As a gaming franchise, Tomb Raider lost relevancy a couple of console generations ago and apart from the recent top-down arcade title Guardian of Light hasn’t displayed much in the way of creativity in some time. Enter this brand new reboot simply titled Tomb Raider that serves as an origin story for everyone’s favourite archaeologist. Well, favourite tight top, short-short wearing archaeologist, at least.
Lara Croft is 22 years old, straight out of university and on the trail of adventure with her mentor Roth in tow. After their ship gets marooned on a mysterious island, she finds herself having to use all of her strength and cunning to survive the dangers that lurk around every corner.
It’s an interesting angle that dispels with the overly-sexualised poster girl of the ‘90s and punts her into a grizzly backdrop of survival. The Microsoft conference gave us a look at the opening mission, which saw Lara impaled on a steak, tied up and chased through claustrophobic caves. It was an impressive demo that reinforced the fragile and reluctant hero, the less action-orientated gameplay and the reliance on puzzle-solving and quick-reactions.
I was also fortunate enough to see a further level in the game, which gave a little more perspective on plot and the way Lara will interact with the environment.
After finding her mentor injured, Lara is tasked with finding his misplaced transmitter that he dropped across the island. There’s clearly a big emphasis on dialling back on the action and focusing on the various puzzles that Lara will need to crack in order to progress. What I saw was a rather simple case of activating various triggers, dropping platforms and using parkour-style running to jump around the area.
What came particularly surprising was how visceral the action was. For demonstration purposes, we watched a cannibal attack Lara and stab her violently to death with a blade. Later, a rabid wolf pounced on the heroine, snapping its maw while she violently stabs the animal with her knife.
After getting a brief look at the Lost-like island of mystery, the most impressive aspect is how polished the who thing looks. Dazzling weather effects, Lara’s facial animations match perfectly with the acting and the environment really immerses the player in this lonely jungle. The sheer scale of the Island is impressive and various base camps allow Lara to fast travel, while salvaged objects can be used to create weapons and devices to aid her mission.
Considering it’s over a year until it’s released, it’s in very good shape. Going down reboot road could have been just a cheap stunt by Square-Enix but there’s some genuine innovation to the gameplay here that I can’t wait playing.