This new Tomb Raider game is being hailed as a reboot of the series. Really? If my PC had to be rebooted as many times as this franchise, I'd have thrown it out years ago.
Are publishers Square Enix and developers Crystal Dynamics serious? Since the 1996 release of the first Tomb Raider, there have been - excluding the crude handheld and mobile versions and the spin-off Guardian of Light, and including the upcoming game – eight games in the franchise.
Of those eight, there have been three games marketed as "reboots" of the series. Three! In 2003, we got Angel of Darkness, a "reboot" aimed at bringing Lara Croft into a darker, more complex storyline. In 2006, we got Tomb Raider: Legend, another reboot, this time featuring a new developer (Crystal Dynamics replacing series creator Core Studios) and a new look for the game's star.
Now, in 2011, there'll be another reboot, with Lara's look again changed while the game looks to be less about jumping around with guns and more about fighting for your life.
Those three "reboots" have been three of the last four Tomb Raider games, with only 2008's Underworld, a sequel to Legend, content to leave things as they were.
If that's not proof there's something wrong with the very idea of Tomb Raider, I don't know what is.
Yeah, the original game was a classic. Lara Croft is an icon in video gaming history. But she was at the height of her powers in the 1990s, and as we close upon 2011, the 1990s were a long time ago.
A successful series, built upon a brand that sold and starring a character that appealed to people, wouldn't need to "reboot" three of its last four games. It would do what it did, like Mario does, perhaps with tweaks and modifications along the way, but never needing to take such drastic measures as overhauling almost every part of the game, from engine to character design, every time it stepped out. Especially when the last two games weren't that bad!
Take Call of Duty as an example: it debuted in 2003, the same year as Tomb Raider's first reboot, and in the seven years that followed has revamped its setting once (the move away from World War Two into the more contemporary environments of Modern Warfare and Black Ops), and revamped its gameplay… well, not much has changed there at all.
Last I checked, for all its flaws, it was the biggest video game series on the planet right now.
The saddest thing is, I like the look of this Lara. I like how she's going to be a normal, vulnerable woman. I like the premise of scrabbling for survival on an island. I like everything I've seen and heard about this new Tomb Raider game, in fact, except the fact it's called Tomb Raider. Surely something this fresh and different deserved to be given its own chance to shine, rather than having a brand name bolted onto it that has so little in common with what it's trying to do?
So it might just be time to let Tomb Raider, and Lara Croft with it, rest a while. You can reboot the series until she's a half-human Space Marine fighting in the salt mines of Jupiter, and it won't change the fact the franchise still, for most people, reminds them of a girl from the 1990s with short shorts and massive breasts. Especially when there's a new Tomb Raider game every year or two to jog their memories.