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Tomb Raider (2013) Preview

danielrbischoff By:
GENRE Action 
PUBLISHER Square Enix 
DEVELOPER Crystal Dynamics 
M What do these ratings mean?

It sounded more like Dead Space than it did Tomb Raider.

It was the strangest thing. I was sitting in this weird, poolside cabana thing, surrounded by nerds, and I couldn't get over what I just saw. Lara Croft was just shot in the head. She was strangled. She had the shit kicked out of her.

It wasn't until the third or fourth try that she finally got all the moves right. She kicked her psychotic attacker in the nuts, tore off his ear, pushed him over, and shot him in the groin. He still wouldn't let up, but after a brief struggle, Lara managed to point the gun at his face, instead of the other way around.

Sure, this was just a quick-time event at the end of a lengthy Tomb Raider demo, but the violent, visceral nature was almost too much to comprehend. What happened to the girl with the dual pistols?

Seriously, what has Crystal Dynamics done with her, because what I played three weeks ago had nothing to do with the Lara Croft I thought I knew. The reboot from Square Enix and company gives players the opportunity to completely shape Lara in an origin story that sees her transform from a weak, naïve little girl into a real raider. Last year, Crystal Dynamics revealed that Lara was the passenger of a crashed ship, left to survive on a mysterious island. The E3 2012 demo picks up almost immediately after this, with Lara making a tentative inroad on the island.

Here, we got some hands-on time with the basics: The bow and arrow will be used throughout the game, traversal is just as important as combat, and campfires allow you to recharge your batteries and upgrade Lara's skills, in addition to moving the story forward. A large cast of characters join Lara on the island, although it's up to the player to figure out who to trust. She'll have to hunt game to survive, but the bigger threat is the population of crazies inhabiting the island Lara's crashed on.

One section in this early demo required Lara to explore and upgrade one of her tools before proceeding through a gate and up the mountain. Lara can leap over gaps and swing on deliberately placed lamps. Using a torch, our heroine can solve puzzles and gather materials for her upgrade.

Her seemingly easy alliance with another survivor, though, quickly turned to betrayal as a band of homicidal maniacs set upon the duo. Captured and bound, Lara made an opportunity out of a small distraction and tried to escape. Automatically ducking behind cover and surveying the walking paths of enemies, Lara made her way up the hill and away from the crazies.

Of course, none of that progress mattered when she was discovered and held at gunpoint. It might have just been a quicktime event, but the level of absolute terror on screen jumped out at me for a number of reasons. Lara Croft was somehow twisting and belying her sexual icon status. She would be raped, murdered, and left to rot on this island, if not for the player's inputs. The vulnerable, doe-eyed youngster transforms in front of us, but not into the Tomb Raider we've known for over a decade.

Instead, Crystal Dynamics seem to be truly rebooting the character for the better, for the gruesome, for the future. I can't see Lara Croft's journey ending at the hands of some depraved soul, so I made sure to press every necessary button and shoot that mother f***er in the face.

Tomb Raider will be arriving Q1 2013.


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