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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Tomb Raider.

Transcript Edit

I've extracted no small amount of enjoyment out of those Womb Raider games back in the day, but as my character did a sideways somersault onto a pile of historically priceless earthenware while gunning down endangered tigers, I asked myself, "I wonder what happened to this person to make her so incredibly jaded?" And then I would think, "OH, ACTUALLY I DON'T CARE!" and go back to making her stand with her back to a wall in that one particular way that makes the camera zoom in on her tits because I was fucking fifteen.

But for those of you who remained focused on the first question, Crystal Dynamics now has you covered with Tomb Raider; a prequel to explain how a young and starry-eyed Lara Croft learnt how to survive but doesn't get around to establishing when she learnt to put a fucking jumper on if she's cold. Actually, it kinda skips a bit because Lara starts the game already knowing how to jump and climb and shoot an arrow with laser precision, so I guess we're gonna need another prequel at some point to explain all that. (Maybe she was playing on the high school lacrosse team, when the ground cracked open and she fell into the subterranean lands of the mole people.)

But anyway, Tomb Raider is another goddamn fucking pissing-in-my-sandwich reboot with the same name as the cocking original, and it's particularly illogical here 'cos raiding tombs is a tertiary activity at best. They should have called it, "You Can Do This" after the most frequent line of dialogue, or alternatively, "Hohh hehh hahh mneh hahh."

Lara Croft manages to convince a small team of ethnically diverse archaeologists (who all seem to be wearing digital clocks on their heads counting down to the point where they are unwillingly made a part of someone else's character development) to investigate a mysterious island where they find a storm preventing them from leaving and a mad cult of bearded castaways who have for years been using inflated shopping bags tied to sticks as substitutes for female companionship. So all the pieces are in place for Lara Croft to get the absolute shit kicked out of her for ten hours.

Oh, I see. When Lara Croft gets beaten up we're supposed to admire her strength of character, but when the same thing happens to Nathan Drake we're supposed to point and laugh? WHY DO YOU HATE MEN SO MUCH GAMES INDUSTRY? Now obviously that was sarcasm because Nathan Drake has never been the subject of a controversial attempted rape scene. Although if you miss the quick-time event to fight off the attempted rapist — which I did 'cause the timing is really annoying on those things — then it turns out he only wanted to throttle her to death! PHEW! Maybe we shouldn't be so quick to misjudge these hairy cultist murderers.

Well, speaking of Nathan Drake, I like Tomb Raider when it's actually being Tomb Raider and I like it a lot less when it's being Uncharted. I like it when I can freely jump and climb around the areas exploring, finding treasures and murdering more animals than Bernard and Matthew combined. I don't like it when I find myself thinking, "What an exciting fast paced action sequence, I wish I'd been playing it". There are the quick-time events which only count as gameplay if licking the back of your teeth counts as a square meal, and then there are the things where you are technically in full control but if you do anything other than run in the indicated direction within two seconds, then we are going to beat you to death with a grave digger's spade. Basically a quick-time event in a big hat and baggy coat and nonchalantly whistling.

The problem with the rest of the game is that there doesn't seem to be a central mechanic; there's just a whole load of stuff that you do. For example, the first thing Lara has to do after acquiring a bow is make a few deer into instant spit roasts. And you'd be forgiven for thinking that this is setting up some kind of survival mechanic, ala Metal Gear Solid 3, where you have to eat food to not die from not eating food) stop me if that sounds a bit technical.) But no, this is just to satisfy a critical path objective and you never need to kill animals again. Assassin's Creed 3 did this too; gameplay elements introduced, tutorialised and then forgotten about like a desperate babysitter trying to hold our attention with a box full of shiny objects.

Half the game's mechanics have no connectivity; they don't unlock more challenge or make things more fun, it's just there if you feel like doing it, because in the ongoing quest to make games as homogenized as possible, many now lack even the balls to say, "put in some effort or you can't continue". Games now just drop challenges in like turds in a paddling pool and advise us to swim around them if they frighten us. Well I want those turds fired at my mouth from a tennis ball cannon so I can smack them out of the way and feel like I've achieved something, goddammit!

If there is an element around which all else could be said to revolve it might be collectables, which are more numerous than the droplets of spit on Bill O'Reilly's Autocue. The Easter Bunny has outsourced the island to his friends Document Bunny and Relic Bunny and one Flighty and Eccentric Bunny who couldn't be tied down by your labels, man, so left a unique set of collectables for each area like stealing ten eggs or desecrating five graves. But again, where's the context? How does it connect? It's not helping her survive, and if it's just spite that makes Lara want to kick seven cultist totems over, then one would have thought that sticking flaming arrows in all their jugular veins would have been enough.

Is the violence in this game a bit gratuitous, do we think? Is a climbing axe to the carotid artery a poor way to start a relaxing Sunday afternoon? The violence directed at Lara certainly gets fucking absurd. Again like Uncharted, it just loathes it's protagonist, and Nathan Drake is a strapping young stud with a bulletproof haircut. In a sane world, Lara would be squirting liquidized organs out of her tear ducts and it just makes the game silly when it's trying to be dramatic.

This, Far Cry 3 and Spec Ops: The Line may represent a current trend for serious character building through gritty violence, which as a story hound I can dig like a shallow grave, but where I Spit On Your Tomb falls short is that I don't buy Lara's alleged arc. She has one freakout the first time she shoots a bloke, but once that's out of the way call her "Lara Croft, Brain-matter House Painter." Later on, when she's supposed to be yelling defiantly at her foes, the voice actress sounds more like the head girl giving the half-time pep talk at the county netball finals.

But the essence of the issue for me is that Lara is entirely reactionary. The universe just declares her chew toy of the day; she's either given no other option but to proceed or the ground simply collapses under her big fat arse. Captain Walker decides to use the white phosphorous. Jason Brody decides to stay on the island. That's what makes their characters develop. Lara just alternates between breathy whimpers and bland resignation. So you can kill a man and take a machete like a champ. A concrete block can do that, but you can't kick one out the back of a moving truck and call that a character arc.

AddendaEdit

The raid in spaid falls mainly on the plaid: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

Why two vests? If the first vest was too cold, why wouldn't you then put a warmer kind of shirt on?

Also I think she was wearing hiking boots in her bunk

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells

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