With the possible exceptions of Avengers, Avatar, or any reboot directed by J.J. Abrams, whenever a Hollywood blockbuster trades logic and pathos for flashy special effects and chaotic bursts of red, it’s lampooned as a puerile, vapid, Michael Bay explosionfest made by and for an audience of undiscerning teenagers. Whenever a triple-A video game blockbuster does the same, it’s hailed as a “cinematic” joyride with dazzling “set piece moments” and amazing graphics.
But I was about to talk about how gorgeous this thing is. The landscapes and lighting are indeed befitting of a tropical paradise retreat, one where hundreds of well-armed plane crash survivors converge to pointlessly murder and get murdered by you. There’s truly no greater reward in Tomb Raider than getting to pause and gape at the lovely mountain ranges between one forced firefight or untimed rescue effort and the next. The weather effects are impressive and varied enough that you can run through a snowy, a rainy, a nighttime, and a sunny level in one hour of real time without leaving the island. The character animations are astonishingly true to the adventuring life, and I never tired of watching Lara jumping, climbing, somersaulting, grabbing onto ledges while plummeting, and never getting tired through any of it because she’s a weightless “platforming game” character. The best fun to be had from this title, besides setting scads of random, bloodthirsty lunatics on fire without remorse, stems mainly from charging around wide, open villages where the game isn’t bossily directing you down a tunnel to the next pit stop in the story.
* Battle dialogue. Again, the Die you Bastards thing, but also creative stuff like:
[Cultist 122] “She’s just one girl!”
[Cultist 123] “That one girl is kicking our ass!”
“Look, I know this is a crazy plan.”
“It is, but right now crazy is all we got. Let’s do this.”
“You think you’re a hero, Lara? Everything I’ve done I’ve done to survive!”
“Oh my god. Sam – a vessel for the sun queen’s soul. I have to stop this madness.”
* The mythological sun queen plot actually being treated seriously, despite it being the least appropriate thing to put in a story about the formative molding of Lara Croft. The only adversaries needed were a band of loony cannibal cult-worshippers, some vicious wolves (the wolf-to-human ratio on this uninhabitable, storm-ravaged island is and should be something like 50:1), and the elements of the island itself. Instead of a bracing, primal survival story about a frightened woman outwitting and fighting men who’ve forsaken any moral boundaries, what we get is a silly, unbelievable fantasy romp wherein the crazed savages are actually right and the hero must appease the angry, mythical sun creature to calm the storms enveloping the island.
A Lara I cared more about than the one in Tomb Raider
In case I haven’t been clear, make no mistake that killing patriarchs as Lara can be pretty fun, and after an hour, I had gotten really good at killing them. The problem is, in modern video games, killing people has gotten far too easy. Any kid, heck, any crazy person who doesn’t even play video games, can walk into a shop, or go on Craigslist, buy any 1st-person action game, and start senselessly mowing down tons of people with assault weapons, and whenever someone tries to stop them, they can just duck down and let their health recharge.
Now there are two ways we can respond to this. We can pretend the problem doesn’t exist, keep praising crappy military-style games like Tomb Raider, saying that Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, Jonathan McIntosh, and other Feminists are trying to take these games away, which… is just not true. We can tell ourselves that Tomb Raider is an A+ story when it’d really be a C- movie, because we think the jokes are funny, or the violence is provocative, or we like watching buildings fall down and blow up.
6.5/10. I have nothing good to say about this game.