Youtube comments suggest that Tomb Raider is an Uncharted rip-off and I simply can’t laugh hard enough at the irony of that statement. It’s like saying Halo 4 is stealing from Killzone. Lara Croft’s popularity has faded in recent years, but this new title is showing some really fresh content for the franchise.
Microsoft’s press conference showed us the first gameplay after two trailers establishing the rebooted Lara Croft vying against wilderness conditions and violent foes. It begins with Lara attacking a few of those enemies with a bow and arrow. Silently, she manages a few kills before having to take advantage of the cover system, during which fragile cover deteriorates under fire.
In the preceding encounters, Lara gets her hands on some real weaponry, sets some men on fire with a flaming arrow, and destroys the crap out of some environments. What impresses is the disposability of conventional weaponry, as Lara tosses guns aside as she finishes with them. The focus on movement and fluidity of shooting and moving reminds me more of Mirror’s Edge than it does Uncharted.
Where we do see shadows of Nathan Drake is in the concluding sequence, during which Lara tumbles out-of-control through a river, wreckage of a plane, and into a parachuting sequence. There’s a predominant amount of quicktime events, but there’s also some guided control while Lara is sliding down a sloping riverbed.
This all amounts to some extremely well-scripted moments of drama that succeed at being thrilling despite their rigid structure as rigid near-cutscenes. Uncharted and God of War have proven that this style works.
What really impresses me, though, is the rugged survival aspect. Lara is progressively injured throughout her dramatic encounters and her character shows every wound. Usage of the bow and arrow was certainly a theme this year – with Crysis 3, Far Cry 3, and Assassin’s Creed 3 all showcasing the weapon – but with Lara Croft, it seems more out of desperation than coolness.
Lara Croft certainly has my vote as one of the stand-out games from E3. Honestly, I wouldn’t have believed the franchise was capable of salvation, but converting from a gun-toting soulless avatar to a struggling, evolving protagonist has turned things around.