It’s about tomb for a new Lara Croft A new ‘Raider’ game

The latest ‘Raider’ game will an­swer de­mands by fans that the war­rior hero ex­plore more ru­ins.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Todd Martens Todd.martens@latimes.com

There was a bear block­ing the path of Lara Croft. Please, I thought, do not let her kill this bear.

She had al­ready taken down four or five men — maybe even six, since the Molo­tov cock­tail had a wide ex­plo­sive ring — but all of them seemed like creeps and they had or­ders to kill any­thing that moved. They had it com­ing, but this bear? This bear could roar, that was for sure, but I’m not so sure this bear de­served to die.

The bear, af­ter all, didn’t know any bet­ter, and Croft seemed as much as part of the wilder­ness as the ani- mal. Mo­ments ear­lier, she had ripped open the car­cass of a deer, need­ing parts for an arrow. Croft could cer­tainly this take on this bear. The bear would be wise to avoid Croft, not the other way around.

Lara Croft is per­haps only sec­ond to Mario when it comes to video-game char­ac­ters that are house­hold names, and the Croft in “Rise of the Tomb Raider” is a sea­soned war­rior. Per­haps a conf licted one, but one whose great­est — and per­haps only — foe ap­pears to be the nat­u­ral el­e­ments.

“Rise of the Tomb Raider” will be re­leased for the Xbox One this hol­i­day sea­son, and the game was the sub­ject of just one of many ex­tended pre­views Tues­day at the Elec­tronic En­ter­tain­ment Expo (E3) at the Los An­ge­les Con­ven­tion Cen­ter.

With the fol­low-up to 2013’s sim­ply ti­tled “Tomb Raider,” de­vel­op­ers on Tues­day sought to ex­plain how the forth­com­ing game cen­ters not on Croft’s bat­tles against, well, more hu­man el­e­ments, but in­stead fo­cuses on the ob­sta­cles that block her de­sire to ex­plore. Bar­ri­ers could be the freez­ing cold, lack of food, the pun­ish­ing side of a moun­tain or maybe even the so­called men of the Trin­ity who sought to reach the same an­cient ru­ins as Croft.

But men with guns were in­signif­i­cant com­pared to this bear.

The game, af­ter all, is one that cen­ters on the theme of “woman ver­sus wild,” says Noah Hughes, cre­ative di­rec­tor for the Crys­tal Dy­nam­ics/Square Enix game.

This much was cer­tain: Un­like the 2013 ti­tle, which boasted supernatural el­e­ments and saw Croft tak­ing on an army of the world’s most worth­less men, “Rise of the Tomb Raider” will fo­cus on Croft the ad­ven­turer. In bits and pieces of the game shown Tues­day, Croft was a loner, en­cour­ag­ing a pal not to fol­low her into the wilds and def­i­nitely seem­ing more at peace talk­ing to the wind.

And yes, this time around Croft will be quest­ing her way into tombs — lots of them.

“‘Rise of the Tomb Raider’ re­turns Lara Croft to her roots as an ad­ven­turer as a su­per-pow­er­ful woman who has in­cred­i­ble brav­ery and who’s able to think re­ally quickly and get her­self through some truly ter­ri­fy­ing sit­u­a­tions, all in quest of the next big ad­ven­ture,” says Shan­non Loftis, GM of Mi­crosoft Stu­dios. “I think I saw one per­son online say, ‘Wow, look, the tomb raider is ac­tu­ally raid­ing tombs.’ I love that.”

“Rise of the Tomb Raider,” Hughes ex­plains, will be less about Croft the videogame as­sas­sin and more about Croft the video-game ar­chae­ol­o­gist. There will be ac­tion, sure. In one scene, the Trin­ity had Croft sur­rounded, at least un­til Croft

found higher ground in a tree and ren­dered a man un­con­scious by jump­ing and swat­ting him with the end of her bow. A few poi­soned ar­rows took care of the rest.

Yet there will also be an­cient lan­guages Croft has to un­cover, and she’ll be fol­low­ing the texts of her ar­chae­ol­o­gist fa­ther to lead her to lost crypts. “This is Lara’s great tomb-raid­ing ex­pe­di­tion,” Hughes prom­ises. “One of the most com­mon pieces of feed­back we heard last time was ‘more tombs.’

“We rec­og­nize that a lot of fans want as much ‘tomb’ as they can get,” he adds.

Since Crys­tal Dy­nam­ics/ Square Enix re­booted the famed fran­chise for con­soles in 2013, the se­ries has em­pha­sized a more re­al­is­tic, hu­man Croft, one more in­ter­ested in think­ing out loud than wear­ing tight-fit­ting cloth­ing and of­fer­ing sar­cas- tic quips. When the team pre­viewed the game at last year’s E3, it was Croft vis­it­ing a psy­chi­a­trist, one who en­cour­aged her to “take some walks, maybe pick up a nice hobby.”

“Tomb Raider” dif­fer­en­ti­ated it­self from most main­stream video games by fo­cus­ing on Croft as a fully de­vel­oped char­ac­ter with nor­mal flaws, not just a hu­man with nearly su­per­power abil- ities. Hughes said Croft at the start of “Rise of the Tomb Raider” is still deal­ing with the trauma of the events of the last game, but he stressed that it’s not so much the vi­o­lence Croft en- dured as it is the fact that no one be­lieves Croft’s tales re­gard­ing the more oth­er­worldly el­e­ments she wit­nessed.

“Lara is in a tough place when she comes back,” Hughes said. “I think part of that is sort of the trauma she ex­pe­ri­enced, but an im­por­tant sub­text of that sce­nario is that she saw some­thing she couldn’t ex­plain and no one else re­ally be­lieves her.

“She be­lieves,” he con­tin­ued, “that there’s an un­der­ly­ing hu­man truth be­hind these myths. To some ex­tent, it makes her the crazy one in her world. It’s hard for her to just re­turn to a nor­mal life. We catch up to her a bit adrift. Like the first one, this is a story about iden­tity.”

It’s a shame, then, that a wild bear got mixed up in it. At first, it seemed like Croft had got­ten the best of the crea­ture. She first tried to out­run it, and when that failed she found a crevice in the for­est trees and at­tacked it with her moun­tain climb­ing ice ax. That should have been enough, but Croft ul­ti­mately needed to tra­verse the bear’s cave for pas­sage to the ru­ins.

“You can try,” Hughes says, “to get past the bear with­out killing the bear.”

But it won’t hap­pen. As early glimpses of “Rise of the Tomb Raider” show, it’s Croft’s abil­i­ties to master the el­e­ments that most im­press.

Chris­tian Petersen Getty Im­ages

GAME di­rec­tor Brian Hor­ton talks about “Rise of the Tomb Raider” at the an­nual E3 in Los An­ge­les.

Michael Nel­son Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

A WOMAN

em­u­lates hero Lara Croft in front of a poster for the hotly an­tic­i­pated “Rise of the Tomb Raider.”

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