After a long development time, Crystal Dynamics’ reboot for Tomb Raider is finally hitting store shelves on March 5th, 2013. Showcasing their pre-beta build at NYCC, I was able to get an extensive hands-on of the game to see how it’s been shaping up. Frankly, I’m not quite sure how to feel about this installment based on the preview so far.
Upon booting up the demo, I was immediately marveled at the visuals the team at Crystal Dynamics was able to achieve here. The environment is as much of a marvel as it is a mystery to explore and entices you into wanting to explore. Dynamic lighting and rich textures help flesh out a richer amount of detail and Lara Croft herself boasts a stunning character model, with believable and fluid animations. Not only does Lara look amazing, she’s also given a very unique voice (courtesy of Camilla Luddington) making her appear as an inexperienced and worried individual. While that doesn’t sound like the Lara Croft fans are used to, this is a reboot and origin story wrapped up in one, and it works. Lara limps her way around due to injuries and reacts to the situations and environments accordingly. She’s not this overly confident character but rather, one who’s cautious and scared. Control wise, if you’ve played any Uncharted game, you’ll feel right at home here. The controls are very smooth and responsive, while providing realistic animations that go hand-in-hand with your actions.
As you move along the cliffside, you come across an airplane that’s stuck against a waterfall. Lara has to climb the plane so that she can make her way across the cliff but naturally, things aren’t that simple. As you start climbing, the plane is falling apart and you’ll have to keep lunging up the plane and then shimmying across. At times, you’ll have to press a specific button (X on the 360 controller in the demo) to regain your grip just like in Tomb Raider: Legend. This scene is even more intense thanks to the stunning audio effects that captures the scene perfectly. As Lara advances, she’ll come across her friend Sam’s bag, which has a match and walkie-talkie in it. She tries to reach anyone with the walkie-talkie but gets no answer, leaving her going solo for the time being. Advancing a bit more while platforming, Lara loses her grip and tramples down a cave to find a new part of the island she’s on, now raining heavily and making her very cold. You’ll notice Lara shivering as you control her or watch her in a cutscene, which is a very cool little detail. You’ll continue forward through this rainy jungle to find shelter under a rocky overpass. While there, she’ll utilize the match she found to start a campfire while continuing to try her walkie-talkie for any hope of survivors.
The next morning, it’s clear skies and she mentions how she’s hungry. This now serves as a tutorial for hunting. As you move through the jungle, Lara will come across a body dangling within the trees with a bow around him. You’ll climb up and slowly try to reach and grab the bow, but as she’s about to grab it, the body will fall off the tree as well as herself. Noticing the dead body on the floor, she cautiously approaches to grab the bow off of the person. Afterwards, she then sees deer in the area. Utilizing the left trigger to aim and right trigger to shoot, you’ll be hunting deer for food as your objective. The longer you hold the right trigger, the more powerful the arrow will pierce. Lara also has an “instincts” mode where certain objects will highlight in a specific color while the environment is black-and-white. Once you’ve completed the objective, you’ll watch a cutscene of Lara feeling awful about killing the deer and ripping it up with her arrow. To wrap it up, you have to find your way back to the campsite and from there, someone Lara recognizes contacts her via walkie-talkie.
Now everything I witnessed in the demo was very well done. I was really engaged to see how Lara would survive and what test she’d be put up to next. The visuals and audio really helped make the game more immersive alongside the solid gameplay. However, the only thing I couldn’t shake off the entire time I was playing was how it felt like Uncharted but with a survival element to it. Yes, Tomb Raider has been around much longer than Nathan Drake but where Uncharted felt like it’s own game, Tomb Raider feels too much like Uncharted with a survival twist. Keep in mind though that this is based strictly off the Hunting Demo that was provided for NYCC. The full game may very well make me feel different once I see more.
Regardless, the game looks great and can’t wait to check out the full version as we approach its March 2013 release. In the meantime, check out the 10 minutes of gameplay footage recorded off-screen below!
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