Tomb Raider (2013)


I was actually involved, when I still worked in market research, with one of the initial rounds of studies with Square Enix and the people they go through, three years ago. Since then I’ve had my eye on this game and it’s so nice to put what we had seen in 2010 in perspective now. They fixed every single thing that the respondents had mentioned and so far I’m thrilled with the game. The trailer that has been around forever made it seem like it was cut and there was more to the movie, so I had been looking forward to the full thing.

Nope. The trailer you saw on commercials or at E3 or online is literally the entire introduction movie from the game, not a cut. Which is okay, as you learn while progressing through the game – because they Lindelof the story. Evidently it’s illegal to tell a story in a linear way anymore. I just feel lied to by myself giving them the benefit of the doubt that there was more to that CG trailer. It wasn’t even QTE either, entirely CG trailer, which is no surprise from Square Enix.

As for the game itself, it’s refreshing to see a new take on Tomb Raider. However, it seems that Square Enix increasingly fails to comprehend what makes their franchises successful. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering they purchased this franchise when they bought Eidos. The same way they now own Deus Ex, and Thief, and Hitman, and Just Cause.

Unfortunately, that take is Nathan Drake. They watched the moderate success of the Uncharted series, which itself owes its existence entirely to Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones and The Librarian. So, what did they take from Uncharted in order to make this reboot successful?

The murder. The brutal, endless, delicious murder of armies of dudes. That’s it. Just the murder. Even the optional tombs feature less platforming than the Drake games.  The environment isn’t even as well crafted as the Drake games, although to CD’s credit you can actually explore Lara’s environment, unlike every Uncharted game where it served as nothing but a hallway to funnel you into the next batch of murder victims.

Tomb Raider was supposed to be Lara Crofts origin story wherein she transforms from just an archaeology student into a badass action hero. In the course of doing so, at the very beginning she must escape from enemies and even kill some of them – which makes her cry and throw up and shake with emotion. So, then, not 10 minutes later once you go out and start actually playing the game, you are forced to murder about 50 people minimum with a submachine gun or ice axe, whatever you choose. Yet she has no gut wrenching reaction to this when, logically, she should have just shut down from shock and cried and puked to death. One could argue that once you kill someone, you get desensitized, but I don’t think it works so instantaneously, and certainly killing one person doesn’t imbue you with cold neutrality. Narrative disconnects like this where the game-play flies in the face of the story the game is attempting to tell are a horrendous, rare accomplishment of bad game design.

Ignoring the disconnect, the game does feature a lot of cool mechanics. You can hunt animals and skin and loot them. You can kill people a lot of ways – such as your Nathan Drake hanging off a ledge with a handgun, or the bow and arrow, or the ice axe, or guns, you name it. As for the actual murdering though, it’s your standard third person shooter murder with very little flare or style or redeeming qualities to make it remotely interesting. Not until you learn skills like jamming an arrowhead in an enemy’s knee, anyway, then it becomes cool. As far as platforming, Lara’s animations and her lack of finesse at leaping and sliding and what have you do actually enforce the point that she is a newbie at all of this, but it doesn’t really excuse how boring and contrite the rest of the game is.

Hopefully, we might see a sequel if this game turns out to be successful. One much better and much more reminiscent of Tomb Raider.


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