Can I just say how much I love the redesigned Lara Croft? Gone is the cone-breasted, lips-so-pouty-they-cover-half-her-face character purely designed for blokes to oggle and snicker as they play an otherwise badass woman.
Look at her. She is strong-looking, with arms that aren't stick thin. Her waist isn't impossibly small and looks like she requires help keeping her torso upright. Her legs, too, are thicker and stronger-looking. It is believable that she can haul her weight around, scaling walls and climbing rusty communication towers.
Yes, the graphics are better, but I'm not really talking about that. I'm talking about the design of the character. Everything is much better.
Even her clothes are much more suited to her activities. Heavy boots, long pants with pockets... I love this character design.
Essentially, this is the telling of how Lara Croft went from typical young woman to dual-pistol wielding badass. It is the story of a young woman who finds out precisely what she is made of (determination, brains and a whole lot of courage, in case you were wondering). It's a rough lesson, costing her friends and loved ones along the way.
The characters were well crafted and acted. Their relationships were touched on well enough that you felt the connections without devoting much-needed time from the urgent story unfolding before you. And that is important because there are deaths in game that would not be nearly as impactful as they were without the establishing of those relationships. It was done in such a smart way, too; through journal entries that you can find, and the reviewing of footage from the found camera of Samantha Nishimura.
The death that really got me was Roth's. I do not mind admitting that I teared up. I'm a little salty about it, but it does provide from some of the most poetic badassery in the game; gifted with Roth's twin pistols (a nice nod to the original character's weapons of choice), you get to use them to blast the fuck out of the bastard who killed him.
THAT WAS FOR ROTH, YOU MOTHER FUCKER!
Honestly, it was so satisfying to watch that guy tumble off the edge of a cliff full of my (formerly Roth's) bullets. A wonderful piece of story-telling, and a very satisfying part of the game.
I really like how they handled Lara's character. She's not just a tough badass. She's also a normal young woman, with a curious mind and a great brain. She reacts in completely understandable ways to the situation she finds herself in, which is to say, she's frightened.
Hell, I would be too. And there's no way that I'd be able to keep going the way Lara does.
Treating the heroine this way makes everything she does so much more meaningful. She is terrified, but she does it anyway. Her defiantly shouting, "You're not going to stop me!" at the enemy as she's trying to save her friends means something. That is courage. Real courage.
Heroes that blast through enemies without fear are boring. The stakes don't feel quite so high. More, I can't really relate to people who don't actually feel fear. Lara Croft was relatable and admirable. She's a normal woman, who just happens to have ovaries of steel. And she discovers her strength as we do.
Well done on the story.
I'm still salty about Roth, though.
Strangely, this game does hold to the trope of a young, pretty useless woman (sorry, Samantha) that is in need of rescue... repeatedly. However, it's another woman, Lara, who is doing the rescuing, and not because it's a love interest, but because they are friends, and you don't leave friends behind. It was both an irritating and fantastic twist of a trope.
There were very few instances where wonky controls left me frustrated (there was one bit, in which across was mistaken for up, and vice versa) and almost all my deaths were down to my complete inability to play with any sort of skill.
I'm really not good at quicktime events, guys!
My only gripe, and it's not that much of a gripe, because the pace helped with the urgent feel of the game, particularly in the final act, is that it was too short.
A great game. Well done.