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NYCC '12: Hands On: Tomb Raider

tombraiderhunt.jpg

I've seen plenty of trailers, but New York Comic Con was the first time I was able to play the new Tomb Raider game from Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix. The demo has Lara stranded on an island full of wreckage of various crafts — planes, boats, etc — and struggling to survive. I'm still wary of this game because everything I've seen of it has Lara looking beaten, bloody and basically effed up. I know it's supposed to be her origin, so by the end of the game she should be the confident bad-ass we all know and love, but it's still a little uncomfortable watching her get there.

First there was some light running and jumping. The edges of interactive ledges are white to offer subtle hints of where to stand and jump and grab. You'll want to keep an eye out for ledges with white edges or planks of wood painted white scattered on the ground. That sort of thing. Jumping up the wreckage of a plane as it starts to come apart below you was sufficiently thrilling without ever making me feel like I was going to fall to my death and have to restart the demo.

Then you find a spot under an overhang to take shelter from the storm and build a fire to stay alive. The next morning, you have to go in search of food, and luckily you stumble upon a corpse with a bow and some arrows scattered around. Getting the bow is a little tricky, but once you do, you can stalk and hunt a deer. After carving it up (done in a cut scene, but there's some awkward force feedback on the controller as she rips into the carcass), you have to bring it back to your camp. Completing this task (and others) gets you experience, and reaching the camp gets you enough XP to upgrade one of your survival skills. I like the idea of leveling-up in a game, and I also enjoyed the look of the menus. They're like that thing where they're sort of part of the environment, and move with the background as you look around. I wish I could describe it better! Anyway, after upgrading the skill of your choice, it doesn't matter which one you picked because the demo plays a cutscene and ends.

I have to say that the only real complaint I had with the demo (aside from the fact that it's uncomfortable to see Lara looking so rough and that there are some awkward close-ups of her chest during the cutscene with the walkie-talkie) was that it was too short. I wanted to explore a tomb! But this was the survival hunting demo I guess. The graphics are extremely impressive. I think it's why I'm so uncomfortable seeing Lara so beat up, because the detail is so great that it's almost too realistic. The environments are kind of spectacular, and the lighting and camera work are very cinematic. The controls felt good, although to be fair, there wasn't all that much running and jumping. Perhaps with a tomb to explore, I might have found myself falling a lot more. Still, I'm intrigued, and willing to overlook all the shots of Lara being abused in the trailer in the hopes that this could still be an awesome Tomb Raider game. Guess we'll all find out in March of next year when it releases!

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