Preview – Tomb Raider


Preview – Tomb Raider
On the Rocks
Lara and I are going through a rough patch.

Genuinely thrilled by last year’s reinvention, a fresh emphasis on nuance, I was geared up for this year’s Electronics Entertainment Expo.

Full disclosure, of all the cyborg ninjas and tomahawk wielding hoodies I knew at E3, I was most looking forward to seeing determined young Lara Croft again.

Sure she’s a loveable scamp, always getting into scrapes. But with some wit and resourcefulness, invariably she works her way back out of them.
Meh, she'll be grand!
Meh, she'll be grand!Enlarge Enlarge

In fact wriggling free of Death’s clutches is something of a party trick for Ms Croft.
She’s cool like that, scrappy.

But then her Stage Demo took centre stage and I got a glimpse of just how scrappy she’s become.

Perhaps I had misinterpreted the parameters of our relationship. As I understood it, my agency was to stop a strong yet understandably frightened young woman from freezing to death. It was also to guide her through the cavernous terrain of her unmapped island and aid in her hunt for nourishment.

Sorry fauna, a girl’s gotta eat!

Quite apart from the monosyllabic gung-ho super-soldiers saturating the genre, I could relate to Lara.
Strong yet untested.
Startled yet obstinate.

I believe in some circles they call that character.

But then she started sinking arrows into dude’s necks from fifty yards, driving hunting knives into their throats, ramming them off cliff faces, shrugging off bullets, setting men aflame, crushing others with conveniently placed barrels and ripping through some poor unfortunates with a shotgun!

So much for tact then, eh Lara?
A SHOTGUN is pretty much the antithesis of subtlety, you know? It’s right there, in the name!

And no, it wasn’t the scripted parachute sequence or frantic mountain descent that irked me. I’m actually all for cinematic sequences. They break up the monotony of basic input, reward successful play and mask environmental transition in a most immersive, intuitive, imaginative way.

I just expected our minute to minute gameplay to be more... special.

When not falling from wrecked aircraft, I wanted to fight for survival. I prayed for death defying exploration. I yearned for athletic, desperate clambering. I craved bright, relevant resource management.

This is what I get for putting her on a pedestal!

Certainly, Lara doesn’t spend ALL her time murder-killing marauders. Well to do British ladies don’t go in for that. Much.
A lot of 2013’s Tomb Raider will consist of (ad)venturing out from a base camp to acquire tools, food, supplies, anything that will help her off the island.

Lara is still obviously game for a spot of ravine scrambling, deer hunting, and tool acquiring, but somehow it all feels a bit ‘Survival-Lite’.
Where's the Quiver?
Where's the Quiver?Enlarge Enlarge

Arrows replenish from thin air, no crafting required? A magical survival instinct highlights potential collectables and objectives? XP points unlock abilities which should be naturally available i.e. Arrow Retrieval? And despite Crystal Dynamics' assertion they’ll be moving away from a traditional HUD, a graphic still pops up to assure Lara of how many shells remain in her ill-fitting lead blaster!

What, now she can’t even count!?

Truthfully, I hoped for something more akin to Snake Eater. I expected Lara would hunt, feed and stitch herself up, carry responsibility for her own health and stamina, cloth herself and craft utilities as needed.
In hindsight, this expectation was moronic!

Because even in Earth Year 2012, there’s still NOTHING quite like Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.

I wasn’t being fair with Lara.
She’s no Snake.
Above: NOT Snake
Above: NOT SnakeEnlarge Enlarge

And it was unreasonable for me to expect her to conform to my expectations. By her Developer’s own admission at E3,the genre is “Survival Action”.

Besides, Lara’s the one in the shit, not me! I’m just there to lend a hand. She can deal with it however she pleases.
If that means gathering berries, bunching kindling and meticulous planning so be it.

If it involves the more direct route of copious manslaughter and base-jumping across treetops, screw it, I’m onboard!

Whatever makes her happy.

And in the case of young Lara Croft, staying alive makes her very happy.

0 Stars
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