I’m pretty excited about the Tomb Raider reboot releasing next week. For the past fifteen years or so I feel like the franchise has sort of been eclipsed by the running joke that is its protagonist’s cup size, to the detriment of the games themselves.
That’s not to say the games weren’t enjoyable. Some of them, anyway. Fun platformers with some shooting elements. But they were never really games that me got invested in, story-wise. In fact, I can’t really remember the plot of any of the previous games, outside of “Uh, I remember I was in some sort of temple…” Lara was always so sexualized and objectified, both in the games and in the advertising/media surrounding them that, at least for me, made it difficult to (for lack of a better phrase) take her seriously. The games were played to accomplish the gameplay challenge, and not for any sort of “experience” or substance.
It’s pretty clear that in a post-Uncharted world, something had to change. And since Tomb Raider came first, I’ve been rooting for this reboot to work. From what I’ve been seeing, and what I’ve been reading, it may have done it.
When the game drops next week, I’m hoping we’re going to see the Lara Croft the trailers have promised. Not the airy, nonchalant, dual-pistol wielding object in tight shorts and a v-neck tanktop from earlier games, but rather a real person. A woman who is shipwrecked on an island and has to find the strength to survive and overcome. Platforming is fun, but if the franchise wants me back on board as a customer, they need to give me a character I can connect with. A human, not a pair of tits with a gun.
From what I gather, they’re attempting to do this in part by putting her through the ringer. That’s fine, because an awful situation to overcome is a solid way to show you what a character is made of. Frankly if an average person shipwrecked on an island full of crazy pirate cultists, most of us would probably die a gruesome, lonely death. But this is a video game, and that’s not very interesting, so clearly Lara will find a way.
I will admit that I’m concerned Tomb Raider will suffer the “Far Cry 3” effect. What I mean by that is (and I’m sure FC3 wasn’t the first offender, it’s just the most recent in memory) is for the first couple of hours of FC3, Jason Brody was all like “Oh shit oh shit, what do I do? I’m just a college kid? These guys are shooting at me, this is fucked, is that guy dead, did I just kill someone, this is crazy!” Kind of like, you know, a real person might react.
But then very noticeably and very suddenly, with no explanation, he becomes a fucking murder professional. He’s running across the island, hunting tigers, headshotting pirates, etc. A few hours ago he was freaking out over skinning his first animal, but now he’ll put an arrow into some stranger’s skull without batting an eyelash.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved Far Cry 3. The story got incredibly stupid and borderline offensive towards the end, but the gameplay was a blast. It’s just that it was very noticeable when the cutscenes are trying to tell you that your protagonist is a “fish out of water”, but everything you’re doing inbetween tells a very different story.
Since Tomb Raider looks to feature a lot of open-world, do-your-own-thing areas (and a somewhat similar plot), I’m concerned that it may fall into a similar trap. I’m okay with Lara being a badass, but there should be a believable progression to that point over the course of the game. Let her be distressed by the first life she takes, but give her a reason to then get to a place where she can end an island full of lives without much reservation.
I’ve got my fingers crossed. I loved the Uncharted series, and I would love for Tomb Raider to sort of come back and be on that same level, and with a protagonist that’s engaging for the things she does and how she handles those situations, and not how she bounces around tombs in her tight clothes. Guess we’ll find out on Tuesday.