E3: Tomb Raider

E3: Tomb Raider

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We take a closer look at a younger, more clueless Lara.

When you think of ways to describe Lara Croft, "scared" probably isn't the first word that pops to mind, but that's exactly what the young heroine of the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot is - and with good reason. She's just 21 years old, setting out on her very first adventure, and has yet to acquire the many skills that we know her older self to have.

We got a brief glimpse of the new game during Microsoft's press conference yesterday, but later got the chance to see a bit more of this newer, more fragile Lara. After she's shipwrecked, Lara wakes to find herself held captive on a mysterious island surrounded by a veritable ship's graveyard. Decaying vessels of all kinds dot the shore, and the natives are most definitely not friendly. During the course of the game, Lara will not only learn more about why she's on the island - it's not just dumb luck - but also more about herself as a person.

The first few minutes of the demo are meant to teach the player about how the game world works. Its a control tutorial, but it's also meant to illustrate the basics like if you try swimming with a torch,your torch will go out. Sure, that's common sense, but we've all played games where that isn't true, so it's a nice touch of verisimilitude.

The opening scene is Lara's escape from a cave where she's been bound and strung upside down. The escape itself is quite exciting, involving kicking natives in the face as they grab at you, a slide down a slick tunnel, and even Lara setting herself on fire, but the controls on display were disappointing. Tapping the triggers Track and Field style and waggling the left stick to shake off a native's grasp feels like goofy busywork and robs the action of some of its immediacy. That said, the game isn't due to come out until September of next year, so many aspects of it could change.

After Lara makes it out of the cave to discover the multitude of ships broken on the shore, the demo skips ahead to her fourth day on the island after she's found another survivor, Conrad Roth, the captain of the ship. He's like a father figure to her, and the scenes between them illustrated just how very different this Lara is from the one we know. In one scene, Lara discovers Roth being attacked by wolves; the two manage to scare them off, but not before the wolves make off with Roth's pack, which contained food, medical supplies, and a radio. If there's to be any chance of rescue, Lara and Roth need to get that radio back. He starts to head after the wolves, but collapses into unconsciousness due to his wounds. And Lara has absolutely no idea what to do. She responds pretty much exactly the way you'd expect a young, scared girl to react: she frets, she clings doggedly to the things that make sense to her, like dragging him to shelter, and then she swallows her fear and heads off after the wolves. She needs Roth to survive, Roth needs bandages to survive, so she really doesn't have much choice.

It a complete shift from the confident, bulletproof Lara that we've known for so long, and it's fascinating. It's like getting to travel back in time and meet your sweetheart before they became the person you first met. You can see and share the experiences that ended up making Lara into the Tomb Raider.

We didn't get to see much combat beyond button-slamming quick time events, though Lara was armed with a bow for this portion of the game. We did get to see a few of what used to be called puzzles, but in this new Tomb Raider are called "Survival Escapes." Lara uses her Survival Instinct to help her figure out what aspects of the environment can be used to her advantage. It's a lot like going into Detective Mode in Arkham Asylum, as most of the environment drops into black and white and items of interest glow. I appreciated the fact that it has to be activated, so if you'd like to try and figure out what to do just by eyeballing the area - the way a real Tomb Raider would - you can.

Each hub area has its own Base Camp, where you can upgrade your skills and weapons by spending the game's currency, which has yet to be designed. Other collectibles, like journals and audio logs, will help Lara discover the truth and fill in the story. There are several ways through each part of the hub worlds, though not all paths may be accessible to you at a given time. You might need an ice axe to reach a higher path, for example, or need a higher strength skill in order to make a particularly athletic jump. Remember, this is the newbie Lara, who hasn't yet learned to turn cartwheels while shooting bloodthirsty cougars. (In fact, this Lara actually apologizes to a wolf she has to kill.)

The Tomb Raider games have been pretty gorgeous the last few times around, and this new one is no exception. We unfortunately didn't get to see too much other than the dank caves where she woke up and a small area around Base Camp, but the island looks like it will be pretty enormous, with plenty of interesting locations to visit. If you can see it, we're told, you can go to it, a claim that becomes more interesting when you can see mountains far off in the distance.

There's still a lot to learn about this new Tomb Raider, but I'm entranced by what I've seen so far. Lara is more interesting than she's been in years, still familiar, but a completely different person. She's vulnerable, fallible, and scared out of her mind, but she's still Lara. If the puzzles and combat can keep pace with the characterization, this reboot could be amazing.

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See all our coverage directly from the show floor.

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The complaints about this game upset me as a game player and as a guy who enjoys character development.

-The game isn't like Other M because because this reboot is who actual the 1st adventure where we will see Lara grow into something that resembles what we know of Lara. In Other M, THAT adventure would have been Samus' 3rd-5th "official" adventure. So the "tweaking" out is out of place for a person with experience as an adventurer. If Samus acted like that during her 1st adventure..than yeah it would be the right time to "tweak" out.

-All we have seen so far, we as of yet do not know the size of the island, is a cave and a view of a beach. This gives us no idea, but a tease none the less, of what to expect. So complaining the games color at this point is like complaining about the new Zelda game is it was a 4 minute demo of one area, there is really nothing to think really good or bad yet other than the aesthetics.

-The developers have said Lara Croft in the game is 21 years old. Yet fans have the strong belief that she is 16 years old in the game. This strongly points that we, as fans, have no grasp on looking at someone and knowing their age. :D

I actually feel really bad about saying this, but, honestly, when I read about Roth as a "father figure," I couldn't help but think "Other M again." I know its too early to judge and this relationship could prove far more complex and meaningful than what we've seen before, but that's where my mind jumped and I would assume some of you who read that line felt that way at least a little.

Negatempest:
The complaints about this game upset me as a game player and as a guy who enjoys character development.

-The game isn't like Other M because because this reboot is who actual the 1st adventure where we will see Lara grow into something that resembles what we know of Lara. In Other M, THAT adventure would have been who 3rd-5th "official" adventure. So the "tweaking" out is out of place for a person with experience as an adventurer. If Samus acted like that during her 1st adventure..than yeah it would be the right time to "tweak" out.

-All we have seen so far, we as of yet do not know the size of the island, is a cave and a view of a beach. This gives us no idea, but a tease none the less, of what to expect. So complaining the games color at this point is like complaining about the new Zelda game is it was a 4 minute demo of one area, there is really nothing to think really good or bad yet other than the aesthetics.

-The developers have said Lara Croft in the game is 21 years old. Yet fans have the strong belief that she is 16 years old in the game. This strongly points that we, as fans, have no grasp on looking at someone and knowing their age. :D

Um....I heaped nothing but praise on the game. What complaints are you talking about?

hope the controls for the pc will be good. it sure has improved since CD took over, but still had its little flaws.
just wait and see.

Ah sounds actually quite good but one thing that made me laugh was when you said she set herself on fire, it reminded me of Dr. Mcninja xD

I always liked the Tomb Raider games and Lara Croft as a character. Sure, the overt objectification turned her into a bit of an uncomfortable joke after awhile. Still I feel like the developers have been uncommonly respectful to her character over the years. She has remained consistently determined, witty and above all likeable throughout the series. It's nice to see a real exploration of her here as a person rather than a bombastic stereotype.

For me, the #1 feature of the games, above puzzling and combat, was the wonder of exploration in exotic locales. The games were never top of the heap gameplay-wise. I was as happy as a pig in sh** wandering for hours the brown pixelated recesses of sunken Atlantis, with it's subterranean jungles and dinosaurs. We don't need globe-trotting, cover shooting or James Bond gadgets. We just need a vast, mysterious environment to uncover and the indomitable will to break every pot we find and steal everything we can lay our hot little fingers on ;)

Susan Arendt:

Negatempest:
The complaints about this game upset me as a game player and as a guy who enjoys character development.

-The game isn't like Other M because because this reboot is who actual the 1st adventure where we will see Lara grow into something that resembles what we know of Lara. In Other M, THAT adventure would have been who 3rd-5th "official" adventure. So the "tweaking" out is out of place for a person with experience as an adventurer. If Samus acted like that during her 1st adventure..than yeah it would be the right time to "tweak" out.

-All we have seen so far, we as of yet do not know the size of the island, is a cave and a view of a beach. This gives us no idea, but a tease none the less, of what to expect. So complaining the games color at this point is like complaining about the new Zelda game is it was a 4 minute demo of one area, there is really nothing to think really good or bad yet other than the aesthetics.

-The developers have said Lara Croft in the game is 21 years old. Yet fans have the strong belief that she is 16 years old in the game. This strongly points that we, as fans, have no grasp on looking at someone and knowing their age. :D

Um....I heaped nothing but praise on the game. What complaints are you talking about?

Other posts, blogs, trailers, snipets, etc. The majority are fan/costumer complaining about Lara's lack of calmness and sureness on her 1st adventure that turned to **** unexpectedly.

Negatempest:

Susan Arendt:

Negatempest:
The complaints about this game upset me as a game player and as a guy who enjoys character development.

-The game isn't like Other M because because this reboot is who actual the 1st adventure where we will see Lara grow into something that resembles what we know of Lara. In Other M, THAT adventure would have been who 3rd-5th "official" adventure. So the "tweaking" out is out of place for a person with experience as an adventurer. If Samus acted like that during her 1st adventure..than yeah it would be the right time to "tweak" out.

-All we have seen so far, we as of yet do not know the size of the island, is a cave and a view of a beach. This gives us no idea, but a tease none the less, of what to expect. So complaining the games color at this point is like complaining about the new Zelda game is it was a 4 minute demo of one area, there is really nothing to think really good or bad yet other than the aesthetics.

-The developers have said Lara Croft in the game is 21 years old. Yet fans have the strong belief that she is 16 years old in the game. This strongly points that we, as fans, have no grasp on looking at someone and knowing their age. :D

Um....I heaped nothing but praise on the game. What complaints are you talking about?

Other posts, blogs, trailers, snipets, etc. The majority are fan/costumer complaining about Lara's lack of calmness and sureness on her 1st adventure that turned to **** unexpectedly.

Then they simply don't get it. Lara didn't come out of the womb a self-assured and incredibly skilled adventurer, after all. She had to go through her trial by fire, and this is it.

Can it really be? A superawesome Lara Croft game?!
We'll see!
Looking forward to this one. Seems really interesting.

You expressed a negative opinion about a game? In a preview? I am proud of you Escapist. I appreciate the honesty.

*If you are wondering about what I was talking about it was how you expressed that the controls looked awkward I almost never see criticism of any kind in previews these days.*

vid87:
I actually feel really bad about saying this, but, honestly, when I read about Roth as a "father figure," I couldn't help but think "Other M again." I know its too early to judge and this relationship could prove far more complex and meaningful than what we've seen before, but that's where my mind jumped and I would assume some of you who read that line felt that way at least a little.

Same, but it's really going to depend on how it's handled.

Here's the deal: if Roth is an uber-unstoppable action hero for whom Lara has emotional attachment issues, then, yes, this is going to suck, at least because it's going to be very difficult to understand how young Lara became older Lara. The story will become convoluted, unbelievable, or downright stupid, and all of the pretty trailers in the world won't save it.

If, though, this is, as you say, more complex and meaningful, perhaps a relationship which is more symbiotic where Lara and Roth need each other, and that message is conveyed strongly - as in, for instance, the chance of survival for either alone drops to "we're all dead" without the other - then I'm forecasting a strong game. Without that joint vulnerability, though, and if Lara's always running back into Roth's protective save-me-for-you-can-do-anything arms, then the plot is bankrupt.

I must confess, I've never played the Tomb Raider series. For me, Lara has always been that female Indiana Jones with the huge knockers. But it looks like she's being treated like, oh, a human, and that has me very excited about the potential for this game.

These people are so goddam desperate to shove this obstinate crap down our throats, I think next game is going to be an erotic sci-fi RPG.

I'm just hoping they tone down the excessive grunting and scared exclamations when the game launches. Watching the demo, I kept getting distracted by her voice. It kept reminding me of listening to a match between two LOUD female tennis players. I understand the need to make her come off as a scare, inexperienced 21-year old, but they don't need to constantly jackhammer the image into us.

The number one complaint I've heard all day yesterday being made against Tomb Raider based on the preview..........is the voicework. Specifically how off-putting her high pitched grunts and moans of pain are. I've argues with three separate individuals about it, both here and on other sites.

I maintain that the ONLY reason it seems out of place is that we are just simply not used to hearing a woman make the sounds. Men in video games do it ALL the TIME. Play some Assassin's creed if you don't believe me. It's just the pitch we are not used. And just for that, people have been saying shit like "It sounds like a porno", or "my mom thought I was watching porn".......... And I kept facepalming constanly.

I would like to know Susan's point of view on this, though. What'd you think of the voicework in general. Is the high-pitch of the voice distracting?

GrizzlerBorno:
I maintain that the ONLY reason it seems out of place is that we are just simply not used to hearing a woman make the sounds.

I respectfully disagree with that. I've played enough Tomb Raider games, as well as other games with female leads, to be used to the occasional grunts and other sounds from them. I have no problem with the occasional incidental sound bite. My point of contention is the constant series of exclamations over every little thing in that demo. Jumping from ledge to ledge and grunting? Cool. Breathing heavy and making pained noises to signify injury? I get that.

But I don't need to be reinforced every second that I'm in a bad situation by the main character, male or female. I pretty much can get the gist of it by looking around. Allowing the player to take in the environment and assess the situation on their own does wonders for better immersion (I hope I spelled that right). If there are points in a game where I get confused and start standing around figuring out what to do next, then I would be more receptive to a comment or two from the main character to guide me in the right direction.

That being said, I too am curious as to what Susan Arendt thinks of this.

KazNecro:

GrizzlerBorno:
I maintain that the ONLY reason it seems out of place is that we are just simply not used to hearing a woman make the sounds.

I respectfully disagree with that. I've played enough Tomb Raider games, as well as other games with female leads, to be used to the occasional grunts and other sounds from them. I have no problem with the occasional incidental sound bite. My point of contention is the constant series of exclamations over every little thing in that demo. Jumping from ledge to ledge and grunting? Cool. Breathing heavy and making pained noises to signify injury? I get that.

But I don't need to be reinforced every second that I'm in a bad situation by the main character, male or female. I pretty much can get the gist of it by looking around. Allowing the player to take in the environment and assess the situation on their own does wonders for better immersion (I hope I spelled that right). If there are points in a game where I get confused and start standing around figuring out what to do next, then I would be more receptive to a comment or two from the main character to guide me in the right direction.

That being said, I too am curious as to what Susan Arendt thinks of this.

i see your point in this. but keep in mind that its still laras first adventure. she is young and totally green. so there i can accept these sounds she did. we havent seen any gameplay yet. we dont know if she will be doing this every sec in the game or just in at the beginning until she gets over her self how to handle her situation.
there is still time. so lets just wait and see.

personally the sounds dint bother me much. it still made things a bit realistic to the situation she has bin suddenly dropped in too. thats just my opinion.

This is the first time I've really been interested in anything to do with tomb raider

Well. In real life, Laura would not be able to jump for weeks after that first fall. Even if she miraculously avoided breaking a rib, she would have surely caught an infection on her way out. Normally, I would suspend disbelief, but this is approaching the uncanny valley.

KazNecro:
I'm just hoping they tone down the excessive grunting and scared exclamations when the game launches. Watching the demo, I kept getting distracted by her voice. It kept reminding me of listening to a match between two LOUD female tennis players. I understand the need to make her come off as a scare, inexperienced 21-year old, but they don't need to constantly jackhammer the image into us.

I agree. I get that she is 21 and scared shitless as she rightfully should be but she's keep grunting or gasping at everything and it just gets annoying and distracting even if it may be a "realistic" response. They need to tone it down. Not to mention if she is making those sounds all the time it removes all impact.

Woo! Yet another game announced with a Detective Mode clone! *cough*Hitman*cough*

 

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