Previews// E3 2011: Tomb Raider

Posted 9 Jun 2011 09:07 by
Games: Tomb Raider
Crystal Dynamics is revitalising the Tomb Raider franchise - for a second time. We all remember how disappointing Underworld was, but lest we forget that the Square Enix studio was also responsible for the critically acclaimed Legend.

I was treated to a full-length demonstration of Lara Croft's reboot, and man is it looking tasty. An extended version of the underground cavern segment showcased at Microsoft's E3 press conference was shown, along with a new level set on a mountaintop and abandoned village. Here's a few reasons why you should get excited about Lara's latest.

Animations and Graphical Effects: Lara looks absolutely stunning in motion, and Crystal Dynamics seems to have taken a whole load of effort in making her react to almost everything in the world around her.

Even as she's standing still, you can zoom in on her face and watch her motion her head and check her surroundings. As a young 21-year-old woman on her first expedition, you can really feel the emotion coming out as she struggles to understand just what the hell has happened to her.

Physics-Based Play: Both inside the cavern and on the mountaintop, Lara is faced with puzzles that require a lot of lateral thinking to progress. Crystal Dynamics said it was keen to present the heroine as resourceful, and a section of her underground capture shows this in spades.

One area in the underground escape requires you to use weight-balancing to send some fired-up logs past a wall of water to blow up a rock face, while in the mountainside you will need to clamber atop metal wreckage - and balance yourself accordingly - to cross several chasms.

Visceral Scenes: Things are grim for Lara Croft. Crystal Dynamics wants to forge her into the hardened adventurer that she was famous for, and to do that her nimble 21-year-old self has to take a few knocks and bruises. We're probably being too light with that turn of phrase - a lot of heavy shit goes down in Miss Croft's unexpected shipwrecking.

The first thing we see in the Scavenger's Den in which she is captured is Lara awakening to find herself cocooned and strung upside down. Her only means of escape is to try and set herself on fire so she can break free - but this means plummeting down a chasm and landing straight on a spike, impaling her side. Nasty.

Later on, Lara explores the abandoned village on the mountaintop - her mentor, Conrad Roth, is wounded and needs her to retrieve a transmitter that a pack of wolves have taken off with. She discovers the device in a cave, and upon exiting has to fight off a vicious wolf attack with her bare hands.

Multiple Routes: Crystal Dynamics was keen to point out that various objectives can have multiple routes to completion. The key example of this was within the village, where a fork in the road offered two distinct pathways to reaching the wolf's den in the mountains.

As you complete various tasks, Lara gains more confidence and earns new tools to traverse the same areas in new ways. After collecting the transmitter and bringing it back to Roth, you get to use an axe which can be used to climb across rock faces. Handy really, as the next thing the injured Roth asks you to do is to make it to a nearby radio tower to send out an SOS.

Interactive Cinematics: If there's one thing that a lot of gamers have disdain for, it's Quick Time Events. And unfortunately, I can't really tart up the fact that Tomb Raider does include some cinematic button-bashing. However, these segments rarely occurred during regular exploration and actually worked to add tension to some of the more chaotic action sequences.

Largely, QTEs took place while Lara was trying to escape the underground Scavenger's Den. At one point, the heroine has to crawl through a tight gap, but is stunned when a random man appears behind her and grabs her leg. The camera shakes around and button prompts appear as Lara struggles to kick the creepy dude away.

Elsewhere in the cavern, an incident causes a massive quake and Lara's escape route begins to collapse around her. You need to race forward to avoid getting trapped in the usual manner, but she soon falls down a slope and ends up hanging onto a cliff by the tips of her fingers.

Clambering back up, she sees daylight - smashing the left and right triggers on the controller makes Lara scramble desperately back up the slope to finally put an end to her underground ordeal - but not before having to react quickly to falling boulders first.
Games: Tomb Raider

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Dear fool who wrote this review... 9 Jun 2011 17:46
Underworld got good reviews - generally 80% plus you complete t**t. And also, Sqaure Enix didn't have anything to do with Legend. F**k sake.
Joji 10 Jun 2011 22:46
It is ironic, but pleasing that I once expressed the problems with this series, right here on Spong a few years ago. I'm glad that someone has seen the light at Eidos/CD. Guardian of Light was a great game, and this TR reboot, while I was skeptical on another reboot after the improvement of Underworld, seems to be going in the right direction. I pray that besides the awesome looks that it can breathe some much needed character and personality into Lara (yes, we've seen here in pain so far, but crack a smile and tell a joke too, or any of those things a persons mind develops in solitude of a pursuit). I also hope that CD have learned from the likes of Ubi's AC and Naughty's Uncharted, that are the current champs in this genre area. Funny, I might actually be tempted to buy a TR game, since 1996. Good luck, CD and Square.
Svend Joscelyne 13 Jun 2011 09:23

Thanks for caring. But if you recall, the reason Tomb Raider is getting rebooted at all is due to the rather negative reaction to Underworld. Reviews aren't the only indicator for underwhelming games (it was generally understood that many reviews were paid off or otherwise overly-positive despite fans disliking it on release).

Also, I never said Square Enix had anything to do with Tomb Raider Legend. Crystal Dynamics is now a Square Enix studio. Read, and you shall learn.
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