Monday 28 January 2013

Tomb Raider II 1997 Retrospective

The huge worldwide commercial and critical success of 1996's Tomb Raider meant it was only a matter of time before a sequel would be released and I couldn't bloody wait. I remember being so excited, it was at the very top of my Christmas list and come Christmas morning, I wasn't disappointed. I loved the first Tomb Raider, and after recently replaying the original, which you can read more about right here, I decided to take a trip down memory lane once more and take a look at Tomb Raider II. 

She totally had a boob job since the last one, you can so tell.
The first level feels very much like classic Tomb Raider; how exciting is it when you run through the tunnel and the floor falls through, only for you to drop into another tunnel with two boulders coming at you and it doesn't end there. After you escape, you have to run, jump, climb and fall in a race against time to escape this place before you're crushed, stabbed or decapitated. It's at this point you realise that this game is going to be bigger and better then the original. 

That's what made the game so good. It took the best bits of the original game and expanded on them. The amount of time between the first Tomb Raider and the second wasn't very long, so the graphics haven't improved vastly - the world of Lara Croft is still essentially made up from square blocks - but with a little extra details that make the game world even more real. There were more locations, more weapons, more costume changes and more enemies to kill. Within moments of the game starting, you're shooting endangered species, a Bengal Tiger no less and are attacked by a crow, why would a crow attack you? What is this; Alfred Hitchcock's Tomb Raider? The biggest improvement to the game though was Lara herself, and while she still had the monkey-like face, she was no longer wearing the Madonna style cone bra and that weird hair bun was replaced by her iconic long pony tail that seems to have a life of its own. 

I'd completely forgotten about the T-Rex in this one, which meant I was genuinely surprised to see Lara's old friend pop up. It still fills me with fear when that music kicks in and you know some shit is about to go down. Once again, Lara chooses to kill the last remaining T-Rex in the world, always the conservationist. After the criticism of Lara's shameless slaughtering of poor defenseless animals in the first game, Core decided to  mix things up a bit for the sequel, so this time she's killing people as well. Yes, that's much better. 

Before long it's off to Venice, well more of an abstract artist's version of Venice, to develop the plot further, if you can call it that. You get to enjoy a killing spree and you also get to drive a speed boat, the first of two vehicles you are allowed to play with, the other being the snowmobile in the Tibet levels. At this point in the game, Lara has nearly killed 20 people, all very tall Asian men it would seem. The combat hasn't changed at all, but due to excessive playing when I was a teenager and a recent replay of the first game, the controls felt better but were still very clunky. The addition of the wall climbing wasn't really the biggest leap forward but the 180 degree drop roll was awesome, I found myself doing it a hell of a lot for no real reason, just because I could. I also loved the flares, I wasted a load of them. 

There isn't really much of a story to follow, just an excuse to have Lara fly around the world, but I didn't care because it's cool to see Lara walking down the Great Wall of China, driving a speed boat down the canals of Venice, exploring underwater ship wrecks and crashing a plane in the Tibet mountains, where you come across yetis. There was something very unsettling about those yetis, I think it's partly due to the noise they made or the fact that after they'd killed Lara, they would swing her around like a rag doll. 

The first time you encounter them in the game, when you drop into that dark room and you hear them screaming, I was genuinely a bit scared... ok a lot scared. I didn't even care about the seemingly  stupid delve into the surreal dreamlike realm of the floating islands (James Cameron's inspiration behind Avatar?), where weird ass statues came to life with giant swords. I seriously did not like them, they were worse than those creepy cat mummies from the first one.

There was so much about the game that has dated, but still so much about the game that I loved. The training level in Lara's mansion has been expanded and now comes with a butler and a garden, not to mention the home invasion of the last level with Lara in her very short dressing gown. Oh, and the ending, when she's just killed a shit load of people in her own home, does she call the police? Hell no. She takes a shower and just as she's about to take off her robe she looks at the camera and says... 
"don't you think you've seen enough?" Bang! I love it. 

After revisiting Tomb Raider II, I saw Lara in a new light. Shes a monster, one of the most notorious serial killers in history. Her kill count must be in the hundreds. This woman is clearly mentally disturbed and if you see her, do not approach her. Call the police immediately and run, run! 

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