It's Hard to Believe in the New Lara Croft

With all the talk of a more vulnerable, realistic Lara Croft, we delve into the first 2.5 hours of the game to find out just how human this heroine is.

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Video games often struggle to produce believable characters. Striking the right balance between fiction and reality is hard for any medium, let alone one whose drive to entertain frequently overrides its capacity to comment on the human condition. This is why we generally commend video games that succeed in creating convincing virtual worlds, but abstain from criticizing the ones that don't.

Of course, any game that explicitly promises players a glimpse of this elusive verisimilitude is exempt from the rule.

The upcoming Tomb Raider reboot from Crystal Dynamics has made a point of emphasizing the believability of its protagonist Lara Croft. We are led to believe the much-loved gaming heroine has been reworked into a younger, more vulnerable creature without her trademark impishness and overt sex appeal. We are told the game will pay more attention to Lara as a person, giving her a more complex set of feelings and capturing the not-so-glamorous side of a human being coming to terms with her own mortality; a necessary reminder that heroes are made, not born.

But if the first 2.5 hours of the game are any indication of what's to come, then Tomb Raider might not live up to these promises.

Your introduction to Lara Croft is a taste of what to expect in this first part of the game: a series of injuries and narrow escapes so incredulous that they could almost be mistaken as a deliberate comment on the absurd damage that befalls video game protagonists of this genre. Not even the somber context of the opening act--the underground labyrinth of some kind of psychopathic island-dweller--is enough to lift it towards an honest representation of a vulnerable woman left to fend for herself in an inhospitable environment.

Much the same can be said for Lara's first human kill. Crystal Dynamics has invested a lot of time and energy in reiterating the importance of this moment: how you would feel a connection to Lara, how the moment would define her character, how it would feel genuinely shocking, disturbing, and exhilarating. Instead, you are presented with a quick-time event much like any other quick-time event before it. It's hard to believe it was this scene which caused so much controversy earlier this year. Had sexual assault actually been a theme here, you might have been forced to question the very nature of human behavior, or at least to think about why humans act the way they do; that would have at least been something.

Instead, the scene shows us Lara, captured by a group of armed men, forced to defend herself and pull the trigger on one of her captors. She looks distressed, sure. But from this point on until the end of the 2.5-hour playable demo, Lara shows no signs of fighting with herself over the moral consequences of killing another human being. She adapts to her new role with what appears to be the mindset of an experienced killer, leaving a trail of dead bodies in her wake.

While past glimpses of the game hinted heavily at survival--something that could undoubtedly help set this new Tomb Raider apart from previous entries in the franchise--the first few hours of the game are mostly free of survival elements. The one exception is Lara hunting and skinning a deer after remarking that she's hungry. (But at no other point in the first 2.5 hours of the game after this moment does Lara mention food again, despite the impression that a lot of time has elapsed since that first meal.)

The integration of story and gameplay is also problematic in the first few hours of the game. You discover much of the game's story through scripted cutscenes presented as home-made videos made by Lara and her fellow crew members prior to the shipwreck that brought them to the island. It's not quite as obvious as flashback sequences, but not much more original either. However, there are also diary entries and documents scattered throughout the island for you to discover, which provide insight into Lara and her crew, the details of their expedition, and the island's secrets, and give you an incentive to explore.

This leads to one of the most promising things about this game so far, a stark contrast to the otherwise lacking survival elements and linear platforming-to-combat sequences. The ability to upgrade Lara's abilities through experience points is presented in a neat RPG-like upgrade system that rewards you for taking the time to explore the environment, collecting bits and pieces that translate into more points.

This feature helps match Lara's personal growth as a character to what is actually happening in the game--her combat skills, weapons, tools, and survival skills can all be upgraded to make her a stronger, more confident warrior--while allowing you an element of freedom in dictating what kind of person Lara will be when she emerges from her ordeal.

That, at least, gives us something to hope for.

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Herbaceous
Herbaceous

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QUOTE: "Instead, the scene shows us Lara, captured by a group of armed men, forced to defend herself and pull the trigger on one of her captors. She looks distressed, sure. But from this point on until the end of the 2.5-hour playable demo, Lara shows no signs of fighting with herself over the moral consequences of killing another human being. She adapts to her new role with what appears to be the mindset of an experienced killer, leaving a trail of dead bodies in her wake."

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You hit the nail squarely on the head, Laura.

There's also far too much killing in this title. It's supposed to be a puzzle/platformer...

dunnuck
dunnuck

This woman is a fool.

nik3kin
nik3kin

Like other readers, I can't agree with this article either. I've played a few of the older Tomb Raiders, and I believed it had always been a platformer with a bit of action and a whole lot of adventure. This reboot still has tombs and puzzles to explore and solve, snips of action and an extremely well planned level design. 

Though I can understand where the writer is coming from if I'd only played the demo, and that's where I believe it starts to go wrong. You cannot review a game just after a few hours of game play. It takes the entire duration of the game for characters to flesh out and plots to discover. If Parker had been able to play the entire game, or even read the hint notifications during the hunting segments, she'd realize that hunting is only for scavenging - and the usual bow practice). 

The reboot refers to keeping all the elements that made Tomb Raider so fun to play (exploring and solving puzzles), whilst adding more. More character and more gameplay elements. If Tomb Raider 2013 were to be skinned back to the graphics seen in the late 90's, you would have the same game. 

As for the supposed rape scene. Far from it. This is Lara BEFORE she was the Lara we know. She needs to toughen up and adapt to the dangers of adventuring. Lara didn't use her climbing axe to kill everyone when escaping, she only killed when she had to when her life was in absolute peril. Her first attempt at escape didn't involve killing either, she tried to run. Roth later comforts Lara when she cries over what she HAD to do. Lara doesn't want to be a killer, she was forced to take life for her own.

It's pretty hard to impress me with a game, of the countless I've played (both big and small titles), I rarely finish a game. Currently eight hours into Tom Raider 2013, and I haven't moved. It's awesome. I've never played a game where I play a real a character as Lara. At times not even I want to kill people, I'd rather sneak around. The survival elements come in here. You can rush into enemies and slay away, but at the cost of Lara's quick death. Survival games are characterised by the protagonists small health pool and use of tools and smarts to survive. It's not a true survival game, but elements are there whether you like it or not.

Laura's written a fairly shabby review so it's best not to believe what you read; whether it be from critics or gamers. Just play the game and find out for yourself, if you don't like it you can easily return the game to your local games shop.

acidhand999
acidhand999

I only play if there is a way to unlock HOTPANTSZ!

kaysar17
kaysar17

This is totally new but I just wanna call Indiana jones save lara 

BuzzardBee718
BuzzardBee718

Wow, seriously? Look, people react to things differently. One woman who is kidnapped and attacked, knows she's about to be raped or killed, struggles to break free from her captors and finds she has little alternative but to kill them in order to survive.


Some might say in reality, such a woman would cower in a corner, hide from the world after such an experience and never become a world-trekking explorer and tomb raider. But the reality is that some women react by taking self-defense classes, vowing never to be caught in such a vulnerable state ever again.


The writer of this article played a 2.5 hour demo, let me stress that, a "demo" of the game. She did not play the entire thing. She played aspects that were presented to her so she could get a feel for the game. She does not know how it ends. She does not know what else Lara has to endure and overcome.

I've pre-ordered the game and am looking forward to it. Ms. Parker should go play something else if she feels a demo has left her so disappointed. Demos frequently leave me disappointed. It's up to the full game to fulfill its promises. Personally, I always found the Lara of old to be pretty devoid of any sort of human emotion. It's rather refreshing to see a vulnerable character for once and watch her grow more world-savvy through her experiences.

princetrase
princetrase

Adapt to change.  That's all I have to say.

SupaSaba
SupaSaba

Something is wrong with this article, I think it's the tone and attitude of the writer. It feels sarcastically indecisive. I have played the same portion of the game and had a totally different reaction.

Firstly, how can a shipwreck in the middle of a mysterious island with vicious murdering inhabitants not give you the "representation of a vulnerable woman left to fend for herself in an inhospitable environment"? But i guess that's up to the individual.

Secondly the comments regarding believability can only be true so far as this is a video game ... and Crystal Dynamics have stressed the fact they want the game to be believable but also fun. This is demonstrated by Lara's first kill and the progression that follows. She is put into a kill or be killed scenario and the game reflects that with Lara yelling to enemies "Why are you doing this?" or "it doesn't have to be this way."

Finally, in regards to the survival aspects. Last time i checked Tomb Raider isn't a survival simulation game. They are not going to make us pick berries and drink our own pee. It's an action adventure game with a survival theme. 

Crawboyrocks
Crawboyrocks

I hope the creators haven't put away the impishness and sex appeal of lara, since that's what defines her -.-  (plus she's always been my sex-symbol :D)

No_SuRReNDeR
No_SuRReNDeR

Great article Laura,

 It's nice to hear some honest critiques on the site again :)-

Big IPs' regardless of developers like Tombraider should not get a free pass when the game design choices they make are just  plain dumb. Cough * Angel of Darkness* Cough...

elby322
elby322

Everything I've seen of this game points to it being the most brutal and violent Tomb Raider yet.  Realistically, if Lara goes through this the first time she sets out adventuring, she would probably end up never leaving her home again, so it makes no sense that this traumatic experience would inspire her to become an adventurer.  

stephensmith84
stephensmith84

I agree with the author, but the article is blighted by it's terrible writing.

 

It's rare to read a piece as indecisive as this.

FlashCharge
FlashCharge

Have really had some doubts about this game and the new Lara transformation. Hoping for the best and like other gamers waiting longer before drawing any solid conclusions.

sanechupp
sanechupp

People and all this new stuff and they still cry about it. You add new fun fun things to the old games, not much to it. Example is racing, racing is racing like other game types.

duran_gabriel
duran_gabriel

I`ll try to explain the point of view simply. I heard about Lara Croft when I was very young, and those "stories" were exacting for me at that age (regarding sex appeal ;) ). Now it`s obvious that all youg people evolved and need something new, but don`t try to change Lara as she was. Change graphics, create a better and complex scenario.

shanethewolf
shanethewolf

I'm all in favour of a grittier style and a more believable and vulnerable Lara, but what I read in this article sounds about right. Developers are always promising these things and building up the hype surrounding them (Kane and Lynch springs to mind), but never actually deliver.

 

The thought of her first kill being reduced to a quick time event says it all. I'm now very sceptical.

phatpantzz
phatpantzz

I agree partly with Laura that the RPG upgrade system effecting Lara's personality may be a good thing. But, if this is ruined by a cut scene based storyline it doesn't sound promising for the character development.

 

Best to wait and see when the full game is released.

USAPATRIOT21
USAPATRIOT21

The poor Tomb Raider people have to put up with such critique on their character. You won't see anybody facing as much pressure to be "realistic and an accurate portrayal of a flesh and blood human being" than Lara Croft.

 

I think Parker is a great writer and I love Gamespot but just because the graphics are better doesn't mean the character needs to be any more realistic than Princess Peach floating in a pink dress and umbrella and throwing beets at bad guys. They're just cartoons.

HAMMERCLAW
HAMMERCLAW

An intelligent and perceptive commentary on a piece of a yet to be released game, from a feminine perspective, with insights that would simply not occur to the average, adolescent male. Little wonder there is such a tempest in a teapot, over such a seemingly innocuous article. In such a medium, drenched as it is in adolescent male testosterone and sexual fantasies, an opinion, from your point of view, is like a breath of fresh air, which clears away the stereo-typical nonsense one usually finds. Good show.

pathosfire
pathosfire

Kinda disappointing to hear the 'believability' of the new Lara doesn't quite live up to expectations, but since I've already pre-purchased, I guess I'll see for myself.

KorhalKk
KorhalKk

I don't what the sexism/rape problem is, but its not a good thing when a game tries to show a sad reality we face it today around the world ?

KorhalKk
KorhalKk

I think the transformation which any human being suffers after an extreme act of violence, its very definitive. I've seem few footages of the game, but try to capture the big picture. She's "marooned" without any contact with external help, she's alone by herself ( there's this guy too, but he's hurt whatever lol ). She was captured, she runs free and kills someone. Do you really have the time to put yourself in constant or even rare moral existencial dilemmas ? I think that's would be seem less verosimil than how it is.

BladeStrike1234
BladeStrike1234

Wow, the feminists really are going wild for this. Its just a game.

SavoyPrime
SavoyPrime

Personally, I hope the survival elements aren't a focus. I don't really care about eating a deer or whatever every hour because she is hungry. Micro-managing can kill the flow in some games. In my opinion, TR should focus on the important things, which is story, character development, and gameplay.

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

I ignore all commentary about believable characters. People grossly misjudge what even the most sheltered rich kid is capable of - excuse my unintentional reference to far cry 3 where you are not believable as a noob just because of the ridiculous situations you manage to escape.  It's very easy to die on hard mode if you don't do things right but there is a noticeable lack of believability at times. The whole trope of going "Theres no way you could do that, that wouldn't make sense" has its legitimate moments, and it has a lot of illegitimate moments too. A human being even without training can accomplish and survive a lot and we are very adaptable.

Mo60
Mo60

Hello everyone first of all, i like to welcome all of  respected people of you because i am new joint in this beautiful site.Secondly, i think this game will be a nice and so exciting game,because when you see the trailer of that game lara was tied in a rope and her legs high and her head bottom.Lara after several efforts she fell to the ground trying to find a way out of that strange place and suddenly when she pass a narrow path with her little wooden torch in her hand  a not good shape strange person holding her legs and wanted her to go back,but lara struggled to go forward,so when i was watching this part of the trailer i felt like i cant capture my breath,so put yourself in lara situation and feel that someone want to grab you back and you want to go forward What Is your feeling? Finally,after that strange man lara struggled and struggled and struggled Untel she got out of that strange place and that what i meant for yours in my speech this game is nice and so exciting,add to that its a good looking game.Thanks for your patience for listening to me.

MrKrupet
MrKrupet

Hm, I still prefer the sexy badass version of her...

Leejjohno
Leejjohno

I have to admit though... I don't like the sound of quick time events permeating into yet another game I am interested in buying.

 

STOP PUTTING QTE'S IN MY GAMES... THEY NEVER ****ING WORK.

Gomtor
Gomtor

This chick also had negative stuff to say about darksiders 2; which turned out awsome.

3BONY69
3BONY69

I find the story to be really intriguing. I think that this could have been a box office hit in the theaters. 

RS13
RS13

@princetrase Umm . . . her point was there wasn't that much change to adapt to. 

Unstable_Fury
Unstable_Fury

 @HAMMERCLAW

Continue attacking the people (yes, men are people too) that disagree with you and not the actual argument being made. Next I'll bet you'll attack my spelling and say something mean about my mother.

 

Yeah, I've been around the internetz. Come at me. I haz cheezburger.

 

Laura's so-called "preview" is based on 2.5 hours of gameplay and talks solely about how the story doesn't live up to her expectations with nary word about gameplay or gameplay mechanics.

 

Although I agree it's disappointing that they don't explore the ramifications of a young girl taking another human life for the first time, I still would expect a preview to talk about how it plays in comparison to Uncharted or another similar 3rd-person platformer/adventure game in the genre.

 

It's good to have high expectations but video games are a young medium and Lara Croft used to be a sexy archaelogist who shot at dinosaurs in short-shorts whilst doing 360-flips. I really believe y'all perceptions have been colored by all the controversy surrounding the game that you can't be objective anymore.

 

Conveying human emotion is hard enough as it is in film, novel, and interpretive dance. Crystal Dynamics will not win any Academy Awards but how the hell does it play?

 

^Just some stereo-typical male nonsense up in here. No big.

 

 

gsbliss
gsbliss

 @HAMMERCLAW There was nothing inherently "feminine" about this article.  It was a well written preview, and if you didn't know the gender of the author from the byline I doubt you could ever know it was written by a woman.

 

Regarding the "adolescent male testosterone and sexual fantasies" you speak of, why don't you give an example of the "stereo-typical nonsense one usually finds" in Gamespot's reporting.  I can't think of a single one, but as you're clearly already on the male-shaming band wagon I'm sure you can name several.

asjflask
asjflask

@Leejjohno I agree - I don't like QTE's.  Yes I can do them well, yes I have fast reactions,  no I don't spend hours trying to get past one event, but that doesn't change the fact that I can't stand them.

To me, a Quick Timer Event is nothing more than lazy developing.  Give me full control of the character and let me make my own decisions.  How I miss the days of an open-world Tomb Raider... and swimsuits.  Can't forget swimsuits!


rhymesmatter
rhymesmatter

 @Gomtor I generally don't take Laura Parker's words to heart cause she has proven herself rather untrustworthy in her past endeavors (Darksiders 2 was a good example) I am still conscious about Tomb Raider but i am not gonna hammer the yet just yet when we still have 3 months to release.

Mo60
Mo60

 @chambiko If you like my opinion then take it,if you do not leave it,it is simple,you got it?One more last thing,if you have any comments on what i said go ahead and tell me your point of view.OK  

Leejjohno
Leejjohno

 @edporetz 

All right guys that's fair enough, but those said games are actually influencing developers who can't seem to get them right.

In Heavy Rain they worked because they were a core part of the game's design and weren't instant game over screens if you failed one.

The point is; for every resident evil 4, god of war and heavy rain there are ten-fold the number of hitman absolutions, resident evil 6's and tomb raiders. If it means QTEs being cut from all games for the great of good then I say why not? And yes I am aware they were in other tomb raider games but they didn't work, why are they still putting them in if it's obviously not the right game for it?

Why muddy a unique game series like hitman or tomb raider with quick time events if they just come across like cheap, disjointed and barely contextual affairs that actually distract from the overall cinematic effect?

asjflask
asjflask

@Bayonetta2013 @3BONY69 Yes, supposedly the new movie will be released this year.  Unfortunately it won't star Angelina Jolie -- enough of a reason for me to skip the next movie.

gsbliss
gsbliss

 @HAMMERCLAW Really fantastic retort.  Please don't bother addressing the point I made, and continue making cliche observations about sexism in the media.

Mo60
Mo60

@Bayonetta2013 @Mo60 @chambikoI tell you an advice for yourself specially and your life generally,before you speaking with any respected person go respect yourself first and then come to speak with me or others,not only a normal speech ,but speak with me in my level of respecting.

I tell you that because you did not respect me.Go teach yourself some good morals in how to speak and deal with people,Especially if they were a respected people.

Another thing you told me that i am new to the internet,I see you were wrong in your expression and the right expression is (Mo60 you are a new registered to Gamespot site) and do not say that (I am new to the internet).OK,Because a word new to the internet is a meaning in its wrong topic like you said.

Did you get the point or you want to hear more from me?

One more last thing,I told you what i want in a respected way and speech and i did not insult you such as your insulting to me,because i respect myself and then i respect the person who i speak with him.

I finish my speech with you with this statement based on Al Imam Al Shafi'i God's mercy on him (My opinion is right is likely wrong and opinion of another is wrong is likely right).I think from what i said to you, You learned that how to be a good behavior man with others,Especially if they were a respected people.And before you get upset from me,Consider what i said to you an advice from a brother to brother and i hope you learned from it.  




Bayonetta2013
Bayonetta2013

@Mo60 @chambiko The guy made a face. Calm down. 

Maybe you're new to the internet, but attacking someone from typing out an emoticon is just stupid.

Bayonetta2013
Bayonetta2013

@Leejjohno @edporetz I always liked FFXIII-2's QTEs because they served as sort of a bonus if you pulled them off. You didn't die if you failed them, but if you nailed them you got buffs in battle and did extra damage to your target. That's what I like because not only does it at least give you a chance to turn the tide of the battle, but it gives you something to do during the cutscene. Hopefully Tomb Raider will get a hint from its own publisher and incorporate something like this.