It’s been a good long time since Lara Croft went on a proper adventure – granted it was only back in 2008 when we saw her last in Tomb Raider: Underworld but prior to that the last GREAT Tomb Raider game was back in 1999 in The Last Revelation (omitting the four Tomb Raider games between Last Revelation and Underworld as frankly, they weren’t great) But it’s okay to say that you didn’t enjoy those other Tomb Raider games because come early 2013 Tomb Raider will show you that the wait has indeed been worth it and remind you why you fell in love with the Tomb Raider franchise in the first place.

Now, there’s a lot to like about Lara Croft, not only is she one of the original video game sex symbols and probably adorned the walls of several of the people reading this article when you were younger (and probably still does for some of us) but she’s an icon in the industry – a timeless classic that, whilst often the subject of some ridicule – we each recognize the character for what she is. An icon.

And with most well known icons these days it’s about time Lara Croft underwent the gritty, realistic Origins Story overhaul to show you, the stalwart gamer who has been controlling the generously proportioned relic hunter all these years, what she had to go through before deciding what type of hot pants truly suited her turquoise leotard.

Like I said, Lara Croft has been the subject of a fair amount of ridicule over the last 16 years since her first outing on the original Playstation but both Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix want to expand on Lara’s first encounter with danger and survival and in our exclusive extended playthrough – we get a chance to see some of the ordeals for ourselves.

Taken from the original Tomb Raider (1996) instruction manual, Lara’s introduction is as follows: “Lara Croft, daughter of Lord Henshingly Croft, was raised to be an aristocrat from birth. After attending finishing school at the age of 21, Lara’s marriage into wealth had seemed assured, but on her way home from a skiing trip her chartered plane had crashed deep in the heart of the Himalayas. The only survivor, Lara learned how to depend on her wits to stay alive in hostile conditions, a world away from her sheltered upbringing. 2 Weeks later when she walked into the village of Tokakeriby her experiences had had a profound effect on her. Unable to stand the claustrophobic suffocating atmosphere of upper-British society,
she realised that she was only truly alive when she was travelling alone. Over the 8 following years she acquired an intimate knowledge of ancient civilisations across the globe. Her family soon disowned their prodigal daughter, and she turned to writing to fund her trips. Famed for discovering several ancient sites of profound archaeological interest she made a name for herself by publishing travel books and detailed journals of her exploits.”

Now it’s pretty obvious that Crystal Dynamics have taken some artistic license with the Tomb Raider franchise as Lara does not crash land in the Himalayas but rather is a passenger in a ship sailing through the Devils Triangle (aka the Pacific Bermuda Triangle) the ship crashes and Lara awakens on a coastline surrounded by corpses. This is where our experience with Tomb Raider begins…

Working through the coastal cliff faces and overgrown jungle mountainsides we are introduced to how Lara moves through a series of timed events, climbs, jumps and even tip-toeing across unstable log bridges. We slowly make our way to a body which has been strung up but happens to be armed with a bow. Working her terrified self onto a nearby shack roof and across a section of tree – Lara obtains her first weapon – The Bow.

Oh Deer…

A girls gotta eat, right? Absolutely and this doesn’t change if your shipwrecked so our next objective was to find food. Fortunately running around in the distance we noticed a couple of deer and through some steady aiming and persistent retries with the bow – we managed to kill one of the animals and provide Lara with the sustenance that she needed. After killing the deer and going through a John Marston-esque ‘gutting’ cutscene we lead Lara back to camp to cook her feast.

Safety in numbers…?

After polishing off her Deer meat Lara receives a radio transmission from someone we presume to be her friend (potentially on the way to rescue her) he advises Lara to leave the jungle. Moving back through the jungle which has already been explored we noticed that the door to the shack which Lara previously climbed to obtain the bow was now open. Moving into the shack, Lara is shut in by someone unknown. Being forced to move through an underground passage connected to the shack we discover here how to light, relight and handle torches and also obtain our first accessory item – the Axe.

The Axe is found buried in a slab of rotten meat from unknown origin which is then used to open ‘stuck’ doors. Moving through the level we happen to run into two additional characters One being Sarah, another survivor from the crash and a somewhat untrustworthy gentleman whose name I could not catch unfortunately. After a brief conversation with Lara, the untrustworthy gentleman takes Sarah a a hostage and drags her away at knife point. Lara giving chase.

It’s a (bear) trap!

It is, however, at this unfortunate moment where Lara accidentally steps on a bear trap! Yes folks! A bear trap chomps down onto our fearless heroines leg and at this point you are forced to protect yourself from a pack of descending wolves using only your bow-skills (we didn’t do very well at this bit)

With the wolves dispatched Lara is rescued by a band of survivors from the ship Lara was on and, after deciding to split up to search for their lost friend Sarah, go their separate ways. It is during this through this section that Lara needs to upgrade her Axe to help turn a handle to open a sealed door. Doing this requires you to gather some Upgrade Materials from different boxes in this section of level then return to the campfire nearby and upgrade the Axe. With our newly upgraded axe we are able to open the sealed door just in time to get captured again and taken prisoner.

THAT moment

After being captured, one of Lara’s friends reminds her multiple times to ‘do anything they say, Lara’ and upon some of Lara’s friends fleeing the captors, Lara escapes in the confusion only to be caught by one of the maurders. It is this moment which has caused a great deal on controversy in the gaming world as the slime-ball in question decides to try and force himself on Lara. Being presented with a quick-time event however you can fight him off by biting his ear, kicking him in his (no longer) happy place and then fighting with a gun and finally blowing his brains out. But what of that controversial moment? What happens if you simply (and against all better judgment) fail the quick time event? Well…we found out…

If you fail the quick time event the marauder simply shoots Lara…that’s it, no ulterior motive, just old fashioned murder. Which is obviously fine by todays standards.

This concluded our preview of Tomb Raider but I went away safe in the knowledge that not only will the new Lara Croft adventure be an excellent game and addition to the franchise but will give people a whole new appreciation to Lara as a character.

Tomb Raider is due for release March 2013