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Another Tomb Raider reboot mooted. Does anyone still care?

Rumours around the next proper Tomb Raider game have begun to solidify if recent reports are to be believed. The new game will be set on a Japanese island, at some point before the events of the first game and will be a reboot of sorts.

Another reboot? It's all speculation at this stage, but... well, we thought that's what Legend was. Every new Tomb Raider game since the godawful Angel of Darkness has promised to go 'back to its roots', but the simple fact is, something's not working.

The last game was highly enjoyable and very good-looking. But there are several problems with modern Lara Croft. Firstly...

 

She's a videogame icon... of the '90s

Lara's become too famous for her own good. While Mario (like Madonna) constantly evolves and reinvents himself to keep up with modern times, Lara's still trying to do what she did fifteen years ago (like Britney Spears). Cosmetic enhancements have kept her looking pretty, but the act is essentially the same old same old.

 

We know too much about her

All you need to know about Lara is that she's young, intrepid, fearless and 'only plays for sport'. Oh, and she's the brattish offspring of a posh family, which makes her kinda out of your league but perhaps still attainable if you can impress her.

We don't need to know about the disappearance of her parents to give her a reason to do what she's doing. We don't need a story of tragedy and revenge. And we certainly don't need her to pretend to be James Bond.

 

She's too anxious to get things done

If you play the original Tomb Raider, time just sort of stops. You can stand still and assess your situation. You can wander up to a carving on the wall and marvel at its design. See the ivy creeping through its details. Sure, the texture for all of this are fugly compared to anything on current-gen, but the point is, despite the limited RAM available on the 32-bit machines, there were little details in the game that had zero effect on your quest.


Above: TR1 had horrible textures, yet a world you could truly explore

And that's why the game had such a feeling of exploration. You really felt like you were the first person to look at these carvings and stretched animal skins for hundreds if not thousands of years. The modern games all have the feeling that there are other humans around and that they are likely to jump out at you at any given moment. Which is another thing...

 

She's become a murderer

So quite why she's happily offing scores of henchmen just to cross a courtyard is beyond us. She had a few pops at Pierre Dupont in the first game, but there was a reason for that. All this indiscriminate killing is not what Tomb Raider is about.


Above: The bodycount in Tomb Raider Legend was insanely high

 

She's become a team player

The modern games and films have mostly fallen into the trap of giving Lara a team to communicate with. Sure, current-gen machines can give characters hours of dialogue, but that doesn't mean every character should talk. Lara's few cut-scenes in the first game were fine. Having her radio back to base to say that she's successfully put her shoes on is not.

 

She's too into dress-up

Lara's donned wetsuits, catsuits, ball gowns, snow gear and school gear. Instead of trying to titillate us (giving unlikely and ill-fitting level locations in the process), why not just stick to her traditional blue swimsuit under khaki shorts combo? It's sexy. It's practical. It's iconic.

Having been a teenager in 1996, I can honestly say the first game was never about Lara's sex appeal. It was about the awe and wonder of exploring this deserted world. The fact it was originally designed with a male lead just goes to show that it was all about the atmophere first and foremost. Few games have matched that feeling - the original Metroid Prime being the best. Tomb Raider should be about wonderment mixed with isolation, not an excuse to look at Lara's bum for 15 hours.


Above: This is not about raiding tombs, is it? And yet more killing...

 

She's gone soft on us

Want to know why the original game was so tense? Dying had a real punishment. With save points so few and far between, you had to carefully weigh up whether or not it was worth taking a risky jump towards a far-off platform. The fear of losing 20 minutes of play meant you had to play conservatively - and the reward for taking risks and prospering was tangible.

While we don't necessarily need a return to PSone-era save systems, some kind of penalty for dying would not go amiss. She's our Lara - let us look after her.

 

So do we still care?

Yes. It just feels like there's been too much panic when it comes to deciding on game features. Not every game needs to have movie-like plots, full voicing and OTT QTE boss fights. Give us full control of a sassy young explorer and a magnificent world to uncover. We'll be happy.


Above: Lara's in need of a bit of a hand up

What do you think? Do you still care about Tomb Raider games? Is there any way to fix the series? Or has it simply run its course? Let us know in the comments.

02 Jul, 2010

Topics

Old-school

21 comments

  • Rhymenocerous - July 4, 2010 11:54 a.m.

    I agree with everything you say here justin. Last summer, I played through Tomb Raiders 1-4, and Underworld. The puzzles and exploration feel, have been replaced by doing 17-flips-and-shooting-giant-spiders-in-the-face-in-slo-mo. Still prety good though. @TyeTheCzar agreed.
  • FatRat - July 4, 2010 12:46 a.m.

    sorry but i completly dissagree with this article Legend and Underworld were F'N brilliant they don't need to change a thing
  • TyeTheCzar - July 3, 2010 3:06 p.m.

    -Go back to the exploration roots. -Get rid of the ludicrous checkpoints and multiple save points(or make them optional) -Focus less on combat, but make the fights deep, intense, and life-threatening. -give us more adventure-style puzzles. ...basically everything GR pined for.
  • philipshaw - July 3, 2010 11:03 a.m.

    I couldn't care anymorew because Uncharted does all the things that Tomb Raider used to do but better
  • RebornKusabi - July 3, 2010 4:26 a.m.

    I honestly have played all of the Tomb Raider games, and out of all of those I have only beaten 3, Legends and Underworld. As far as the actual games, I really did love the recent three games far more than the earlier games with the exception of 3 which I honestly know is an insanely polarizing installment lol
  • oufour - July 2, 2010 7:41 p.m.

    nope. it's over. let her die with dignity...oh wait...
  • decoy_octorok - July 2, 2010 6:23 p.m.

    I've actually really enjoyed the direction that Crystal Dynamics has taken the series since they took over from Core. Legend, Anniversary and Underworld all had some incredible level design and I liked Lara's retconned backstory. I will agree that mowing down dozens of goons does feel a bit out of place though. To me it feels like Crystal Dynamics is right on the cusp of an incredible Tomb Raider game. They need to take a good hard look at the advancements that Assassins Creed and Uncharted have brought to the table and make some tweaks to their design. I still believe Lara can make a big comeback.
  • crumbdunky - July 2, 2010 5:44 p.m.

    Yes. I care. I always thought the hiring of a fresh model to "be" Lara for each game was too much tacky and the last game's biggest feature was "dirty, wet Lara with realistic sweaty mud!". It HAS gone too far and I don't think I could agree much more with young Sir Towell if I tried(my wife lovingly f]refers to him as a fellow "Sonic delusional optimist", so he's gt a kindred spirit in our house and now it seems it's time for me to concur with him. TR is an important series that's just left it's opwn remit so far behind it forgot the way home. Unchaterted is a better series but not because it replaced TR because, really,it never did. All that happened was TR moved so far away from what it was to begin with that it SEEMED easily deposed. Drake has always been a shooter and always had more char,m than Lara will ever dream of. Drake is best in his relations with other characters because he IS a character whereas Lara is basically the game.She was a pretty blank canvas and her femininity lent her extra vulnerability points when left ALONE in a believable game world. ND and Drake are njust WAY better at what Lara has been trying to do for the past few games-and that hasn't been trying that hard to make good TR games imo. As adventure shooters the games are wonky. Uncharted is in a totally different league when it comes to script, acting and, sadly, basics like shooting mechanics and hit detection. The MP comment particularly holds water with me as the way Retro make you return with new powers and gadgets to unearth more of previous levels is masterful and gives the feel of a sandbox without any of the complications. Early TR felt similar even without the same tricks. IF SE/Eidos find a way to make the next TR feel lonely and fill it with wonder and exploration we'll see the magic return but if they fall for the BS that they're competing with Nate they'll lose and lose hard. The "dude raider" comparison baffles me. Sure they go after old stuff but that apart where's the similarity? thee's very little and TR needs to either find the old magic or better forge something modern and rewarding that's independent of other games. Lara gives the impression that she's less happy with company so leave her alone, drop her somewhere old and imposing and let the atmosphere, rather than Lara's plummy voice take the lead. Nate's an everyman and a bit of a wimp-he's someone we can have empathy with but Lara's aloof and changing that would kill her so put her back where she works and reduce the interaction with others to as little as possible and set the series apart from games it can't compete with.
  • vinicusg.t.guedes - July 2, 2010 5:30 p.m.

    unfortunately Lara isn't half as fun as Drake, oh my...how I love uncharted 2 and the way it manages to be a lot better than most movies nowadays.
  • babyhenchy1 - July 2, 2010 4 p.m.

    Nathan Drake has taken her place. So I really don't care anymore. Bring on Uncharted 3.
  • ColonelKc - July 2, 2010 3:50 p.m.

    @Lovelost Oh yes!
  • myguyfromthe80s - July 2, 2010 3:46 p.m.

    Ask yourself how old were you when she first appeared. Ask yourself how old you are now. Don't forget there will always be 11 year old boys, but the problem facing Lara is the internets weren't around when I was 11, so I didn't have free access to pr0n. She needs to step up with a least upskirt shots.
  • Elemental - July 2, 2010 3:41 p.m.

    Totally agree. Games like Assasins Creed have taken the action adventure a step further with a less punishing control scheme, and a story that motivates you to see it through. Uncharted is the new Tomb Raider.
  • spulungkin - July 2, 2010 3:41 p.m.

    I care.......not!
  • adamhowes - July 2, 2010 3:26 p.m.

    I used to hate the older Tomb Raider games.....I only started enjoying from Legend(one of my favourite ever games) onwards.
  • JohnnyMaverik - July 2, 2010 3:24 p.m.

    Tomb Raider 2 was one of my first action games, and I liked it. But the originals don't hold up today, the games that are close to the originals don't hold up today cuz they're the originals with better graphics, and when they try and deviate they cock it up. Do I still care? No not really, I loved Tomb Raider, I'm done with it now.
  • 510BrotherPanda - July 2, 2010 3:20 p.m.

    Technically, Mario and Luigi have had quite a few different outfits in the past 25 or so years, but at least the outfits have a purpose, like Fire and Raccoon, etc. ...But not Spring, Propeller or Penguin, those aren't as useful. I've never really been a Tomb Raider fan having had Nintendo systems since NES, but I did try TR1 on a Mac back in the 90's, and you are right about the ambience for exploration and Metroid Prime. I just kept dying by the stupid bear attacking me.
  • Joshin69 - July 2, 2010 3:18 p.m.

    I liked the last game although there were to many hints at times and at others it made little sense. A return to what made the first game so good would be hard now though. The levels where made up of blocks so you could judge your jumps, you had a good idea whether a jump was make able and yes the pace of the game allowed you the time to look. If it was possible to capture what was so right about the first game in a new game I still think there is a global hit in her. Over to you C.D.
  • kingbubba - July 2, 2010 3:03 p.m.

    I pretty much agree with everything here. I enjoyed Underworld OK, but what the next tombraider needs is simplicity and well; tomb raiding.
  • Fiirestorm21 - July 2, 2010 3:02 p.m.

    I don't think any of that really has anything to do with what's wrong. The only problem with the series is that ever since the first entry they've been behind the industry standards of gameplay to some degree. Some entries like Angel of Darkness were miles behind the curve, and some like Legend were only just behind it, close enough to still be entertaining, but still not ahead of it and thus vulnerable to changing trends. Only when it breaks ahead of the curve and starts re-defining action/adventure again (or at least starts setting the standards) will they be able to have some breathing room.

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