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