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Playdevil spent a few frantic days in Cologne checking out all of the latest titles at Gamescom 2012. Here's another preview hot off the press!

Posted by Staff on Aug 21, 2012 11:38 (Aug 21, 2012 11:38)

Written by: Staff
Gamescom 2012 Preview: Tomb Raider:
"Tomb Raider" and Lara Croft are among the most recognised brands in gaming. Despite the poor ratings of recent titles, the series has retained its iconic status, in thanks due to the appeal of Lara herself. With that in mind it has been a brave move on the part of Crystal Dynamics to recreate her and erase her history.
This reimagining of Lara Croft, has allowed the developers to go back to the drawing board with her back-story; explaining how she became the fearless adventurer players know and love. This takes her from University graduate to hardened killer (sorry, explorer), and the forty-minute demo we were shown at Gamescom gave us a good idea how this will unfurl.
Heading off after University on a trip to ‘find herself’ with her friends is a journey many go on, just in more grandiose style and with more dramatic consequences. Her ship is wrecked and in her escape (which will probably serve as a tutorial) she is separated from the rest of the crew and, knocked unconscious, finds herself alone on an island.
Once isolated from the group her journey begins and, despite being badly wounded, it becomes clear she is already a canny survivalist. Setting fires, climbing and more than able with a bow, Lara seems already well trained as she heads about making camp. Her skills go as hunting a deer with a bow before, filleting it and heading back camp to cook it with all the gore that entails. Despite her seeming familiarity with the process, she spends her whole time tortured at the gruesomeness of it all.
From here the timeline of the demo became unclear. One thing that was obvious however was the faction of people she will encounter in her story. With the crew of the ship, her classmates, and the inhabitants of the island, all represented in the brief sections on show. With familiar faces try to help Lara, and inhabitants of the island trying to hunt them all down for an uncertain ritual, the lines are already clearly drawn.
The short demo does more than hit at how Lara will grow. Becoming increasingly skilled as she fights here way through a number of obstacles, until she reaches the turning point; the now Internet infamous sexual assault that (SPOILERS) marks her taking her first human life. It is a traumatic scene, and while I can see why some have been offended by its inclusion as part of a trailer, as part of the story as a whole it seems to be handled as well as any similar scene in a movie or equivalent media. Crossing this with quick time events of course does introduce some less appropriate questions. Only seeing the events play out successfully does leave the question of what happens if Lara fails in her escape; what haven’t we seen in the trailer? But without seeing events in their entirety, or in context, I for one am happy that Crystal Dynamics are trying to tell a story with mature themes. Now I only hope it pays off. 
Following the drama of this attack the demo shifted scene again, taking Lara hours further on in the story where she now seems happily homicidal as she goes tearing her way through dozens of islanders (again begging the question of if her taking of a life actually unhinges her). The combat looked to be a good mix of stealth, speed and all out action that could work well when mixed with the stronger tonal pieces which set the story and exploration sections. It was in these sections that ‘explorer vision’; only briefly seen earlier parts of the demo really, came into play. A slow motion effect which robbed the world of colour, but allowed extra time for Lara to hone in a targets. Given the pace of the action and limited resources this could well prove a vital mechanic as a game, but as a story piece it still feels a little artificial. With Lara suffering through so much, I can’t help but such an overt game system, juxtaposed against the brutal story, could be what naysayers latch onto.
Due for release early next year on 360, PS3 and PC, Tomb Raider is an exciting relaunch of a classic franchise that brings something exciting to a series that for a long time seems to have rested on its laurels. That said, if it is a success, I am at a loss to see how they spin the story into a new franchise without falling back on the old, outdated, formula.
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Tomb Raider
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