[NYCC 2012] Preview: Tomb Raider even manages to make hunting deer seem intense

Tomb Raider Screenshot - 1103602

For many, hunting deer is a game. For Lara Croft in the new Tomb Raider, it's a matter of survival. At New York Comic Con, I had the opportunity to go hands-on with the latest Tomb Raider from Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix. The preview build I was shown was a brief demo in which I was tasked with simply surviving - finding shelter, hunting deer for meat, and cooking it. A relatively simple process...or so I thought...

The demo began with me shipwrecked on an island's coast. After briefly scouting the area and admiring the lush landscape and immersive environment, I was led down a linear path. I couldn't help but notice the amount of pain Lara seemed to be in. Bleeding from the side, holding her ribcage, and limping through the wilderness, I couldn't help but feel sorry for her.

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I continued making my way through the wilderness. Although linear and straightforward, each action performed seemed heightened with intensity. The shaking camera coupled with the close up shots and quick cuts create a sense of urgency and panic, making even the most simplistic of tasks seem daunting.

I can remember two specific instances in my demo where I was on the edge of my seat, despite their relative simplicity. The first was crossing a bridge formed by a fallen tree. In most games, and even in past Tomb Raider games, this would be a simple process. In this Tomb Raider, they create a sense of imbalance as you sway above the rocky abyss below. The heightened camera angle and the possibility of falling if you don't keep Lara balanced made the whole situation more intense.

The next example was climbing up a plane crashed into a tree. This part reminded me of something you'd see in Uncharted: scripted jumping from platform to platform. However, the quick pacing, dramatic music, and quicktime button pushing when you slip make for another intense moment that will leave you on the edge of your seat.

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After some careful navigation I obtained a bow and arrows from a corpse hanging in the tree. Now armed, it was time to hunt. This is where you begin to see Lara transform into a survivalist, doing what she must to survive. That includes killing a deer for the first time. In past games this would mean nothing, but in this Tomb Raider, you see Lara hunt with remorse. The emotional response of Lara from killing an animal for the first time was something we aren't used to seeing - but it's a welcomed sight that really makes your connection with the character that much stronger.

Returning to the camp, I cooked the deer meat and leveled one of my skills - survivalist - which increased the amount of XP I get from cooking. Some other options could've been scavenging arrows for dead corpses and things of that sort.

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My demo, although brief, really gave me a good feel for what to expect when Tomb Raider releases. Expect an emotional narrative to go along with the intense action. In just my short time with the game I felt a connection with Lara that I had not ever felt before. It wasn't just about surviving nature, but experiencing it for the first time with her. And it's all told through impressive visuals. Often in the game - and this might be annoying to a few - you will perform an action and then see a brief cinematic-like clip that shows Lara reacting. For example, after jumping onto a cliff, it'll quickly switch over and show her pulling herself up. Or running to the edge of a cliff for the first time will then cut to her overlooking the environment. I could see this getting annoying for those who don't enjoy a cinematic approach to games, but I personally enjoyed it.

Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics have said before that they want you to feel emotionally attached to Lara. Judging from my brief demo, they seemed to succeed. With each groan of pain from Lara, I couldn't help but feel sorry for her. I wanted to help her, but the only way I could was to keep pushing forward. Looking ahead, I can't even begin to imagine the type of things Lara will go through, but I certainly am eager to see.

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Matt Liebl You can follow Senior News Editor Matt Liebl on Twitter @Matt_GZ. He likes games, sports, musicals, and his adorable dog, Wrigley. And his wife.
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