Surviving the Passage of Time
I knew Lara Croft was coming back at full force, but I didn’t realize until I saw the game at E3 2011 what that meant and what Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix had in store. It’s much more than a simple visual overhaul; the new Tomb Raider is a rebirth, a true reinvention of what we have seen until now in the series, with the potential of appealing to not only those gamers who have been following the saga, but also new ones looking for a truly engaging video game adventure that’ll wake up their senses and instincts. The behind-closed-doors presentation I attended during E3 impressed me like no other; I only had one word when it all ended: extraordinary.
Let me explain and you’ll understand a little better. In the new Tomb Raider, we’ll experience Lara Croft’s first expedition, when she’s barely 21 years old and full of stamina. In the game, she has a mentor by her side, a famous explorer that helps her understand how she should go about things when seeking adventure. Funny enough, adventure finds her first, testing her endurance every step of the way. She finds herself shipwrecked in some coast of Japan, lost on an island full of dangers – and we’re not necessarily talking about bears and tigers here. In the first level we saw, Lara appears all tied up, upside down, inside a cave. She manages to swing towards a flame that burns the rope and allows her to get down, but from then on, she struggles to survive. And she’s scared too.
- This is a much grittier version of Tomb Raider -
She crawls over mud, hunches down to traverse through narrow caves, fights off ferocious beasts, and even gets hurt and has to fix her own injuries, including a sharp knife stuck in her side. The situations that come up are truly scary, much like something you’d encounter in a game like Resident Evil or Dead Space. She fears for her life, and you do too. Luckily, driven by her great perseverance, she manages to get through it all and find the light at the end of the tunnel, but not without first going through yet another challenge: a frenzied runaway from a hostile.
These first scenes we saw were very claustrophobic, and thanks to the rhythm of the gameplay and the picture-perfect cinematography, feelings transfer from the screen to your mind incredibly well. Unlike other games in the series, here survival instincts play a major role in the game and your own thought process.
The next Tomb Raider level they showed us takes place later in the story. She’s now with Captain Conrad Roth, her mentor. They reunite and try to find other survivors. Unfortunately, Roth gets hurt and becomes unconscious during a shootout, so Lara must drag him to safety before she can even assist him with his grave injuries. The emotional depth of this level is amazing. You instantly feel the ties between both adventurers, who obviously have some kind of past together that helped build a nearly father-daughter bond. It takes a while before he recovers, and it almost looks as if he’s going to die, but when he wakes up, you feel an unparalleled sense of relief. It may be a game, but it feels a whole lot like a movie or even real life; not that we’d ever get into that kind of trouble (I hope), but it really makes you feel like you’re part of it all.
Without a doubt, the first thing that strikes you when you see the new Tomb Raider is the AAA visual presentation. However, that’s not the only aspect that’s new. The gameplay mechanics have changed quite a bit, making better use of the equipment and abilities Lara acquires and offering a nice variety of smooth platforming gameplay mixed up with realistic puzzles, frenzied survival segments, some down time to solve issues that crop up and advance the story, and so on.
- The visuals are quite impressive -
In Tomb Raider, you can travel easily through the map via “Fast Travel”, revisiting and exploring previous levels to pick up items you may have left behind and tie up the loose ends. Salvage is an important part of the game; you’ll have to collect objects in order to upgrade your equipment, which will come in handy especially during action segments. You’ll also have to maximize your survival skills, choosing between different abilities and upgrading them, causing you to become more adept at certain techniques to get through the various challenges presented in the game. It looks like we’ll be much more involved in the game this time around, with greater variety in terms of gameplay, which sounds very exciting.
This Tomb Raider is the most realistic game I’ve ever seen. If there was an Xbox 720 or a PlayStation 4, this is what their games would look like. Lucky for us, the game will be available for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360, so it’ll be within reach for everyone with a current-gen gaming device. When? Well, sometime in 2012. Time to wait! Although with a revolutionary game like this, I’m willing to wait so they get it just right. There’s a reason why Tomb Raider won our Best Game of E3 2011 award!
An enthusiast of gaming adventures as well as party and puzzle games. Writer, editor, translator, graphics designer, and a multitasker at heart. Maria has worked in the gaming industry since 2007, though she's been a gamer since the eighties. She proudly wore her Spain jersey when they won the 2010 World Cup!
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