TR5: Lara Kills

The second chapter of Tomb Raider: Chronicles sends you after the Spear of Destiny, an artifact I know mainly from videogames — most notably Wolfenstein, which I hold responsible for popularizing the “Spear of Destiny” name, but I’m sure I’ve seen it referenced in a couple of other games as well, even though I can’t think of their names just now. At any rate, the writers here certainly seem to have Wolfenstein in mind, because they put Nazis into its backstory. As the result of a failed retrieval attempt during the war, the spear is apparently now lying at the bottom of the ocean in the wreck of a U-boat. The Russian navy is launching an expedition to find it, and Lara managed to sneak aboard.

Or perhaps “sneak” is the wrong word, given the body count. Lara Croft is a one-woman diplomatic disaster here. Back in the Rome chapter, she did murder a couple of people (not counting the anachronistic gladiators, which I think were more like ghosts or zombies or something), but they were rival treasure-hunters who were trying to jack her claim, so it came off as kind of fair. Here, she’s just charging into a foreign military base and slaughtering everyone she comes across. Given that the chapter can’t be occurring very many years before the game’s present (if only because of Lara’s apparent age), this presumably isn’t even cold-war era. Maybe this is why they spend so much of the level’s cutscenes establishing that the expedition is backed by the Mafia. Just to make them unambiguously bad.

Tangentially: I refer to Lara as a “treasure-hunter”, because that’s what she is. The game’s introductory cutscene has someone call her an “archeologist”, but that’s always seemed inaccurate to me. We’ve seen how Lara behaves. She never lays out a site grid. She picks things up without recording the location they were found. She’s a little too cavalier about discharging firearms in the vicinity of ancient pottery. A lot of these accusations can be leveled at Indiana Jones too, but he’s got tenure and can do what he wants.

At any rate, regardless of whether you call her an archeologist or a treasure-hunter, she’s also a mass murderer. I recall this only really becoming the case in the second Tomb Raider game; in the first, the enemies were mainly animals or monsters, and the few humans you fought were clear cases of self-defense, people who tricked you and trapped you with intent to kill, and gave you no choice but to fight back. Here in Chronicles, Lara is clearly electing to go all Rambo III.

It’s still mostly exploration and jumping puzzles, though.

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