A plea for Lara Croft

No matter how many times I tell them, none of my friends believe me when I say the more recent Tomb Raider games are actually good. And so I write this blog post in a bid to educate, elucidate, and evangelize the good word of Lara Croft by way of Crystal Dynamics.

Eidos’s prized heifer had gone from being a video gaming icon to more or less a laughingstock of the industry, as poorer and poorer games starring Lara Croft were released one after the other, culminating in the dismally-received Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness. I’d like to point out that during this time, Lara’s look essentially went unchanged. Polygons were added here and there, but she remained essentially the same inhuman-looking breast-and-lip creature. I wasn’t exactly a fan of the Core-developed Tomb Raider games, and by and large dismissed the lot of them; time spent trying to figure out how to play Tomb Raider II only resulted in discovering that the camera would zoom in on Lara’s swimming posterior if I hit one of the shoulder buttons on my PlayStation. For reference, this was a period of time in which I was willing to send hours to an unfortunate grave playing Square’s abysmal Final Fantasy fighting game Ehrgeiz, so it’s not like I was the pickiest gamer in the world.

Between the declining quality of Tomb Raider games and the magazine cover with Duke Nukem’s hands covering Lara’s bare breasts, Croft’s public image wasn’t doing so well. Eidos, seeing their cash cow being lead to slaughter by Core, suddenly had an outbreak of common sense and handed over the reins to Legacy of Kain developers Crystal Dynamics, leading to the franchise reboot and all-around enjoyable title Tomb Raider: Legend.

I will come out and say that I freaking love the Crystal Dynamics Tomb Raider games. I’m working on Tomb Raider: Underworld right now, but I finished Tomb Raider: Legend a while ago and had a lot of fun with it, which is more than I expected. The demo immersed me in a world that was lush with the beauty of modern graphics, quality voice acting, and a shiny new Lara Croft that actually looked human. She spoke intelligently, she emoted, and she wasn’t all T&A anymore. The game’s story was definitely interesting enough, and the variety of locales was exciting and refreshing. About the only real problem I had with the game was the quirky camera, but I adjusted, and the gameplay was well worth it. Crystal Dynamics had taken the challenge of reviving Tomb Raider earnestly and produced a game of great quality.

Unfortunately, when you’ve burned customers with a string of inferior games, they’re eventually going to ignore new ones promised to be better.  So, while it’s my understanding that Legend still fared pretty well, just looking at my own gaming circle I see faces that are just a little too skeptical to be swayed by my impassioned pleas to give the new games a chance.

The release of Tomb Raider: Anniversary probably didn’t help things much.  It’s the one game in the Crystal Dynamics-developed trio that I just can’t bring myself to get into. While beautiful, to be sure, this proper reworking of the very first Tomb Raider is missing some of the advances and changes that Legend brought to the table, including the slight skewing towards more action-oriented gameplay. Players who went from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare to World at War and found less game instead of more will know exactly what I’m talking about.

When Tomb Raider: Underworld finally hit the $20 mark, I ordered it, and I’ve been invested in it since. The graphics have taken a solid step forward and it’s a very beautiful game. The game’s presentation has also been bumped up some, and there are some really great changes to the design. I don’t think it’s of the same caliber as Legend, and the camera actually seems to have gotten a bit worse, but the story is immediately engaging and exciting and I’m constantly anticipating where it will send me next. The freedom Lara has to move in her environment has increased from the previous games, and an excellent replacement for the original’s button-press quicktime events manifests here. Instead of hitting the indicated button, the game simply slows down radically and forces you to actually react using the in-game controls. Floor crumbling beneath you? Hit the grapple key to shoot the grappling hook and save yourself. The fundamental principle is the same—press a key to avoid death—but having to interact on the normal game’s terms instead of hitting arbitrary keys feels more involving and exciting.

I feel like these recent Tomb Raider games have been at least a little unfairly dismissed.  It’s my understanding that Eidos wasn’t happy with how Underworld sold, which is a shame, because it’s still a fine game. Underworld doesn’t quite have that same revitalized sense as Legend did, but it’s a more than acceptable sophomore effort.  Care was clearly taken in trying to capitalize on and improve the things that worked the first time around.

Since any of the Crystal Dynamics-developed Tomb Raider games can be had for $20 now, and since demos are available for each one, I highly suggest checking them out. At the very least, Tomb Raider: Legend is worth your time.  Who knows, you may find yourself a believer just like I did.

Comments closed
    • puppetworx
    • 10 years ago

    I tried the Underworld demo because of this article…I’m glad I did. I’ve needed a new game to play since L4D became dull. Normally I’d only play competitive online shooters such as COD4 or CS, I never found playing against AI a thrill. So I was pretty surprised when I found myself enjoying the game with it’s little puzzles, third person view and a frikkin’ gamepad essentiality. I hate gamepads, luckily I had this Logitech Chillstream kicking about, this is just one of those games which is better played with a controller. In essence it’s not that serious, it’s a console game on the PC. I’m surprised, but I’m really enjoying the hell out of it.

    Thanks for the article Dustin without which I might be stuck in a Death Toll lobby surrounded by noobs and lolfags and I’d never know how imaginative and fun this type of game could be.

    • puppetworx
    • 10 years ago

    Doublezzzz

    • puppetworx
    • 10 years ago

    Post failzz

    • Krogoth
    • 10 years ago

    Good riddance to Lara Croft.

    I never saw the big deal with her and the Tomb Raider games.

    • YeuEmMaiMai
    • 10 years ago

    laura croft was hawt on the rendition vertite

    • fpsduck
    • 10 years ago

    Lol. I haven’t done with Anniversary yet.
    Well, I prefer Karima Adebibe.
    Don’t know why her contract was so short.

    • XaiaX
    • 10 years ago

    l[

      • paulWTAMU
      • 10 years ago

      If they made that game I’d play it. It’d be the first Tomb Raider game I’ve played since God only knows when too.

        • khands
        • 10 years ago

        For me, it would be since the original.

    • yogibbear
    • 10 years ago

    Yeah i picked up TR:legend once… i think it was when i bought Assassin’s Creed. Got it for ~$5. Loved it. Then bought Anniversary on steam for ~$5 when it was on sale once and haven’t actually gotten around to playing past the first level.

    • kvndoom
    • 10 years ago

    Ah, fond memories of the first Womb Raider… getting through a few so-so levels, shooting dinosaurs (??) with mah pistols…

    …then getting to St. Francis’ Folly. I remember looking at the screen and thinking out loud, “how the hell do I get up there?” I don’t remember if it was that level or the next, but where I ultimately got stuck was somewhere you had to pull some underwater levers to open a gate. I never could get it to open, and I gave up. The game was fun up to that point, except for the many times I fell to my death on SFF. I quite clearly remember the “crunch” sound poor Lara made once her terminal velocity came to an abrupt end.

    And I’m with ludi, more Cate Archer, please. Please!!

    • Flying Fox
    • 10 years ago

    Actually which game is the blog picture coming from? I search Legend and Underworld mentioned here and all I found are the typical tube top and the shorts still.

    • Evaders99
    • 10 years ago

    I actually agree with Dustin, the Crystal Dynamics games are great and looking forward to more of them. Too bad the DLCs when to console-only, I’d love to see them on PC

    • glacius555
    • 10 years ago

    Thanks for reminding, didn’t have time to finish it!

    • ludi
    • 10 years ago

    Lara, schmara. Give us /[

      • UberGerbil
      • 10 years ago

      g[http://www.amazon.com/OSS-117-Cairo-Nest-Spies/dp/B001APM44O/ref=pd_cp_d_0<]§ I saw it in the theater, but I assume the DVD has English subtitles. There's a sequel, which I saw at the SIFF closing gala. It's not out on DVD yet but should be seeing a limited run in the usual art/foreign movie houses first. I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the original, but perhaps that was because of differing expectations (none for the first, quite high for the second).

    • Flying Fox
    • 10 years ago

    q[

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 10 years ago

    Uh, no. *sigh* I guess you can’t win them all, Sklavos.

    Yahtzee points out that Lara Croft is actually /[

    • indeego
    • 10 years ago

    Never bothered with Tomb Raider Sequels after trying the first one for about 20 minutes. I guess that is what happens to your franchise potential if the first one sucks donkey nadsg{

    • blazer_123
    • 10 years ago

    You should have been paid by edos for this blog post. You would have felt the same way about the game as you do now and we would have never known you compromised ethical standards…

    Maybe not straight out cash but rather a series of free games/hardware.

    • SomeOtherGeek
    • 10 years ago

    I’ll be looking into these games. Working on Overload II right now. Thanks for sharing anyway. Maybe it will be a good thing I have yet to touch a Tomb Raider game?

    • Meadows
    • 10 years ago

    g{

    • Unckmania
    • 10 years ago

    I feel the same way as you do, but not quite as strongly. Lara Croft was indeed inhumanly shaped in the past to be just tits, but the new model while more human is no less sex-oriented than the past models. Just remember the huge cleavage dress from Legend and you’ll realize that while the game mechanics and controls were greatly improved, the sex sells formula is still a driving factor in the game’s concept.

    And quite frankly, they can’t escape that. It’s like a porn actress trying to become mainstream. It’s just not going to happen.

    As for the gameplay… By the second half of the game i realized i wasn’t having fun so i left it alone.

      • Ondrej Scerbej
      • 10 years ago

      l[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Girlfriend_Experience<]§

        • indeego
        • 10 years ago

        Hardly mainstream.

        How about a film containing a former porn actress, wide distribution, that doesn’t have the protagonist character’s main focus be the sex or sex appeal of the former porn actressg{

    • GodsMadClown
    • 10 years ago

    How progressive!

    • BooTs
    • 10 years ago

    I feel stronger.

    • flip-mode
    • 10 years ago

    TR is turning into the Tit Report. Several times now, some breast-laden chick has adorned the front page – now for two days in a row. Thanks TR. Now when I visit your page from my desk at work, which happens to be in full view of anyone in the room – I look like a thirteen year old pervert jacking off to anime. Awesome. At least put some real tits up there so I don’t look like I’m rubbing to a cartoon. A pervert has to have standards. FFS, at least when pictures of hardware are up on the front page I can pretend that visiting TR is somewhat work related.

      • Game_boy
      • 10 years ago

      This; same argument for school.

      • Damage
      • 10 years ago

      We’ll aim for breast-laden men to even things out.

      Ballmer pic, stat!

        • flip-mode
        • 10 years ago

        LOL, that might work better. People are less inclined to rail against homosexuality these days – it’s social taboo to do so – but good old perversion is still looked down upon.

          • blubje
          • 10 years ago

          i think it’s not necessarily homosexual vs. heterosexual, it’s more how explicit it is (and this doesn’t qualify as anything for me…)

        • Flying Fox
        • 10 years ago

        With the sweat too!

        How about Frank Costanza with the “Bro”?

        • Richie_G
        • 10 years ago

        Let’s face it: we’re saturated with them already.

        • TheEmrys
        • 10 years ago

        Steve Wozniak doesn’t count?

      • wingless
      • 10 years ago

      NONSENSE! That picture is SO not sexual. Did they change the pic or something?

      You guys act like extremists in middle eastern theocracies. Your comments seem like you want the only women to be shown to be in a Hijab or a Burka to cover their full bodies. We’re Westerners (most of us) so a female figure, especially this pic, shouldn’t bother you unless you have some issues.

        • FubbHead
        • 10 years ago

        ^^ What he said. If you percieve that image (or the SFIV-blog image, for that matter) as sexual or perverted in any way what-so-ever, I’d say you have some rather serious issues.

          • ludi
          • 10 years ago

          No, he’s right. The latest round of pix could get you some strange looks in some work environments. It’s a professional conduct problem, even for those who might not have any moral objection whatsoever. As in, “Why is there a buxom hourglass on your screen when we have clients walking randomly through here?”

            • flip-mode
            • 10 years ago

            That is exactly it. It’s about professionalism, and I don’t want to look less professional when I visit TR.

            • wingless
            • 10 years ago

            When did healthy looking females = unprofessional? I say THAT is sexism and should be fought in courts if anybody has a problem with it.

            • flip-mode
            • 10 years ago

            You don’t get it. That’s OK, it’s complicated.

            • ludi
            • 10 years ago

            Everyone talks big, until they lose a job in a recessionary economy, cough up $100k in legal fees, and prove some pissy point that does exactly zero to advance their professional career or reputation.

            Don’t they have Ultimate Fighting where you come from? It’s faster and cheaper.

            • XaiaX
            • 10 years ago

            That would make sense if she was healthy looking.

            You have her arching lordosis style while her breasts are damped by the rain.

            If you don’t think that’s sexual you have issues.

            • FubbHead
            • 10 years ago

            I think you are confusing professional and uptight.

      • ssidbroadcast
      • 10 years ago

      As tightwad and button-down as it sounds: flip-mode is on point.

        • DrDillyBar
        • 10 years ago

        FF, more like.

          • ssidbroadcast
          • 10 years ago

          Final Fantasy? Firefox? Focus-Fire? Please make sense.

            • Meadows
            • 10 years ago

            It might also be a femtofarad, or 255 in hexadecimal.

            • DrDillyBar
            • 10 years ago

            Flying Fox. #16

            • ssidbroadcast
            • 10 years ago

            “Flying Fox” oh yeah duh, that’s makes a lot of sense. (wtf?)

        • flip-mode
        • 10 years ago

        The only thing that I have an issue with is the front page image. Images inside the article are not a worry, since I could simply avoid that article while at work.

      • odizzido
      • 10 years ago

      I hadn’t noticed. Course I use /news.x so

      • rythex
      • 10 years ago

      Don’t surf when you’re at work? Problem solved?

        • Meadows
        • 10 years ago

        Because dying of boredom is an alternative?

      • blubje
      • 10 years ago

      haha I guess they locked the article rotator, just for you… the front article usually changes when the page is refreshed.

        • flip-mode
        • 10 years ago

        Yeah – I’d noticed! It’s all good, I might have done the same for someone who came bitching to me about such matters.

      • burntham77
      • 10 years ago

      Less surfing, more working?

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