You know how modern day reboots of things get all dark and gritty? Yeah, the new Tomb Raider is like that, except it took more dark and gritty than usual and used it like soap.
Its not like Tomb Raider didn’t need a reboot or revamp or re-something. Lara Croft might have helped usher in the era of gaming in the third dimension, but the good Ms. Croft’s franchise hasn’t really kept up with the changes made since then as well as we’d like. Her games were still somewhat clunky to control and just kind of felt…anachronistic. Well, it looks like the new Tomb Raider fixes that.
Of course I can’t attest to the controls, both because what we saw was a video and because Lara Croft gets completely messed up at the beginning of the demo. That’s where we get into the real dark and nitty gritty. The demo starts with Lara hanging in a sack next to another sack over a pit. Lara has obviously been put there by some sinister and nasty person who does not have her best interests in mind. Lara needs to get out of the sack, so she does her survivalist thing and swings into the other body sack, pushing it into a nearby fire. This sets the entire rig on fire, eventually releasing the poor girl into the pit…and right onto a spike. She has to pull it out. It hurts. Like I said, she gets messed up.
This sets the tone of the game perfectly in two ways. The first is that it shows how Lara must make do with what she has. She has to set herself on fire in order to get out of a pit. A pit, mind you, that stabs her when she gets there. You are not in a position of advantage in this game. Lara is not here on vacation. She is royally screwed. She is not having fun. You are. She is not. Which brings us to tone setting way number two. Lara is completely unsure about what she is doing. She is unsteady. She is afraid. This is Lara Croft as we have not seen her. Its fantastically refreshing to see, and promises to be much more compelling to play than, “Rich white girl raids the graves of dead brown people.” Fun as that may be, I think that angle has been played out for this particular franchise.
By the way, did I mention that the game looks beautiful? Dark and gritty never looked this good. The water shimmers and moves realistically, the fire weaves about like a living thing and Lara herself looks appropriately horrible. Which means good. She’s supposed to look horrible. She’s a cast away. The pity is that the demo takes place in a confined cave. But when you finally get out of it and see the island stretch out in front of you, numerous ships wrecked on the beach, sunset behind them, its breathtaking.
If you feel that Tomb Raider is no longer worth your time and gaming dollar, I think you should rethink that thought. Lara has been given a face lift, an attitude adjustment and a brand new gameplay style. This isn’t about raiding tombs anymore for fortune and glory. This is about surviving until morning in a harsh and hostile environment. In other words, its exactly what Lara Croft needed.