I swear I didn’t think I’d ever get this post up. Every time I got around to doing it, some new story would grab my attention. Even today I found two news stories I was tempted to write about instead, but I told myself if I didn’t get this done now then I’d finish with the game before I ever did.
I’ll admit that, in the past, I pretty much blatantly refused to play the Tomb Raider games because I viewed Lara Croft as little more than a sex symbol. The beginning of the trend of developers making female leads but pandering to male gamers by having them either be disproportionately endowed or half-dressed (or both). But as I thought about it over time, I realized that Lara herself is not a sexist character. To say that a woman can’t be smart, capable, adventurous & attractive is a sexist statement in itself. Besides, I’ll admit that if I were designing a male character I’d make something I considered attractive. No, it was the way the games were advertised & marketed that was sexist. I can clearly remember two magazine ads in particular: one had Lara wielding her dual pistols wearing that catsuit unzipped down to her navel with the caption “It’s always good to have a pair of big guns,” the other had an actress portraying Lara glaring at the camera with the caption “My eyes are up here” while the focus was clearly on her chest. And I was old enough at the time to understand the meaning behind the ads. Even more recent marketing does the same thing. I’m thinking of the Underworld box art with just Lara’s midsection & her head cut off. And don’t try to tell me that isn’t playing up the sexual angle. You’d never see the box art for a Metal Gear game with Snake’s crotch as the focus.
Anyway, my point is that once I thought about it, there was no reason for me to not play them. Male fantasies aside, the series wouldn’t have continued this long nor be so popular if they weren’t genuinely good games. After all, there are lots of game with half-nude women but that doesn’t hide the fact that the game is bad (Bikini Samurai Squad, anyone?). And I don’t like to condemn out of ignorance, so when Steam offered the entire series for a single low price back during their Thanksgiving sale, I couldn’t pass it up.
It’s always strange playing an older game for the first time. There are so many modern conventions that I miss. Like using WASD. Indeed, Tomb Raider I (or original Tomb Raider, or Tomb Raider featuring Lara Croft) uses the arrow keys to move & has no mouse controls. And even though I’m right-handed, it took some getting used to. But for the most part the controls work well. I’m glad the game includes a walk feature that prevents you from falling off things as well as a key that lets you try to grab on to things when you jump. It has taken a bit to get used to the controls, but they work. The graphics have also taken time to get used to. I don’t really mind the dated graphics, because I can tell what everything is, but there are a few things that make me laugh. One is the comical expression on the lions & the other is how items on the ground rotate to your camera like they’re following you (which is creepy for the skeleton things).
But I have been enjoying the game so far. As a fan of adventure games, I really like the exploration aspect. I find myself thoroughly checking every room & trying to jump on everything. And saving & loading a lot. I also like that the game has a variety of obstacles. Each area seems to have a unique challenge to it. Although in most cases you’re hunting for a switch, it never plays out the same. One time you may have to climb your way to the top of a room, the next time you have to avoid falling swords. It adds a nice variety to the encounters.
I do have two complaints though. One is that there’s no real camera control. You can look around with the 0-key but you can’t move while doing so. It’s impossible to see around corners, which isn’t good when you’re traveling through tight spaces. The second is that I get stuck on a lot of corners. The game can be very picky about where Lara can & can’t walk & there have been many times when I’ve gotten stuck on the corner of a block & couldn’t move until I turned Lara 90 degrees.
As for my evaluation of Lara herself, I have to admit she seems pretty cool. Despite the way the marketing department chose to portray her, I haven’t really seen anything sexual so far. I’m sure her pixelated curves were more exciting back in the day, but it seems tame compared to modern games like Dead or Alive 4. And yeah, she wears short-shorts, but I can see their purpose if you’re crawling around dirty old tombs. Overall, the game portrays her as a strong, independent, laid-back & snarky heroine. I can’t really blame the game for the way the fans view the lead character. Tomb Raider fans wouldn’t be the first fanbase to make everything sexual, otherwise sites like Fanficiton.net wouldn’t exist.
So far, I’ve enjoyed myself & am looking forward to playing this & other games in the series.