I hated Tomb Raider when I was growing up. The controls felt clunky to me, I was confused about what the hell I had to do (though this can be attributed to being an idiot when I was little), and generally it was a bad experience that left a sour taste in my mouth all of these years. So then it was curiosity that brought me to Square Enix’s booth at PAX to play the newest adventure of Lara Croft. No longer a cone boob studded heroine, but now a normal looking young woman. Surprisingly enough, I think it’s going to be pretty awesome.
The cutscenes made me feel uncomfortable. There, I said it. This could be due entirely to the creepy vibes past trailers have given off, but I couldn’t shake seeing her shiver defenselessly and all the zoomed in cleavage shots.
Aside from that, the easiest comparison would be to call it a more serious Uncharted. I know that sounds odd considering she literally does the same things Nathan Drake does: giant near death leaps and massive vehicle parts falling on her and all. The demo I played through involved her finding a bow to hunt. This was not before showing off the game’s platforming wherein Lara had to do things like cross a log bridge over a waterfall, climb up a rock formation, and avoid being crushed by debris. She manages to survive huge falls that would normally break every bone in a person’s body, so I know how calling this a more serious Uncharted sounds weird. You really get the vibe, though, that the story is gritty and that you’ll be doing a lot of questionable things to survive.
She killed the deer with hesitancy and reluctance, but she did it because she needed to eat. That’s an interesting thing I saw while playing through the short demo, I learned a lot about her. I learned more about Lara Croft in this iteration within ten minutes than I did in the past with six games.
The controls felt great when leading her through the jungle area. She can run, jump, shoot her bow, and even do a weird Golem walk that I assume is a dodge. There are some Quick Time Events that appear when you’re doing something that will potentially throw you off balance and make you fall to a gruesome death. I saw one person fail at this one part about five times because he wasn’t pressing X (he was playing on the 360) in time with her jump to make sure she grabbed onto the ledge. He sucked, though, so that shouldn’t be a problem to a lot of people. An interesting instance of a QTE was when you get to a dangling body in a tree that has a bow. You need to stand on a branch and reach out to the body when it swings close enough by holding X. This isn’t simply a “press X when it tells you to” QTE, but rather the player needs to time it so Lara can stretch her arm out in unison with the body swaying towards her.
Using the bow and arrow was a lot of fun and didn’t have much of a learning curve. You simply aim and shoot the deer when you find one. Heads up, if you shoot them in the butt twice, they go down like a sack of potatoes. After this point the demo was wrapping up and the last thing to do after collecting the deer meat would be to head back to the campfire. There, a skill tree is revealed depicting different skills you can spend points in to master. My favorite was the hunting tree, as it shows that hunting in the game will play a big role. It’ll be interesting to see the balance between playing through the game and having to hunt for food when needed. Needless to say Tomb Raider should have a lot of people, if not everyone, excited for its release on March 5th, 2013.