Tomb Raider: Whipping out the Big Guns
Lara Croft rises from the grave more often than the undead creatures whose tombs the little British minx just can’t seem to stop raiding. And, like all reclusive near-alcoholic failing authors with paradoxical inferiority and god complexes, I took my first step to manhood with a gander at Lara’s two rather boxy protuberances at chesticular height. It’s been close to fifteen years since Sir Mixalot sang about PILFs and liking big polygons, but it’s comforting to know some things never change in Tomb Raider: you’ll die at the drop of a hat.
As for the most recent Tomb Raider, her weapons grade silicone sacks seem to be the point(s) of the game. And, for once, you’ll find a little T&A are actually counterproductive.
And what happened to peaceful islanders like the Hawaiians to whom the white man brought the gifts of guilt, syphilis, and alcohol? The second you make contact with a new group of people, someone wants to eat your face and have sex with the remains. A little faction development to make us care more about the countless masses we effortlessly headshot would be nice.
But I think I should back up and explain the premise we’re dealing with in what amounts to a great movie but slightly less awesome game. Before she was a famous treasure hunter, Lara Croft was a burgeoning archeologist with a great instinct for new discoveries and a whopping set of… compasses. Sailing on a ludicrously oversized cargo ship with a salty crew from the world over—but only the white, English-speaking parts of it—she searched for the Lost Kingdom of Yamatai, a pre-Yamato culture that held power somewhere in the whale’s road between China and Japan. It was ruled by the Sun Queen and watched over by the infamous Storm Guard.
Legend has it the Sun Queen, Himiko, had power over the elements, which starts to seem more than just legend when a storm blows up out of nowhere and sends your ship flying ass over teakettle. You find yourself shipwrecked on an island that’s ostensibly home to the lost kingdom (shouldn’t it be a queendom?). Lara is soon trying to survive against the brutal elements and link up with the scattered remnants of her expedition, all while fighting a cult of shipwrecked sailors who worship the Sun Queen and slowly unraveling what mysteries the island holds.
In this respect, Tomb Raider presents woman against nature, showing that in the face of raw survival there is now time for civilized sexism and gender roles… which I’d believe for more than three second if Lara’s Double Ds weren’t squeezed into a tank top, wet down, and mashed like a pair of steaming Wiltshire hams against my TV screen for ten hours. Well, I say ten hours, but if you take the time to seek out all the collectables hidden away in the incredibly well-detailed environments you’re looking at closer to thirty hours.
I’ll be direct: gameplaywise, Tomb Raider is probably one of the most entertaining games released this year. But it’s really more a series of games than one singular experience.
Play for the first half hour and you’ll find yourself in what amounts to a movie with quicktime evens. And who thought quicktime events were immersive? If I want something to do with my hands while watching outdoor softcore porn I’ll learn to knit.
Play for the next half hour and you’ll be caught in the middle of puzzle central, employing novel fire mechanics to progress. These same elemental mechanics are relegated to optional tombs in which you find parts to upgrade your equipment and map.