Tomb Raider? 1996? Look, I was there, okay? It was pretty remarkable. And it wasn’t Indiana Jones meets the Spice Girls generation. I mean, sure, Lara Croft is the gaming version of Harrison Ford’s icon hero. But the first Tomb Raider was much more than just a pretty face. It did things we had never seen before. It revolutionized the platform genre and turned it into a fully 3D experience. It presented some of the most unique videogame environments anyone had ever seen. Plus, it had a giant freakin’ dinosaur.
By the time Tomb Raider II was launched I was running out the door to get the ultimate 3Dfx Voodoo graphics accelerator card, the most powerful beast known to man. TR2 stands to this day as my favorite game in the series and one of the most memorable gaming experiences I ever had. Several sequences remain classic, like the opening chapter at the Great Wall of China, the Venice channels, the nocturnal incursion into the Opera House or the mystical Temple of Xian where the final stage takes place. But the single most extraordinary part of that game, and the best Tomb Raider moment ever, is 40 Fathoms, where Lara dives into an underwater ship wreck lying at the bottom of the sea. The colors, the sounds, the amazing atmosphere of that journey, remain unforgettable.
So what happened to Lara Croft since then? Well, nothing bad, really. The Tomb Raider games remained decent for the most part. I mean, I enjoyed playing them, but it’s kind of like going through pre-Daniel Craig’s Bond movies. You were being fueled by your own nostalgia more than anything else. The main problem, really, is that along the way they forgot to develop Lara into a fully grown character. And I’m not talking about her breasts. Let’s face it, the movies could have provided just that, but instead revealed a complete neglect for storytelling and character development. And if you’re going to reproduce the videogame dynamic, I want to be the one with the controller instead of Jan de Bont.
Of course, it’s only natural that the news of a radical reboot will upset some fans. Fans are, naturally, defensive of what they love and are likely to fear the changes to come. But when you think about it, Lara never had a plausible background. She was never a real character. The new Tomb Raider game seems to want to do just that. To turn Lara into a vulnerable, believable individual. Not just a super-hero, but someone we honestly care about. And that can only be a good thing.