The guns. The shorts. The braid. String any of these nouns together to a stranger and they will conjure in their brainsacks the silhouette of the intrepid archaeologist Lara Croft, star of the beloved Tomb Raider franchise of games, comics and movies. Since her breakout debut in 1996, she has become one of the greatest action stars of our time, and an icon of pop culture. Since the mid ‘90s, Lara has blazed her way through Parisian catacombs, Peruvian jungles and Siberian mountains in the pursuit of fortune and glory.
Depicted as an aristocrat who eschewed her silver spoon heritage to pursue a career in archaeology, she is intelligent, resourceful and easy on the eyes. A cross between Duke Nukem and Indiana Jones, she proved that gamers, comic fans and movie buffs would all clamor to see a chick kick butt and solve puzzles. The life of an action heroine means that danger lurks around every corner, from both ingame and real world situations. Lara has suffered at the hands of supernatural creatures and shoddy storytelling. Since the trailer just dropped for the new Tomb Raider movie coming in 2018, CBR decided to take a look at the 20 worst things to happen to Lara Croft, Tomb Raider!
20. THE DEATH OF HER PARENTS AT A YOUNG AGE
We all know that the greatest heroes are forged by the greatest tragedies. Or at least, the most interesting ones are. The tale of Lara Croft’s tragic beginnings have been altered quite a bit over the years, but one element remains much the same; she is orphaned by the time she begins her life as a tomb raider.
Born into aristocracy, Lara’s mother dies when she’s a young girl, and her father soon after from either grief, or because he goes looking for Lara’s mother (this depends on the game, and how her mother ends up dying). Sometimes her family just “disappears”, but however they get removed from her life, she becomes all the stronger for it. It’s clear that the path to Lara becoming the epic pistol-toting globetrotter had to be forged through experiences that would make her be tenacious, hard and fearless.
19. HORRIBLE LOVE INTERESTS IN THE MOVIES
The first Tomb Raider film and the sequel, The Cradle of Life, featured love interests played by men that would become ginormous breakout stars, but had absolutely zero charisma to bring to the table during production. Daniel Craig aka James Bond played her treasure hunting ex boyfriend in the first go around, and Gerard Butler aka King Leonidas played her rakish ex lover in the second. This was before they were famous, but based on their one-dimensional, as-interesting-as-a-stale-biscuit performances in the films, it was a wonder that happened at all in later years.
Both men couldn’t chew the scenery with someone like Angelina Jolie who, whatever you thought of her acting ability, was having way too much fun sassing it up on screen. These men were not made to have interesting backstories, nor great dialogue; they were there to wear tank tops, swagger, and show she sometimes went on dates.
18. THE COMIC REBOOT ONLY FOCUSES ON YOUNG LARA
In 1999, Top Cow Comics began a series of Tomb Raider comics that would explore the adventures of Lara in between game releases. It featured great art by such giant talents as Marc Silvestri (of Witchblade hype), Andy Park and Jonathan Sibal. It featured a confident, ferocious, gritty Lara Croft that was well versed in all things tactical, multi-cultural and mysterious. She knew who she was, what she stood for, and nothing stood in her way; not mummies, not reanimated stone warriors, not werewolves.
When the games were rebooted, so were the comics. In 2013, the Tomb Raider series was published by Dark Horse and featured stories all about Lara Croft’s origins. This Lara was naive, insecure, and prone to self doubt. We get it’s during a time when she’s developing the skills she’ll need to kick butt later, but how many issues about that do we need?
17. THE REALISM OF GETTING SHANKED IN RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER
Lara has suffered a lot of gruesome deaths. This is usually the result of either crappy glitches in the gaming system, or more than likely the overestimation of a cocky gamer who lacks depth perception. As the games started to implement more AI enemies into Lara’s missions, the scenarios she found herself in became more realistic and therefore, the deaths even more so. Some of them played out in cutscenes, where all you could do was watch as she met some horribly painful end in agonizing slow motion.
The greatest example of this is in Rise of the Tomb Raider, when Lara has come upon a group of guards. They discover her and, before a young Lara knows what’s going on, she’s being shanked. She collapses to her knees, struggles for life and dies at the feet of her assailant, who stands there watching like the sociopath he is.
16. A GOTH UPGRADE DOESN’T CHANGE A FORMULAIC GAME
Take a look at the cover for Angel of Darkness. You’ve got Lara, silhouetted against some gothic wrought iron gate, covered in what look like the blue flames of a silk button-up shirt you could buy at Spencer’s (and yet, where’s the sad looking timberwolf?). Her shorts are dark camouflage, her top is black, she’s pale, and she’s wearing lots of eyeliner. This is all supposed to reflect the darker tone of the game, where Lara has to clear her name as a suspect in the murder of her former mentor, Werner Von Croy.
Lara getting a goth upgrade wasn’t the only upgrade happening; Crystal Dynamics wanted to make a grittier game to compete with other action titles, and to successfully exploit the potential of next generation gaming platforms. That choice, like Lara’s new look, turned out to be unsuccessful due to glitches. Or was it demons?
15. ANGEL OF DARKNESS IS NO ANGEL
The Angel of Darkness game, the sixth game in the series, was released specifically for the Playstation 2 console in the hopes of maximizing the strength of next generation gaming platforms. The third person action/puzzle game featured her normal moves, plus some new ones, like army crawling and super jumps. She also gets stealth mode, and the introduction of a stamina meter that fluctuated depending on her speed of movement. The plot centers around Lara hunting a supernatural serial killer called the “Monstrum” in Paris, celestial Nephilim and a talisman called the Sanglyph.
With new gameplay and controls, you’d think it was an improvement on her tomb raiding abilities. The development of the game was scrapped twice because the core team had difficulties with the complexity of the Playstation console. What they did produce had system bugs, shoddy camera work, poor controls and bad combat scenarios.
14. THE ENEMY OF MY A.I. ENEMY IS MY FRIEND
Tomb Raider: Underworld is the eigth game in the Tomb Raider series, and the first to be released on Playstation 3. It boasted a new inventory system, a handy dual-target feature, and a melee combat system so hand to hand combat wasn’t all just fisticuffs. Why they also decided to release this on Playstation 2 is anyone’s guess, since basically everything was far inferior.
What was most striking about Underworld was the way Lara’s environment reacted to her; footprints were left in the mud, and brush moved as she walked through it. Too bad that the AI for her enemies wasn’t as perceptive. She had enemies who took predictable attack positions, didn’t detect her when she was next to them, and didn’t get the sort of expansion in skills she got. And when they did flush her out of cover, just try using the lock on target mode in melee.
13. GETTING KILLED BY A LEGLESS BOSS
In the original Tomb Raider game, Lara’s main enemy is Jacqueline Natla, a winged, demonic ladyboss that happens to be the former Ruler of Atlantis. She was imprisoned in a crystal, but set free in the mid ‘40s during a nuclear bomb test in New Mexico. She’s after the shiny Scion, the talisman that will restore her power to its former glory.
In the modern era Natla is the CEO of Natla Technologies, a large technology company, and is something of a genetic engineer. She brings to life a legless mutant creature by placing the Scion in its alter, causing it to hatch from an egg on top of a giant platform, and thus becoming a sub boss Lara has to fight. You might think it’s a bit slow dragging its torso around, but with one swing of its giant arms Lara is flattened to the chorus of crunching bones.
12. TOMB RAIDER: ANNIVERSARY IS NOTHING TO CELEBRATE
Sometimes it’s necessary in long running game series, like in long running movie series, to do a hard reboot. Put a fresh coat of paint on. Clean out the cobwebs. In the case of Tomb Raider: Anniversary, a reimagining of the 1996 classic Tomb Raider game, the developers wanted to update the game engine, graphics, and control system to make it streamlined.
The plot is the same as the original game, but graphics are spiffed up and some new moves are added, like pole swinging and ledge hopping. But it’s still the least successful of all the Tomb Raider titles. Does Tomb Raider turning 10 really warrant an update of the original, or a continuation of titles with the superior gameplay that Tomb Raider: Legend had?
The seventh level of Tomb Raider is called Palace Midas, named after the famous Grecian King Midas of Phrygia. He was said to possess the treacherous “Midas touch” in which everything he touched turned to gold. When Lara reaches the room, there’s a giant hand in it. Now, a clever gamer who knows their history might put two and two together here, connecting the presence of the hand with that story, and not jump onto the hand. Or not.
When Lara jumps on the hand, cue the Goldfinger music because she’s turned into a solid gold statue. It’s a pretty agonizing way to go if you think about it, since you’d suffocate. What you want Lara to do is stand to the side of the hand, transform some lead bars into gold, and then exit to the Garden where she can shoot some lions.
10. WHITE WATER RAFTING GONE WRONG
The Tomb Raider reboot features a stunning section of white water rapids, where Lara, sans white water raft, must navigate the yawing waves and hope she doesn’t drown. Now, if for some reason this proved a little difficult (something maybe a second analog stick would have solved), be prepared for Lara to meet one of her most gruesome fates by being impaled on a lead pipe.
First it’s her jaw, and then it’s the rest of her body, on some gnarly pipe that doesn’t even have a sharp end. Not like the ravine she goes somersaulting over later in the game, where crap camera angles may make you misjudge your balance and Lara will get impaled on a series of spikes. Spikes, why does it always have to be spikes.
9. BETRAYED BY LOVE
In the Medusa Mask Saga that was put out by Top Cow Comics in the late ‘90s, Lara Croft was after the artifact known as Medusa’s Mask, which, like the famous mythological Gorgon, could transform anyone that met its gaze to stone. She’s not the only one desperate to find the treasure; there’s also the charming treasure hunter, Chase Carver.
Once old flames, Lara and Chase are now competitors, and Lara very much disapproves of his way of raiding tombs (“robbing graves” is how she describes it). Well this guy with cheekbones that could cut glass and stubble like the sandpaper you could grind it with is her begrudging ally right up until the end (when feelings might be bubbling to the surface). It’s all business with Mr. Carver though, and he leaves Lara for dead right after he gets his hands on the mask.
8. WELCOME TO JURASSIC PARK: DEATH BY T-REX
Lara deals with a lot of supernatural entities in her trade; it comes with her the territory of raiding tombs. She also deals with other reality bending threats, like randomly encounters with dinosaurs. In both Tomb Raider, Tomb Raider II and Tomb Raider III, she goes boot to claw with a T-Rex. First she encounters it in the Peru section of the first game, the China section of the second, and the Pacific section in the third.
Apparently T-Rex got around. Thanks, Pangea! One of the biggest baddies Lara faces in the game series, it moves fast for its size and if it gets its massive jaws around Lara, she’s done. But one thing can bring it down is lots and lots and lots of bullets.
7. ATTACK OF THE GIANT ANTLERED BEAR DEMONS
Imagine the Jackalope on crack, and then imagine it’s a possessed demon, and you’d be close to the baddie that Lara faces down In Lara Croft and the Frozen Omen, a five part miniseries published by Dark Horse. It takes place during the Tomb Raider: Legend timeline of events, and focuses on Lara globe trotting from Belize to Croatia, hot on the tail of a man who’s stolen a cute little ivory reindeer figurine.
The cute little guy actually possesses people, as it’s a remnant of a shadowy creature from ancient times known as the Unnameable, and either turns them into what happens when you ingest a fistful of PCP, or a sort of anthropomorphic beast. The man in possession of it turns into a giant antlered bear demon, and tries to open up essentially a Hellmouth to release the Apocalypse on earth with a possessed army.
6. LICENSE TO KILL REVOKED
In the early ‘00s, Top Cow Comics decided to publish Tomb Raider: Journeys, a 12-issue miniseries set in an alternate universe. This allowed for Lara to explore themes that might otherwise not occur in her regular comic book run, especially the more supernatural. Oddly enough, the Journeys comics did not feature the plots involving Witchblade and Darkness. These stories featured going back in time to the Golden Age of Piracy, or the Old Wild West.
They were a great way to put Lara in historical time periods and situations she wouldn’t otherwise be in, getting first hand interaction with people and artifacts that an archaeologist would find fascinating and invaluable. What blew about Journeys was that she never killed anyone. Yes, Tomb Raider is about raiding tombs and solving puzzles, but it’s also about combat; she doesn’t wear two guns strapped to her thighs for nothing!
5. THE UNORIGINAL STORY OF THE REBOOT GAMES
The reboot games have received critical acclaim and phenomenal success since 2013. They took everything that was great about the original franchise and expanded on it. And therein lies the problem; they just threw a new coat of paint on it. Lara’s origin story involves her crash landing on an island and having to survive there, acquiring the skills she will need to later become the Tomb Raider we know and love.
This plot isn’t very original, and it’s been played out already in Lara’s backstory. Why not give her a new way of acquiring her skills, like the Dark Knight Trilogy did for Batman? In Rise of the Tomb Raider, she’s off to find an ancient civilization with the promise of immortality. Sound familiar? Both of those tropes were used in the second Tomb Raider film, including an icy tundra and a paramilitary organization threatening the fate of humanity.
4. LARA BECOMES A ONE-DIMENSIONAL CHARACTER
The reboot of the Tomb Raider games began with Tomb Raider in 2013. Lara crash lands on an island and has to build the skill set she will need to survive, namely in combat, puzzle solving, and tomb raiding. In the original games, Lara already had quite a fair bit of this down pat by the time she was a young girl. She received the best of private education, and studied ancient civilizations, foreign languages, archery, and various martial arts. She had a precocious intellect and was a competitive athlete. It makes for a pretty interesting and complex teenager.
In the Tomb Raider reboot we get a frightened, disoriented girl who has pretty much none of the aforementioned skills, and by the end of the game isn’t really more interesting because she gets them. She is flat and one-dimensional, showing no hint of the Lara Croft she’s supposed to become.
3. SHOW ME THE TOMB RAIDING
The great thing about the original games was that Lara was already an established archaeologist traveling the world, shooting down mummies, raiding tombs, and finding lost treasure. The player is transplanted right into her world from the get go, and the games are full of nothing but excavation, exploration and puzzle solving. Every level involves room after room, tomb after tomb, with some baddies and bosses along the way to keep things interesting.
The reboot games seemed to have forgone all that in the name of storytelling, mainly the story of her origins and how she became a tomb raider. That’s all well and good, but they lack actual tomb raiding. Most of the time there’s also not very many puzzles, and the combat sequences mostly play out in cinematic vignettes, leaving you to sort of watch the action and press a few buttons now and again.
2. BLAIR WITCH PROJECT
In Rise of the Tomb Raider, we’re treated to some truly jaw dropping visuals, harrowing action sequences, and character-building quests. Lara is searching for the lost city of Kitezh in Siberia, but hot on her trail is a secretive paramilitary group called the Trinity who intend to reach it first and uncover its secrets of immortality.
You get to craft things from found objects, use the environment to your advantage, along with tools like bows, grappling hooks, and Molotov cocktails. All in all it’s a recipe for a great adventure game, except when you factor in the shaky cam sequences. This aspect will either make you nauseated, irritated, or throw your controller. It can happen during cutaways, combat situations and whenever Lara’s in mortal peril. It comes across as gimmicky rather than innovative.
1. BODY CONFIDENCE
When the original Tomb Raider game dropped in ‘96, it featured a heroine with a bodacious hourglass frame and an athletic build. Now, say what you will about male developers just wanting to stare at a great pair of legs, a tight a**, and a nice rack all day, Lara’s body was a lean, mean, fighting machine that celebrated all that is violent and glorious while still maintaining her femininity.
Lara is the poster girl for women today who favor fit over thin, endeavoring to look both strong and curvy. So why then since the reboot is Lara thinner and more angular? Yes, the reboot was an origin game, but Lara won’t be a teen forever, and making Lara skinnier and skinnier (especially casting the very lean Alicia Vikander in the upcoming film) sends the message to girls that only supermodel types get to lead Lara’s lifestyle.
Which of these things is the worst to you? Let us know in the comments!
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