PREVIEW: Exploring Lara's Origins
I'm surprised that I've not crossed paths more often then I have with Lara Croft. I was massively interested in the first game, played and completed the sequel though never owned it, and despite a massive interest in Legend, Anniversary and Underworld I've never even played them. Indeed the only game of recent years I've played through to completion was the frankly superb Guardian of Light.
I wasn't sure of yet another reboot for the franchise, especially when they actually revealed it as being an incredibly violent and much more of an adult themed direction for the series. Not that I mind violence or strong themes, it's just that I wasn't sure if Tomb Raider needed them in the context it seems to be presenting them. Lara is not in a fun environment in this adventure. Despite the concern I was and still am intrigued to see how this retelling of Lara's origins turns out.
Getting the obvious out of the way first, the game looks beautiful and Lara beautifully animates in ways that people used to the previous Tomb Raider and Uncharted titles would expect.
That's right, Uncharted. And it's not just in animation that Tomb Raider draws comparisons, indeed the whole aura of the demo had a very much Uncharted feel toward it, in that what we played is cinematic to the point of being an interactive movie, but it's also scripted beyond the telling of it. As we watched others before we even managed to get a go, every player experienced the same stumble, same bone crushing fall, exactly the same set pieces. It all looks great of course, if watching Lara recieving untold amounts of pain and anguish is your thing over lengthy durations. The point is the demo was just so over dramatised when it need not be. Traversing a wing of a downed plane for example, Lara can't just drop down from the wing. No, the wing has to break, throwing Lara to the ground, to which she nimbly escapes death as the wing then falls to the ground almost on top of her. A later section has her reaching for something on a thin branch, which of course predictably breaks throwing Lara once more painfully to the ground.
The sad thing is you quickly tire of it all, and although it's refreshing to see Lara in a completely different circumstances, and worlds apart from the high adventure you would expect from Tomb Raider, it's not really a lot of fun seeing a young woman being continuously battered, bleeding and hurt to within an inch of her life. The demo rounds off with Lara having to use her newly acquired bow to kill a deer for food and then managing to contact a fellow survivor, all of which we imagine die in horrible, horrible ways.
I don't want to beat on the game too much based on what we played. Like I mentioned I've always enjoyed the little I have played of Tomb Raider and although i'll reiterate that I feel the series didn't need another reboot. That said I am genuinely interested in the direction this game will go in, and I really hope that despite all the doom and gloom the game seems to have on offer Lara will get a huge empowering moment where we see the transition between fighting for her survival to being the heroine we all know she becomes. This could well become Lara's finest hour, seeing the creation of this young woman become Lara Croft.
I just hope the finished product isn't as scripted and staged as it here, and that the pain and anguish young Lara has to suffer in these opening sections isn't spread over the entire duration of the game.