E3 2011: Eyes-On With Tomb Raider

Since the announcement of a Tomb Raider reboot, I wasn’t too certain if a rehash would be enough to make Lara Croft relevant again. Sure, we had last year’s downloadable title Guardian of Light, which actually received some positive feedback — even from us. But it wasn’t trying to be what some would call a true Tomb Raider experience. The team at Crystal Dynamics wants to change all that, but will it lose what made it unique this whole time?

You know what’s happened since Lara’s last good game? Uncharted, that’s what. And it’s not to say that the team at Naughty Dog re-invented the genre, but they sure as hell shined it up, and now it’s Tomb Raider‘s turn to play follow the leader.

The 1st half of the demo that was showcased at E3 was an extended version of what was already shown during Microsoft’s presser prior. It opens up with a shipwrecked and kidnapped (crazy combination I know) Lara Croft tied up and dangling above the wrong end of an open flame. Using the elements will be key in this one and it’s clearly indicated right from the start of the demo as fire is used to free Lara from danger.

Fire won’t be the only puzzle solving element you’ll use while you’re raiding tombs. Water also played a significant role in what we were shown as it also acted as a barrier of sorts. You see, you can’t just take fire into an area where water is pouring down from above (and that’s for obvious reasons), so some puzzles will call for you to figure out alternate routes and combinations to get Lara moving out of harm’s way and into the right direction. We were told that other elements would come into play but fire and water were all that were shown to us.

Throughout the gameplay that was shown, I got the resounding feeling that it may suffer from something that has spread throughout the industry faster than California wildfires. I’m talking about Quick Time Events (or QTEs), and, thanks to EA, it’s even in a racing title this year.  In Tomb Raider, action sequences rely heavily on QTEs, and I mean even more than God of War III heavy. Maybe even Heavy Rain heavy? Ok, I’ll stop saying heavy, but I hope you get the point.

In terms of direction I think the  Game Informer cover spread in January was a clear indicator that the reboot would go in a much darker and grittier direction than the series has ever gone before. It looks like Crystal Dynamics is going for the whole “make the player feel uncomfortable” thing by putting Lara through torture on screen. Within minutes of the demo, not only did Lara get stabbed through the shoulder with a wooden steak, but moments later, also attacked by her captor — who just so happen to look like what Gollum from The Lord of the Rings would look like had he been a sexual deviant.

These moments of weakness and pain are doused by Lara’s constant grunts and groans. Don’t get me wrong, I know its obvious that a stab here and a sex fiend attack there would get anyone’s blood pumping, but it got kind of awkward. By the end of it, I felt like I just sat through a female tennis match at Wimbledon.

From what was shown (and not playable), I can say that Tomb Raider has definitely piqued my interest. Even though it does have a “me too” feel as it seems to loosely borrow from this generations most popular ideas and game mechanics, it’s still very much a step in the right direction. I hope that in the months to come we get a chance to see even more of what the title has to offer. Crystal Dynamics has its hands on one of the most popular  videogame characters in the past fifteen years. One can only hope the final product will do her justice.

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Joel Taveras

Joel Taveras is one of the founding members of DualShockers. He hails from New York City where he lives with his wife and two sons. During his tenure with the site, he's held every position from news writer to community manager to editor in chief. Currently he manages the behind the scenes and day-to-day operations at the publication.

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