Tomb Raider EP13: Talk to the Butt

By Shamus
on Jul 17, 2013
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m not a huge fan of the cutscenes in this game, but this one is where the game jumped from “annoying” to “infuriating”. This isn’t just a bad cutscene, this is a disaster of a cutscene. This is “Commander Shepard aiming his pistol at Kai Leng and making derpy faces” level of stupid.

Let us count the flaws:

  1. Lara switched to the worst possible weapon.
  2. Lara waits and waits. I can understand that a real human being might hesitate in this context, but the game doesn’t give us any clue as to why Lara is standing there like a dunce. Is she scared? Listening in? Waiting for an opportune moment? As far as I can tell she’s just waiting for the most tactically unsound moment to strike.
  3. Lara shoots one guy and then lets herself get overrun.
  4. After the ceremony, the bad guy sends Lara away instead of killing her on the spot.
  5. The fight on the bridge is awkward as hell.
  6. The bad guys don’t follow up to make sure she’s dead.

Again, I’m not against setbacks. I’m fine with Lara getting captured in a failed rescue attempt, and I’m fine with the bad guys making mistakes and letting her live. But I am against a scene where every single character must act like a moron, particularly cases where you snatch control away from the player so you can make the player character fight ineptly.

How I’d patch this:

The bad guys were waiting for Lara and she blunders into a net, or gets ambushed, or otherwise grabbed by guys. Mattias explains, “Foolish girl. I’ve lived on this island for most of your life. Did you really think you could take me by surprise?”

Now we’ve established that Mattias is smart and plans ahead.

The mooks hold Lara while the ceremony takes place as scripted. Afterward, Mattias tries to convert Lara to his way of thinking. He makes the case that Himiko spared Sam, therefore he’s right. He says that the only way off the island is to do as he says. Lara refuses, of course.

Now we see that Mattias is nuts, but he sees himself as perfectly reasonable.

Mattias orders his men to put Lara in the pit. He tells Sam that Lara will live as long as Sam does as she’s told. Sam gives in because she’s a stupid jelly-spine. (That’s also a fault with the game, but I’m not going to try and fix that here. Although, we could give Sam a bit of initiative by having Sam be the one to offer the deal. “No! Don’t kill her! Let Lara live and I’ll do whatever you want!” Hmm. That’s an interesting idea, although it would require a few edits elsewhere in the story to make it work.)

Either way, now Mattias has a reason for keeping Lara alive – to guarantee that Sam doesn’t try to escape.

I’d add a couple of lines of dialog to the fight on the bridge. Something like:

Mook1: GRAB HER!

(beat)

Mook2: YOU grab her.

(beat)

Mook1: (Hesitating.) Did she really kill Vladamir?

Mook2 grabs at Lara. They struggle, and tumble into the abyss together. Mook2 gets spiked at the bottom. Mook1 one calls to his friend, and curses when nobody answers. Now it’s ambiguous what Mook1 is doing. Is he coming down here? Is he running to tell Mattias? Another thing to worry about, but we can justify the lack of an immediate response from the bad guys.

It’s not perfect, and a few more adjustments are probably needed to really make it work, but at least we haven’t dumb-ified both our antagonist and protagonist in the same dang scene.

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From the Archives:

  1. ACman says:

    Don’t mean to nag, but don’t you guys have episodes of Bioshock that you were meant to be trickling out? I haven’t seen one of those in weeks. We just got to the origin of mumbles screaming “Beeeeeez!” every ten minutes.

  2. anaphysik says:

    Really? REALLY? Not even halfway through?! THERE’S STILL MORE THAN DOUBLE THE CURRENT AMOUNT OF NONSENSE LEFT FOR US TO SEE?!

    ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…….

    • Chris says:

      That’s not really true – I’d wager we’re somewhere between half and 2/3 through. Definitely at least 2/3 by the end of this week.

    • Humanoid says:

      We’re not working at Disclosure Alert pace here.

    • Klay F. says:

      If you measure game length by the amount of stupid shit that happens then the game only really started about 2 or 3 actual hours in. Its okay though, the amount of dumb shit the game throws at you in the final few hours more than makes up for any lack of dumb shit at the beginning.

  3. Phil says:

    I’d like to imagine the two mooks sent to take Lara to wherever she was going were given the task because they’re the awkward new guys trying to fit in and not sure how to show initiative at their jobs. The whole time they’re walking they’re thinking to themselves, “Don’t try to escape, don’t try to escape.” Then when she does they have absolutely no idea how to handle the situation.

  4. IFS says:

    Awww you removed that spinning radio tower glitch from the credits, that thing made me laugh every time I saw it. Oh well, can’t wait to see what new exciting glitches Josh can cause next.

    Also is it just me or is this the game that’s had the most glitches of all the ones Spoiler Warning has done so far? I don’t think New Vegas had nearly as many problems…

    • The Snide Sniper says:

      Though I agree that glitches are awesome when happening in the past (and not in a multiplayer game unless it’s absolutely hilarious), Tomb Raider glitches tend to be graphics glitches, which could make the credits rather confusing to someone who hasn’t seen Tomb Raider glitching out.

      I’m certain Josh will find more glitches. All my sessions of playing Tomb Raider (barring the last one when I finally beat the game) ended when triangles randomly stretched to the center of the screen or the game otherwise became unplayable.

  5. The Nick says:

    The Fallout stuff was full of bugs. Lots of small ones.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Be right back,just have to go and wash my hands.

  7. False Prophet says:

    Clay earth can dye water reddish brown. I live near Lake Ontario on top of a shelf of red clay and this spring, the runoff stained some of the water near the shore red. I think I heard something similar once offered as a non-supernatural/divine explanation for Moses turning the Nile to blood.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    To be fair to the game,the bow is the best weapon in the game.Heck,Josh has been using it the whole time up to this point.

    • And not to disagree with Shamus, but is it possible that Lara could have not taken or not have the assault rifle at this point?

      I’ve not paid close attention to the weapon acquisition, but could it just be a case of “we know the player will have the bow, like Commander Shepard will always have the pistols” thing?

      Not that it excuses the lazy writing or stupidity. I was just wonderin’.

      • Brandon says:

        I actually don’t think it’s possible to miss any of the weapons in the game. There’s no way she doesn’t have the Assault Rifle at this point.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Nope,you must get it somewhere in tower ruins before you can continue.

        But at least you dont have explosives by this point,which make your bow even deadlier.

      • ehlijen says:

        You get every weapon in a cutscene at certain plotpoints. There is no way to avoid a weapon. You can avoid looking for upgrade parts, but you still have some kind of weapon of every type by your escape from the Oni prison.

      • ehlijen says:

        You get every weapon in a cutscene at certain plotpoints triggered by approaching a bottleneck in the level. There is no way to avoid a weapon. You can avoid looking for upgrade parts, but you still have some kind of weapon of every type by your escape from the Oni prison.

      • Baytor says:

        Also there’s the fact that in that cutscene it’s shown how the bad guys are taking all the other weapons from her back (cca 9:50). Which could be easily tied to specific playthrough but still..

        But how about not having ammo rather than weapons? And I haven’t played it but if it is possible could you also run out of arrows before that cutscene?

      • Tim Charters says:

        It is possible to not have the assault rifle, if you never picked up any salvage and, as a result, never got all 3 rifle parts. However, you will always have the submachine gun, since you pick that up in a cutscene.

    • Trix2000 says:

      I’d argue that it really isn’t, but that may be because I only used it for long-range sniping whenever it was feasible. I know I had a lot better luck with the shotgun/assault rifle in the mid-short range fights, and the pistol actually is surprisingly potent even without too many upgrades (at least compared to how games usually treat pistols…).

      The bow was certainly effective, but watching how Josh handles some of the fights kinda confirms to me that it isn’t really the best option in melee. :/

  9. When Larry comes out of the tunnel where her face was just above water, there were three skulls over the exit. Someone had to put those there as decoration as a conscious decision.

    “Nobody will ever see these, but I’ll know they’re there, looking down on whoever might be dragging themselves through our sewer. Now to lash tires and more bones to everything, then I’m on candle-lighting duty for the next week.”

  10. Alexander The 1st says:

    See, I’ve not seen The Descent, so I didn’t even think that was a river of blood – I just figured it had to do with the rocks/algae in the area.

    But on the topic that Josh brought up of twists here:

    While I didn’t think that it was going to pull a “Lara is the true one!” twist, I did think that the natural gas tunnels were going to be the Dragon’s Triangle’s mysterious effects, similar to how some scientists theorise that the methane gas hyrdrates under the Bermuda Triangle are the reason that everything crashes there.

    I mean sure, it’s not necessarily confirmed for a theory, but this to me made me think that in order to leave, they would have to collapse the natural gas caves or something to prevent the massive hollow caves causing possible storm situations around the island.

    But…Nope. They went with “Himiko is half-dead” as their explanation. Ah well.

    • Kuma says:

      Actually, I think that would have been a perfectly justified ending for this Tomb Raider, they should have had to improve a few parts on the script like the airplane accident, justify (somehow) how Sam is saved from the fire, etc. but it wouldn’t have been a big issue.
      Also, this way the developers could have played a bit with the doubt of the mith existing or not, with a final supernatural and obviously-inexplicable event that would have kept the suspense.

      This is a problem of the majority of the videogames nowadays, they need to be too obvious, show everything, explain everything, even if it doesn’t make sense, loosing the “player interpretation” in the process which is a good way to promote the game.

      P.S: Sorry for the amount of “classified information”, don’t want to spoil anything to anyone. :P

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        I think that having it explained in the end as a supernatural thing is better though.There were just too many unexplained things for it to be just a weird phenomenon.Trying to explain it with technobabble wouldve been too stupid.

        And while I do agree that many games are overexplaining things they should leave ambiguous,I dont think thats the case here.Sometimes having things explained in the end and wrapped in a bow is a good thing.

        • silver Harloe says:

          It’s pretty established that magic exists in the Laraverse (though this game would have been the one that could have bucked that trend if they wanted) – with one big caveat: it can only be done by ancient races.

    • Disc says:

      Never having watched Descent either, I automatically thought back to the ending sequence of Apocalypse Now. I just laughed and half-expected her to immediately go into somesort of ninja killing frenzy.

      • I haven’t either, so when I hear “have you seen Descent,” my brain wants to respond, “I played it on a friend’s computer once or twice, but it gave me a little vertigo when I did so I went back to Doom.”

        • Hydralysk says:

          Makes sense, Descent 2 had a mission pack called The Vertigo Missions after all.

          Though all I thought of when watching that scene was “I really hope she thought to clamp her mouth shut before hitting the water”. I mean at the very least the water is near the dismembered bodies, I can only imagine what’s actually in that soup.

    • ? says:

      Another reason not to think it’s river of blood: it would have to be really fresh (probably still warm) to look like this. Otherwise it would turn into brownish-black goo pretty quickly.

      And Bermuda Triangle is on top of one of the most heavily travelled shipping lanes in the world, “large” number of accidents comes with the huge number of ships and planes going through it every year. The fact that some authors define boundaries of a triangle as basically “all of the North Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico” does not help. It’s not an official geographic name of a region, so everyone that writes about the Triangle is trying to make some cash on spooky accidents.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        “Another reason not to think it’s river of blood: it would have to be really fresh (probably still warm) to look like this. Otherwise it would turn into brownish-black goo pretty quickly.”

        Even if diluted?Doesnt that amount of water prevent coagulation?

        • ? says:

          Of course, as Shamus points out in the episode, it takes little actual blood to colour the water, but that’s river with blood in it, not river of blood. Usually when fiction presents something like that, it implies that it was created by bleeding lots and lots of people in one place, not that someone took existing body of water and added couple of litres of blood for effect. Homoeopathic river of blood sounds pretty lame.

  11. ehlijen says:

    I thought the mooks were talking about checking for the body and that you later encountered them just behind the next door coming up?

    Doesn’t save the cutscene of course.

    The no rifle part could have been explained by making the guys crowd around sam more so that Larry Kraft couldn’t be sure she’d miss her, but of course then the player might have had a harder time seeing what was going on.

  12. guy says:

    I think you should just keep that technical difficulties screen for all future spoiler warning episodes.

  13. Nytzschy says:

    Josh is SCP-001. He has the ability to glitch every god damn game, ever, that is within visible range of his face or a depiction of his face. That’s why we never see any pictures of him: if a picture of Josh were spread through the internet, no computer system would be safe from hackers or malfunctions. Eventually, entire countries would lose power because of their inoperable digital electricity distribution systems.

  14. Jarenth says:

    This cutscene made me yell at the screen when I played this part. Not many cutscenes manage to do that. Congratulations, Tomb Raider cutscene design staff! You win a no-prize.

    I think what I like best about your revision, Shamus, is the little acknowledgement that these individual mooks have every right to be mortally afraid of Lara. She’s murdered how many dudes by now? In the hundreds, I’m sure. My second favourite part is how your revision is not a howling madhouse of plot-mandated stupidity.

    • MrGuy says:

      No, no. They win an anti-prize. It’s so bad that if, at some point in the future, they win an actual prize, this will cancel it out.

      It’s Mario Party rules.

  15. Michael says:

    I think Skyrim actually justified it’s Barrow puzzles with, they’re there to keep the Draugr in/out, not to slow down anyone with a functioning brain.

    I’d usually chew this out as a crass attempt to fix a stupid, but it was in a couple books in the core game, so it was probably the intent all along.

    • Hal says:

      They’re also burial chambers. They were meant to keep out grave robbers, at least casually. The traps are for the more intrepid tomb raiders (see what I did there?) and necromancers.

      • guy says:

        You know, every time people talk about how Bethesda game traps are obvious and no one would ever walk into them, I get terribly embarrassed because I just keep triggering them.

        The puzzles, though, are only difficult in that I often have trouble mapping the wall carvings to the rotating pillars.

        • Hieronymus says:

          Skyrim actually improved how well the traps were hidden dramatically compared to previous games in the series.

          You know, by not having the giant holes for the spikes in the floor, not putting spotlights over the large, empty space in the middle of the room; and by not saying ‘this thing is trapped’ when you looked at it.

          So I wouldn’t feel too bad about walking into a trap every now and then.

    • Mersadeon says:

      No it wasn’t. The in-game books were vague, but they made it clear that the Draugr are the servants of the Dragons – they aren’t mindless monsters. They regularly get up, sacrifice part of their lifepower to the higher-ups and guard the tomb until they run out of battery power. Now, it is also implied that they are mostly mindless, but they wouldn’t need to be kept in. They are bound to the place and have schedules (well, the book says that, actual Draugr scripting is obviously not that sophisticated).

  16. MrGuy says:

    Since we were talking about it a few weeks back, another prime example of “wow, just a terrible use of help suggestions” about 1:30 in. Josh, unfamiliar with the new controller setup, accidentally leaps off the bridge to Lara’s death. In broad daylight.

    During the reload screen, we see “Hold B to extinguish the torch.”

    Timely!

  17. MrGuy says:

    Also, despite clearly knowing how to use a rifle, and knowing how useful they’ve come in so far in this game, Lara still doesn’t think to, y’know, pick up one of the rifles dropped by the mooks she kills in the caves.

    Lara is VERY faithful to the first rifle she found in a box somewhere. No other will do. Which makes sense because reasons.

  18. krellen says:

    I’m pretty sure Josh using a controller here is entirely my fault. I play Borderlands with a controller and I told him thus, so he decided he needed to play with one too.

    Shamus wouldn’t join the controller party, though.

  19. Hal says:

    I’m curious how the scenes could turn out so poorly. Do you think the writers are just bad at their craft? Perhaps there’s a problem of too many hands in the pot; the scene made sense before three different committees took a turn at editing it to make it “better.” Maybe the thing made sense on paper, but by the time it was animated and rendered, it was too late to make any substantive changes.

    Or maybe the scene was really, really bad, and this is the “improved” version that made it live. It could happen.

    • bucaneer says:

      This quote from an interview with the writer of Spec Ops: The Line seems relevant (emphasis mine):

      Even though narrative was occurring over the course of this thing, budget constraints and things happened. You lose people, you gain people. You go over budget, you get more money, you get more time. You’re constantly having to juggle your resources. Honestly, I get asked a lot, “How does the improving technology make it easier to be a writer?” It makes it harder to be a writer! It makes it worse! Until you’ve had to write something for a cutscene that’s already been made because the team had to start the cutscene before you even got on the project – “could you make whatever words kind of match what they’re saying already so we don’t have to do too much new animation?” – you don’t understand!

      You get this whole thing in the game and you’re like, “Wow, this totally doesn’t work. Can we change this cutscene?” “No, we can’t! That needs more resources and we don’t have them at the moment.”

      • Tim Charters says:

        Yeah, it sounds like something like this was exactly what happened. Another thing to consider is that this might have originally been in a different place in the plot, or part of an entirely different plot. For instance, this might have near the beginning, after Lara had gotten the bow and hunted a bit but hadn’t killed any (or at least, not many) humans yet and had no other weapons. “Innocent Lara” panicking and revealing herself when it looked like her friend was about to be burnt alive would actually be believable.

        I find this especially plausible given how much this environment looks like the murder-cave that you start the game in, and how the shot of the Solarii taking your other weapons looks oddly out of place, like it was added after the fact to answer the question of what happened to your other weapons.

        This kind of shuffling of levels and scenes around is surprisingly common in games. For instance, in Mass Effect 3, the Citadel attack mission was planned to happen after the Thessia mission. In the game files, Thessia is referred to as Cat003, and the Citadel mission as Cat004 (Cat001 is Mars, Cat002 is Javik’s recruitment mission that ended up as DLC because they didn’t have enough money to finish it). They swapped them around because they wanted to have your “darkest hour” happen in the third act of the game, or something like that.

  20. Tony Kebell says:

    IN THE CUTSCENES THEY TAKE YOUR RIFLE AND SHOTGUN! ARGH!!! It acknowledges that she has the weapons and shes too dumb to use them.

  21. Tony Kebell says:

    12:00 – If that IS blood, HIV, HIV, HIV!

    Also (http://i.huffpost.com/gen/936130/thumbs/o-RED-WAVE-AUSTRALIA-DUST-facebook.jpg)(http://i.cdn-surfline.com/forecasters/blog/2013/04_apr/040313_3.jpg) a 20 foot tall blood red tidal wave, off of the coast of Austrailia, there was one of these the week the denied the 18 rating of videogames, also there was a wildfire the day before. Poor, poor Australia.

  22. Otters34 says:

    “Mattias orders his mean to put Lara in the pit.” They are mean, it’s true.

    That discussion about the XBox controller vs. mouse & keyboard covers most of the bases, though as someone who frequently uses one I can say with absolute surety that controllers are terrible at aiming, and looking around is almost painfully clumsy under duress.

  23. Sam gives in because she’s a stupid jelly-spine.

    Eh… if someone is holding a gun to your friend’s head, I don’t think it’s very jelly-spined to do as they say for the time being, while plotting bloody murder in the near future.

    • Tim Charters says:

      Yes, really. If you’re tied up and surrounded by armed men, one of whom is threatening to kill someone you care about, you don’t have a lot of options. Maybe you’ll get an opportunity to do something later, but at that point I’d try to be as cooperative as possible.

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