Tomb Raider (Xbox360)

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Last year we saw a glimpse of the beginning of Lara’s story, this year at the E3 behind-closed-doors presentation we got to dig a little deeper into the journey that turns her into the Tomb Raider that we have come to know today. Noah Hughes from Crystal Dynamics guided us through the next gameplay demonstration that the developer was showcasing, giving many of the media within the room a good reason to tense up on more than a few occasions during the half hour presentation. Let me walk you through the demo, and give you a little insight into just how mighty Tomb Raider is going to be.

Lara is covered in blood and holding her side from the wound which she sustained as she escaped from the terrifying situation she found herself in, which we experienced last year. She’s still keenly aware that she has to keep on moving, a mantra that becomes key to her survival and one which the development team observed from real-world survival stories. She is also on a mission to search inland for her friends after seeing a lifeboat washed up on shore. She walks gingerly over a log balancing between two cliffs. It’s raining and the sounds of crow’s calls fill the air with a sense of ominous foreboding. There’s a carcass of a plane hanging over a waterfall, and she jumps onto to it to continue her path across the rocky terrain. The plane’s skeletal structure is flimsy and begins to fall, but she manages to shimmy across in time, all the while talking to herself, trying to motivate herself to continue despite her obvious confusion, pain and, above all, fear.

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Lara continues around the ledge, and as she does so you get a wide panoramic shot of the ships wrecked in the background. In that instant you can feel her grow even more fearful, her emotions are like an aura that surrounds her and you feel the need to help get her out of this horrifying place she has found herself in. As a player we don’t know any more than she does at this point, and it’s this lack of knowledge which works to create an even deeper sense of unease.

She discovers her friend Sam’s pack, containing a video camera, matches and a radio. There is, however, no sign of Sam. It’s here where we get to see the coastal forest that Lara finds herself in, lightning crashes overhead while the rain continues to pour down. She needs to take cover from the storm, and does so in a cave where there are remnants of a fire. She drinks the water streaming off the edge of a ledge, and tries to get an answer over the radio…the silent response is overwhelming.

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She’s shivering from the cold, and her cold breath leaves a misty fog in the air. It becomes obvious that she needs to get warm and she stacks some sticks together along with some grass and opens the box of matches she discovered earlier. One lonesome match lies inside the box, and the sense of hopelessness and desperation is almost palpable as she strikes it and the fire slowly comes to life in front of her. Everyone in the audience slowly exhales…

The next day Lara sets off in search of food. The beautiful birds and butterflies within the leafy forest are in stark contrast to the skeleton she finds hanging in a tree. She thinks she can use the bow that is still draped around the body, so she climbs the tree, shimmies across the branch and grabs the body, giving us a closer look at the platforming elements of the game. She pulls the body down and discovers her first weapon in the game – the bow – which becomes very important for her to survive. She runs around the area in search of food and when she finds a buck, she slowly takes aim and shoots. The buck is still alive, and she’s crying and apologising to the poor animal as she removes the arrow, stabs it and opens the stomach area.

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She sets off to take the meat back to camp – you’re able to use the map, the survival instinct mode and landmarks to navigate your way around the forest. As you earn experience points throughout the game you’ll be able to upgrade your survival skills and gear at base camp. The radio crackles into life and it’s a member of her group, who encourages her to regroup with the others. She’s reluctant to leave her safe haven at first, and asks to be rescued, but then realises she must move on and find a way out of the forest.

She moves back towards the cabin area, but the door is now open and she discovers a tunnel inside. She climbs down and works her way through an underground tunnel system, climbing under debris and being careful not to drop the torch in the water. The music which we first heard as we entered the cabin is now becoming louder as we stumble upon a hideout of sorts. Lara is now searching for something to pry the door open with. She burns down the wooden obstacles in her way, and removes an axe from a chunk of meat hanging in the adjacent room. Opening the door, she continues along the flooded tunnel and exits up a ladder.

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Now back in the forest, Lara sneaks up on two people by a fire and listens intently. She’s very reluctant to shake the man’s hand and gives a clue of her unease to her friend Sam, trying to warn her. Unfortunately the man takes her friend hostage at knifepoint, and as she runs after them to try and help her, Lara’s foot becomes caught in a trap. Wolves are howling in the background, ominous music builds to a crescendo as leaves blow in with the wind and bushes rustle. A wolf jumps towards her, and she turns to shoot the beast in the mouth, all of which happens in slow-motion. Another fearsome wolf rushes towards her and she again tackles the challenge of killing the large creature.

Luckily a group of survivors arrive and she manages to pry the trap open. At this stage Lara is quite hysterical because her friend has been taken, but the group makes the decision to split up – she’s hurt and returns to the fire in the cave. The man she’s with, Whitman, has a gun and leaves to go check, but she follows him and is soon faced with another wolf attack. They discover a new camp, and the man excitedly finds murals painted on the wall. Lara works together with the man to try and open a lever, but has to look for five pieces of salvage to upgrade the axe. They move inside the new area, and Whitman says to her “it’s one hell of a story Lara,” to which she replies “not if we don’t live to tell it.”

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This short exchange should have prepared me for what was to come, but it didn’t. Lara is taken hostage by some of the scavengers, and Whitman puts down the gun. The scavengers are talking with a foreign accent, and shoot some members of the team. Lara is struggling to undo her hands which are tied behind her back. She manages to do so and hides in a building. The building is burning and a man finds her hiding. He takes her and threatens her, at which point she kicks him with her knee, bites his ear and grabs his gun. It happens within a split-second, he attacks her and as an on-screen quick time event is triggered she pulls the trigger and kills him. The demo ends with Lara crying, covered with his blood…

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Tomb Raider will be available for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC on March 5th 2013. The game is a reboot to the series and stars a 21-year-old Lara Croft who is shipwrecked on a perilous island off the coast of Japan. Browse through El33tonline’s previous coverage to see just how far Lara Croft will go in order to stay alive, as her survival instincts kick in, and we begin to discover how she became to be the hardened Tomb Raider we know today. You can also read our interview with Crystal Dynamics Executive Producer, Ron Rosenberg, about fan feedback and the development team’s passion to make the best Tomb Raider game ever. Finally don’t miss the new Crossroads trailer from E3 below: