Developer(s): Crystal Dynamics
Publisher(s): Square Enix
Platform(s): PC, Xbox360, PS3
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Most everyone knows Tomb Raider. At the very least, the game series is synonymous with the inclusion of huge boobs in video games. In addition to that, Lara Croft’s adventures are regarded as some of the best games of the original Playstation. Last, but not least, Lara stands as a strong, female protagonist in a medium comprised of big, burly men leading most games. With the newest entry in the series, cleverly titled Tomb Raider, Crystal Dynamics is looking to ruin all of that.
It would be a lie for someone to say the Uncharted series does not draw a little bit of inspiration from the original Tomb Raider. From the basic premise (archaeological based treasure hunts) to the platforming to the puzzle solving, the two share a few aspects that can not be overlooked. Where Uncharted separated itself was in the presentation: a cinematic experience using lots of cutscenes, scripted moments, and quick time events. For the new Tomb Raider, Crystal Dynamics is looking to Uncharted for inspiration. It would barely be an exaggeration to call this Uncharted: Lara Croft. There are a two big reasons for that joke, so let’s examine them.
First off, Tomb Raider has an incredible amount of cutscenes. While this works for Uncharted, fans are expecting a Tomb Raider game. Giving them something else is a recipe for disaster. From a ten minute E3 demo, the ratio of gameplay to cutscene was almost fifty-fifty. Karl Stewart of Crystal Dynamics, the developer of the title, says the goal of the game is “to immerse the player as deep as possible.” A cutscene every minute is not the way to go about this. The best way to immerse a player into a video game is by having them play it and experience everything that happens as if the player themselves is the character. If immersing the player is a goal of a game, as it should be, the worst way to go about this is to make the game a movie. Embrace the medium. Video games are interactive. Use this to give the player control of the character, so they can think of themselves in the situation. “Control” doesn’t mean a button prompt. There are many instances in the gameplay shown so far where Lara is faced with some situation, and the way out is to press X quickly.
Secondly, Lara moves like Nathan Drake. The way she jumps is far too reminiscent of Uncharted. Aside from making it easier to confuse the two games, Uncharted had terrible jumping animations. If a player pushes the jump button, Drake launches fifteen feet forward across large gaps. It was horribly unrealistic, prompting even fans of the games to laugh. Were someone to draw inspiration from Uncharted for a game, the jumping animation and floaty physics are definitely things to leave behind. Yet, here we have Lara Croft take enormous bounds and seemingly defy gravity to get across gaps. Even worse for the jumping in Tomb Raider, the developers are going for a realistic experience, putting the lame leaps in an even worse light. Naturally, the things Lara endures and is capable of is unrealistic, so saying the developers want realism is relative. But, one way to help solidify the direction the game is taking would be to have the physics work well. In the real world, were I to jump, I would not be able to change the direction of of my momentum. That was decided when I left the ground, as there is nothing to push off of in mid-air. Lara has the ability to turn in the air and change her direction. Mario can do this. He is allowed to do this. His game involves made up creatures and throwing fire out of his hands. The physics can be whacky. Tomb Raider, the gritty, realistic survival game, should not allow this.
Uncharted aside, Tomb Raider has other issues bogging it down. At Microsoft’s E3 presentation, Crystal Dynamics came out and said that they have “surprised everyone with the new and mature direction [they’ve] taken with Tomb Raider.” This may be news to some people, but mature does not mean gruesome and grim. Tomb Raider looks a lot more like a cartoon than something tailored for adults. The physical hardships Lara endures is laughably intense. She falls from heights and lands on her head, gets pierced by a sharp stick, steps on a bear trap, gets hit a lot, falls down a waterfall, falls into a crashed plane, falls out of the crashed plane and opens a parachute, she hits dozens of trees while parachuting, she falls out of the parachute and lands painfully on the ground, and she nearly gets raped. There is a tendency in video games to make things violent and dark, but this does not make things mature. Just because something isn’t for children, does not make it mature. No one would play Gears of War and say “man, it’s really mature how I can stick a flamethrower into someone and have flames spurt out of their eyes.” Tomb Raider misses the mark of maturity and lives in the same category as Tom and Jerry.
As a consumer, I don’t usually think to myself what the sexual fetish of a video game developer is. And, usually, the product does not tell me what the fetish of the developer is. Tomb Raider does not fall under the umbrella of “usually.” Lara Croft has always been a sexualized character. The giant breasts she is known for, while originally a mistake in the coding, have become her trademark. Looking online, there is an abundance of fan fiction and fan art drawn featuring her in sexual situations, almost as much as there is to be found for My Little Pony. Lara is a sexualized character. In Tomb Raider, the sexiness of the character is almost a little creepy. It would seem that whoever was directing this game has some sadistic tendencies and a bit of misogyny running through him, as Lara, the overly sexualized character, gets bruised and battered more than people without a specific sexual fetish could enjoy.
This claim is only strengthened by the now infamous rape scene. Lara finds herself face to face with a savage enemy, who grabs her by the throat, kisses her neck, and runs his hand down her body. This is a clear case of sexual assault. This scene is a quick time event, prompting players to press buttons to have Lara escape. If successful, Lara kills the man. If not, Lara is strangled to death. Now, what Crystal Dynamics has said is that this is not sexual assault, as she is killed and not raped if the player fails. Alternatively, this scene is perfect evidence for an undertone of hurting women for sexual gratification. If the attacker did not get any sexual gratification from the encounter, then why kiss her neck and rub his hands over her body? Clearly there was some sexual theme there, as he would have just been strangling her otherwise. My personal take on the whole debacle is that this scene is a visual cue to explain the whole theme of the game, which in this case is beating up Lara Croft for sexual reasons. There is no other way for this scene to make any sense. The scene on its own might not say this, but juxtaposed with the rest of the beatings she endures, it makes perfect sense. And, if not, why include it? Lara’s character arc could run its course without being raped.
Tomb Raider has a release date of March 5th, 2013. Players who are looking for an overly cinematic experience, a change in the Tomb Raider formula, and sexualized pain should be sure to pick it up. There is a demographic for these kinds of games, and Tomb Raider will surely apply to them. It’s a shame it isn’t fans of the original series.
Preview by Chris Lohr
Preview by Chris Lohr
Chris Lohr is a freelance writer currently in film school. If you’re looking for him to write for your website, manifesto, or Russian bride catalogue, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put today’s date as the subject line and include a picture of yourself. Must be DDD free and willing to host. All Articles by Chris.