbuster hit titles to make it an enticing action-adventure survival experience that a large percentage of the gaming community is looking forward to sinking their teeth into. For the first time ever, players get to immerse themselves in new territory within the Tomb Raider franchise, in an open-world experience featuring a familiar, yet modified game engine, role-playing elements, and survival tactics that complement the theme of the game itself.
Having been in development since the release of its predecessor, Tomb Raider Underworld, Lara Croft has undergone some significant changes since we’ve seen her last. Tomb Raider now takes us back in time where an origin’s story is told, of Lara’s ascent from a frightened young woman to a hardened survivor. As we have seen from the original ‘Turning Point’ CGI trailer unveiled in mid-2011, Lara is setting out to make her mark in the archaeological world. Having set sail for Japan on the research vessel, Endurance, the ship is hit by a violent storm and splits in two (ironic, given the ship’s name), leaving the survivors scattered among a tropical island in the Dragon’s Triangle. Lara is forced to fight against the dangerous inhabitants of the island while she attempts to track down and reunite with her fellow survivors. Lara soon learns that a more insidious threat is present, compelling her to hone her skills and harden herself against killing her fellow man in order to fight off malevolent mercenaries who’re adamant on eradicating Lara and her friends.
We had originally caught wind of the new Tomb Raider experience sometime in early 2010, perhaps late 2009, through three leaked pieces of concept artwork that depicted a young woman in casual adventuring clothing, wielding a torch in one hand and a machete in the other. We can see a bow holstered on her back as well as a pistol tucked into the back of her pants. The second image depicted what fans understandably speculated was the same woman riding a horse through a woodland area, narrowly escaping an explosion with two demonic creatures being launched from the blast, with a third in mid-air, lunging for the woman who is aiming a bow and arrow at it, with a fourth latched onto the underside of her horse. The creatures have some sort of bladed mutation for hands (think Prototype), which lent to the speculation of a supernatural or mythical based game. The last piece of concept artwork depicted three different demonic creatures, one of them being similar to the four we saw in the second piece of artwork. The other two depicted creatures were equally as disturbing and chilling. The three leaked pieces of artwork all had the Crystal Dynamics logo printed at the bottom right, which led fans to believe it was an upcoming Tomb Raider title.
What caught my interest aside from the speculation was that the first leaked artwork, depicting the lone woman, was that the pose she was in and the overall look of her resembled that of Rhona Mitra from a scene in her film, Doomsday. Rhona Mitra was also a live action model for Tomb Raider in 1997 to mid-1998, an obvious nod toward her work for the company.
Tomb Raider was originally speculated to be a supernatural based adventure, but these ideas were soon shot down when a new trailer was released, titled ‘Crossroads’ which depicts game play as well as a taste of the game’s plot. There were no supernatural elements like represented in the original leaked artwork. Instead, the only supernatural/mythical elements involved thus far are as we’ve seen in the ‘Survivor’ trailer in which a large, Shaolin-style warrior much bigger than the average human comes bursting in through steel doors. That, and some sort of cultist theme going on in which people—namely, the survivors of the Endurance—are being ritualistically sacrificed. Just as disturbing as the original concept artwork, if you ask me.
We’ve received quite a bit of information about Tomb Raider as it stands and a large percentage of the fan base is content, while some Tomb Raider veterans stand ill. When I first heard that Tomb Raider was going to be an average of ten hours in game length, I was a little upset and somewhat surprised. While Tomb Raider Legend and Tomb Raider Underworld weren’t particularly long games, gamers have come to expect a bit of an increase in game length in the current year. When one considers the average length of a video game today, even ten hours falls a little short of standards. With Tomb Raider’s plot and theme already well-developed, one would think there would be plenty of room for expansion, but Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics have already announced future downloadable content, so one could assume that any add-ons released might add a bit to the overall duration of the game.
For the first time in a long time, Tomb Raider was under quite a bit of scrutiny for a controversial scene during the climax of the game, in which Lara and some of her friends are captured by the island’s hostile natives and it’s here where we hear our first bit of mature dialogue, in which the leader whips Lara across the face with his gun and states, “Don’t you f—ing move.” When I first witnessed that scene, I will admit that I jumped for joy. I don’t know what it is about vulgar language, but to me it adds depth and intensity to the situation, especially in such a context. Following Lara’s capture, she eventually sneaks (arms tied behind her back) past the other hostiles and hides in what looks like a burned down hut. However, as with most suspenseful scenes, her breathing is heard by the leader who passes by her and orders her out into the open. It’s here where Lara is sexually assaulted, by way of the man caressing her and breathing on her neck, whispering perverted dialogue in Russian. Lara knees him in the groin and tries to run, but he pulls her back and slams her against the wall. She then bites his ear and knocks him to the ground, earning the opportunity to free her hands and grab his gun. After a brief struggle—orchestrated by a quick-time event—Lara shoots him in the face.
The controversy first started in lieu of the blatant sexual assault, but it soon escalated when someone started shouting ‘rape’ and the developers had to personally step in and quell the burning flames. It didn’t work that well, considering that not soon after, several second-rate gaming websites started publishing articles criticising the developers for using ‘rape’ as a plot device, completely taking the scene out of proportion. You can view my blog addressing the controversy on its own via the link I've provided at the end of this blog.
Announced not too long ago, for the first time in Tomb Raider history, multiplayer will be a component within the game. While it can be argued that multiplayer extends the shelf life of a game, keeping players engaged and preventing them from trading it in after a week, a large percentage of the industry has been question whether or not Tomb Raider really needs it to survive. I say yes. Tomb Raider hasn’t been on the charts in years and that’s because it’s growing stale. Having a multiplayer component might keep the franchise alive for a little while longer until the developers can figure out which direction will put Tomb Raider back on the proverbial map. Tomb Raider’s multiplayer component is interesting to say the least. While it feels like a copy and paste job from different games, it’s still an interesting concept to apply to Tomb Raider and I’m quite keen on experiencing it myself.
It’s been far too long since Tomb Raider has been a big-name mark in the gaming industry and while a lot of people are up in arms over the latest instalment looking like an Uncharted clone, there is no denying the obvious: Lara Croft is back and looking fabulous. The real question is: is she better than ever before?
We'll find out on 5 March 2013.
An Insight into the Controversy of Tomb Raider