By Sam Wijesoma
Boobs…boobies…less boobies? Huh? What? WHY!? Yup, that was me mired in frustration as I hotly anticipated the fresh new take on my beloved Lara Croft in Crystal Dynamics Tomb Raider (2013).
My beloved Lara Croft you say? Having grown up playing with her in Tomb Raider to watching her breasts evolve (augmentation) from the jagged pixelated ice-cream cones to the iconic, feminist-infuriating mammary glands (objects of geek satisfaction), I can’t help but feel invested in her cyber plastic surgery adventures. So kudos to Crystal Dynamic’s ballsy move of re-inventing Lara by giving her back a well-deserved rest (boob reduction).
Now remember, the Tomb Raider franchise was never known for its compelling story line or elaborate character development but rathers it was infamous for Croft’s physical assets. Ironically, creator Toby Gard came up with the character of Lara Croft as a means to empower women; a sort of a role model for female gamers. That went well.
Fanart by Alice X. Zhang
In the latest edition, Lara finds herself stranded on an island straight out of J.J Abrams’ LOST and captured in an incredibly well-executed opening that hooks you in as Lara escapes from a group of mysterious natives amidst a collapsing tomb. Lara then sets off to save her friends from a strange cult and ultimately leaves the island. The breath-taking scenery throughout the campaign had my eyes finally fixated on something other than Lara’s derrière. Oh and if any of you geeks out there have a hair fetish, I strongly recommend you get an AMD graphics card to run TressFX…you guys can thank me later.
The combat has finally been overhauled and re-invented to create a more smooth and enjoyable gaming experience. There’s also been the addition of a plethora of new and inventive ways to die, and Lara Croft becomes a sort of poster girl for Final Destination-like death scenes. From getting her inner thighs sliced by a boat rudder to being impaled by a tree branch, the creators really have included all possible ways for Lara Croft to die. Honourable mentions include her getting electrocuted, crushed by a rock, eaten by a wolf, burnt alive, falling off a bridge… you get the idea.
The level of violence and gore is a leg up from Lara Croft circa 1996 and seems to hint at Crystal Dynamics’ targeting of an older customer base, garnering a deserved “M” (Mature) rating for the game. Apart from the hyper-sexualised nature of Lara’s physique, the almost gleefully abundant graphic death scenes are bound to give impressionable young gamers recurring nightmares.
Crystal Dynamics does an incredible job of building complex layers of Lara’s growth as a survivor and an ultimate raider of tombs, but there is one glaring elephant in the room (shockingly not Lara’s smaller boobs). Lara’s origin story, which is layered with harrowing emotions and fast paced action, is ultimately hindered by an underlying tone of misogyny. I could not help but notice that there were only two female supporting roles and almost all the bad guys are, yes you guessed it, guys. Keep in mind the fact that Lara is treated like a rag doll throughout the game; she is continually saved by men and she almost freaking gets raped! Unfortunately, this aspect of the game hindered my ability to truly feel invested in and connected to Lara’s origin story.
Fanart by Alex Mcdermott
Apart from a few missteps in gameplay and narrative, Crystal Dynamics has finally created a Tomb Raider which is superbly written, exhilarating, stunning, sympathetic and frankly well made. A finale salute goes to Crystal Dynamics for creating a kick-ass Lara Croft that can hold her own against the likes of Nathan Drake for the coveted crown of gaming’s greatest archaeologist.
Gamer Review Score: 9/10