Tomb Raider is slotted to be released on Mar 5 2013, and the anticipation is building with the recent world premiere of the trailer. This reboot focusing on Lara Croft’s origin story is taking the Tomb Raider franchise in a whole new direction. In fact, it looks a lot like the Uncharted games. The Tomb Raider games were probably an inspiration for Uncharted, but the Uncharted games were able to make some worthwhile improvements upon some of the concepts within Tomb Raider. Those are some of the best action-adventure games to be released in the last few years, so Uncharted would be a great example for Tomb Raider to follow. That being said, the controversy surrounding aspects of the story could prevent the game from being a critical and commercial hit.
Tomb Raider appears to have imitated a few other things about Uncharted. Lara Croft has shed her exaggerated curves and pouty visage for a more realistic, lithe appearance. Say goodbye to the short-shorts and tiny tops. Her new cargo pants and griminess are reminiscent of Nate Drake’s look. Video games have started to be seen as art more and more as years pass by, and Lara Croft’s new appearance makes it easier to take the franchise seriously. Tomb Raider felt a little cartoonish before, and not in a cool cel-shaded way. That might have been okay in the late 1990s, but today’s gamers have shown appreciation for depth, grittiness, and realism in action games.
There is something that could hold back this new game. The executive producer was asked at one point about gamers having trouble projecting themselves into female protagonists, such as Lara Croft. He mentioned that in the new Tomb Raider, gamers will want to protect and help her. Gamers will treat her differently than they treat male heroes. He referred to an attempted rape scene, and how the brutality on the island in the game will shape her character. This caused the Internet to erupt. The game designer and creative director were quick to clarify the statements. Sexual assault will not appear in the game, despite the images that have suggested otherwise. Lara Croft will still undergo tough life-or-death scenarios that alter her. Rather than referring to the desire to protect her, it was said that the struggles she faces cause gamers to invest in her emotionally.
The follow-up comments are somewhat reassuring, but also contradictory. Why can’t she just be a bad ass like Nathan Drake? A victimized Lara facing her best friend’s kidnapping, being held captive, and rape is a touchy subject. The idea that a female character must undergo that trauma to develop into a tough fighter or be playable for male gamers is offensive and stereotypical. The choice to have the origin story be that way will certainly be off-putting to some gamers. However, video games have depicted all sorts of atrocities, and sexual assault is discussed in other forms of media. There’s no reason to exclude the topic as long as it’s done artistically and is not exploitative or a cheap story device, though it will always be a sensitive issue. Unfortunately, the backpedaling that Crystal Dynamics has done leaves all sorts of questions as to what their intentions are.
Reboots are a hot trend lately, and to completely update Tomb Raider is a lucrative idea. The realistic character model, beautiful art, and action-packed trailer are promising, but the gameplay quality won’t be revealed until closer to the launch date. Hopefully, there is something to be learned from the bad press. Otherwise, Tomb Raider won’t be able to make a new name for itself, and everyone will just hold on for the next Uncharted game.