In the Game – Finding Adventure in ‘Tomb Raider’

In the Game – Finding Adventure in ‘Tomb Raider’

There’s a bit in Tomb Raider where protagonist Lara Croft, recently shipwrecked on an uncharted island, has been captured and is being groped by another male survivor who obviously hasn’t seen a lady in quite some time.

During the struggle with the man, Lara manages to take his pistol, and blows a part of his head off. This is usually the bit where the main character stoically frowns, reloads, and runs off to commit a few more murders. But Tomb Raider, to its credit, is more realistic.

Lara has herself a bit of a breakdown, dropping the gun, sobbing, and tearfully apologizes to the gurgling man who by all appearances was about to rape her. Of course, after taking a few moments to compose herself, she picks the pistol back up and goes and commits a few more murders.

About four to five hundred more. Give or take.

This is where Tomb Raider by developer Crystal Dynamics has gotten a bit of stick. After her initial discomfort with her first kill, Lara turns into a combination of Rambo and the Terminator. Seriously, most small armies don’t have as high a body count as Lara Croft.

However, her transition from average girl to mass murderer isn’t as stark as some have made it out to be. You start off dealing with two or three enemies at a time, most of which attacked Lara first. She even tries to reason with a few of them before blowing them away. But after the fifth group of psychopaths tries to shoot and/or blow her up, Lara can be forgiven for abandoning diplomacy.

However, Lara is a bit more skilled than one might expect to to be. When you find a bow and arrows, you’re immediately as skilled at firing them as you’re ever going to be. Lara makes an off-handed remark about how she should “remember her training,” but that comes off as a bit disingenuous when she starts firing arrows like Hawkeye, and using finishing moves like sawing a man in half, crotch to chest with a machine gun.

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Maybe the British girl scouts are just really hardcore.

Mostly Tomb Raider plays like an open-world Uncharted crossed with some elements of Metroid and Resident Evil 4. The titular tombs are optional side missions which can be raided (i.e. puzzles that can be solved) for more experience and scrap items to improve your weapons. None of them are particularly difficult, but some require obnoxiously precise timing.

Tomb Raider is a fairly good looking game overall, albeit somewhat stifled by current generation console hardware. It fairs quite a bit better on PC, especially in regards to character models. You can enable “TressFX” which gives Lara a mane of flowing, somewhat realistic hair. Unfortunately, it can sometimes bug out, leaving Lara with a bald head, and later looks a little too perfect when you consider she’s been rolling around in the muck for the last couple of days.

Most of the complaints levied against Tomb Raider are little more than nitpicks. Lara’s character arc could have been a little more fleshed out, and by all rights the story is bog standard to the point you’ll know the twist hours before any of the other characters, but it’s never bad enough that you’re annoyed with anyone’s ineptitude.

Tomb Raider is a great game. Probably one of the best of the generation.