NYCC: Hands-on Tomb Raider

NYCC: Hands-on Tomb Raider

Before she can fight, Lara must learn to survive.

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I was intrigued by what I saw of Eidos' Tomb Raider reboot at E3 earlier this year, but it wasn't until earlier this week that I was actually allowed to play it. The New York Comic Con hunting demo didn't have much in the way of conflict or combat, but it did show off the new Lara Croft's core struggle: learning how to survive way outside her comfort zone.

The demo began on a coastal bluff, with the waves crashing past the remains of shipwrecks below. An injured, bloody Lara, having just survived a crash of her own, begins searching for other survivors from her party. I was able to take control of Lara from the start, and as I explored, I quickly found a wrecked plane suspended near a waterfall.

I climbed the plane and made my way across a ledge in a sequence that was very reminiscent of the Uncharted games, which is weird because when Uncharted first came out it drew many comparisons to Tomb Raider. There were signs of life in the wreckage, but no one was present, so the search continued. After following the survivors' trail, it began to rain, and Lara was forced to take shelter for the night, using her last match to start a fire.

Though I wasn't in control of this sequence, Lara's pause before striking the match conveyed the weight of this action. Shaking from fear and cold, she had to get it right if she wanted to get through the night without freezing to death. Obviously, she's still alive the next morning, and the search for food begins.

Not far from her camp, Lara finds a corpse hanging upside down from a tree. There's no time to be disgusted, though, because the dead body is still wearing a bow, a crucial tool for hunting. After finding some arrows nearby, I climbed up a ledge, reached for the bow, and grabbed it as the body swung in my direction. After firing off a few test shots, I wandered around until I found what I was looking for: a perfectly innocent deer minding its own business, frolicking through the woods.

After trailing the deer at a distance for a minute, I took careful aim and let a couple of arrows loose. The deer fell, and the game took over as Lara discovered the poor creature was still alive and struggling to breathe. Using an arrow, she finished the job, and I regained control with my new objective being to return to camp with the meat.

There are a couple of ways to find your path out in the wild. A map attached to the select button lets you see you, your objective, and any noteworthy features nearby, like bodies of water. You can also set a beacon that lights the way to your next objective while fading everything else into black and white.

Back at camp, I got a glimpse at some of the new skills I could unlock with the survival experience I'd gained in my early quest for survival. Upgraded abilities like arrow retrieval from fallen enemies, gaining experience from plants and food, and an animal instinct that makes it easier to spot targets are just a few of the survival skills Lara can earn during the course of Tomb Raider.

The NYCC demo didn't really show me anything I didn't know, but it was the first time I got to experience what Tomb Raider actually feels like. It's familiar and new at the same time, and I was pleased that I didn't encounter any of the troublesome camera issues for which the series has been infamous. Lara's vulnerability doesn't get in the way of her survival instincts, and there seems to be a lot of room for character development in this reboot. After finally playing Tomb Raider, I'm even more interested in seeing how the shivering, seemingly helpless Lara becomes the tough survivor she needs to be when it launches in 2013.

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Seems interesting but very far from the original Tomb Raider concept. I'm not sure if I'm okay with that to be honest. I mean it is Tomb Raider not Survival Raider.

Also if you're going to go so far from the original concept why not dump the whole 'tomb raider' thing anyways and start a new IP. Why let the old IP drag down what could be a new series?

Certainly looks interesting, but there is one thing I have to quiz you on. The graphics, were they crisp and clean or did it have a pervasive GTA4-esque "mud" filter over the camera lens?

008Zulu:
Certainly looks interesting, but there is one thing I have to quiz you on. The graphics, were they crisp and clean or did it have a pervasive GTA4-esque "mud" filter over the camera lens?

Clean and crisp, no mud filter.

You mentioned the game taking control away from you far too many times for me to be comfortable.

Played it at the Eurogamer Xpo and I was underwhelmed.

**In a nutshell, I found it clunky compared to previous games, and the atmos overly grim. What follows is me getting a little carried away with my rant...**

I've been a fan of the series since the original. Admittedly, II was my favourite, and they got steadily worse from there (culminating in the dire Angel of Darkness), but the core gameplay mechanics - which drew me in in the first place - remained (until they butchered them in the dire Angel of Darkness); mechanics that CD modernised to great effect, I felt, in Legend and Anniversary (I've never had an issue with the camera (except for in the dire Angel of Darkness) and don't get why people struggled with it (certainly better than the original Uncharted's (and the...oh, you get the point))).

Compared to the free-flowing acrobatics of previous games, this Tomb Raider felt stilted and clunky.

Another issue I have is the atmosphere of the thing. One of the things I always loved about the series was Lara's light-hearted attitude towards the life-and-death situations she always found herself in; something I felt they lost in Underworld (along with any sense of structure, pacing and how to animate a dive), so I was looking forward to the reboot, but the more I see of it, the more humourless the game seems to be. I know it's supposed to be her formative adventure: the story of how she becomes the character she becomes, but surely, in any game, a balance must be struck between a convincing and emotive narrative, and fun.

And, of course, there's that origin story itself. In the original games, the reason for her attitude had nothing to do with being a wide-eyed, would-be adventurer, hardened by tragedy and despair. She was a socialite, raised in the lap of luxury, who becomes an adventure junky after surviving a plane-crash in the Himalayas. Shunned by her parents for not wanting to be the prim and proper lady they expect her to be, she gets educated, writes her memoirs and builds her own fortune. That's far more interesting and original than, 'Daddy was an archaeologist, so I became one too'.

I know the new back story has her again making it on her own, but it's now because her parents are missing and she thinks using their fortune is acknowledging they're dead. More interesting, perhaps, than the post-Last Revelation origin story, but it still means the mcguffin of 'Following in the family's adventurous footsteps' is liable to raise its lazy, unimaginative head again.

TsunamiWombat:
You mentioned the game taking control away from you far too many times for me to be comfortable.

To be fair, they seem to have blended the tutorial with the story's introduction before they let you loose on the island (which I understand is to be wide open for exploration), so I can personally forgive it for cutting to cinematics every minute or two during the demo.

That said, some of trailers have been overly focused of QTEs, which doesn't instill confidence.

I'm loving the concept of this. Most interest I've been in Tomb Raider for years

synobal:
Seems interesting but very far from the original Tomb Raider concept. I'm not sure if I'm okay with that to be honest. I mean it is Tomb Raider not Survival Raider.

Lara is still an archaeologist, I believe, and I'm sure the game will have a fair amount of tomb raiding, even with the focus on survival.

synobal:
Also if you're going to go so far from the original concept why not dump the whole 'tomb raider' thing anyways and start a new IP. Why let the old IP drag down what could be a new series?

A familiar name will always sell better.

Anyone else just... tired of this. In general? I just don't have the energy to care anymore. I didn't with the first concept art, and I don't now. Tomb Raider Legends is the last I ever cared.

TsunamiWombat:
You mentioned the game taking control away from you far too many times for me to be comfortable.

That's what I was thinking, way too many 'cinematic' moments where the game puts spectacle over, y'know, actually being able to play the damn thing.

But then the older Tomb Raider games were pretty cutscene dependent as well, in The Last Revelation you were nearly given a cutscene every time you entered a new room.

I just want to know about the tomb raiding part of it. Will there be ancient evils awakened? Gods and godesses exposed? Booby traps and logic puzzles in old ruins? Magical artifacts of incredible power? Enemies who are designed to be interesting and implement fun game mechanics to defeat, instead of enemies designed with bland believability?

Hmm, I'm just determined to hate this game for no solid reason aren't I?
Tomb Raider was always about things that required suspension of disbelief, I think a realistic gritty reboot just won't work, but we'll see when it comes out, I suppose.

Sounds like survival horror without the zombies and stuff. I was happy with Tomb Raider as it was and plus there's plenty of third person games where you run around trying to survive, not many about raiding ancient tombs. Uncharted maybe, but that's not PC.

synobal:
Seems interesting but very far from the original Tomb Raider concept. I'm not sure if I'm okay with that to be honest. I mean it is Tomb Raider not Survival Raider.

Also if you're going to go so far from the original concept why not dump the whole 'tomb raider' thing anyways and start a new IP. Why let the old IP drag down what could be a new series?

To be fair, to quote the trailer:

Lara Croft:
I HATE tombs!

-Said after she slides into an obvious tomb

They're going to be including tombs. The series hasn't been really tomb-heavy since the first one - game three had two temples, a cosmetics empire/city subway, a military base and a mining site in lieu of any real tombs, for instance - so I wouldn't say it's really straying from classic Tomb Raider as much as you think.

The whole survival aspect is included because this is supposed to be a teenaged girl having her first tomb-exploring adventure. Any games that follow this one wouldn't have the same mechanics, so I'd think of it more as a gimmick than a series change.

We certainly won't know until it comes out.

OT: WANT.

Triality:
Anyone else just... tired of this. In general? I just don't have the energy to care anymore. I didn't with the first concept art, and I don't now. Tomb Raider Legends is the last I ever cared.

What a shame. Anniversary was nice, so was Underworld (although not as nice as Anniversary), and The Guardian of Light was really cool. I'm not tired of this at all. My interest survived Angel of Darkness, it's going to survive a reboot that we can't even tell looks good or bad.

Sarah LeBoeuf:
Clean and crisp, no mud filter.

Nice, when I read somewhere "gritty reboot" I instantly thought "mud filter".

Really looking forward to this one. The fact that it isn't like it's predecessors is a good thing. If a franchise doesn't evolve, it stagnates and dies.

My favorite scene from E3's gameplay trailer:

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This will be my first Tomb Raider game purchase since the late 1990's. I'm intrigued how the franchise has gone on for so long, must be *something* good about it (other than the tits).

So, between this and Far Cry 3, there seems to be a lot of "survival" stuff in the limelight recently. Anyone else think it might be slightly Minecraft's-reception-inspired? Alternately, anyone else think it's about time someone made a Les Stroud Simulator?

Link between this game and preceding Tomb Raider games: The protagonist is named Lara Croft. I actually have hope that the game might be good, but to call it Tomb Raider just seems like false advertising. When even the writer admits she didn't like the character of Lara Croft, maybe that's when an honest company with some principles decides to create a new IP and put their money where their mouth is.

So TombRaider + Hunger games ? Sounds interesting enough. Still won't buy it though.

Aaron Sylvester:
My favorite scene from E3's gameplay trailer:

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This will be my first Tomb Raider game purchase since the late 1990's. I'm intrigued how the franchise has gone on for so long, must be *something* good about it (other than the tits).

I too haven't bought a Tomb raider game since that time. Hopefully This will redeem her .

Revolutionaryloser:
Link between this game and preceding Tomb Raider games: The protagonist is named Lara Croft. I actually have hope that the game might be good, but to call it Tomb Raider just seems like false advertising. When even the writer admits she didn't like the character of Lara Croft, maybe that's when an honest company with some principles decides to create a new IP and put their money where their mouth is.

Well as Yahtzee said it's difficult to like a character who supposedly makes a living stealing shiny stuff and killing everything that comes in the way and isn't as well-armed with guns :P

Aaron Sylvester:

Revolutionaryloser:
Link between this game and preceding Tomb Raider games: The protagonist is named Lara Croft. I actually have hope that the game might be good, but to call it Tomb Raider just seems like false advertising. When even the writer admits she didn't like the character of Lara Croft, maybe that's when an honest company with some principles decides to create a new IP and put their money where their mouth is.

Well as Yahtzee said it's difficult to like a character who supposedly makes a living stealing shiny stuff and killing everything that comes in the way and isn't as well-armed with guns :P

As I said, if you don't like the character, nobody is forcing her down anybody's throat. I liked her as she was. The fanbase wasn't crying out for a frail, whiny, scared girl, crying over killing poor little animals and fighting off smelly aggressors. If they wanted to write a different character, they should have created a different character, rather than lie about it.

Revolutionaryloser:
As I said, if you don't like the character, nobody is forcing her down anybody's throat. I liked her as she was. The fanbase wasn't crying out for a frail, whiny, scared girl, crying over killing poor little animals and fighting off smelly aggressors. If they wanted to write a different character, they should have created a different character, rather than lie about it.

The devs already stated that this is supposed to be a sort of stepping stone for her character development, something that helps her become who she is (or was?).

So far Lara's been nothing more than a pair of tits who shoots people/monsters and takes their stuff. For many that's enough, but that's not the case with the current devs. Now we get to see a different side of things, now we get to see how she reacts to being the victim of assault and having to survive.

Every great character has had a time to show their weakness, a time when they were powerless, and how they rose above it. After so many games in this franchise isn't it about damn time we see something different? What's wrong with a female character showing her frail, whiny, scared side for the first time? What's wrong with her showing some actual emotion to make her seem more human?

Anyway, different character would've been more difficult to advertise and publicize. With Lara they've already got a fanbase to guarantee some sales.

Aaron Sylvester:

Revolutionaryloser:
As I said, if you don't like the character, nobody is forcing her down anybody's throat. I liked her as she was. The fanbase wasn't crying out for a frail, whiny, scared girl, crying over killing poor little animals and fighting off smelly aggressors. If they wanted to write a different character, they should have created a different character, rather than lie about it.

The devs already stated that this is supposed to be a sort of stepping stone for her character development, something that helps her become who she is (or was?).

So far Lara's been nothing more than a pair of tits who shoots people/monsters and takes their stuff. For many that's enough, but that's not the case with the current devs. Now we get to see a different side of things, now we get to see how she reacts to being the victim of assault and having to survive.

Every great character has had a time to show their weakness, a time when they were powerless, and how they rose above it. After so many games in this franchise isn't it about damn time we see something different? What's wrong with a female character showing her frail, whiny, scared side for the first time? What's wrong with her showing some actual emotion to make her seem more human?

Anyway, different character would've been more difficult to advertise and publicize. With Lara they've already got a fanbase to guarantee some sales.

You are building your argument from the basis that Lara must have a frail, whiny, scared side. You are deciding for yourself that Lara has never shown any emotions, is inhuman and for that matter should be emotional and human. Why does every (female) character have to fit into that very narrow idea? Why can't she just be strong?

I can't help feeling that all this has all to do with the fact she's a woman. Since when was it expected that male protagonists show weakness and emotions? Never. That's when. Maybe Lara was just very cocky and stoic from a very young age and never needed to go through any heavy trauma to become a badass, you know, like most action heroes don't have to. Maybe all this was pretty well established in all the previous games where it was clearly shown that she was always like that and that she isn't carrying some horrible trauma. Just maybe.

Revolutionaryloser:
Why does every (female) character have to fit into that very narrow idea? Why can't she just be strong?

Stop. What the hell was that? Seriously, what the hell was that? I'm referring to what you sneaked into the brackets there, the bit that I bolded. Care to explain where you got that from in my post?

Revolutionaryloser:
I can't help feeling that all this has all to do with the fact she's a woman. Since when was it expected that male protagonists show weakness and emotions? Never. That's when.

Again, stop. What the hell is this? Where are you pulling this from? Are you really that sexist?

I had a rising suspicion you were one of those goddamn feminazis who try to crowbar "oooh she's a woman" into every discussion, ironically coming off as a total misogynist by indirectly demeaning women despite nobody else saying anything of the sort.

I have the same expectations for male characters as well, I've seen my share of strong male protagonists who have gone through tough times and been the victim, in the end coming out as more of a badass than ever. I find it to be an important step in character development regardless of gender.

But I'm not even going to bother explaining any further because you'll try to warp whatever I with "ooh it's because she's a woman!" again.

These forums are seriously going paranoid with the whole feminism vs gaming discussions that have spread like shit hitting the fan, can't even have a straight thread without some feminazi desperately trying to crowbar feminism/misogyny into the discussion.

Aaron Sylvester:

Revolutionaryloser:
Why does every (female) character have to fit into that very narrow idea? Why can't she just be strong?

Stop. What the hell was that? Seriously, what the hell was that? I'm referring to what you sneaked into the brackets there, the bit that I bolded. Care to explain where you got that from in my post?

Revolutionaryloser:
I can't help feeling that all this has all to do with the fact she's a woman. Since when was it expected that male protagonists show weakness and emotions? Never. That's when.

Again, stop. What the hell is this? Where are you pulling this from? Are you really that sexist?

I had a rising suspicion you were one of those goddamn feminazis who try to crowbar "oooh she's a woman" into every discussion, ironically coming off as a total misogynist by indirectly demeaning women despite nobody else saying anything of the sort.

I have the same expectations for male characters as well, I've seen my share of strong male protagonists who have gone through tough times and been the victim, in the end coming out as more of a badass than ever.

But I'm not even going to bother explaining any further because you'll try to warp whatever I with "ooh it's because she's a woman!" again.

These forums are seriously going paranoid with the whole feminism vs gaming topic.

I'd love to see all these well crafted male characters that were abused in their youth and turned into strong characters. I really would.

Revolutionaryloser:
I'd love to see all these well crafted male characters that were abused in their youth and turned into strong characters. I really would.

I'm pretty sure Alucard wasn't hugged enough as a child...

To be fair, I'm inclined to agree with RL's main point (which has admittedly been lost somewhat in accusation and hyperbole) that it seems any strong female protagonist has to be given some kind of backstory that starts her out as a simpering wreck before she can become a badass. Just look at Metroid: Other M.

It's difficult to think of any female lead who is simply a kick-ass hero, no strings attached. And by the same token, it's difficult to think of any male lead who had to survive abuse and victimisation before becoming the hero.

I'm not saying we should see a young Nathan Drake forced into his first kill when fighting off a rapist, but nor are we likely to see his as a young, naive underdog, forced through despairing circumstances to become a survivalist.

What was unique about Lara Croft in terms of female protagonists was she was not some innocent expert, defending herself when necessary to secure the secrets of the ancients; she was an action junky hunting the secrets of the ancients purely for the danger and thrills that came with the territory.

Michael Brockbanks:

Revolutionaryloser:
I'd love to see all these well crafted male characters that were abused in their youth and turned into strong characters. I really would.

I'm pretty sure Alucard wasn't hugged enough as a child...

To be fair, I'm inclined to agree with RL's main point (which has admittedly been lost somewhat in accusation and hyperbole) that it seems any strong female protagonist has to be given some kind of backstory that starts her out as a simpering wreck before she can become a badass. Just look at Metroid: Other M.

It's difficult to think of any female lead who is simply a kick-ass hero, no strings attached. And by the same token, it's difficult to think of any male lead who had to survive abuse and victimisation before becoming the hero.

I'm not saying we should see a young Nathan Drake forced into his first kill when fighting off a rapist, but nor are we likely to see his as a young, naive underdog, forced through despairing circumstances to become a survivalist.

What was unique about Lara Croft in terms of female protagonists was she was not some innocent expert, defending herself when necessary to secure the secrets of the ancients; she was an action junky hunting the secrets of the ancients purely for the danger and thrills that came with the territory.

Couldn't have said it better.

I played this today at NYC comic con. Alot of cut scenes. funky smelling headset. I ran around in the woods...jumped into a rock. It was kinda of clunky still, but they made it very well know it is still a beta version.

I bought the first and second Tomb Raider, it was fun, and being a kid, seeing that it worked on my PC back then was all I cared about. When I developed a level of, let's call it "gaming understanding", and got my hands on much better games, I realized I actually didn't like Tomb Raider at all, it sucked on many different levels. Those latest ones, i've played them a bit, didn't really enjoy them either. Be that as it may, THIS reboot did catch my attention, I am definitely looking forward to it. I just don't get the naysayers that criticize the game on terms of "it should be a new IP", it seems to me that the idea wasn't about creating a brand new series from scratch, but recovering those few bits that survived the dramatic downfall of the original series (shit we even had a comic book crossover with WITCHBLADE!), and restoring it to a new generation of gaming experience. Reboots, in my opinion, are only bound to retain the essence and the important characters, EVERYTHING else can be radically changed, that's not to say the reboot will work, cinema has proven us otherwise much more than once. Anyway, the few good memories I had from Tomb Raider, which was that exploring/surviving essence (which got distorted into badass hitgirl/demon hunter along the way), seems to be present in the game's footage and videos so far, only embodied in much more "human", though maybe still not believable (but if you want believable, you'll have a very boring game, no matter what game it is), Lara Croft.

 

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