You’ve just come a little too face-to-face with a rabid dog, jamming your hand between its jaws as it drools all over you. Moments later you’ve desperately fumbled with your makeshift bow to fend off a pack of crazed cultists, escaping by the skin of your teeth. Next up is a rapid, violent and very wet tumble down a waterfall. You’ve finally found a moment’s peace, but it’s inside a plane wreck, lodged into the side of a cliff. You hear the glass beneath you start to give way while a parachute teasingly dangles just meters in front. One wrong move and you’re gone.
When you’re sitting on a sofa with a controller in hand, Tomb Raider can be a tense experience to say the least. Armed with a VR headset and looking at the world from Lara’s perspective? The franchise could offer a VR rollercoaster ride for only the strongest of stomachs. The idea of falling through a forest and hitting every branch on your way down might not be what you first envisioned when the tech became a reality but its potential to enhance the title’s thrill factor can’t be denied. Just maybe keep a sick bag next to you at all times.
Of course, there are two different types of tomb raiding to talk about here. While 2013’s reboot went heavy on action and loud on bangs, the entries before it also had a huge focus on precise platforming and devious puzzles. Uncharted-inspired setpieces and towering explosions make up just one part of Lara’s adventures. VR could arguably be even more effective in the story’s quieter moments as you do what Miss Croft does best – raid tombs. Imagine exploring ancient ruins while your dimly-lit torch faintly flickers, illuminating the surrounding darkness to guide the way. New mechanics could be introduced too, such as deciphering ancient messages and texts that are scrapped into cob-webbed walls or scouring surfaces for hidden triggers and traps.
The stunning atmosphere picked up in the reboot would stand to benefit the most. There are several moments in Tomb Raider that we’d love to try with VR. It would be terrifying to experience those desperate opening moments as Lara emerges from a collapsed cave only to face a jaw-dropping shipwreck and winds so strong they nearly bowl her over. Then there’s the concentration and calm needed to silently tip-toe towards a deer while pushing through trees and bushes to towards your first meal. It’s a franchise that could deliver high-octane action with the best of them but also try more enticing innovations with the headset outside of the blockbuster moments.
Combat also has a chance to make its own mark. The new Lara is more of a scrappy survivor than she is gun-slinging hotshot. Learning to master rickety bows and rusty handguns would definitely set the action apart from other shooters but there are other more interesting mechanics at play like desperately scooping up dirt to temporarily blind your enemies and careful timing dodges to expose armoured opponents. A headset could bring you much closer to what’s already a visceral and terrifying action franchise. And of course, who could forget the iconic dual pistols that have been the girl’s best friend since the beginning? Wielding those for the first time would be a landmark moment for the franchise.
Then there’s the platforming, which can already give you vertigo when simply playing on a TV. One of the reboot’s standout moments involves shimmying up an almost impossibly high radio tower at the top of a mountain and dangling from flimsy supports. Being able to look down and see the staggering distance between you and the ground wouldn’t be for the weak of heart. The prospect of judging the distance, taking the run up and leaping over chasms and bottomless pits in VR is so enticing it’s bizarre to remember it as one of gaming’s oldest mechanics.
Of course there would be some kinks to work out here and there. Lara Croft is Tomb Raider – often referred to as gaming’s leading lady and an iconic character we’ve all known to grow and love. If you translate the gameplay to a first person experience, what’s to simply stop her from being just another voice in your head?
From the cinematic thrills to brain-itching puzzles, the potential for a VR Tomb Raider is enormous. Lara’s adventures are some of the most exciting in all of videogaming and the chance to bring us closer to the action than ever is something that Crystal Dynamics shouldn’t pass up.
‘Make it a (virtual) Reality’ is VRFocus’ weekly feature that takes the videogames we already know and love and looks at how virtual reality (VR) could enhance them. From retro classics to modern blockbusters, we examine the pros and cons of bringing a franchise to VR headsets.