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Horror Obscura 2016: Tomb Raider Series

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Tomb Raider is a very well known series in fact just recently the series hit its landmark 20th anniversary so it felt fitting to enter the series into the Horror Obscura this year.  Many of course will argue that the Tomb Raider series is an action series but lingering in those tombs in practically every entry of the series there are horror themes to be found. So to celebrate the 20th anniversary and talk about some horror it’s time to discuss some of Tomb Raider‘s most memorable scares.

Number One: Friggin Dinosaurs! And other beasts…

tomb_raider_trexOne of the most memorable moments in the entire series comes from the very first Tomb Raider game where you’re simply walking through The Lost Valley (also the title of the level) when suddenly a giant T-Rex just emerges from the distance, you know dinosaurs just makes sense right. This really was a moment that you had to experience for yourself without seeing it coming much like the first time the Zombie dogs appear in Resident Evil. Sadly with the Internet (and I’m even guiltily mentioning it in this article), the moment has been spoiled for a lot of people. Not only does this gigantic beast appear but you’re expected to kill the thing with your pathetic dual pistols (unless of course you hunt down the shotgun first). Yes, you could just run but where’s the fun in that? The whole point is taking this monstrosity down and feeling awesome while doing it. Not only is there a T-Rex but you soon find there are red raptor enemies after you to. Although not as terrifying as the T-Rex it was still unexpected and a great design choice, especially because it’s isolated to this level alone in the entire game. My next memory of dinos came in Tomb Raider 3. In the South Pacific section of the Crash Site level, the dinosaurs once again make a comeback. Although these dinosaurs appearances were not as surprising as the T-Rex from the first game it still felt unexpected. The T-Rex encounter was revisited in Tomb Raider Anniversary but I felt the encounter failed to recapture the surprise and terror of the original game. The T-Rex was now handled in a set piece style boss battle rather than just having it just appear in the level as you explore. It’s worth pointing out that I’m a massive Jurassic Park fan so throwing some dinosaurs in any game and I’m all good.

Yes, there are other beasts in this series that deliver the odd jump scares particularly when those odd skinned mummies turn up in the first game. Another surprise moment was when the god like statues with those swords came to life in Tomb Raider 3. Other beasties come out the woodwork which give you the chill but guys frigging dinosaurs turn up!

Number 2: Lara dies…….a lot

tomb_raider_2013_impaleIf you’ve played any entry in the Tomb Raider series one thing that is most certainly memorable through your playthrough is that Lara is going to die, over and over. Not only is she going die she is going to do it in a multitude of horrible ways. Unless of course you’re some sort of video game saint who never dies in games, then congratulations to you on being awesome. But for many of us, the Tomb Raider games are not kind to Lara- in the original Playstation games Lara gets impaled on spikes, drowns horribly in water, turns to solid gold, gets eaten by a giant T-Rex, burns in larva and the most memorable of all collapses into a horrible heap after falling from a great height. I remember watching a documentary on Tomb Raider games on Playstation and the dev team mentioned they had one member of the team hired to literally come up with these horrible ways to kill Lara. Death then seemed to be rather kind to Lara for the first reboot trilogy from Crystal Dynamics (Legends, Anniversary and Underworld) in fact most of the games in the series were classed with a “12” certificate (BBFC) in the UK whereas the original Playstation series carries a ’15’ certificate. For the second reboot however (2013’s Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider) Crystal Dynamics turned up the violence to a “18” certificate in Europe (Pegi rating). In most of the reboots the developers seem to really enjoy hurting Lara. In fact, she spends a lot of Tomb Raider (2013) holding her side in pain. Then of course the over the top gory deaths return. Lara gets impaled, crushed by rocks, shot in the face and of course eaten by wolves. Death is very disturbing in the Tomb Raider series.

Number 3: Artifacts are not Good

The Tomb Raider games are generally about finding some form of artifact. You quickly find after playing through the first game that artifacts are pretty bad and tend to lead to bad things in general for the world or usually for the person Lara is hunting the artifact for. The bad guys in Tomb Raider 2 and 3 both turn into beasties as a result of the main artifact in the game. The guy in the second game turns into a friggin’ dragon. In Tomb Raider The Last Revelation Lara quickly recovers an artifact which sets in motion the Armageddon unless she stops it. You would’ve thought Lara would have learnt artifacts are generally bad by now, (or at least done some research first) through all her adventures but nope she just carries on hunting and putting the world at risk anyway.

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Number 4: Lara is a Horrible person

Part of the real horror of this series is just how nasty Lara is as a character. In the Original Playstation ( and first reboot series) Lara happily goes around murdering the animal kingdom and almost as happily shooting every man she comes across with no remorse. The character is portrayed as quite the cold blooded killer. In Tomb Raider 3 she by choice invades Area 51 and kills all the security guards just to get an artifact. Yes, this is a video game and yes, we’re all having fun but you reach those moments in these game where you think, “who’s the real bad guy in this game?” In fact it was only until we saw the second reboot of the series where Lara was given a little more humanity. She was very upset when she killed her first dear and even when she kills a person for the first time she seems generally shaken by the experience. Of course the game and Rise of the Tomb Raider quickly see Lara return to her mass killing ways but I guess that’s video games for you.

Number 5: Isolation

tomb_raider_legend_wpThe most important point of all linking the entire Tomb Raider series to horror is the feeling of isolation. The original Playstation handled these feelings of loneliness and concern with great effect. The music as you entered a tomb would often echo with dread. The atmosphere created there really gave you the impression that this is not a happy joyful exploration. You’re exploring a horrible place and there is a high chance you’ll die, because its a Tomb Raider game and that’s just what happens. This atmosphere was not as well re-created in the modern entries of Tomb Raider (Legends and onward) which felt much more action packed.

When you really think about it Tomb Raider actually covers a lot of horror sub genres. You’ve got the creepy tombs, the isolation, the gore, the psycho complex and of course that general spooky feeling. So next time you try a Tomb Raider game consider turning the lights off if you dare.  If you want to know which title I think is the scariest its probably Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation. It pretty much ticks all the points made above and contains the most disturbing imagery in the game. It’s a tough game to finish but worth a visit for the hardcore fans.

One Response

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  1. You could have used at least 1 screenshot from the PS1 era titles. But Anniversary is good too.

    Andrew

    November 8, 2016 at 12:00 pm


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