Thinking About Lara Croft

Tomb Raider Is Back

I suppose it’s time to throw a little love Lara’s way. There’s a new Tomb Raider reboot brewing, and the Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light third-person downloadable game prospering (#2 in DLC at the Playstation Store). I’m happy that the execs have recognized that this gaming icon still has value despite having lingered in sequel hell for the past decade or so. And why not? She’s one of the most recognizable heroes in the genre.

The Tomb Raider Reboot

First a quick note about the reboot, which traces Lara’s origins. The key word here is “gritty” and the secondary phrase would be “stellar CG,” although I’m guessing this particular trailer is 100% cutscene (prerendered) and not in-game. Interestingly, there’s not a lot here that hints at gameplay; it’s exceedingly cinematic. It’s also interesting that the game’s website requires you to enter your birthdate to view its contents. Apparently seeing Lara tie a tourniquet is something Eidos/Square Enix/Crystal Dynamics feels may be too overwhelming for the young. You’ve been warned.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

In marked contrast, the LCGoL game doesn’t have the Tomb Raider moniker at all and is fiercely non-cinematic. Sure, it’s got a few cutscenes, but you fire that thing up and you’re killing stuff immediately. In the first Tomb Raider games for the PSX, which you kids probably don’t remember at all, Lara did a lot more puzzle-solving than perforating. LCGoL is full of puzzles, too — don’t get me wrong. It’s just a lot more gonzo than the original. No exploring, just killing stuff and solving action puzzle after action puzzle from an isometric, third-person POV. Trigger plates, rolling heavy spheres, timing challenges, platform leaping, grappling, all the usual elements, in pleasantly detailed 3D environments.

LCGoL shines with its co-op innovations. Although the game has a single-player campaign, partnership is vital in multiplayer. Lara’s companion can boost her to higher locations with his shield, and she can also climb on the shafts of spears that he throws into walls. Admittedly, it’s a little odd to see this icon of exploratory FPS gaming turned into an isometric action puzzler, but that’s what DLC is all about.

(Big shoutout to my friends Rob Pavey and Steve Perez, who were on the programming team for the game.)

The Other Tomb Raider Reboot

Also, the Hollywood Reporter tells us that producer Graham King has bought the rights to Tomb Raider and will be, yes, you guessed it, rebooting the franchise in 2013 with a new star, and possibly tackling the origin story as well.

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