Next year's Tomb Raider reboot will take the series in what's being billed as a gritter, more realistic direction – using Lara's struggle not just as a way of depleting your life-bar, but as a series of psychological challenges to mold a hero. Lara Croft, we're told, will emerge from the game's challenges as a character whose struggle players have made their own.
But superhero origin stories have a tendency to fall apart under real-world logic: swinging between rooftops is more fun than nursing a debilitating case of radiation sickness, after all. That's why Lara can be bashed, drowned and dropped overboard – only to emerge fightin' fit and ready with the quips. Just how much of this new origin story rings true? We dug out the survival guides for a closer look at Lara's injuries – and her real-life chances of making it out alive.
One minute the new Lara is dandy, next thing she's being pitched about her cabin like a ragdoll. Nobody comes right out and says “you're concussed!” – because they're all busy drowning – but it's plain to see that some considerable measure of cranial insult is being conveyed. Will this slow her down? Will it nothing.
But actually... Concussion doesn't have to be a big problem, provided the injury is minor and recovery is monitored closely. However, according to the US National Library of Medicine, symptoms such as blurred vision, difficulty in walking and weakness on one side of the body suggest a more serious degree of injury, which could lead to brain damage or hemorrhage if Lara doesn't take it easy. Spoiler: Lara won't be taking it easy.
One of the trailers' early set-pieces sees Lara trapped in a sinking ship with the water-level rapidly rising. After surviving the initial deluge, our girl finds herself underwater up to her eyeballs with no visible means of escape. She'll die for sure!
But actually... In a situation like this, you're not just fighting for breath. Rapid immersion such as suffered by Lara is liable to induce involuntary gasping, filling the lungs with water. What saves Lara here is most likely the mammalian diving reflex, an evolutionary survival mechanism that's most likely to kick in if you're young, cold, and submerged all the way up to your face. Of course, the MDR will increase your chances of rescue, rather than actually granting an extra life... but, you know, videogames.
So you've survived a shipwreck, multiple near-drownings and some substantial blows to the head and body. Surely the question of whether or not you're warm enough is pretty low on the list of priorities, right? There's survivin' to be done: no time for childish concerns like “would I feel more comfortable in a hat?”
But actually... Lara's experiences up to this point are a sure-fire road to hypothermia – and the longer she stays in those soaked clothes, the worse it will get. The fact that she doesn't seem to notice the cold actually suggests that the problem is more than a minor one, requiring immediate attention. So yes, we're saying that in this situation Lara needs to get naked, but only because it's a pressing survival imperative, we promise.
Fractures and breakages
Right there in an early promo image, there's Lara, setting her own broken arm after making it through the initial shipwreck. The moment makes the first trailer too, showing our protagonist's strong survival instinct right from the get.
But actually... If the skin isn't broken, a fracture or break probably isn't major, and should be splinted before attempting to move. So Lara's doing the right thing. Note, however, that trying to do anything substantial with that arm will probably result in near-paralyzing pain. Fighting off killer animals and killing lascivious interlopers, btw, counts as “doing something substantial.”
Any of the trials listed above will seriously take it out of a person. The body needs rest and replenishment or things are only going to get worse. It's a good thing our Lara is a trooper, or she'd most likely collapse from malnutrition or dehydration before things even got started.
But actually... The #1 way for things to go downhill fast would be for Lara to pick up the first halfway-sharp thing to hand and use up her remaining energy running around trying to poke something edible. Good thing this game had a trailer at E3 2012, then, meaning there was a bow and arrow close at hand to allow for “check me bitch I'm a huntress” moments. (Think that's a fluke? Here's a music video tribute to E3 2012's love of archery).
Nature's not always a passive-aggressive dick: sometimes it'll just come right out and throw you into a fight with a wild dog the size of a van. It's a good thing Lara has an... arrow handy?
But actually... If you're looking to get attacked, be sure to litter your campsite with as much appetizing food as you have at your disposal. In a pinch, your own wounded body will probably add to your chances of being mauled. Place yourself between the animal and the ground as soon as possible, and sprawl out to maximize the amount of flesh you're leaving available for biting and tearing. Lara is following all the guidelines... for someone looking to get eaten.
Now we're getting serious. Having put up with no shortage of dick moves on nature's behalf, Lara moves onto injury at the hands of her fellow humans. In fact, no sooner have the game's adversaries shown their faces than our heroine is discovering their bear traps, with her foot.
But actually... Sure, the trailer suggests that Lara needs to be helped back to her feet – but if she can stand at all - indeed, if she still has both her feet - that is one half-assed bear trap. The real thing will most likely chew your limb up so badly that the easiest means of escape is just to finish what the trap started. If it's any consolation, by that time you'll probably be in such a state of shock that amputating your own limb is... well, as easy as it's ever going to get, anyway.
Which fall are we talking about here? Take your pick. You can go with that epic plummet from the ruptured ship, or the ten-foot headfirst drop that opens the second trailer, or that headlong downhill tumble collecting broken limbs like they were coins, or any of the less-noteworthy drops of a story or more that our girl just shrugs off like they weren't no thing.
But actually... That first fall during the shipwreck scene – down what looks like at least six stories, into hard, shallow water – is more than enough to kill anyone who, like Lara, isn't correctly braced for impact. But then, there's no falls in either trailer substantial enough to guarantee death. After all, you can fall out of an airplane with no parachute and still have a chance of survival. It's just a really slim chance.
Being set on fire
Most wilderness survival guides don't actually clarify whether being set on fire will lower your chances of survival, because what kind of a cloth-eared paint-eater would ever think that would be a good idea? And completely off-topic, here's Lara Croft, setting herself on fire to escape the ropes she's hung by.
But actually... Tying people up and setting them alight is a pretty sure-fire way of killing their ass. That's why we have no more witches, thank goodness. Lara does take care to stop, drop and... become impaled through the gut, so two out of three ain't bad? But even so, this is going to result in lifelong full-body scarring, and that's with incredible luck and urgent medical assistance. And there's still the matter of...
Don't get impaled in the gut if you can avoid it. According to action movies, it's the second most painful part of the body to be wounded (after the knee). Lara Croft is tough, so her ordeal involves falling a story or two, straight onto an inconveniently-placed spike – then yanking that sumbitch out and getting on with her day.
But actually... While you're better off being stabbed in the gut than in, say, the brain, entirely preferable is the option of just not being stabbed anywhere. A wound the size of Lara's, while it looks to miss all the major organs, will still bleed profusely enough to kill within the hour. A great way to cut that time down further is to prevent the wound from closing by, oh, say, jumping in dirty cave water and moving around a lot. Top marks, Lara!
Could you survive?
So that's just some of the travails we've seen Lara face thus far - and, against odds and conventional wisdom, survive them all. Probably that's why she gets videogames made about her, then. How do you rate Tomb Raider's presentation of a survival situation? Could you fare any better?
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