Hey, listen, I didn’t want to play a new “Tomb Raider” game. I know you got sick of the series years ago. I did too. But this new “Tomb Raider” reboot is a breathless masterpiece.
It is one of the best games of the 21st century.
This is not another “Lara-Croft-is-doing-handstands-while-spelunking” game. Oh, no, no, no.
The whole 20 hours I played it, I kept thinking, “This is like ‘God of War’ meets ‘Uncharted 2.’” It’s exhilarating, fun and scary.
In “Tomb Raider” (a March 5 release), we begin in a boat off the coast of Japan. Lara and her archaeologist friends are hunting for a lost kingdom.
But the ship wrecks on an island. You (Lara) are punched in the back of the head and held captive, upside-down in a cocoon, by nasty men.
You shake loose from your constraints, fall to the ground, get impaled by a rod to the gut, then stumble, bloody and terrified, through caves where corpses hang in tortured positions.
Depending on your generation, those and later horror passages in “Tomb Raider” may remind you of 1972’s “Deliverance” or 2007’s “Hostel: Part II” — including the main character’s sad disgust with killing to survive.
After you escape your kidnappers, the game does what all epics do these days. It becomes a sprawling cinematic travelogue.
You move by foot across snowy mountains, creepy caves, leafy forests, local shantytowns and rusty ships on beautiful beaches.
The plot: These “Deliverance” villains are beholden to a terrible force. The island may be cursed. And Lara unravels an island mystery about the shaman queen Himiko from third century Japan. (There once was an actual Queen Himiko, so this game mythologizes her.)
Your duty as Lara is to survive, help your friend and try to escape the island, which suffers from a constant storm, sort of like “The Bermuda Triangle” times a thousand.
This game legitimately startled me and made my heart race. Here’s just one scene that freaked me out:
Your hands are tied behind your back. It’s nighttime in the forest. And you must creep past those “Deliverance” guards, or they will slowly stick a knife in your neck.
Most of the time, you are equipped with a bow and arrow, and this is the best bow-and-arrow game ever. You also find guns. You upgrade those weapons. They are shockingly entertaining.
You solve puzzles, such as moving objects around to open passageways. And you climb a lot, and jump across big gaps while crossing mountain divides.
Great credit goes to Executive Producer Ron Rosenberg, Creative Director Noah Hughes, two co-directors and a cast and crew of actors, artists, musicians and many computer geniuses.
By the way, the original “Tomb Raider” games were fun for their era, and they gave gamers a chesty heroine to gawk at while she did cartwheels.
That female objectification is gone. Lara Croft here is a fully realized human with strengths, feelings and flaws. And you know what? She’s sexier than ever.
(“Tomb Raider” by Square Enix is a March 5 release for PS 3, Xbox 360 and PC — Plays exhilarating and fun. Looks awesome. Moderately challenging. Rated “M” for blood, gore, intense violence, strong language. Four out of four stars.)
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Doug Elfman is an entertainment writer for the Las Vegas (NV) Review-Journal. Contact him at DElfman@reviewjournal.com