The Tomb Raider stage demo at the EB Expo 2012 was a notable departure from the demo that sparked all of that “torture porn” controversy during E3. While elements of that demo were included in this one, players were now being given a glimpse into the character that Lara Croft would become over the course of the game, rather than seeing her constantly being broken down by the situation that she has found herself in.
Having crash landed on an island, Lara struggles against the environment and her unknown assailants in an attempt to survive, and to find her lost friends. The torture cavern highlighted in the E3 demo was shown, but only quickly in order to serve the small amount of narrative contextualisation needed to give the impression of the danger that Lara is in at this point in the game. From there, we saw her grow, and learn how to survive in the harsh environs of the island by way of bow-murdering, shotgun-murdering, and killing animals for food.
The short hands-on demo saw us taking Lara through a traversal section, which included climbing up the wreckage of a plane as it hung precariously from a cliff. This aspect of the game is undeniably reminiscent of the Uncharted series, right down to the ability to execute superhuman jumps from a standing start. From there, players receive a bow and are taken through a tutorial section which outlines how to hunt deer for Lara to eat. The act of hunting and butchering the deer looks to be designed to make the player feel some semblance of the discomfort that Lara must be feeling at her actions.
The game seems to provide a thorough sense of isolation. A storm breaks out during the hunting section of the demo, and Lara is forced to find shelter. As she shivers against the cold and struggles to light a fire with her last remaining match, I felt a shiver run down my own spine at the thought of ever being in such a lonely and helpless situation. As the demo comes to a close, players are asked to choose a list of Ingenuity Upgrades — yes, Tomb Raider includes a perks-like character progression mechanic. The available upgrades included a separate tree for hunting-related skills, implying that the hunting mechanic will be more than a simple scene included for flavour.
All in all, Tomb Raider is shaping up to be a title to watch. Unfortunately the narrative elements shown in the stage demo didn’t include much more than what we’ve seen from other showings of the game, but what we do know is exciting. This is the origin story for a character that has been around for more than a decade, a character that many associate with being a bad-ass, stone-cold killer who raids tombs and takes names (and also gems). The genesis behind this raider of tombs should be a fun ride.