Monday, 25 March 2013

Lara Croft is more badass than Batman

by Jak Marshall

I'm going to set the world on fire here by making the audacious claim that Batman isn't as hardcore as we've all been led to believe. What's more I'm going to make the claim that that Lara Croft is more badass than the Caped Crusader.

I don't know why Harley Quinn is there. Or what Lara is doing.

I might need to throw out some definitions of terms here first though. Since I'm talking video games here I'm going to refer to "Batman" as the Batman from the Arkham series of action-adventure titles. I will be largely referring to "Lara Croft" in her most recent incarnation in the latest Tomb Raider game but in the cases of both characters I will occasionally chuck in the odd reference to others games and/or aspects of both characters' story canons.

Let's talk about investigating. Batman is a budding criminologist and a detective whilst Lara is an archaeologist. In their respective games, both characters use these skills to great effect when navigating tricky terrain, analysing obstacles, locating loot and of course, detecting and dealing with enemies. Batman has 'detective mode' and Lara has 'survival instincts' which are in game viewing modes which highlight all of these things. The key differences between the two game mechanics support the idea that Lara is a badass and Batman is a relative wuss.

Detective mode can be left on almost permanently. In fact it is a large criticism I have of the first Arkham game in particular that there is rarely any incentive at all to turn the bloody thing off. Lara's equivalent viewing mode is a very brief affair and it can only be maintained while Lara is standing still. There is a slightly elongated effect for the combat/stealth sections but ultimately it is something Lara has to tap into and not something she always has.

If this was Lara, she would just know that there were three armed thugs behind the wall.

This may sound like evidence for Batman being cooler until you realise that detective mode is a mechanical device that Batman wears, nay, almost requires to fight crime. Lara's radar is built into her very being. She is the survivalist and doesn't make cheapen herself with some kind of 'hunter's implant' designed by Lucius Fox. Every time Lara sees something that she can salvage or detects a potential aggressor it is because it's in her blood. This also applies to her mastery of lore and data. Whenever Lara finds an ancient artefact she can analyse the hell out of it without requiring any reference material at hand whereas Batman can't help but pull out his smartphone when he needs to so much as follow a trail.

This brings me to concept of courage and motivation. In Arkham City, Bruce Wayne (spoiler alert: Bruce Wayne IS Batman :0 ) is forcibly dragged out of his comfort zone into the mega prison that is Arkham City by Hugo Strange's goons. Once there, it's not really like he's out of his comfort zone at all! Within twenty or so minutes of play Bruce Wayne has regained his basic Batman powers and has the support of his butler Alfred and the information services of the super hacker Oracle. Even in the relative mayhem of Asylum, Batman still has the luxury of his own Batcave to escape to without any fear of intrusion. What does Lara Croft have? Camps. Camps in the rain surrounded by howling wolves. No showers other than that of cold rainstorms.

Lara also keeps a journal throughout the game and doesn't write down anything about taking the lives of men. She's usually gotten over it by bedtime. She's well 'ard.
Speaking of storms. Although Lara does get shipwrecked on a remote and perilous island it's not like this catastrophe was entirely by accident. Fully aware of a Bermuda triangle type storm zone and in full knowledge of a weather forecast saying that her ship and crew are likely to be swallowed up by treacherous waters if they continue in a particular direction, Lara Croft points at the billowing black clouds and says "We should go thaddaway" on the off chance that they may find the remnants a lost civilisation. If that isn't some stone cold badassery right there then may I would also cite that Lara continues to endure way more hardship than Batman does when she gets there. Let's talk scripted damage shall we?

Anyone who has played the Arkham games will have notices that Batman's character model tends to get increasingly tatty as the games progress. His cape gets torn while scuff marks and bruises appear on his various other Batgarments. This is often in spite of Batman taking no actual damage. Even if you include cut scene events, damage will have inexplicably appeared to have occurred when you play the perfect game (no melee or gun damage taken) so it would appear that if all else fails, Batman privately jumps into the bushes and hedges of Gotham to give the impression of ruggedness.

Batman is a total poser. When ripped capes are in, he rips them himself.  

Lara gets impaled before you're even allowed to walk about on your own two legs. Yes, she falls from a great height and has a spike pierce right through a piece of flesh just above her waistline and has a bloody great wound there from the start of bipedal play. By comparison, Bruce Wayne starts off looking handsome in a regular suit and then progresses to look pretty suave in freshly butler laundered Batsuit that he has delivered by missile. It gets 'a bit tatty' at worst. Sure Batman does get poisoned in City but it amounts to a bit of food poisoning at most. Drinking from a mystic font of immortality halfway through the game hardly hurts his chances either. Wuss.

Also, Batman. Batman, mate. Just get over it and kill someone. Grab a dude and shoot him. Your parents were killed by a criminal in front of your eyes and it was all very tragic but all the more reason to get 'a bit killy' when like twenty certified thugs with clubs start seriously trying to end your life. Lara's parents died in the original trilogy and they may or may not be alive in the new timeline but do notice how little difference it makes to how readily she picks up almost any kind of weapon (axe, machine gun, hunting bow) and just gets on with the steady business of killing people up. Not just people either, she will pretty much kill (and butcher) anything else that moves. Lara eats anything from wolves and bear to rats and bunnies. If it's meat, it's good to eat. She even improves most of her weaponry on the fly using salvaged metal she finds lying on the floor. Most of the time Batman just orders his weapons in from Argos and that's where I draw the line.

No hero should order from a catalogue.