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It's Hard to Believe in the New Lara Croft

"With all the talk of a more vulnerable, realistic Lara Croft, we delve into the first 2.5 hours of the game to find out just how human this heroine is."

Video games often struggle to produce believable characters. Striking the right balance between fiction and reality is hard for any medium, let alone one whose drive to entertain frequently overrides its capacity to comment on the human condition. This is why we generally commend video games that succeed in creating convincing virtual worlds, but abstain from criticizing the ones that don't.

Of course, any game that explicitly promises players a glimpse of this elusive verisimilitude is exempt from the rule.

The upcoming Tomb Raider reboot from Crystal Dynamics has made a point of emphasizing the believability of its protagonist Lara Croft. We are led to believe the much-loved gaming heroine has been reworked into a younger, more vulnerable creature without her trademark impishness and overt sex appeal. We are told the game will pay more attention to Lara as a person, giving her a more complex set of feelings and capturing the not-so-glamorous side of a human being coming to terms with her own mortality; a necessary reminder that heroes are made, not born.

But if the first 2.5 hours of the game are any indication of what's to come, then Tomb Raider might not live up to these promises.

Your introduction to Lara Croft is a taste of what to expect in this first part of the game: a series of injuries and narrow escapes so incredulous that they could almost be mistaken as a deliberate comment on the absurd damage that befalls video game protagonists of this genre. Not even the somber context of the opening act--the underground labyrinth of some kind of psychopathic island-dweller--is enough to lift it towards an honest representation of a vulnerable woman left to fend for herself in an inhospitable environment.

Much the same can be said for Lara's first human kill. Crystal Dynamics has invested a lot of time and energy in reiterating the importance of this moment: how you would feel a connection to Lara, how the moment would define her character, how it would feel genuinely shocking, disturbing, and exhilarating. Instead, you are presented with a quick-time event much like any other quick-time event before it. It's hard to believe it was this scene which caused so much controversy earlier this year. Had sexual assault actually been a theme here, you might have been forced to question the very nature of human behavior, or at least to think about why humans act the way they do; that would have at least been something.

Instead, the scene shows us Lara, captured by a group of armed men, forced to defend herself and pull the trigger on one of her captors. She looks distressed, sure. But from this point on until the end of the 2.5-hour playable demo, Lara shows no signs of fighting with herself over the moral consequences of killing another human being. She adapts to her new role with what appears to be the mindset of an experienced killer, leaving a trail of dead bodies in her wake.

While past glimpses of the game hinted heavily at survival--something that could undoubtedly help set this new Tomb Raider apart from previous entries in the franchise--the first few hours of the game are mostly free of survival elements. The one exception is Lara hunting and skinning a deer after remarking that she's hungry. (But at no other point in the first 2.5 hours of the game after this moment does Lara mention food again, despite the impression that a lot of time has elapsed since that first meal.)

The integration of story and gameplay is also problematic in the first few hours of the game. You discover much of the game's story through scripted cutscenes presented as home-made videos made by Lara and her fellow crew members prior to the shipwreck that brought them to the island. It's not quite as obvious as flashback sequences, but not much more original either. However, there are also diary entries and documents scattered throughout the island for you to discover, which provide insight into Lara and her crew, the details of their expedition, and the island's secrets, and give you an incentive to explore.

This leads to one of the most promising things about this game so far, a stark contrast to the otherwise lacking survival elements and linear platforming-to-combat sequences. The ability to upgrade Lara's abilities through experience points is presented in a neat RPG-like upgrade system that rewards you for taking the time to explore the environment, collecting bits and pieces that translate into more points.

This feature helps match Lara's personal growth as a character to what is actually happening in the game--her combat skills, weapons, tools, and survival skills can all be upgraded to make her a stronger, more confident warrior--while allowing you an element of freedom in dictating what kind of person Lara will be when she emerges from her ordeal.

That, at least, gives us something to hope for.

Laura Parker
By Laura Parker, Associate Editor

Laura Parker is the Associate Editor of GameSpot Australia. She loves adventure games, sparkly stuff, Trivial Pursuit, cake, Master Chief, earthworms, and rhetorical questions. She once stole a sandwich from Peter Molyneux.

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I only play if there is a way to unlock HOTPANTSZ!


This is totally new but I just wanna call Indiana jones save lara 

BuzzardBee718 1 Like

Wow, seriously? Look, people react to things differently. One woman who is kidnapped and attacked, knows she's about to be raped or killed, struggles to break free from her captors and finds she has little alternative but to kill them in order to survive.

Some might say in reality, such a woman would cower in a corner, hide from the world after such an experience and never become a world-trekking explorer and tomb raider. But the reality is that some women react by taking self-defense classes, vowing never to be caught in such a vulnerable state ever again.

The writer of this article played a 2.5 hour demo, let me stress that, a "demo" of the game. She did not play the entire thing. She played aspects that were presented to her so she could get a feel for the game. She does not know how it ends. She does not know what else Lara has to endure and overcome.

I've pre-ordered the game and am looking forward to it. Ms. Parker should go play something else if she feels a demo has left her so disappointed. Demos frequently leave me disappointed. It's up to the full game to fulfill its promises. Personally, I always found the Lara of old to be pretty devoid of any sort of human emotion. It's rather refreshing to see a vulnerable character for once and watch her grow more world-savvy through her experiences.


Adapt to change.  That's all I have to say.


@princetrase Umm . . . her point was there wasn't that much change to adapt to. 

SupaSaba 2 Like

Something is wrong with this article, I think it's the tone and attitude of the writer. It feels sarcastically indecisive. I have played the same portion of the game and had a totally different reaction.

Firstly, how can a shipwreck in the middle of a mysterious island with vicious murdering inhabitants not give you the "representation of a vulnerable woman left to fend for herself in an inhospitable environment"? But i guess that's up to the individual.

Secondly the comments regarding believability can only be true so far as this is a video game ... and Crystal Dynamics have stressed the fact they want the game to be believable but also fun. This is demonstrated by Lara's first kill and the progression that follows. She is put into a kill or be killed scenario and the game reflects that with Lara yelling to enemies "Why are you doing this?" or "it doesn't have to be this way."

Finally, in regards to the survival aspects. Last time i checked Tomb Raider isn't a survival simulation game. They are not going to make us pick berries and drink our own pee. It's an action adventure game with a survival theme. 


I hope the creators haven't put away the impishness and sex appeal of lara, since that's what defines her -.-  (plus she's always been my sex-symbol :D)


Great article Laura,

 It's nice to hear some honest critiques on the site again :)-

Big IPs' regardless of developers like Tombraider should not get a free pass when the game design choices they make are just  plain dumb. Cough * Angel of Darkness* Cough...

elby322 1 Like

Everything I've seen of this game points to it being the most brutal and violent Tomb Raider yet.  Realistically, if Lara goes through this the first time she sets out adventuring, she would probably end up never leaving her home again, so it makes no sense that this traumatic experience would inspire her to become an adventurer.  

stephensmith84 1 Like

I agree with the author, but the article is blighted by it's terrible writing.


It's rare to read a piece as indecisive as this.


Have really had some doubts about this game and the new Lara transformation. Hoping for the best and like other gamers waiting longer before drawing any solid conclusions.


People and all this new stuff and they still cry about it. You add new fun fun things to the old games, not much to it. Example is racing, racing is racing like other game types.


I`ll try to explain the point of view simply. I heard about Lara Croft when I was very young, and those "stories" were exacting for me at that age (regarding sex appeal ;) ). Now it`s obvious that all youg people evolved and need something new, but don`t try to change Lara as she was. Change graphics, create a better and complex scenario.


I'm all in favour of a grittier style and a more believable and vulnerable Lara, but what I read in this article sounds about right. Developers are always promising these things and building up the hype surrounding them (Kane and Lynch springs to mind), but never actually deliver.


The thought of her first kill being reduced to a quick time event says it all. I'm now very sceptical.


I agree partly with Laura that the RPG upgrade system effecting Lara's personality may be a good thing. But, if this is ruined by a cut scene based storyline it doesn't sound promising for the character development.


Best to wait and see when the full game is released.


The poor Tomb Raider people have to put up with such critique on their character. You won't see anybody facing as much pressure to be "realistic and an accurate portrayal of a flesh and blood human being" than Lara Croft.


I think Parker is a great writer and I love Gamespot but just because the graphics are better doesn't mean the character needs to be any more realistic than Princess Peach floating in a pink dress and umbrella and throwing beets at bad guys. They're just cartoons.


An intelligent and perceptive commentary on a piece of a yet to be released game, from a feminine perspective, with insights that would simply not occur to the average, adolescent male. Little wonder there is such a tempest in a teapot, over such a seemingly innocuous article. In such a medium, drenched as it is in adolescent male testosterone and sexual fantasies, an opinion, from your point of view, is like a breath of fresh air, which clears away the stereo-typical nonsense one usually finds. Good show.


@HAMMERCLAW Where'd you copy and paste that?

Unstable_Fury 1 Like


Continue attacking the people (yes, men are people too) that disagree with you and not the actual argument being made. Next I'll bet you'll attack my spelling and say something mean about my mother.


Yeah, I've been around the internetz. Come at me. I haz cheezburger.


Laura's so-called "preview" is based on 2.5 hours of gameplay and talks solely about how the story doesn't live up to her expectations with nary word about gameplay or gameplay mechanics.


Although I agree it's disappointing that they don't explore the ramifications of a young girl taking another human life for the first time, I still would expect a preview to talk about how it plays in comparison to Uncharted or another similar 3rd-person platformer/adventure game in the genre.


It's good to have high expectations but video games are a young medium and Lara Croft used to be a sexy archaelogist who shot at dinosaurs in short-shorts whilst doing 360-flips. I really believe y'all perceptions have been colored by all the controversy surrounding the game that you can't be objective anymore.


Conveying human emotion is hard enough as it is in film, novel, and interpretive dance. Crystal Dynamics will not win any Academy Awards but how the hell does it play?


^Just some stereo-typical male nonsense up in here. No big.




@Unstable_Fury @HAMMERCLAW xD 


gsbliss 3 Like

 @HAMMERCLAW There was nothing inherently "feminine" about this article.  It was a well written preview, and if you didn't know the gender of the author from the byline I doubt you could ever know it was written by a woman.


Regarding the "adolescent male testosterone and sexual fantasies" you speak of, why don't you give an example of the "stereo-typical nonsense one usually finds" in Gamespot's reporting.  I can't think of a single one, but as you're clearly already on the male-shaming band wagon I'm sure you can name several.


 @gsblissTo whom am I speaking Beavis or Butthead?


Posted on Jun 28, 2018



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