Tomb Raider Preview - E3 2011
E3 11: Lara is back, but this is a whole new experience you may not be expecting
Posted by Alex V (SpectralShock) on Jun 8, 2011 - 9:59pm EST (Jun 8, 2011 21:59)
There hasn’t been a true new Lara Croft title in a number of years now, as what was once an iconic character has become somewhat saturated, lacking thrill in gameplay and execution. With self-titled Tomb Raider, Square Enix aims to reboot the franchise, to the true meaning of the word. This is the story of how Lara became the action girl that we’ve all come to know. Starring Lara at a rather early and fragile age, players will see her transform into a survivor as she is thrown into an extreme situation.
If you were able to catch the Microsoft Xbox 360 E3 press conference, you’ve already seen the first gameplay from the title. Following a ship wreck, Lara finds herself captured by an unknown enemy. The demo was being demonstrated to us by the game’s creative director, who pointed out the ambitions behind the project. Tomb Raider is going to be a visceral, emotional experience as Lara is not yet a strong fighter and must learn the hardships of surviving in the wild. The story is very much character based, and the way we see Lara express fear and anxiety during her daring escape, that certainly seems true.
As she frees herself and gains a torch, fire is introduced as a puzzle element in the game. It reacts realistically with water, and as Lara makes her way through the cave, she has to re-ignite the torch multiple times. When faced with a puzzle, Lara is able to use what is called Instinct – it allows the environment to highlight usable objects, thus providing hints to solving the puzzle. The presenter noted, however, that many objects will be movable, thus using Instinct wouldn’t instantly reveal a solution to the situation.
After solving the puzzle that used both fire and weight physics, Lara is able to progress. But just as she’s about to escape, her captor grabs hold and attempts to subdue her. With a QTE event, Lara is able to break free, and the enemy is killed by a falling rock. As a demonstration, the creative director purposefully failed the QTE, which resulted in bloody stabbing death for Lara. As the whole cave began to collapse, Lara lunged forward across collapsing platforms, until she was able to see the light of day. Crawling uphill once again began a QTE event, this time also dodging falling rocks. Finally, Lara made it to the surface, and for the first time got to see the grandeur scenery of wrecked ships that unfolded before her.
Skipping forward to another section, Lara was now standing in a lightning storm near an abandoned village. She heard screams, and realized that another survivor was in trouble. Rushing over, Lara found a man desperately defending himself against attacking dogs. Having saved him, she helped him over to a campsite he made, and he told her that there is a beacon and a health pack that was stolen by the wolves. He then passed out from his injuries, and Lara made the decision to retrieve the medicine. Starting out, we got to see some true platforming sections, as Lara made her way up the village using rooftops, to the small cave. The developer told us that platforming in Tomb Raider will be multipath, and fully controlled – thus it’s possible to redirect or save a failed jump attempt.
Upon entering and exploring the cave, Lara locates the beacon and the health pack, and begins making her way back. However, she is attacked by a large wolf, and is pinned to the ground. As she struggles to break free, the wolf mauls her hand significantly and she screams in pain. By successfully completed QTE, Lara is able to find a nearby sharp rock and she repeatedly beats and stabs the beast to death. In an amazing character development moment, Lara then whispers, “I am sorry. It was you or me”. This kind of genuine regret is not only unseen in the franchise, but even in any action game in general. As the developer noted, this young Lara does not kill for sport.
Upon returning to the injured man, Lara is able to heal him successfully, and he awakens some time later. But alas, he has a new mission for Lara which requires her to traverse higher up the mountain, and provides a climbing axe to help her. The developer said that as Lara’s skills improve with the game’s progression, she’ll be able to access new areas and unlock new tools. The man will act as a mentor for her throughout the game, though co-op is unlikely due to his injuries. Base camp feature of the game was also mentioned – these are safe areas where Lara can use her earned XP to improve abilities, upgrade her weapons and manage inventory, as well as fast-travel to other camps in the game world.
Visuals and voice acting in the game are already looking great, and this was a pre-alpha build running on Xbox 360. Both the character design and the environments are well designed and look quite good. Lengthy cutscenes that were in the demo are fully acted out, and helped with immersive storytelling. The game is set to hit PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 in 2012, and it already looks like a great attempt to reboot an aging franchise.