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E3 Impressions: Tomb Raider
by Joey Núñez

The mecca of videogaming, E3, took place just a few short weeks ago, and one of the main talking points was the new Tomb Raider game, showing a very new, very frightened side to Lara's character. Joey Núñez analyses the live-action demo shown during the Microsoft keynote.

My Lara Croft obsession is pretty much publically known, and very well-documented. I get a special tingle in my gut every time a new Tomb Raider game is announced, and when the Tomb Raider reboot/prequel trailer hit the web a couple of weeks ago, I pretty much died with excitement.

Good news: resurrection kicked in just in time for E3. Bad news: I went ahead and died all over again, once my eyes fell upon the Tomb Raider stage demo. This, of course, means that I was thoroughly impressed. Here’s why.

Lara, the girl formerly known as Lady Lara Croft

The stage demo starts off with our heroine precariously hanging upside down, trapped and tied. If you’ve ever played a Tomb Raider game before, the first thing that will draw your attention is the way Lara reacts to her predicament. She is scared; downright terrified. Gone is the cool and collected badass of games past and, in her place, we see a young, inexperienced girl, fighting to survive.

Throughout the stage demo, the character animation and the voice acting drove this point home. Lara stumbles and staggers at the appropriate times, and grunts and screams realistically. This is no longer the pristine, quasi-Wonderwoman we fans are used to, but rather, it seems that Tomb Raider will put us in control of a more grounded, realistic, relatable heroine. I hope you guys are ready to feel every cut and bruise. I know I am.

The pretty lady in the pretty game

Whilst watching the stage demo, once I had recovered from the fact that my badass tomb-raiding chick was now a scared girl, the next thing that hit me straight in the face was how incredible she looked. From a graphical standpoint, the game looks amazing. With a great use of light and shadow, realistic water effects, impressive dust particles, gorgeous textures and pretty, pretty fire, the short E3 demo made me 'ooh' and 'aah' more than I care to admit. Considering that everything shown took place inside a dark cavern, I can’t wait to see the rest of the island that Lara has found herself stranded on.

Tomb Raider and the Uncharted School of Cinematic Gaming

One of the first games I ever slid into Polly, my dear-departed PS3, was Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Whilst playing the game, I can remember that I would think to myself, "this is Tomb Raider; this is what Tomb Raider will be on my PS3". Fast forward to Tomb Raider: Underworld, and its underwhelming presentation, and it became quite clear that Ms. Croft’s game was nowhere near the cinematic experience provided by Uncharted. Nathan Drake was beating the lovely Lara at her own game.

If the E3 demo is any indication, Lara’s ready to fight back with her next outing. The movement of the camera around Lara was awesome, as our view of Lara adjusted to each situation, pulling in tight and panning out wide when the game required it. Likewise, the animation and voice work were both stellar; as Lara pleads with herself to find a way out of the cavern in which she is trapped, you can’t help but feel drawn into her despair, compelled by it. Although the demo was brief, everything seems to indicate that a Tomb Raider game finally has the quality production values and set pieces which she deserves.

Puzzle me this, puzzle me that

Towards the end of the demo, Lara enters a wide open space, complete with some strange contraptions. As she looks around, it becomes quite clear that she is being faced with a classic Tomb Raider environmental puzzle.

Or is it?

Although the 'spirit' of a Tomb Raider puzzle seems to be retained, everything in the room - including the puzzle itself - seems much more organic than in previous games. No switches to pull, no boxes to push. Cerebral tomb raiding with a twist? More, please.

To say that I am very excited about this game would be an understatement. Check out the E3 demo if you haven’t already. And, while you’re at it, tell me what you make of the ship graveyard which surrounds Lara at the very end of the demo.

Just what is going on in this island? Autumn 2012 can’t get here soon enough.

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- Joey Núñez

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