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Review

Lara Croft Is Dead, Long Live Lara Croft: Reflections On Tomb Raider


On Tuesday, I sat in front of my computer, not playing the new Tomb Raider. I had preloaded the game on Steam days before. I was wearing comfy pants. I had prepared some snacks. I was alone in my apartment. Nothing was preventing me from clicking “Play.” Yet my attention was focused away from the screen, just a few inches from my keyboard. You see, on my desk, I have five small pieces of artwork, each featuring a game character that serves as a touchstone for my personal history. The second of these is Lara Croft.

I was eleven years old when my grandma handed me the PlayStation she’d won in a raffle. It came with two games — some sports game I never played, and Tomb Raider, which I devoured. I had been raised on point-and-clicks and early ‘90s edutainment games. None of those had thrown snarling wolves and fast-moving death traps at me, or punished my mistakes with the sound of crunching bones. No game had given me such a visceral sense of adventure and danger. And no story I had seen — movies, books, or otherwise — had ever told me that a woman was allowed to be cast in such a role. She was Indiana Jones, but witty, measured, sophisticated. She shot first and asked questions later. She screamed only when seconds from death. She never, ever needed saving.

She could do anything.

But something had changed by the time I got my hands on Tomb Raider 2. I had changed. Two things had come into my life in between those games — the internet, and puberty. My knowledge of sexuality was flimsy, but I had come to understand that a woman with large breasts and skimpy clothing meant something. I vividly remember digging through Tomb Raider fansites, trying to find help for a puzzle I was stuck on, when all of a sudden, there was Lara, sprawled naked and winking at me. In that moment, my hero transformed. The feeling that I was treading into forbidden territory grew as I continued through the game, and in that final scene, with Lara poised to take a shower, saying “Don’t you think you’ve seen enough?” — I understood.

Lara Croft was not meant for me.

As I grew older and her name became synonymous with video game cheesecake, my admiration for Lara faded into conflicted nostalgia. I loved how I had first seen her. I did not love what she had become. But in late 2010, a friend sent me a piece of concept art from a new game by Crystal Dynamics, still in early development. It showed a young woman, reasonably dressed and realistically proportioned, wielding a bow and arrow. Her skin was covered in dirt, blood, bandages. She looked back at me with gritty conviction. I stared at the screen for a long time, a smile spreading across my face. She did not look like the Lara I knew. She looked like me. The Lara I had imagined, the Lara I had always wanted — she was going to happen.

That was the belief I was holding onto when controversy hit E3 last year. I read the offending remarks, and watched the corresponding trailer. Though I couldn’t pass judgment on a game I hadn’t played, I was deeply concerned. That concern grew when I saw the gameplay trailers of a screaming, struggling woman tossed unceremoniously through gloomy passageways. What about that was heroic? And where were the puzzles, the pistols, the places to explore? With a sense of resigned disappointment, I became convinced that the game would probably suck.

I preordered it anyway, partly out of stubborn curiosity, mainly because I knew I’d be writing about it one way or the other. Some extended gameplay footage and promising interviews with lead writer Rhianna Pratchett encouraged me, but I remained dubious, afraid of getting my hopes up. In the run-up to release, I played Tomb Raider: Anniversary, a polished repackaging of the original game. It took no time for me to remember why my younger self had adored Lara. She’s cool and cocky, fearless to a fault. But it was clear, too, that I had filled in a lot of blanks on my own. The original incarnation of Lara Croft is not a layered one. There’s no backstory, no real motivation beyond thrill seeking. I didn’t need anything more than that at the age of eleven, but nowadays, I am not so easily satisfied. And so, with equal parts hope and dread, I held my breath, and finally clicked “Play.” Having long since exhaled, I can now say this with certainty:

The new Tomb Raider is absolutely fantastic.

Forget everything you’ve read about Lara needing your protection. Forget about her needing to be “broken down.” It’s nonsense, all of it, the remnants of some truly misguided remarks about a character who is, without a doubt, one of the best action heroes I’ve ever seen. Not female action heroes — action heroes, period, full stop.

This is not the Lara Croft of old. That Lara was a treasure hunter, a bored rich girl who saw archaeology as a sport, who reacted to charging monsters with a raised eyebrow. Her successor is a devoted scholar — a history geek if ever there was one — resourceful, empathetic, and yes, very much afraid. But worry not, this is Tomb Raider’s masterful trick: It manages to show Lara as frightened and vulnerable without ever taking away her power. Her fear is not weakness. It’s humanity. It’s what makes you cheer her on all the more as she fights ever onward, as she yells, “I’m still alive, you bastards!” Giving up never crosses her mind, not once. She didn’t need me to push her along. She was the one pulling me.

As for Lara being “broken,” what I saw was quite the opposite. This isn’t a story about a person coming undone. This is a story about a person discovering the strengths she’s had all along. By contrast, there are broken people in this game — the island’s inhabitants, who responded to adversity by becoming less than human. Lara, on the other hand, chooses to become something more. I mentioned this to a friend after we both finished playing. “If she had broke,” he said, “the game would’ve ended.”

The interplay between Lara and her crewmates further cements her place as a laudable female protagonist. Not only does the game pass the Bechdel Test with flying colors, but it does so with a multiracial cast. Her friends respect her, but they also question her, for they, too, are human. When they doubt her, it is not for her gender, but for her inexperience. No one hits on her, or comments on her appearance. When they admire her, they speak of her instincts and intellect. They are the final brick in the old Lara’s tomb.

Yes, the game is violent, and yes, Lara gets the living daylights kicked out of her, again, and again, and again. Bear with me, here — I saw that as a good thing. Put a male character in Lara’s blood-spattered shoes, and no one would so much as blink. Have you seen what Issac Clarke has been through lately? (Don’t click that link if you’ve got a weak stomach.) And for every injury Lara suffers, she returns the favor tenfold. During a fight, I heard an NPC yell, “Is it her?” Another replied: “I’m not going out there!” Lara’s badassery cannot be called into question. The violence in Tomb Raider is on par with what you’ll see in Dishonored, or Assassin’s Creed, or any other mature action game (not to mention that the gameplay mechanics are smooth as butter, and exactly my cup of tea). By putting Lara in an environment every bit as brutal as those of her contemporaries, she can stand proudly as one of them.

That is not to imply that Lara is a male character placed in a woman’s body. I believed Lara as a human being, but I also believed her as a woman. Something within me related to her almost right off the bat. This is a character who manages to retain her femininity — oh my god, I can’t believe I’m about to write this about Lara Croft — without becoming objectified. There are times when the camera frames her differently than it might a male character, but in a broad sense, I felt that Tomb Raider lets its players decide whether or not to sexualize its protagonist. Unlike its predecessors, it does not make that decision for us.

As for that scene, it is true that last year, the game’s executive producer stated plainly that Lara faces characters who “try to rape her,” implying that it was a defining moment in her character development. I don’t have room here to explain the plethora of things that are wrong and insulting about that (and if you really don’t understand, I’d suggest starting here). Thing is, nothing of the sort happens in this game. There is no rape, attempted or otherwise, in Tomb Raider. What does happen is the clip everyone has seen, in which a man strokes Lara’s side and a struggle breaks out. That raised some major red flags for me when I first saw it, but having played the scene in full (several times)…honestly, in a world where those comments had never been made, I doubt I would be writing about it now at all. For those who don’t mind some light spoilers, here’s how it goes down (highlight to read):

The island Lara and her comrades are shipwrecked on is home to a bloody, murderous cult, whose handiwork Lara has been crawling through from the first playable moments of the game. These people don’t just enjoy killing — they revel in it. Pools bobbing with corpses, bone-stacked altars littered with gore, the whole nine yards. Shortly after Lara finally catches up with members of her crew, they’re rounded up by the cultists. And then the killing begins. In what was one of the most harrowing stealth sequences I have ever played, Lara has to get out of the camp without being seen — hands bound, no weapons, people dying in the background. It is a tense, terrifying experience, made all the worse by having seen firsthand what these people will do to Lara if they find her. And one of them does. He briefly runs his hand down her side and whispers in her ear. If you do nothing, this sharply transitions into him strangling her. If you fight back, and fail, he shoots her in the head. If you succeed, Lara gains control of the gun, and kills him. The only reactionary thought I had during the scene, even having seen it before, even with months of controversy and concern rattling around in my head, was “Oh shit, get away, he’s going to kill you.”

The impression I was left with was not of a rapist, but of a madman savoring a kill. This is a type of scene I’ve seen in many movies and TV shows — a villain caressing a victim right before murdering them (interestingly, I think you’d be more likely to see that with a female villain). That’s a trope we could pick apart at length, but in terms of this story, I found the scene inconsequential alongside everything else that happens. It does not define Lara, it is not what makes her a hero, and it is not what drives her. Without the hullabaloo, it would not have made much of an impact on me (the creepy guy, that is; the stealth sequence was brilliant).

Now, I’m sure there are others who may see it differently, and some who won’t want to play through that scene no matter what the context. That’s okay. To argue against someone’s personal comfort zone would be grossly unfair. At the same time, I strongly feel that the comments made at E3 did not accurately reflect the content of the game, nor the narrative effect of that scene. As far as I’m concerned, the controversy can be filed away under misrepresentation and bad PR. (Oh, how I wish this trailer had come out sooner than a week ago. Freaking chills.)

Returning to the game as a whole, I must point out that there are indeed a number of ways in which Lara is portrayed differently than a man would be. You’d be hard-pressed to find a male action hero shown panting with fear, shaking with cold, holding his best friend’s hand reassuringly, or any of the many other emotive things we see Lara do. That’s not a mark against Tomb Raider. That’s a mark against how other heroes are written. What I found here was a character far more believable than all of the gravely-voiced, iron-jawed, emotionless dudes out there. Lara felt flawed and mortal, and for that, I admired her perseverance all the more. After the countless times I’ve wished to see a leading lady given the same chance as the gents, now the shoe’s on the other foot. I’d love to see a fixed-gender male protagonist portrayed with as much honesty and depth as Lara Croft.

There’s a glorious moment near the end (which I will not spoil) where it’s made clear that this Lara has fully taken up the mantle of the one who came before. I realized then that this game had given me more than I could’ve hoped for — not redemption for the girl I was, but resonance with the woman I am now. As the credits rolled, I thought back to an earlier scene, in which one of her crewmates laughs triumphantly and says, “Lara Croft, you’re my hero.”

Mine too, buddy. Mine too.

Becky Chambers is a freelance writer and a full-time geek. Like most internet people, she has a website. She can also always be found on Twitter.

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  • Lady Viridis

    What systems is this game out on? I have a steam account but am no good at PC gaming, but if there’s a console version I might check it out.

  • Anonymous

    Lovely article. I was quite happy to see that despite the island setting, they made it clear the villains weren’t from there. Because there’s a lot of wonderfully feminist elements I felt would have been completely undermined by a gross “White lady fights off evil brown rapists” plot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ann.m.mcbride.7 Ann Marie McBride

    I’m tearing up with excitement. Thank you for voicing the semi-guilty hero worship I’ve had all these years for a character who’s portrayal fell so short of so much potential. Can’t wait to finish downloading the game.

  • http://www.thenerdybird.com/ Jill Pantozzi

    It’s on the consoles.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    True story. I loved TR when it first came out, and I loved the gameplay innovations in the second(like the SaveGame crystal, which I seriously called the “sav-ah-gah-may” crystal cuz I’m a dork). And yeah I was wierded out by all the objectification too.

    Then I went away to college, leaving my bf behind and met someone else. So when I called to have the dreaded convo to tell him I had wanted to break up, he cut in before I could say that, to tell me that HE had met someone, couldn’t stop thinking about her, dreamed about her. So relieved I was like, “Oh, well so have I”. He went, “Oh…..I was talking about Lara Croft”.

    I’m really glad this game is so much better than it was marketed to be. Will definitely have to check it out!

  • http://twitter.com/elizabethamber Elizabeth Amber

    After all the controversy over this edition, I can’t believe I’m reading such a glowing review. I’ve never played TR and this write up makes me want to.

  • Anonymous

    I cannot say enough how much this review pleases me. Every review I read about the game were positive but no one tackled the controversial sequence so I didn’t know what to think of it. I took a chance and pre-ordered the game but I have yet to put it in my Xbox (blame BioWare, who decided that was the time to release the final Mass Effect DLC).

  • Coolice

    I just wanted to shoot a quick note. I will definitely be picking this up for my Fiance. She struggles to find female characters that don’t make her feel objectified for sexuality instead of personality. As a Female professional Chemist she already deals in a male dominated industry and when wanting to escape into a game would love to enjoy seeing a strong lead instead of someone that requires a hand. Wanted to say a quick thank you as i think it will be a pleasant surprise while we both wait for Bioschok:infinite to come out. Wondering if you guys will also have a review for that game as well? Another strong looking female who may be portrayed as a damsel in distress but seems to be far from it (hopefully!).

  • http://twitter.com/equustel Ali Miller

    PS3 and 360.

  • Anonymous

    I was in my late 20′s when she debuted, but when I saw her senselessly murdering wildlife, I knew she “was not meant for me.” Does she still do that?

  • http://twitter.com/DelayedSession Jacob Y

    I was waiting for a review like this to come out. I am so glad. Thank you so much for giving me a great reason to throw all of my money at this game. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.burkhart.31 John Burkhart

    (And, for the Record, it is also on Steam: It is also on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/203160/)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dan-Griffin/1279422773 Dan Griffin

    you are forced to hunt to survive the island.

  • Anonymous

    Any time people claim that female protagonists don’t sell video games, I ask “Explain Lara Croft”.
    And if they start talking about her cans, I hit them with a shovel.
    (Disclaimer – this post contains hyperbole.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/runt.org Adrian Martinez

    I love the review; you made it personal and that’s what games are! Especially as an 11-year-old kid. Great article.

  • Anonymous

    My first exposure to Tomb Raider and Lara Croft was back in the 90s when I was an adolescent girl. My brothers were always assholes about the console and would never let me be first player or play at all. I wanted to play Tomb Raider because a girl was the protagonist but was uncomfortable by the way she looked. When Tomb Raider:Underworld came out my fiance bought it for me because he knows I like adventure games and puzzles. I loved it and thought this Lara Croft didn’t look so plastic and oversexualized. I did pre-order the lastest game (was super excited when I heard it was coming out) but had to cancel my pre-order because the fiance and I are planning our wedding and it was no longer a priority. He traded-in a bunch of his games just so he could get me the latest Tomb Raider on release day. I’m so excited to play it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/karim.hayawan Karim El Hayawan

    Fitting that this review is posted on International Women’s Day. No?

    Anyway. I came to The Mary Sue specifically to get your perspective on the game since I couldn’t fully trust my own (on account of being male and all) and after the controversy I thought it imperative to do so. Gaming has its gender issues and one shouldn’t shy away from thinking critically about them, especially as a male gamer.

    I’m relieved and glad that you guys, or at least Becky (I don’t know how much Becky speaks for the rest of the site), like the game and feel that Crystal Dynamics delivers a strong, empowered and believable character that happens to be female. Hopefully it doesn’t stop here and the game is a huge success.

  • http://twitter.com/DoctorAvenue Drave

    I’ve been looking forward to this article since December of 2010. It did not disappoint.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jqmcgahee Joshua Quin Shuajo McGahee

    You should also check out Mirror’s Edge and Beyond Good and Evil. They have great female protag’s that aren’t objectified either.

    The best part is they’re really good but cheap due to low exposure and I think both got HD ports.

  • http://twitter.com/spottedwren spottedwren

    I got the PC version on steam but I found it was too wobbly to play with the mouse. My husband figured out how to hook up an xbox remote to my computer and I’ve found that works just fine.

  • http://www.facebook.com/karim.hayawan Karim El Hayawan

    Great games. Beyond Good and Evil did indeed get an HD port for current gen consoles and Mirror’s Edge is a current gen game. Of note, Mirror’s Edge was also written by Rhianna Pratchett.

  • Coolice

    Excellent well i do have mirror’s edge on my playlist… Maybe il fire it up. She really enjoyed portal and is finishing up Bioshock 2. I have beyond good and evil as well… i might have to drag out my game cube for that.

  • http://amidstdancers.blogspot.com/ Shard Aerliss

    *breathes a sigh of relief* I really, really, want to love this game, but to do that I have to play it and I was not prepared to do that after THAT trailer and THOSE comments.

    Another case of trailer makers COMPLETELY missing the mark and selling a whole other product then? Everyone involved in the PR should be fired if the game is as good as Chambers says. Every single one of them… from a cannon.

  • Anonymous

    Oh man, I just got started with the game….and yes, already Lara Croft is my hero. And i felt the same about “that scene”, in game it was obviously not about “I want her” and totally about “I will enjoy killing her so much”. It reminds me a lot of how vampires are portrayed as getting so much pleasure from a kill….but until the actual bite, they play up that same “sensual” thrill.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    Hyperbole about using Lara Croft as an example? C’mon now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    I am so thankful for this review. I’d rather not rely on a man’s perspective to catch every potential uncomfortable nuance and/or ragingly sexist addition to this revamp of a classic series (and to be quite honest, sandwich and boob jokes get a little old after a while!), so you’ve helped to wipe away a lot of my fears.

    The PR about potential rape scenes in the game left a horrid taste in my mouth months back (not to mention all the hullabaloo about her more realistic proportions), and reading that this has no actual manifestation in the game has me thrilled.

    I grew up playing Tomb Raider and I still distinctively remember the tension, intrigue and sheer FUN. Exploring empty mansions, running from wild tigers, whipping out pistols to gun down the bad guys before diving into water to get them off your tail…good memories.

    From the looks of it, the atmosphere got cranked up to eleven in this reboot, and I’m hungering for a game with a respectably treated woman. Shit, it even passes the Bachdel test. That’s even better.

    Hopefully this’ll start a GOOD bandwagon trend of having more women in games, when sales inevitably shoot up from people nostalgic for Tomb Raider, and women sick to death of how the industry treats their gender.

  • Anonymous

    I’m so happy that you, as a longtime Tomb Raider fan, enjoyed the game, and your review has actually given me more to think about. In particular, this passage spoke to me:

    “I was eleven years old when my grandma handed me the PlayStation she’d won in a raffle. It came with two games — some sports game I never played, and Tomb Raider, which I devoured. I had been raised on point-and-clicks and early ‘90s edutainment games. None of those had thrown snarling wolves and fast-moving death traps at me, or punished my mistakes with the sound of crunching bones. No game had given me such a visceral sense of adventure and danger. And no story I had seen — movies, books, or otherwise — had ever told me that a woman was allowed to be cast in such a role. She was Indiana Jones, but witty, measured,
    sophisticated. She shot first and asked questions later. She screamed only when seconds from death. She never, ever needed saving.

    She could do anything.”

    I was raised in a family almost entirely composed of women. An extended family: aunts, great aunts, grandmothers, my mother, my sister, countless female cousins. As such, I consider myself blessed to have so many great female influences in my early life (as well as some strong ones like my grandfather). I was 12 when Tomb Raider came out, and I looked on it exactly the way I looked on any adventure game. It seems trite, ludicrous to say given the bloated spectre of sexualisation that has amassed around the character since the first game, but I didn’t look at Lara as a sexual being. Even her large breasts weren’t a source of sexual appeal (at the time, I was a late developer): most of the women in my family were buxom, so Lara didn’t feel like some unattainable sexual object, she felt like a member of the family. And I wanted nothing more than to go on adventures with her.

    This is why I’m so frustrated when I see all these silly pinups of Lara in Lad’s magazines, the fetish portraits on Deviantart, the constant refrain that people only bought the game so they could leer at Lara’s body. That wasn’t who Lara was to me: Lara was the sardonic, witty, intelligent and most of all independent adventurer who went out and sought excitement because that’s what she wanted. She went into the Himalayas and Egypt and elsewhere because she craved the thrill of discovery, and was canny enough to sell off her stories and wares to the highest bidder. Her body was never an issue in that first game, never part of the gameplay, never a big deal.

    Then Tomb Raider II came out, and my response was similar to yours at the denoument. I wasn’t interested in seeing Lara naked *despite* being a boy, and I felt rather offended that the game developers assumed that’s what the player wanted. The Crystal Dynamics’ alterations of Lara’s body (and backstory) bothered me for different reasons, because it seemed that they were changing Lara to be more “acceptable” to society: big breasts, long legs and thin waists are only for Hustler models and porn stars. Therefore in order to avoid the Male Gaze, she had to have a more “realistic” phenotype (while still managing to be absolutely gorgeous with a body many women would kill for anyway), Lara’s body had to be changed. It didn’t sit well with me.

    Now, as a grown and red-blooded man, I can appreciate how some would view Lara as sexually attractive, even if, for me, there’s some sort of Westermarck effect going on. But instead of her deflated bosom and widened waist upsetting me in a purely “lizard-brain” mindset, it bothered me that Lara was, to me, great the way she was. It wasn’t Lara that needed to change, it was everyone else. Lara Croft in the original games was a woman who had complete control over her destiny. She wanted to become an archaeologist, so she fought tooth and nail to get onto her first dig. She wanted to excel at everything she could put her mind to, so she became a practised equestrian, archer, marksman, you name it. And when her plane crashed in the mountains, she survived through grit and determination: when her parents disowned her after her complete change in attitude, she got back on her feet by becoming a successful writer and explorer. She did everything herself, and she shined.

    But none of that mattered, because she had big breasts. That’s all anyone seemed to care about. And it frustrates me that people who claim to say they don’t judge on appearances proceed to do exactly that.

    In any case, I’m rambling. This is the first review I’ve read that’s really persuaded me to reconsider, but since it’s clear that this is a “new” Lara, I guess it’s not for me. It sounds like this new Lara’s a brilliant character, but I wish they had taken this character and made her her own being, rather than reinvent an earlier one that didn’t need reinventing (IMO) so much as reframing. Rambling again: great review, glad you liked the game.

  • Anonymous

    I have no guilt in my appreciation for Lara, only disdain for those who can’t look past her appearance. Be proud of your heroes!

  • Anonymous

    If you haven’t played it already, “The Longest Journey” is, IMO, one of the greatest game stories (and one of the most compelling protagonists) I’ve ever experienced, and the only game that moved me to tears. I second the Mirror’s Edge and Beyond Good & Evil recommendations too.

  • Anonymous

    To be fair, the wolves and tigers tended to attack her first.

  • http://twitter.com/ironduck Addie/Annie D

    I never really did find Lara to be all like you wrote in the article. I found her exactly how I found other female characters, a chick who can take control & not some damsel in distress.

    Mind you, I mostly played the game that had her house & the butler… I would lock the butler in the freezer & go play on the training grounds she had outside. The first/original demo for PS1 was good though…

  • http://www.facebook.com/JamesMauriceAlexander James Alexander

    The problem is that not enough game companies even take the “risk.” The only major game series with female leads I can think of right away are Tomb Raider and Metroid. The last time I played a girl in a game that didn’t have a player creation/selection process was probably either Mirror’s Edge or Final Fantasy 13 …wait there was Lollipop Chainsaw last year. Either way the discrepancy is sevre enough that I have to think about it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JamesMauriceAlexander James Alexander

    Amazing games that no one bought!

  • http://www.facebook.com/JamesMauriceAlexander James Alexander

    You kill wildlife to survive in the original games. You also kill wildlife to survive in this game, only with way more brutal death animations for failing this time. There has never been a “killing for sport” element in this game. So I just don’t get this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JamesMauriceAlexander James Alexander

    All right. I blew through this whole thing in an epic all nighter. Definately the best in the series since Legend. The “controversy” about the “scene” always seemed silly to me because the idea of some vicious mercenary feeling up an attractive twenty-year-old girl before killing her is pretty in line with reality, even if it’s implications are unpleasant. We aren’t supposed to like it.
    What is not in line with reality is that same hundred pound twenty-year-old shivering by a fire in the freezing rain and snow in a tank top. The game industry still has some growing up to do.

  • Anonymous

    I have the same problem trying to think of games with female leads. I forgot Lollipop Chainsaw as well, and I’m currently PLAYING it.
    I discuss a couple over in the “Tropes vs Women in video games” thread as well – Beyond Good and Evil is a stunning game, and available on a number of current platforms. So too Portal and its sequel – female hero AND villain. And there’s been more than a few strong females in the Resident Evil games.
    That game “The Last of Us” that’s coming has at least a female co-star, and looks very good, but looks a bit heavy for me.

  • Anonymous

    Had no idea Ms. Pratchett had written that – I am now looking for someone to take my money. and the PS3 just released their HD port of BG&E, which I happily re-purchased for, I believe, the third time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JamesMauriceAlexander James Alexander

    It’s easy to forget Portal. But does that even count? GLADoS is female in the way that James Bond’s car is in Tommorow Never Dies, and Chell’s gender is even more inconsequential than pre Other M Metroid games. At least Samus could show up in box art in Proto – Master Cheif armor.

    There is also “Beyond Two Souls.” Finally a game where a woman can be the vengeful shaved ubermensch Cole/Starkiller/Shepard/Jake Muller/This could go on forever type.

  • http://twitter.com/Ostercy Ostercy

    Lara Croft is indeed dead. Although not in the fanship outside this game.

  • Anonymous

    I dunno – I think the interplay between Chell and GLADoS could only have worked if they were female. The constant sarcastic snipping about Chell putting on weight was brilliant.

    And GLADoS was based on a Caroline’s engrams, so she does have the “soul” of a woman, as opposed to merely being programmed with a female voice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JamesMauriceAlexander James Alexander

    A sentient computer program “based” on a woman could only make fun of the test subject it was torturing’s weight if she were also female? I’m a guy obviously, I also wouldn’t have liked that. Guys also worry about our appearance. Doesn’t she treat the robots the same. Either way I feel more like a sentient floating gun than a person in Portal anyway.

    I mean (maybe this isn’t the greatest example) but when I played Kotor 2 I felt that the interactions between the Exile and Kreia worked better when both were female. But that’s me subjectively regarding the twisted mother-daughter vibe and the philosophical power struggle within as being unique and interesting in a universe that had completely given way to male power fantasy. While Jedi Outcast was just about tough dudes owning people, in Kotor 2, smart women talked about deep ****, then they owned people.

    But objectively, outside of lip service to romances (she’s protective of you and hates the people you flirt with no matter what) it’s exactly the same, and not designed one way or the other (yes I know the MMO makes the Exile female, but the advertising from 2004 sure doesn’t).-

  • http://twitter.com/meliciousness Melynda

    I never played the original Tomb Raider games. I remember that they used to be used as demos on computers in electronics stores, but I never really bothered with them. When I starting seeing all the stuff about a remake and then concept art was released and more and more started building up to it I was hoping it would be a good shot in the arm for games with female protagonists with reasonable measurements and not just a female fill-in for a much-marketed male equivalent (I still love you Femshep). I’m not very far into the game but I’ve been impressed by pretty much everything that I’ve seen so far. I hope that this is the beginning of a new TR franchise that can keep up what this game is bringing to the table so far. And maybe inspire some other developers to put a little more faith into female protagonists that actually wear clothes and look like a real person.

  • Anonymous

    “Now, I’m sure there are others who may see it differently, and some who won’t want to play through that scene no matter what the context. That’s okay. To argue against someone’s personal comfort zone would be grossly unfair.”
    THIS. Thank you for stating that. I’ve had quite the comments war trying to get that across, even slipping up into having reactions to what people posted instead of responses. Throughout this whole debate about the new Tomb Raider on this site, I’ve stood by that. I felt the need to share my story and why I no longer felt comfortable (at the time) of playing the game due to the scene and the PR that followed. I felt the need to help others understand just WHY someone might be turned away from such a badass game, due to triggers. I’ve even thought that maybe me clinging to the idea that “I’m not going to play this game because Political Reasons,” might have been colored dramatically due to comments I’ve made back and forth here.
    And then I read this review. I have to say, my mind is slowly opening up to the possibility. I DO want to play a game with a badass strong character, who happens to be female. I crave my gender being represented realistically. So thank you for this review, Becky, and thank you SO much for empathizing. I will keep my mind open.

  • shoothim then shoothim then

    Tomb raider is beatiful and has ahmazing graphics, but it has now just become a mindless action game, no deep, dark, intimidating tombs from the ancients, filled with traps, puzzels or secrets here. most of it is just shooting and action sequences such a shame i wanted to immerse myself deep and find some ancient treasure and relic. if you like shooting games like every other single game in the world is, you will like this game.

  • TKS

    Hyperbole is understandable. “I hit them with a stick” doesn’t have the same ring.

  • Anonymous

    You landed a keeper!

  • http://www.facebook.com/pat.durkin.92 Pat Durkin

    Having been, slightly (cough) older when the first TR came out, I’d like to offer another perspective. What made Lara Croft popular, at first, was the fact that women as the hero was still a novelty. The second was the game itself, I remember being shocked as my stomach lurched into my throat the first time I saw LC get thrown off that waterfall. Most games at the time where MetroidVania meets pong.

    TR was different, better, and the limited nature of the PS1′s rendering gave the game an “old movie” feel, kind of what the Grindhouse movies went for. The game was good, just good, the sex came after.

    I remember the end of TR2 slightly differently her question was not a come on, but an indictment of the nerdy horndog. She killed the d-bag after all.

    But in full disclosure, and this goes for Femshep as well, if I commit myself to looking at a backside for 40 hrs, I’d rather it be one I’m attracted to.
    That didn’t change the fact that I found LC’s transformation from “kick ass chick” to “slut with a gun” distasteful and disappointing.

    As far as the E3 freakout, to deny the reality of rape in a hyper-masculine culture
    does us all a disservice, and I think it could be handled in a way that would make most mentally stable individuals cringe, as it should.
    Far too many “boys” in geek culture need to be made sick to the stomach IMHO.

    I look forward to picking up my copy tomorrow, it’s the story LC needs, the story she deserves, it will give the (hopefully) the coming wisecracks that much more weight
    when you figure it out, do you still hear the *bling* ?

    Yours in Gaming…

  • Ohaeri

    I just went from ‘never will play this game, ever’ to ‘buying it at the first chance that I get.’

    It’s not just that this review really did a lot to allay my fears, but that practically everyone in the comments chimed in and agreed. I too was a big TR/Lara fan when I was young but felt really uncomfortable about her portrayal.

    I’m really pumped now!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    Reading this comment, I was at first hesitant, thinking it’d be another, “This is why she needs to always always ALWAYS have huge boobs and a revealing outfit!” fanboy piss rant.

    Instead you made me think long and hard about an opinion I used to have.

    You’re absolutely right: there’s nothing sexual about big breasts, or revealing clothes, or long legs, or or or. They’re just aspects of the figure that get an undue amount of attention for many awful reasons. According to a lot of people I know, I have big breasts. Does that automatically make me sexual? No!

    So now I’m wondering, and reflecting on an early view I had of Lara Croft’s redesign: I was initially thrilled, thinking to myself, “It would be so much harder for people to sexualize her now, with her smaller breasts and more clothing!” I found it a good thing, that they were ‘adapting to the climate’, so to speak. People (read: straight men) are being entitled horndogs? Take away that body type, then!

    Now I’m realizing this is treating a symptom and not a disease. We’re still instilling the viewpoint that women are obligated to change themselves in order to please an audience, for whatever reason, and that’s NOT okay. Developers repeated consistently in interviews: “We don’t want her to be a sex object.” “We want to desexualize her.” “We want to normalize her.”

    Good intentions be damned, there’s a lot wrong with ALL of that.

    Lara Croft didn’t need to change: people did. While I still don’t mind her redesign (since she’s noticeably younger, too, so I don’t expect her to look exactly the same), I’m seeing now my initial excitement was very short-sighted.

  • Anonymous

    I finally got to play this week-end. Great game so far. It doesn’t re-invent the wheel and experienced gamers will find it easy but the game is just a lot of fun and the story is taken seriously. And Lara Croft is suddendly a great character again and give the best argumentation that there should be more women starring in video games. I’m a man and playing a woman did not hurt my enjoyment of the game one bit.
    P.S.: To all Mass Effect fans reading this, I highly recommend the Citadel DLC.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    She mananaged to grab her suitcase before the boat sank? Then you’re right, that’s silly.

  • http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0977888401 Sabreman

    Well, maybe the intentions of the people who designed her visually over the years also needed to change (or be replaced as different designers came on board). She wasn’t accidentally born that way (well, sort of by a programming error, but then they intentionally decided to keep her that way EXPLICITLY FOR REASONS OF APPEALING TO THE MALE GAZE AS A MARKETING STRATEGY), and her clothing was explicitly designed (for a while) to be provocative over functionality. Which says something about her characterization, too, as a fictional character, even if inadvertently.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    Oh yeah. I’m not disagreeing over that: it’s clear what the design intent was from every single one of her incarnations. Appeal to straight men! Show off that body, boobs, legs, hot poses!

    I don’t know if I want to say how she dresses affects who she is as a person, though. Just because someone wears revealing clothes doesn’t automatically tell you who they are on the inside: it could mean they’re provocative, sure, but it could also mean they’re proud, vain, have sensitive skin, or are just in hot weather.

    Not too sure. That mindset hearkens a little to people claiming women who show off a lot of skins to be ‘slutty’, and using it as a means to judge them for it.

    If I’m interpreting you wrong, please tell me.

  • http://twitter.com/JeninCanada Jennifer

    I was so afraid that they’d done to Lara in this game what they did to Samus in Metroid: Other M. I’m so glad to hear that it’s not the case. Will be getting my hands on a copy of this as soon as I’m able, seeing as how my original copy of Tomb Raider doesn’t play anymore. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    I’m not surprised the person critiquing Lara Croft and approving of her new design as “relateable” looks like Lara Croft… athletic build, jeans… basically every female lead since 2008, Hunger Games anyone? That’s what people THINK women want.

    The old Lara Croft’s design is in fact what women want she was what women aspired to look like, be metally and everything else and the current Lara Croft is nothing more than a stereotype. The old Lara Croft was confident, owned her sexuality and straight out ROCKED IT. The current Lara Croft is basicallya patronization of the female gamer and no one seems to realize that but people who actually play the game!

  • http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0977888401 Sabreman

    How the skin is shown often reflects intention of meaning. In this case, you yourself called it “hot poses”. In reality that was the avowed confirmed intention of those who were actually deciding how she dressed, moved and stood; as a practical matter you agreed that what they did accurately communicated their intention; as a fictional character that translates over to her intention as a character in how she chose to dress, move, stand and pose. It might be a case of broken characterization, of course, or possibly an ingenue (she’s doing it unconsciously thus innocently). It wouldn’t necessarily count as slutty per se either, it might be vain or prideful, it might be tactical (as a distraction), it might be cruel (taunting in various ways, or trolling in order to get a response so she has an excuse to act another way), it might be playful. Based on how she acted otherwise I wouldn’t call it slutty, per se, but it’s still pretty clearly intentionally provocative, not an accident or incidental side effect of some other intention. By contrast, her portrayal and design in The Guardian of Light just didn’t communicate the same intent to provoke, or I didn’t pick up on that anyway, despite being largely similar in design details. Go figure. (Her characterization has been moving away from that in the other previous modern games, too. Yay! {g})

  • http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0977888401 Sabreman

    Btw, Becky, what about Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light? I haven’t gotten around to playing it through all the way, but her characterization there (possibly because of greater ‘distance’ from the player?) seems to me much closer to the new reboot than how she developed in the original games.

  • Rob

    Thank you for putting a rein on all the negative hype surrounding this game and putting to words almost exactly how I felt about it after I was done playing.

  • http://twitter.com/zackh900 Zack Henderson

    Thank you for being the only commentator to “get it.” I don’t understand the criticism the game has received. This Lara is probably my favorite protagonist ever, and TR is a spectacular game to play.

  • George

    Resurrect all dead, or defend yourselfs. I thought it was just a lucky girl working with the leetest video gaming company for a game hardly affordable.