Written by Brock Poulsen, brockst4r Thursday, 23 June 2011 05:00
The first Tomb Raider has not aged well. Its reboot is coming in a time where many of the issues that plagued early PS1 games have been fixed. But Crystal Dynamics' upcoming Tomb Raider reboot needs to take the beloved character and build a game worthy of her storied history, taking cues -- good and bad -- from other adventurers.
The standard control setup used by many games in Lara's time was a sort of tank-like movement, wherein the "Up" button on the d-pad made your character walk forward, regardless of where the camera was pointed. This made completing jumping segments (of which there were many) very difficult. If your aim was even slightly off center, Lara couldn't grab the ledge (there was even a dedicated button for ledge-grabbing) and you would miss the jump entirely. Judging by the gameplay footage unveiled at E3, I'm not entirely confident that the platforming has been brought up to the level of, say, Uncharted, which is the game it will likely be compared to. Watching Lara leap across 40 foot chasms (while supposedly injured, no less) is a bit much, and hopefully will be dialed down to significantly more realistic proportions by the game’s 2012 release.
Speaking of proportions, I am staunchly in favor of Lara’s new look. I hope there is a serious effort to keep Lara modest; she should be a strong-but-vulnerable action hero, not a pinup.
In terms of story, Uncharted has revealed in gamers a varying acceptance of the supernatural. Despite receiving numerous perfect review scores and Game of the Year awards, I've never heard a passionate defense for the monsters in either game. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is another example: it was ridiculed for its alien skull mythology (well, and for nuclear-bomb-propelled refrigerators). Needless to say, it's probably best if Crystal Dynamics keeps Lara's narrative at least mostly rooted in reality.
The action has great potential to innovate and take Lara's adventure in new directions. Too many games basically allow for shooting enemies in two places: Head or Other. There have been many indications of Lara sustaining injuries, so the game should communicate that same sort of human vulnerability with her enemies. Assuming there will be human enemies (more on that later), an arrow through the leg should cause completely different reactions than one through the neck or chest. Goldeneye did it in 1997, but suddenly we don't have the technology? Let's get it together, entire gaming industry.
Speaking of the bow, I want that bow and arrow to become the embodiment of Lara Croft. It's a perfect analogue for the character she should become; a bow and arrow is methodical, deliberate, and fragile. Each shot is important; each arrow a precious lifeline to survival. Imagining the sound of the bowstring, followed by a tense moment before impact is super appealing to me. An assault rifle or rocket launcher erases any illusion that your character is in danger, but a bow makes you plan and think about every conflict, no matter how minor.
As long as we're on the topic, this should be a survival adventure game. Lara is shipwrecked and injured on an unknown island. She shouldn't immediately stumble onto an incredible archaeological secret in the first 10 minutes. She should have to struggle against nature and herself. A jungle provides great opportunities for highlighting Lara's vulnerability and growth. Lara is no stranger to taking on deadly animals, and a jungle provides those in spades.
I'm looking forward to a Lara Croft with new abilities and struggles, and I'm excited for the prospect of a more serious take on the character. And I really want that bow and arrow to be good.