Call of Duty’s bottomless content machine has claimed Lara Croft

Lara Croft is coming to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone as part of the imminent Season 5 content drop, and… I am not OK with this. I am not OK. The news has been out there for a while, but today’s Activision screenshot bulletin is the first I’ve heard of it, and I am here to tell you that this is a travesty and a disgrace and, excuse me, I’m sorry, I need a moment. What have they done to you, Lara? Oh hell, they’ve even used your “I only play for sport” quote from the original TR intro as a finishing move catchphrase. Good night, sweet Croft. May flights of angels (of Darkness) sing you to your rest.

Some might argue that Lara Croft makes a good fit for Call of Duty, given that she is famously trigger-happy. Her Modern Warfare debut makes particular sense in the wake of the Crystal Dynamics-helmed “Survivor” games, which broadly alternate between Lara getting all messed up Mortal Kombat-style and Lara massacring hordes of goons and wildlife in a sort of apologetic way. Some might even see the sparks of future triumph: over at Eurogamer, Victoria Kennedy notes that the Call of Duty Lara design blends elements from Crystal’s work and the old Core Design games, perhaps anticipating the direction of the next Amazon-published Tomb Raider, or even the Phoebe Waller-Bridge-penned TV show. A third group of people might note that Lara has guest-starred in everything from Fortnite to Powerwash Simulator at this stage, and for heavens’ sake, man, get ahold of yourself.

Well, I refuse to get ahold of myself. I still cling to the Core Design vision of Tomb Raider as a game of enveloping silences, pixel shadows and secretive obstacle courses, where the gunplay served mostly as an infrequent pace-breaker. It had precedents, but the first, 1997-released Tomb Raider came at a time when the idea of fully 3D space in a videogame was still relatively novel and mysterious, and the act of moving through it, relatively undecided. The standardisation of look/move controls is in large part thanks to the success of franchises like Call of Duty, which opened doors six years later in 2003.

For all the lad mag positioning of Lara as gaming’s first proper “It girl”, I found the original Tomb Raider to be an eerie, peaceful experience. You see traces of it in younger, acrobatic walking sims like BABDDI and Lorn’s Lure. I do take the point about Lara doing lots of cameo gigs – only Sonic has more of a reputation for it, probably – and I don’t want to rag too much on Call of Duty, whose elder levels are comparably strange (here’s Jeremy’s best/worst COD campaigns feature if you need a reminder). But there’s something about her taking up arms in the Warzone that does my head in.

Here is how Cara Ellison (RPS in peace) described her early experiences of Tomb Raider back in the day:

“That malfunctioning ATI card kicks me straight into that first desolate corridor. No cutscene. I am twelve, terrified. The computer screen looms over me. The soundloop kicks in – hollow noises like huge footsteps boom in the background: creaks, low moans. I’m aware the woman on screen is wearing very little. You can see too much flesh on her – she is miles away from help, shut in this cave. She can see wolf tracks, hear whispers… But she is on her own.

“What is the worst that can happen to her? I glance at the manual. I draw Lara’s guns. I walk into the claustrophobic darkness.”

In Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone Season 05 Reloaded, out 30th August, Lara gets a Mythic Defender SMG and a Tomb Buggy skin for the Chop Top. Oh well, we’ll always have Gex.

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