|System: PC, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Dev: Crystal Dynamics|
|Pub: Square Enix|
|Release: March 5, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Shelby Reiches
Crystal Dynamics wants us to remember that Lara Croft is a living (albeit digital) person, and that, as skilled a survivalist as she may be, she was not brought up under adversity. It seems, then, that the developers are determined to break her, as the experiences they subject her to are chained together into a sort of unending parade of horror and distress that blends together on the very edge of believability. This is a bit of a problem, since the entire point of the game is to be a more believable take on Lara Croft, the Tomb Raider who, over the course of her career, has confronted the supernatural and superhuman alike.
The demo we saw at E3 began with Lara standing atop a precipice on a mountainside, gazing out into the distance. The dev takes control and guides her as she's clutching her bloody side. She limps down the path until she sees, in the distance, the remains of the crashed ship she arrived on, as well as a dinghy that has made it to shore, revealing that others from the trip have made it to the island. She continues on her way, cautiously balancing her way across a thin fallen tree that bridges a gap. This is not the confident, self-assured Lara we used to control, who would casually jump many times her height over precarious drops.
A bit further down, Lara comes across what appears to be a World War II-era plane, decrepit and hanging upside-down from strands of ivy in a waterfall. She makes her way up it, along the body and the wing as pieces tear off and fall to the ground hundreds of yards below, the entire chassis shifting just from the force of her weight.
Can we call this the Uncharted edition of E3, yet? Between Tomb Raider and Star Wars 1313, set-piece platforming seems to be the newest trend in games. At least with Tomb Raider, the relationship is somewhat expected: Nathan Drake's adventures have always seemed to borrow a certain something from Lara Croft's.
Making it across, Lara barely avoids the plane's heavy wing as it comes crashing down. As the demo goes on, Lara acquires a radio from supplies left behind by her companions, a bow from a corpse suspended above a stream (again, this seems to be another excuse to have her hit the ground hard and make us wince in sympathetic pain). She finds arrows nearby, hunts a deer (which she has to finish off up close and carve up herself), then finds shelter as the sun sets and builds a fire using her last match (also found among the supplies with the radio).
I could go on describing the demo—the encounter with a crazed old man who holds one of Lara's friends hostage, the wolves that attack her when she gets her leg caught in a bear trap, the group's decision to split up, which leads Lara and her professor friend to a better understanding of the island, but also directly into the hands of a group that takes them captive until Lara kills their apparent leader during an attempted rape (the first human, it would seem that she has ever killed)—but this would certainly get repetitive. It does so when experienced directly, so I can only imagine it's doubly so secondhand.