Tomb Raider Preview: A Hands-Off Look at Lara’s Beginnings

Last year at E3, I wrote a preview of the hands-off theatrical demo of the reboot of Tomb Raider, which you can find right here:

I recommend you check that preview out if you haven’t because the hands-off demo of Tomb Raider that was shown at E3 2012 was basically part two of the hands-off demo of Tomb Raider at E3 2011. Despite my disappointment of still not being able to actually play the game, it’s really hard to stay upset at Ms. Croft for long when Tomb Raider continues to impress the hell out of me.

On the last episode of Tomb Raider E3 presentation, marooned young adventurer — and not yet raider of tombs — Lara Croft, escaped from a cavern where she had been held captive by the island’s hostile natives. As she got her first taste of sunlight, she gazed out to find a ominous sea full of shipwrecked boats. No time to take in the sights though. The sun is going down and the weather is starting to take a turn for the worse. This is where our demo begins.

Lara makes her way through a narrow mountainous path, crossing logs and climbing up wreckage, both of which start creaking and cracking as the petite 21-year-old struggles to keep her balance and grip strength. Fortunately for her, our demonstrator was quite adept at the quick time events that popped up whenever Lara slipped or started to lose her hold. After making it to the top of the wreckage, I noticed that the player had earned a nice amount of exp for the completion of the task, but we’ll come to that in just a bit.

Rain is pouring down on Lara now, and you can definitely tell that she feels the cold. Unlike many games where characters almost seem completely unaffected by weather, Lara’s animations, voice, and facial expressions all paint the picture of someone who is going to die of hypothermia if she doesn’t get some kind of heat source soon. Her voice quivers as she calls out for help on the walkie talkie that she found on the way. No response. Using the last match she’s got in the matchbox, Lara lights a small fire and creates a little base camp for herself.

These base camps also serve as a spot where Lara can learn new abilities using the experience earned from progressing through specific portions of the game. Once Lara found a bow off of a corpse, she was able to return to the basecamp and learn a skill that let her retrieve arrows fired at enemies. A useful ability, especially now that wolves seem to be a common foe in the wild.

Eventually Lara finds a creepy abandoned ritual house with a passage that leads underground. Meat hangs all along the ceiling, with skulls and candles lining the walls. Definitely not a place anyone would want to be for very long.

After finding a hatchet, Lara once again emerges and finds her friend Sam with a creepy man named Mathias. He appears to be friendly, but Lara is obviously suspicious of him. Lara cleverly warns Sam of the danger without alerting Mathias, but as Sam starts to inch away, Mathias takes her hostage and flees. Lara gives chase but is halted prematurely by a bear trap crushing her leg. And as if this day couldn’t possibly get worse for her, the sound of howling wolves fills the air.

Lara readies her bow and waits like a patient hunter. The tall grass rustles all around, but Lara waits until she sees birds fly away to adjust her aim at the snarling beast that lunges for her throat. Time slows as the wolf gets closer, giving the player plenty of time to place an arrow into the throat of the attacking animal.

Fortune finally smiles upon Lara as she is discovered by familiar and friendly faces who free her from the bear trap and provide her with some much needed support and companionship. Unfortunately, that companionship is soon lost as most of the group goes to look for Sam and Lara gets stuck with the awkward and suspicious Dr. Whitman.

Adhering to the Croft family motto of “Keep moving forward,” Lara and Whitman press on, fighting off some wolves along the way until they reach a shrine. Lara tries to use her hatchet as a crank to open the door, but finds that the wood is too weak to withstand being pulled. So the next objective then is to find some salvage scattered around the area, then use the basecamp to upgrade her hatchet, allowing her to use it as a crank.

After moving through the newly opened door, Lara and Whitman get held up by a group of soldiers with some pretty mean looking weapons. Despite Lara’s pleas against it, Whitman lays down his weapon and Lara gets taken as a prisoner once again.

In the final scene of the demo, Lara finds herself tied up along with several other prisoners while soldiers set the nearby area ablaze. A brief distraction allows Lara to stealthily evade her captors, using cover to stay out of their line of sight. Eventually though, she’s found, slammed against a wall, and molested by what appears to be the captain of the squad. Lara’s not having any of that though and gives the guy a good knee right to the balls. Not nearly as fazed as he should be, the soldier grabs her again and this time starts creepily sniffing her hair and neck, giving Lara a nice opportunity to pull a Mike Tyson and bite his ear off.

A struggle between Lara and the soldier ensues, culminating with Lara get thrown to the floor with a “press the button to not die” quick time event determining the fate of Ms. Croft and her assailant. Eventually, a gunshot rings out and Lara becomes soaked with the blood of her first human kill. She walks towards the camera looking almost deranged before falling to her knees, vomiting. That was the last time we saw the Lara Croft from the beginning of the demo. When she stood up and faced the camera for the demo’s closing shot, she wore not the look of a naive 21-year-old fresh out of college, but of a physically and emotionally scarred badass.

I can’t wait to continue the adventures of this new, darker, Lara Croft, but it will have to wait a little while longer. Tomb Raider will be released on the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 on March 5, 2013.

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