E3 12; Tomb Raider preview; a dark and grittier Lara
Last year, Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix wowed us with a darker and grittier Lara Croft than we’ve seen before. Rebooting the franchise to before Lara was the gun touting, ass kicking heroine we’re familiar with, Tomb Raider depicts a fragile girl who is thrust into danger and must survive at any cost. While we weren’t able to go hands-on with the game, we did get to see a lengthy gameplay demo that expanded on what was shown during Microsoft’s press conference.
From what we could tell, the demo takes place shortly after Lara escaped her mysterious captors. Lara is still in a state of shock from the plane crash and is looking for any other survivors that might be near. Traversing the island, Lara encounters a rusted plane fuselage, most likely the result of a previous crash, hanging precariously from a cliff. She performs her best Nathan Drake impression and climbs/jumps her way across just in time before it crashes to the riverbed below.
It’s at this point we can begin to see the darker nature of the game. Lara is constantly winded and breathing heavily. She clutches her shoulder in pain as she runs along the cliff’s edge. This isn’t the action and adventurer we’ve seen in previous games. Every step she takes appears to have weight to it. Crossing a labyrinth of plane wreckage, while not an easy task itself, is nothing compared to what Lara will face.
Lara soon comes across a hanging dead body in the forest. Who or what did this to the person is unknown but it definitely wasn’t pretty. It’s at this point that Lara gets her first weapon; a bow along with some arrows. Immediately Lara realizes that she must hunt for her food and eyes a deer in the background. Survivalist instincts kick in and Lara reluctantly kills the deer in order to feed herself. From the look on her face, this is her first kill of any sort. It certainly won’t be her last.
She eventually finds other friends who survived the plane crash too, but not before encountering a low level creep named Mathias who has taken her friend Sam hostage. Unable to stop him from getting away, Lara becomes caught in a bear trap. Her foot stuck, she must defend herself with the bow from a pack of hungry wolves. Through a series of Matrix-like slow motion events, Lara is able to dispatch every wolf. She’s learning quickly how to survive.
Finally, Lara manages to meet up with the other survivors, and we get a good look and the camp system. Scattered across the island are locations where you can make camp. Here, you can upgrade your weapons and items with experience points you’ve earned or salvage you’ve collected. The bow, for instance, can be upgraded to allow Lara to retrieve arrows from fallen enemies. At one point in the demo, Lara must collect salvage to upgrade her flimsy prying tool to make it strong enough to use as a crank.
As Lara proceeds further into the jungle, things quickly turn from bad to worse. Four men emerge from the trees and take Lara and the others hostage. Bounded and weaponless, Lara is at mercy to the men, who appear to have no trouble shooting anyone who gets out of line. She manages to escape for a brief moment, and that’s when all hell breaks loose. She stumbles her way through the shadows and dilapidated buildings, struggling to free herself and just prays to God she isn’t seen. Too late. She’s discovered and a brawl ensues with some well executed quick time events. Lara manages to break free and get the gun away from her attacker just in time to blow his brains out the back of his head. Covered in blood, sweat, and tears, Lara emerges one step closer to the Tomb Raider she becomes.