Outside the Tomb Raider theater

Square Enix was out in full force at E3 2012, but it was fairly obvious what most people were excited for, and that was Tomb Raider.  By now most of us know what the new Tomb Raider game is about, but for those who have been living under a rock for the past year, I’ll give you a one sentence low down.  It’s an origin story for Lara.  Glad we got that taken care of quickly and onto what I got to see of Tomb Raider at E3 2012.

The Brand Coordinator at Crystal Dynamics, Chris Johnston, was at the helm of the demo and showed some eager journalists including myself the Beach Vista level from Tomb Raider.

The demo picks up right after Lara has escaped from some captors (won’t go into too much detail).  The first thing about Tomb Raider that will drop your jaw is the graphics; they are absolutely amazing.  Crystal Dynamics have definitely outdone themselves in this department.  Everything down to the littlest blade of grass has been articulately crafted and designed.  The grand scale of the environments is something to be noted as well.

Tomb Raider representing out on the concourse

More interesting though are some of the new mechanics that were shown off.  The first thing was “Basecamp”.  When Lara creates or finds an already established fire she can cook meat, use earned XP to upgrade her skills, and use recovered salvage to enhance her arsenal of weapons and support items.  But, where did she get the meat from, you ask?  Good question, because like some other games with animals in it, which are many these days, Lara can go hunting.  The first time we find our heroine in a hunting situation is right after she acquires a bow (yet another popular trend) and proclaims that she is hungry.  She comes across a pack of deer and quickly takes one down.  Lara unsure of where to go from there, but quickly comes to the conclusion that her only sharp utensil is a…arrow.

One thing I want to point out about this particular situation and will return to a few times is that Lara is far out of her element.  When she is gutting that deer she is hesitant, scared, and remorseful.  You feel her angst for what she has to do to survive and the desperation that has beset her on this less than glorious adventure.

After she does the deed, Lara proceeds back to basecamp, fixes herself a meal and proceeds to move on.  Lara begins to hear grumblings over her radio; that eventually form into audible transmissions.

She subsequently runs into a friend from her group, Sam, who has taken refuge with whom I can only describe as a jungle hobo.  This disheveled looking fella has nefarious intentions written all over his face and Lara becomes wises to them almost immediately.  Forgive me for rushing this, but in the interest of your time I’m going to expedite the timeline.  Sam gets taken by the jungle hobo, Lara gets stuck in a bear trap, shoots wolves with bow, then is rescued by other members of her group, and then a plan is devised to rescue Sam from the jungle hobo.

Remember when I said that I was going to come back to the game’s overlaying theme of desperation?  Well through the course of those aforementioned events that theme is laid on thick and done in a superb fashion.  The game will constantly remind you that Lara is a novice and that these events are about struggle and perseverance.  What would happen to Lara and her group next would epitomize this theme to its core.

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQ0qro-5JW0′]

Like what happen prior to the demo beginning, Lara and her group have become captives again, by an unknown (well at least at this time) group of bandits and these guys mean business.  When Lara comes to, she is a bit disoriented, but soon realizes the mess she is in and looks to rectify it quickly.  She can’t run because she knows she will be shot, but unfortunately that doesn’t stop some of her less intelligent comrades.  She waits for her window of opportunity to make a break for it…then bam she makes a mad dash for the closest cover amidst the ensuing chaos.  Stuff is blowing up, being set ablaze, and all the while Lara is keeping her cool, well as cool as you could be in such a situation.  She moves cleverly about moving from shadowy pocket to shadowy pocket, but her luck runs out when the King bandit, finds her, and is none too pleased with the mix up she partook in.  In typical Lara Croft fashion she doesn’t take being pushed around likely and fights the King bandit in a mangled disorderly manner, now free of her restraints the playing field is level and she goes for his side arm.

After rustling around on the ground, the gun changing hands and direction, the struggle comes to a climax, in a furious QTE encounter the gun discharges sending our King bandit, mildly brainless, to his final resting place.

The intensity of this sequence had me on the edge of my seat, but before I could relax, you see how distraught Lara is.  Covered in dirt and blood, you see this bizarre mix of satisfaction and dismay smeared across her face.  She has just taken a man’s life, granted he was going to kill her, she is still shaken up and her emotional state transfers onto you.  You feel like you pulled that trigger and that kind of engagement is very far and few between in gaming.  It was a special moment for everyone sitting in the room and after it was all said and done we all rose up for a standing ovation, because what we had just saw, was magic.

A lot of people liked Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider is already up against some stiff competition come next year, but this game is an early nominee for my game of the year.  Tomb Raider is set to release on March 5th, 2013 on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC.  Stay tuned for more E3 2012 coverage here at HeyUGuys Gaming.