Tomb Raider

She presses herself against the rock wall, breathing shallow and listening intently. Two men, a crackling campfire, conversation hushed, but casual. One of them bitching at the other about a book he’d found on the last freighter that washed ashore. She’s outmatched, but she’s got no choice.There’s no way around them, only through. She waits for her moment. She may be smaller, weaker, but she’s smart.
One of the men stands up, declares his intent to relieve himself, and wanders away from the campfire. Lara waits a moment, then creeps forward, silently. Pulling her bow from her shoulder, she moves behind the man warming his hands at the fire. In a flash of motion, she’s drawn the bow across his throat, knee in his back. He makes wet, choking noises and struggles for a moment, but she’s got enough leverage to put him out. She searches his pockets, finding a few bullets and a candy bar, and pockets them. Then..
“What the shit.. ?” He’s back. The other man. He’s got his gun, it’s pointed right at her. She drops, scrabbling sideways to throw his aim off, grabbing a handful of dirt and launching it at his eyes. The man cries in frustration, wiping at his face, but Lara’s already pulled her pry axe, and throws all her weight into a swing at his face. An ugly gash opens, and the man staggers back in shock. Dropping the axe, Lara pulls a large stone off the ground and bashes in the man’s skull. Breathing heavily, hands shaking,she gathers her wits, checks the man for anything valuable, and moves on towards the temple.
The preceding is a scene that played out many times, with many variations, as I made my way through the newest Tomb Raider title. The game is simultaneously shocking and refreshing in its brutality and honesty in
the portrayal of Lara Croft, a character who, I have to admit, I have never found interesting previously. I’m one that plays female characters whenever available, especially if there’s a character creator option, as I tend to skew towards playing the same character for immersion’s sake. Lara Croft has always been portrayed as near-superhuman, and that’s always bothered me. She’s always seemed shallow, unbelievable in her portrayals. There’s something different here.
The new Lara Croft is a rogue class, make no mistake. She relies on quickness, stealth, fighting dirty, and that wonderful archery skill to take out opponents that are bigger, stronger, and far more numerous than she is. So many changes have been made to the character and her world, and I feel these are changes for the better. Gone are the tombs that look like they were manufactured specifically for platforming, replaced by dank caves and temples that have been co-opted by the cult operating on the island. Gone is the cleanly rendered jumper and shorts, replaced by a sensible tank-top, cargo pants, and boots, with a progressive damage model that would make Arkham’s Batman proud. Most importantly, gone is the Catwoman-by-way-of-Indy portrayal of Lara Croft, replaced with a young, upstart nerd with serious drive and grit. A believable student of archeology, and a believable human being. Gone are the silly ragdoll animations when you screw up a jump and fall to your death, replaced by positively brutal, sphincter-clinching death
scenes.
I’ve heard negative and positive reviews of the new Tomb Raider title, but I think it’s simply put that this is the Tomb Raider for people who never finished the old Tomb Raider titles out of frustration. The game
offers a solid action-adventure storyline drawing elements from the Uncharted series and the Descent films while still remaining true to the overall spirit of Tomb Raider. I was patient and picked this game up for
about $20 on Greenmangaming.com, but I’d say this would be worth full retail. I’m hoping as time goes by, more people will purchase the game, as I hear it hasn’t done as well as Squeenix had hoped, and Squeenix has been doing right by PC gamers lately, with titles like Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Hitman: Absolution, and Sleeping Dogs being good games with good PC ports.
Strong recommendations on this one and as a final note, I will say to anyone concerned about the interview that went around in development: As I play through this game, I don’t feel any need or concern to ‘protect’ poor helpless Lara. This woman is forged steel, a person who may cry for help because of inexperience, but will not stop fighting and will find a way through. The first few hours left me with the distinct feeling that, in her position, I would not have survived what she did. It’s not me protecting Lara, it’s the other way around.
Tomb Raider is available on Steam at http://store.steampowered.com/app/203160/

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