Tomb Raider Retrospective – Introduction

4 02 2008

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Tomb Raider… does anyone really care about Tomb Raider anymore? To say that Lara Croft has largely dropped out of the public consciousness is a statement that could have been made accurately as long as eight years ago at this point. There was a time when Lara would of probably been recognised by filthy non-gaming yokels as she featured in adverts and two god-awful movies. Those days are over though; while profitable the movies were largely considered terrible, and Lara is having to stick to games for the time being.

But what is the last Tomb Raider game that anyone actually played? Probably the one with Area 51 whichever one that was. The games sort of drifted into obscurity sometime around the turn of the century, but I’ve got good news: the games are still being made! Not only that but they are actually pretty good! I have recently completed the 8th Tomb Raider game, Tomb Raider: Anniversary, and am vaguely frustrated that while it is an excellent game, it has been largely ignored and dismissed by the gaming community. It seems that people’s eyes upon seeing anything with the phrase ‘Tomb Raider’ on dismiss it as irrelevant before the information can make it to their brains. For this reason I have decided to write this overly long retrospective of the Tomb Raider series to amuse and inform, or perhaps to annoy.

One phenomenon I have frequently encountered when discussing these games is that they have run together into an indistinct mess in everyone’s memories. I get asked questions like “Is that the one with T-Rex?”, “Is that the one where you she dies at the end?”, and “What the hell is ‘Tomb Raider: Chronicles?’ “. To help combat this I will be listing the things you should probably remember about these games if you have ever played them, and haven’t quite repressed the experience all the way.

Rendering - old vs new
Original rendering of Lara and rendering of Lara for Tomb Raider: Anniversary. Notice how she looks almost like an actual human now.

The year was 1996! The Sony PlayStation was tearing the games industry several new orifices, but had yet to have a real iconic character like Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, or uh Jazz Jackrabbit? Core Design were desperately trying to think of a hook for their Indiana Jones rip-off game, and after noticing that perverted men liked staring at busty women for long periods, the Hispanic grave-robber Laura Cruz was born! Shortly afterwards Laura was scrapped in favour of the decidedly Britisher Lara Croft. Obviously, she took the world by storm with her acrobatics, large breasts, british accent, and willingness to shoot endangered species right in the face.

Six games later, the series had been almost ruined by the increasingly horrible work of Core Design, and Crystal Dynamics were asked by Eidos to clean Core’s mess, and they did so successfully with their new ‘Lara Croft Tomb Raider’ franchise. The design of this new Lara was based off a Topshop sales clerk who Eidos are apparently paying to essentially be Lara for some reason. This re-imagined Lara inherited the rather curious title of Countess of Abingdon which is a pretty odd place to be a Countess of. The background story for the new Lara gave her a slightly different tragic past, and a possibly living mother as explored in Legend.

Now, join me on a mostly downhill journey of incremental engine updates, rushed release schedules, ridiculous plots, the word ‘no’ said in a very posh manner, crass commercialism, and the occasional tomb.

Tomb Raider Retrospective
Introduction
Part 1 – Tomb Raider (1996)
Part 2 – Tomb Raider II (1997)
Part 3 – Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft (1998)
Part 4 – Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation (1999) – coming soon
Part 5 – Tomb Raider Chronicles (2000) – coming soon
Part 6 – Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness (2003) – coming soon
Part 7 – Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend (2006) – coming soon
Part 8 – Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Anniversary (2007) – coming soon

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