When you’re playing “Shadow of the Tomb Raider” — the new game that was released on Sept. 14 — or its predecessor “Rise” and the 2013 reboot, some of the wildest moments come not during big story moments or even when you manage to pull off some wild move or kill all the bad guys during a hectic firefight. No, some of the most memorable bits come instead when you fail and are shown Lara Croft dying in some brutal way.
There’s a number of different types of these horrifying death scenes, though probably the most common involves Lara getting impaled on something — spikes, pointy tree branches, things like that. (Here’s a video montage from the first of these games if you’re unfamiliar with what I’m talking about.) Other notable pre-scripted death scenes in “Shadow of the Tomb Raider” involve Lara getting mauled by a jaguar, and getting swarmed by dozens of venomous snakes.
These sequences have been much discussed since they were introduced in the rebooted franchise in 2013’s “Tomb Raider,” which also serves as the primary source for the Alicia Vikander-starring film reboot that came out earlier this year. We spoke with Camilla Luddington, the “Grey’s Anatomy” star who has played the video game version of Lara Croft in each of the past three “Tomb Raider” games, about how she actually performs those death sequences and the infamous screams that go with them.
“Well, I don’t necessarily do motion capture for all those death scenes, thank god. I think the game might never be made because it was take forever,” Luddington told TheWrap when asked what all goes into those scenes on her part, and whether she does have to physically perform them.
In addition to her vocal performance, Luddington does motion capture for the games — with many scenes being physically performed in much the same way as in film and television.
“But I do end up doing them in a [voice-over] booth. And it’s a very bizarre experience to be mauled by a jaguar and have to make that sound,” Luddington said, leaving a long pause between “that” and “sound.” “But yeah, the answer to that is I do and I don’t. I don’t mocap it, but I obviously have to vocalize that.”
I asked how the game developers direct her with those scenes and whether, for example, she had to do a specific set of vocalizations for being bitten by a ton of snakes at the same time.
“Yes, to an extent, but there’s usually a lot more description that goes into it, and sometimes I’m even able to see the scene itself without any audio yet, so I get a visual of it too,” Luddington said.
“I don’t think that there’s necessarily a collective library that’s specifically like that. There is definitely obviously for, like, grunts or climbing and things like that,” She said, before describing how they do certainly set up recordings for some of the bigger moments that can result in Lara’s death. The snake pit, for example, is just a random trap that she can fall in. But her fight with the jaguars is actually a key narrative moment early on in the game.
“Usually they do the best they can by trying to set up the scene specifically for me and let me know what the moment before is and what she’s experienced, and they sort of guide me through and direct me through in a VO booth,” Luddington said. “So it’s not just like ‘Hey, can you make this sound really quick.'”
So if you’ve been playing “Shadow of the Tomb Raider” and had Lara Croft’s haunting death screams stuck in your head, well, now you know how that particular bit of upsetting sausage is made.