Lara Croft is, undoubtedly, a staple in gaming history. And staples hold all the pages together. Staples are small pieces of bendy metal. Staples are hard to get out without leaving painstakingly blatant holes in the piece of content you need the most, and if you catch your finger on one whilst vivaciously leafing through the latest copy of Canal Boat Weekly, it really fucking hurts. And that’s not a perfect metaphor for my relationship with Miss Croft, but it’ll have to do because I’m not rewriting this paragraph. Not for you. Not for anyone, okay? Good.
The thing is, the original Tomb Raider was actually many years ahead of its time. Back in 1996 when we were first locking butlers in freezers and side stepping with the accuracy and finesse of an industrial potato masher, the chief mechanic of the ‘classics’, was pleading. Desperately. Begging, imploring, beseeching; collapsing in a heap of embittered tears as you sob intermittently into the carpet pile, crying out for Lara to just do what she’s bloody told. Just once. Please. Lara. How is ‘jump out of the way of the boulder’ perpetually misconstrued as ‘draw guns, side step in a unwanted direction three times, holster guns, leap inexplicably toward the hazard, and die’. Today, Kinect allows us to plead with our TV with ACTUAL RESULTS. Albeit it’s still, more often than not, not quite the results we were after.
So, my dislike of Tomb Raider wasn’t just because I apparently had the hackneyed gaming ability of a startled gazelle during my younger days. I’ve always found Lara to be the crass subject of a less-than-correctly-vilified typecast that got old moments after it started. Or at least when the millennium kicked in and nobody died. And venturing those clunky control mechanics into the bargain as well merely made it less fun than eating the carpet you’d just turned sodden by crying into.
But that’s all about to change (well maybe) because THIS reboot (you guys aren’t counting, right?) is set to redefine the way we think about the aging Egyptian-grave robber. Finally squeezing through the adoring Expo crowd to get my hands on this latest iteration of Tomb Raider, simply and yet confusingly entitled, Tomb Raider, and I was pleasantly surprised with the results. Would you believe.
If you’ve heard anything about the game thus far, you’ll know that it’s centred on a much younger Lara, finding her feet as an adventurer. Its grittier direction has called for a reimagining of the once voluptuous and feministic doodle, with a chest the size of the Himalayas, turning her into a better-proportioned and altogether more believable work of art.
So far so PrettyPositiveDirection. The spattering of gameplay I get to trial also uncovers new directions, with an interesting hunting mechanic the star of the show, not to mention the animations that depict Lara fighting the elements and her own physical breaking point, as she stumbles haplessly around brushing her hands against cliff faces and generally acting like a drunken lout. It looks great and immediately is a remarkable improvement on anything the series has had to offer for many years.
Where this demo perhaps fails to be quite so incandescent is in the very nostalgia that is likely of a deliberated inclusion. The control and manoeuvrability mechanics, whilst responsive, still hark back to the older days, more akin to the slightly stodgy hallmark of the series, as opposed to the more modern and fluid alternative, when viewed alongside something like Uncharted.
There’s no question that I enjoyed my time with the new Tomb Raider, more so even than I was expecting; and whilst there’re a number of chinks in the armour still, that March 2013 release date leaves a potentially quandary-lifting breathing space for developer Crystal Dynamics to get it just right. Our verdict? Watch this space.