I remember it vividly. It was about three o’clock in the morning in a dark bedroom in the village of Menston, UK. I was watching Twitch streamer and Tomb Raider expert Badassgamez as he neared the end of his epic quest to complete the original Lara Croft title in one sitting without saving, reloading or – perhaps more impressively – using a medpack. My palms were sweating and my pulse raced as Lara dangled over a vast cavern, just minutes from the end, and Badassgamez (real name Matt) declared that all was lost.
Thankfully it wasn’t, and for all I complain about how stressful the event was to consume, it’s worth sparing a thought for the gamer at the other end of the stream(!) It paid off for Badassgamez; Matt finished his mission shortly after, successfully completing the original Tomb Raider game without dying or replenishing his health – no mean feat. Although it’s fair to say that, by then, I was ready for a stiff drink, and I’m sure he was too.
I was reminded of this feeling recently when I reached out to Badassgamez and asked if he would be willing to let me interview him for this website. Not only did he agree, but he suggested that it could be done as a voice chat rather than an email exchange. Once again my spindly digits started to moisten, but in true Badassgamez style I resolved to complete the mission without dying or using a health pack, and as such I am proud to present the finished piece to you here.
Who is Matt?
By all accounts, Matt’s had a fascinating life so far. He spent a total of six years serving in the navy, and four of those on board a submarine (although not searching for the Spear of Destiny, I hasten to add.) These days, when he’s not breaking vases (vahhhzzes?) or making things go poof, he designs electrical systems for a conveyor company, and it’s his job to make sure the machines run smoothly once they’ve been built. This is all done in tandem with maintaining a YouTube channel and regularly streaming on Twitch, with most of his sessions being Lara Croft-themed; at the moment, he’s building up to a ‘no loads / no meds’ run of Tomb Raider 2.
Actually, it was Badassgamez’s ability to complete ‘no medpack’ runs of Tomb Raider levels that led to my discovering his channel in the first place. The videos are great, but at times they were not the easiest for him to make. “Tomb Raider 1 wasn’t too bad,” he notes, “but then when I got to the underwater levels of Tomb Raider 2 like Wreck of the Maria Doria I’m pretty sure I was saying to myself, man, I’m not going to do this without using a medpack. And then when I got to The Deck I also felt the same way because of that massive drop where you gotta take a crap load of damage. In the end I was like, I can do this, I just can’t take damage anywhere else.”
Death by freezing
Matt explains that he encountered a similar problem with the notorious RX Tech Mines in Tomb Raider 3. “That was definitely a level where I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it without using a medpack,” he explains, “and even when I made the video I actually used a known glitch.”
The glitch he’s referring to involves Lara’s ‘heat-o-meter.’ In the arctic waters of TR3, if you’re beneath the surface for too long, Lara rapidly looses heat, and then health. For a long time it was believed that the use of a medpack would be essential if Lara was to reach the end of the level, and Matt worked around this problem by reloading his game so that Lara’s heat bar would replenish.
“Since then it’s been proven that you can actually complete RX Tech Mines without even needing to do that,” says Matt. “It’s a similar situation to The Deck where you can’t take damage from anything else throughout the entire level, and then when you do this long swim you just have to be extremely perfect on your manoeuvring – you can’t screw up a single bit. And then when you surface you have almost no health left.
“Action Turnip actually showed us how to do this. He’s the one who completed TR2 no loads / no meds before anybody else… He’s a really good Tomb Raider player too. He’s probably way better at the games than I am.”
In chatting to Matt, it’s clear that he’s very practically-minded when it comes to the reality of creating complicated walkthrough videos. “I don’t just, like, pop the game in and start recording. I actually plan it out – I play the level through several times so I know that, when I do record it, I know exactly what I’m talking about when I’m playing. On all my TR walkthroughs I’m actually playing the game whilst I’m talking, so all that’s planned through.”
Remarkably, all of this is done from memory, with no notes or scripted text to guide him through the recording. “I play the level through about four or five times, and then I play it and I record,” he says. “By then, as long as I’ve picked up all the items, it really just gets ingrained in my head.”
I did enquire if Matt could remember which was the first ever Tomb Raider level he completed without using a medpack, but in hindsight that’s a pretty dumb thing to ask; how many Lara Croft players can recall that? And for most of us it would probably be Caves or Angkor Wat, unless some cruel twist of fate left us clamouring for the bandages from the get-go. So yeah – I’m going to come back with a different question and see you back at this spot.
Okay guys I’m back at this spot, and I should say that Matt was really nice and tried to answer for me (he thinks it was probably Caves!) But on a deeper level, I was curious to know how he felt about the more modern Crystal Dynamics games.
“This is a really difficult question for me,” he admits. “I do feel like they just did a complete rewrite with the controls. They just said, scrap the old way, let’s make a new way that doesn’t necessarily pertain to the way that was. I kinda like the old controls; I kinda like the way Lara controls like a tank because you know that you’re gonna run forward if you press forward.
“The problem I have with most modern games in general – not just Tomb Raider – is the fact that the direction you press depends on the camera and not the direction that your characters face, and that ends up being kind of an issue for me… In the new games it’s like, just hold ‘over’ and press jump and she’ll make it, she’ll grab it automatically – it’s kinda given to you.”
A puzzling situation
However, Matt stressed that the most significant factor for him was in the nature of the puzzle-solving. “The puzzles are a lot more localised in the new Tomb Raider games, like you don’t go to the other end of Himiko’s island to get an item, bring it back to the beginning, and then use it to get another item… It’s more like, you’re in this portion of the island – just do these two little puzzles and then you can move to the next area; it’s completely linear. That’s the main thing that I really dislike about the new Tomb Raider games… It doesn’t feel like tomb raiding.”
I should say – I don’t get the feeling that Matt is completely averse to these games. In fact I watched him stream right after our interview, and he talked positively about making some proper walkthrough videos for Legend, Underworld and Tomb Raider 2013. Alas, with a full-time job such things aren’t always possible, but he did indicate that a Resident Evil series could be his next focus.
The best game ever?
Let me finish off with some other interesting facts about Badassgamez. He’s a big fan of the Grand Theft Auto series, as well as Assassin’s Creed, Uncharted and Zelda. In fact, he believes the latter is probably his number one game.
“I played the original when I was younger, the very first one – a super blocky, regular Nintendo game, but it really set the foundation for what a Zelda game should be,” he says. “They then released another one called The Legend of Link, and then on the SNES they released A Link to the Past and that one was a defining game, followed by Ocarina of Time which turned all of that into 3D gameplay. To me, it was a perfect evolution; that’s exactly how these games should go. So, in my opinion, Ocarina of Time really is the pinnacle of The Legend of Zelda.”
And for those of you wondering about Devil May Cry and whatever happened to the final video in that series, the news, I’m afraid, is bleak. “I didn’t even finish my Devil May Cry walkthrough, unfortunately,” Matt confesses. “I think what happened is I got to the end, and I had it all recorded, and then I lost my files.”
So, if anyone out there ever finds those files, be sure to drop Matt a line 😉
Thanks everyone for reading, and until next time – take it easy.