I have played Tomb Raider since its debut and initially planned on skipping the 2013 release when talk of a rape scene arose. Having played Lara since 1996, I had no desire to see her raped if I failed in my game play. Rape isn’t a game.
But then the game was on sale, and the part of me who loved running around as an archaeologist (exploring tombs and fighting mummies and driving Jeeps off cliffs, oops!) really wanted to take a peek to see what 2013 had brought to Lara Croft. I did a some (a ton) research before I bought the game — PC Gamer has a good piece on the scene in question, and after having played my way through it, I side with them.
How’s the game beyond the early controversy, you might wonder. It’s beautifully crazypants, just like Tomb Raider always has been.
When I started playing TR, everything was more polygon than realistically shaped. So to see vistas like this is constantly amazing. Maybe the modern gamer should be jaded, given all the gorgeous in the gaming world, but I never tire of looking at this game. It is beautifully rendered. Gamer Headlines has a super piece on the evolution of TR/Lara Croft — you know the story had to be a good one, to endure those graphics! In this game, Lara starts in her iconic tank, but you have the ability to buy skins to change her clothing.
Now, the world Lara inhabits feels real and constantly changing. It is beautiful and dirty and dangerous. It is full of weather, animals, and shifting light. When a shadow in a tomb makes me jump, I know someone did something right.
I find that if I stop to think about the story long enough, it doesn’t make any sense — but then TR has always been about epic adventures and putting its heroine through pretty much every wringer. A younger Lara than we’ve seen before shipwrecks with a crew on an island where all manner of strange things seem to be taking place. They find a hostile group of people already on the island and have to fight their way through dangers untold!
Lara, naturally, is on her own for most of this, struggling her way up communication towers, through tombs, and across waterfalls. Lara, were she human, would be dead a million times over — which isn’t to say I haven’t killed her in a dozen different ways at the game’s midpoint…
It’s one of my least favorite aspects of the game. Some stretches of the game have almost too much realism: as Lara plunges through a whitewater river, you have very little control over where she goes. She ends up impaled on debris. A lot. Over and over and over until you discover the right path to get her through. This has been genuinely brutal to play.
At other times, you can only run and jump and hope to land on something stable as the bridges/ground/buildings give way beneath Lara’s feet. She will die. A lot. Impaled, plunging from great heights, by gunshot, by knife, by wild pig, by fire. (On the other hand, she’s kick-ass with her pick-axe in melee battles, and can set others on fire with flaming arrows, so!)
I also super-hate killing animals in-game. It was this way with an early TR where Lara encounters hostile tigers. Oh I hated shooting them even though they wanted to eat me. In this game, there are wolves to kill. Hate. Hate. Hate. The worst part is, killing other animals (deer, chickens, rats, bunnies) gets you experience points and unlocks achievements. Bah! Much easier to shoot a guy in the head than a wolf — and I’m okay with whatever that says about my psyche.
With all that action and motion, it’s easy to miss things you might rather discover for a fuller completion rating. That’s why it’s great the game gives you a “fast travel” option you can unlock and access at certain camps, allowing you to go back to earlier sections for more exploration.
Even though I’m only half way through the game, I’m glad I took the chance on it. Lara Croft remains one of my favorite characters to play. Happily, no one has tried to rape her (they just want to set her on fire if they can’t put a bullet in her head, which seems fair, given she’ll do the same to them in a heartbeat.) If you haven’t met her yet…what are you waiting for?