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E3 2011 – Tomb Raider Preview

We already had some information regarding the basic scenario of the new Lara Croft experience, but much hope was put on E3 as far as detailed gameplay footage and impressions was concerned.

We’re glad to say that no one was disappointed in this regard. We saw a young Lara – 21 years old to be exact – fresh out of college and eager in finding herself an adventure to indulge in, and on an expedition to somewhere on a large ship.

What happens next is something neither she nor anyone anticipates, as the ship is wrecked in a heavy storm and despite an attempt by her mentor, Werner, to save her, she finds herself beaten and bruised from head to toe on the shores of an unknown island, with only a bow and a strange looking knife to accompany her.

That is how the trailer goes, and like many other trailers it was impressive, but didn’t reveal the slightest bit of gameplay.

However, the demo that we saw at the E3 elaborated whatever was in the trailer, and the two fit perfectly. Lara’s fragility that depicts her inexperience was greatly highlighted throughout – sometimes a bit too much for comfort, but conveyed the basic message very well: this Tomb Raider wasn’t just a normal adventure; it is all about survival.

In the starting of the demo – which is also the beginning of the game, Lara Croft is captured and dangling upside down from a rope in an underground cavern. She has to – through the player’s controls, move to-and-fro in order to free herself, and burns the rope with the help of a fire nearby.

She tumbles down the cavern, which seems to be a rather large drop, and once she’s had her rough landing, we find that she has been impaled by a wooden stake in the stomach.

The scene is rather hard to watch, as it really instantly changes the way you thought of the once invincible Lara. After some repeated button-pressing, the stake is taken out slowly, and she limps on, her hands clutching on the wound.

From there on she presses onwards, coming across a dead body hanging several feet about the ground. It’s obvious Lara recognizes the person, but she moves on, keeping in-view that this is about survival.

After grabbing a torch from nearby, and experiencing a rather scary quick-time event encounter with one of the natives who tries to grab her, Lara continues her attempt to escape from the cavern.

The true highlight was how realistic and pain-filled her movements are, and above all, how fantastic the visuals look. The game is on-par with the greatest looking games yet, and the cavern, though dull colored, looks almost cinematic.

Of course the details of the flowing water, the luminous burning of the torch, and the regular falling of debris added to the beauty of the game.

As Lara continued on, she found herself in a flooded cave. Here we were introduced to her Survival Instinct, which faded the colors of the environment, highlighting only those things that she could use to continue her escape attempt.

Once that bit was taken care of, we found her doing things we’d expect from the old Lara, jumping over chasms and leaping towards freedom.

There was another encounter with one of those natives, who eventually, after another quick-time event, is squashed by a huge falling rock. After a slight hiccup towards the end of her escape, where she almost tumbles into an abyss, she finally finds light pouring out from the above world.

That’s pretty much the summary of what was seen in the demo. It did feel a bit scripted, and her over-screaming could get rather exaggerated, but the impression was very clearly delivered: this Tomb Raider is about a new Lara, and all about survival.