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Lara Croft v. Jason Brody: A Classic Battle Royale

"A Survivor Is Born" and "The Definition Of Insanity" announces the danger of the seemingly tropical island paradise that is a popular gaming destination.  In recent months Tomb Raider's Lara Croft and Far Cry 3's Jason Brody both crashed landed, via boat and sky diving, onto an island kingdom where civilized society's rules are tossed in favor of a new and violent world order.  Lara and Jason wash up on islands ruled by psychopaths and must single handily conquer these island dictators where all others have failed.  Both heroes are capable of outrunning a series of explosions with ease, quickly learning the expert nuances of successfully using multiple firearms, deftly searching the bodies of their fallen enemies for goods, picking up wildlife husbandry from hunting to plant harvesting as if both grew up on farm rather than their privileged backgrounds, and perusing the mysteries of abandoned Japanese military installations from World War 2 during their down time.

Beachfront property is not always what it is cracked up to be. 

The two games, and their protagonists, play remarkably similarly but are also completely different experiences.  In a classic battle royale, two fictional characters from different lore are set in a fictitious battle because we in the realm of make believe crossovers do not require logic.  In fact we all know that if Thor and the Hulk ever exist and meet across a battlefield, obviously Thor wins.  Therefore, based solely on my opinion, two island liberators enter and only one leaves.

ZIP LINES

Gonna zip line down!  Wait, I just came from there.

Zip lines are cool.  Video games are cool.  Zip lining in video games must be super cool but all too often zip lines are largely abandoned by the player after the initial thrill wears off, for reference play Assassin's Creed: Revelations.  Other than zipping down radio towers and explosive set piece moments Jason largely has little use for the zip lines scattered amongst Rook Island.  The zip lines are a one way travel opportunity and require travelling to a high point and wanting to then quickly get to a lower point.  All too often, the zip line simply did not travel to where Jason needed to go.      

Hauling oneself effortlessly across a deep chasm on only a rope.  Hope that GPS cache is worth it. 

A short ways into Tomb Raider, Lara is given the rope arrow ability that allows her to create zip lines between appropriate points in the physical environment and she whistles down the line holding onto her bow.  She is imbued with the upper body strength, despite us never seeing her do a push up, to not only travel down the zip line but to also climb up the zip line.  Suddenly, the zip line is an actually useful two way travel too plus the environmental puzzle solving required setting up the zip line amongst the correct waypoints. 

In Jason's defense, he can literally fly via hang glider.  Hang gliders too are a one way travel opportunity but able to go wherever is needed.  Plus, the gliders are a blast and coming across a glider invariably meant that I had to use it no matter the urgency of my intended mission.  Still, Lara can travel up! 

HAIRDOS

A hairstyle that negates any toughness that Jason gains from holding a gun. 

The heyday of the JRPG truly showed us gamers that video game characters can feature some gnarly hair.  In this shooter era the crew cut is a popularized 'do.  Far Cry 3 is a first person shooter and Jason's hair is not a main feature on the screen.  However, we hear him yelling "Whoa" often enough to surmise that he is not the crew cut type.  When scrolling through the handbook entries the sight of Jason's hair is enough to warrant a "Whoa" of our own.  Whether or not hair gel is capable of supporting hair in that shape is immaterial because no gel should be used to sustain such a hairdo, oddly enough hair gel was not a loot item and certainly Jason's hairdo requires a continuous supply.

On island excursions do not forget your hair ties.  Do not want hair in your face during a shootout. 

Female characters in the gaming universe typically feature the short cropped and semi-spikey hairstyle.  In fact most female characters can share their extra hair gel with Jason because that "just got out of bed" look takes effort.  However, Lara enjoys a free flowing ponytail.  Sure, animating long hair is not easy and at times Lara's hair awkwardly stutters in the wind but beats staring at yet another buzzed crew cut.  No matter the peer pressure from Jade, Faith Connors, and Alyx Vance do not cut your hair Lara.        

WILDLIFE AND FLORA HUSBANDRY

A bow and arrow versus a tiger.  Run. 

Jason battles tigers, bears, boars, the dreaded komodo dragons, leopards, snakes, wild dogs, crocodiles and sharks.  And those are only the predatory animals available for hunting.  If we doubted Jason's action hero persona, he also uses the well-known fall back technique of upon being bit by a shark to punch the shark in the face, works every time so feel free to swim without fear.  Jason swiftly levels up into a formidable hunter who skins his prey for equipment upgrades.  Faced with a survival situation I would intellectually understand that an animal skin can be crafted into a trusty loot sack or wallet with money that is only usable at the local black market but I doubt my ability to actually make a working loot sack or wallet.  A variety of native plants are available for harvesting with Jason's trusty knife.  An off screen laboratory combines the flora into a syringe for one use upgrades.  Syringes are injected then tossed aside.  Not only does Jason litter the tropical paradise with used syringes (gross!) I also wonder where the syringes are from.  Jason will not die from a bear mauling but from a dirty needle, fitting.        

Lara versus a boar.  Point for Lara. 

Lara squares off against wolves and the occasional boar (those boars will charge you).  Hunting animals is encouraged and as a fun detail an area can be overhunted resulting in less experience points.  Shooting down birds with bows is a satisfying accomplishment.  Also, a lone orange plant is available for harvesting.  Lara may not tackle tigers in her spare time but I am in no hurry to hear the hiss of a komodo dragon and realize that the nearest radio tower or safe town is far, far away.      

TAKEDOWNS

Both games are shooters and melee combat is not a focus.  For swinging makeshift bats with out of planks with taped on nails play Dead Island.  Our heroes are provided with a single melee weapon.  Jason's knife is most effective for stealth kills and Lara's pick axe is for takedowns triggered by a successful dodge.  Sure, both can blindly swing their melee weapons in a time of need but the weapons are designed for a timed and purposeful use. 

Jason's knife in action, he named it Mr. Pointy (anyone know the reference?).

Jason's takedown upgrades result in Assassin's Creed type kills.  Pulling guards off of ledges from below, jumping from above, and the classic sneak from behind.  In a game the grants access to an entire upgradable armory that includes a rocket launcher, the knife takedowns are a satisfying kill, especially when I successfully set up a knife takedown followed by a killing knife throw at a second enemy.    

A hard shot to find but trust me that arrow just went in his eye, luckily his knee is fine. 

Lara's pick axe is an all-around handy tool for takedowns to rock climbing to opening scattered boxes and lockers just for fun. Her upgradable skills include a takedown for every weapon with a vicious animation that typically involves a shooting a close quarters.  I compliment Crystal Dynamics for creating more uses for the arrow than I have previously seen in any other game.  The ability to actually stab an arrow through a guard's eye, or knee, should be included in Skyrim.  The arrow is not just for the bow anymore. 

SCAVENGING

Open at your own risk.  Who knows what creepy and useless item is in there. 

Rook Island is hiding secrets.  Few games can match the sheer quantity of collectibles that are available if Jason is curious.  In items alone, which ultimately are sold for only money, the variety is astounding.  Items include a traffic cone, toothpaste, a spent lighter, and a doll head.  An iOS game of Far Cry 3 mad libs seems like an obvious next step.  In game characters will inexplicably pay for these items, good thing I crafted that loot sack and wallet earlier out of animal skins to carry around broken compasses, cocaine packets, and faded photographs along with the profit those items will net.  If only I could collect such items from around my house and stuff everything in a sack.  Wait, I already do, it is called garbage day.  Searching for more includes lost letters from a Japanese WW2 soldier and nearly a couple hundred of repeatable relics.     

Oh, a box I can use to cobble together a silencer for my pistol! 

Lara's looting options are for "scavenge" that allows for weapon upgrades.  Scavenge is found in boxes, killed animals, and downed enemies.  How this all results in a larger magazine for my pistol I am unsure.  GPS caches, documents and relics are littered amongst the island with documents and relics expanding upon the overall narrative.  The items are numerous but bunched in small groups such as "Ancient Coins" and "A Family Outing" providing a variety of small and easy to attain goals.  After my first playthrough, I finished Tomb Raider at 90% complete.  The documents particularly expand upon Lara's and the island's story well as well as are fully voiced.  The extended narrative surprised me with wanting a prequel (a prequel to an origin story must be Lara in grade school studying geography) playing out the island's history.     

Abdanoned Japanese World War 2 ruins where untold experiments occurred?  Let us explore!  I dare you to pick up one of those abandoned missiles lying on the ground. 

The winner?  Both have sniper abilities capable of a faraway "pick them off" until others begin noticing dead bodies.   On a deserted island, in a stand up and shoot battle Jason's superior firepower and power ups, plus that body armor and ability to herd tigers to the enemy's position, is a winning combination.  However, Lara can dodge circles around Jason's bullets and all she needs is a good shot to prep for a debilitating finisher and at the least Jason's sentences will forevermore begin with, "I use to be an adventurer like you..."  My winner?  Lara!  With a ponytail swinging while she decimates her foes, a creative use of arrows, and the ability to travel upwards there are many more adventures in her future whereas Jason appears a bit petered out. 

We can all sleep soundly knowing the deserted islands are nothing more than a training ground for our favorite heroes, and the villains that our heroes must outwit, outplay, and outlast (and outkill).  After all, if the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result then why do we all keep wandering into the tropical paradises wondering what is awaiting us?

In this showdown, who is your winner?

What is your video game character match up and who wins?

What do you enjoy best about Far Cry 3 and/or Tomb Raider?

Thanks for stopping by and reading!  Enjoy your gaming time this week!  

 

 

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