Do we hear the rumbling of a damage control machine? Crystal Dynamics has broken its silence over claims that the new Tomb Raider features an "attempted rape" scene, insisting that comments to this effect by executive producer Ron Rosenberg have been "misunderstood".
Speaking to Kotaku at E3, Rosenberg described how a "rape" scene (his words) hinted at in the recent Crossroads trailer transforms Lara into a "cornered animal". This is "a huge step in her evolution," he added. "She's either forced to fight back or die and that's what we're showing today."
Lara's physical and psychological collapse (and eventual rebirth) have been recurring themes of Tomb Raider coverage: the game charts how she evolved from a gap year student to the arse-kicking adventuress we all know and, in some cases, love. There are concerns, however, that the intensity of focus on Lara's pain and terror caters to the sort of morbid objectification that pervades films like Hostel and, more recently, Hitman's Attack of the Saints trailer.
Rape is a whole new can of worms, of course. Over on the Guardian, Mary Hamilton offers a summary of why the presence of such content in Tomb Raider may be objectionable. "In too much media, its use is a lazy shorthand that allows a writer to paint a bad guy as particularly bad, and a woman as particularly vulnerable (the genders are rarely reversed), without dealing with the consequences or meaning of such an act for any of the parties involved," she argues.
"That doesn't mean no storyteller or video game should ever tackle rape - of course they should, where a story demands it - but if the only reason to include sexual violence is to emphasise a woman's vulnerability or a man's evilness, then it's fair to question why a threat of murder is not enough."
Writing on the game's official site, Crystal Dynamics head Darrell Gallagher has claimed that Rosenberg's remarks were "unclear" and denied the existence of a "sexual assault" scene.
"We had a great E3 with Tomb Raider and received a fantastic public and press response, with the game picking up numerous game of the show awards based on the new direction taken with the franchise," he began. "Unfortunately we were not clear in a recent E3 press interview and things have been misunderstood. Before this gets out of hand, let me explain.
"In making this Tomb Raider origins story our aim was to take Lara Croft on an exploration of what makes her the character she embodies in late Tomb Raider games. One of the character defining moments for Lara in the game, which has incorrectly been referred to as an 'attempted rape' scene is the content we showed at this year's E3 and which over a million people have now seen in our recent trailer entitled 'Crossroads'.
"This is where Lara is forced to kill another human for the first time. In this particular section, while there is a threatening undertone in the sequence and surrounding drama, it never goes any further than the scenes that we have already shown publicly. Sexual assault of any kind is categorically not a theme that we cover in this game.
"We take great care and pride in our work and are focused on creating a release that will deliver meaningful storytelling, drama, and exciting gameplay. We're sorry this has not been better explained, we'll certainly be more careful with what is said in future."
Watch the relevant bits from the Crossroads trailer again, and let us know what you think.