What the fuck did I just play?
I have never played a Tomb Raider title before so I had neither preconceived notions nor nostalgic expectations of what I was getting myself into. However, I read quite a bit about this game before hand so I knew there would be blood, gore, violence, a rape scene that got everyone really angry at the developers, and something about Lara Croft’s hair…?
So I wasn’t particularly surprised to find Lara’s archeological pleasure cruise turn sour within the first minute and a half of game play. The ship sank, Lara almost drowned, she washed up on shore, was too tired from drowning to call out to her friends a few meters away, was punched into unconsciousness by some unknown person, and awoke to find herself hanging upside-down in a cave, wrapped in a sack that probably smelled like gym socks soaked in urine with a slight undertone of rotten fish.
She leads such an exciting life.
Now, gore doesn’t really bother me all that much. I have been desensitized by video games, movies, and American culture in general just like any other normal person. But when Lara falls in one of the early scenes and lands on a piece of rusty rebar my immediate response was, “Ow. That would really hurt.” And they make it look so real!
After that I mostly spent a bunch of time crawling through flooded caves lighting things on fire with my trusty torch and performing quick time events. Yes, you heard me. The entire first ten minutes of the game are comprised of cutscenes and quick time events. Sure, I make a few jumps onto ledges and walk through some harsh environments, all while being bombarded with foreshadowing of the cult that is clearly looking to ruin my day, but most of it is “press this button here” and “jiggle that joystick” there. Look, I’ll jiggle my joystick on my own time, ok?
To be honest, I don’t really mind quick time events that much. I do feel they are somewhat unnecessary, but sometimes it’s nice to feel like you’re contributing to the moment. So when I was crawling beneath a recently fallen rock from the now collapsing cave and some crazed lunatic was grabbing at my legs I really felt one with Lara as she too failed to hit the triangle button at the appropriate time and was crushed by a boulder the size of a small car.
Her ten minutes were up.
Happy Thoughts: This is a very pretty game graphically and the animation feels very real, which allows the player to connect with the characters. More importantly, the writing and pacing are strong and leave you wanting for more. Ron Rosenberg got a lot of shit for his comments about wanting to protect Lara. He may have misspoken. I don’t really know and I don’t really care. My experience was that you connect with her. It’s not that you’re protecting her. You become her and you’re protecting yourself. That’s a pretty powerful feeling to be given in the first ten minutes of a game. Of course, I’m easily drawn into stories so maybe that’s just me.
Sad Thoughts: Quick time events are not my favorite. In terms of game play the first ten minutes are kind of weak.
Bottom Line: This game seems like it may be going somewhere and I am totally drawn in by the plot. I would at least give it the time to see if the game play picks up some more. Perhaps another ten minutes will give me my answer.