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Tomb Raider: Hands-On Preview

A quick look at a redefined Lara Croft by on June 10, 2012  

Back in November of 1996, Eidos Interactive published a groundbreaking action-adventure title where survival became the key to your success. Tomb Raider revolutionized the industry by introducing rich graphics, intuitive gameplay, an engaging storyline, and a wildly popular heroine named Lara Croft.

Now several years later, the talented team over at Crystal Dynamics have partnered with Square Enix to offer a fresh reboot to the series. During E3 2012, I had an opportunity to attend a media only demo and gameplay preview session for the game. Here are a few of my thoughts on why Tomb Raider will be one of the most exciting games of 2013.

Tomb Raider revolves around an origin story deeply rooted in Lara’s transformation from a youthful, innocent woman to a hardened, instinctual warrior. After embarking on an exploration trip aboard the Endurance ship, things take a turn for the worse when a violent storm destroys the boat and leaves all it’s occupants stranded throughout a tropical island. Ripped straight from today’s headlines, Devil’s Sea is a certified danger zone and the sight of where our character’s journey begins.

The chronological order of events showcased in this demo focus on key moments leading up to the E3 2012 Gameplay Trailer. Lara walks aimlessly through the woods, weaponless and uncertain of what lies ahead. These actions are portrayed beautifully by how she responds and reacts to her surroundings.

Similar to the Uncharted series, there are some cinematic sequences blended in with real time events. For example, Nathan Drake’s train climbing escape from Uncharted 2 holds some comparisons to Lara navigating through fragile obstacles. However, the main difference here lies in the outstanding art style and the overall raw, and gritty presentation that the game holds.

After traveling through the woods and several booby traps, Lara finds a bow and arrow attached to a corpse dangled from a tree. Once acquired, she uses the weapon to kill a nearby deer. Lara then makes her way to a campfire hub, which acts as a central point to access the game’s minimal menu options. Two key features that were highlighted during this portion of the session where the Survival Instinct mode and the XP system.

Survival Instinct is an icon that appears on screen and shows the last spot where the player originated. This feature is especially useful if you start out on a path and lose your way. For the most part, the creative team emphasized that the world is very much open ended but we will have to wait to see more to justify these claims.

The XP system is very interesting because every time you do something you gain experience points. These perks are vital to your survival because it gives you the option to either upgrade your abilities or weapon skills. This strategy element is well intact and can furthermore change how you hunt animals and defend yourself while progressing through the game.

The preview concluded with Lara encountering an enemy who was one of the many responsible for holding Sam hostage. The brief close combat sequence did include the need to follow some button prompts, but they were never distracting enough to take away from the action. After wrestling with the armed vigilante, the showdown ended with Croft delivering a fatal gunshot blow to the enemy’s head. The final frame showed a still innocent Lara bloodied and bruised yet still eager and ready to face what’s next.

Tomb Raider releases on March 5th, 2013 for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC. With a superb presentation style complemented by rich animation and remarkable storytelling this is easily shaping up to be one of the most anticipated action-adventure titles of 2013.  Stay tuned for more news on this game in the months to come.

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