Tomb Raider Preview
This disconnect caused by the awkward way that story and gameplay are being put at odds with each other ends up thwarting what Square insists is the most important scene in the game too - the one where Lara first kills a man. It's a situation which is meant to show Lara at her most desperate and vulnerable, then show the emotional fallout murder causes; she limps into the forest, sobbing and covered in blood.
It's a powerful scene, but one that's ruined by the difficult Quicktime event and button mashing which was our only focus and interaction for the entire five minute sequence. Lara may be guilty, but we were just annoyed at having to see a GAME OVER screen twelve times before we managed it.
This break between the player and the game is a shame - but what makes it a shame is that there are places where Tomb Raider seems close to succeeding at what it wants to do. The environment, for example, is realised incredibly, with some of the most stunningly real-looking forests we've ever seen. Lara's journey over, under and through the island isn't structured as a sandbox, but that works to keep up the pace.
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The mechanics meanwhile may be at odds on a grand level, but often work well at their most subtle.
It's the little things. Like, the fact that there's no heads-up display on the screen telling you how much health Lara has left, so that you need to consider how she moves and how she looks. She'll talk to herself too, always trying to motivate you both or pleading that she can get the fire started this time.
If there's any point at which Tomb Raider really excels itself from what we've seen then it's when it's establishing Lara's character around
the gameplay. The moments when you're about to lose an arrow and kill a deer for food, Lara whispers an apology that immediately differentiates her from the Lara of old, who'd murder gorillas without concern.
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And, you know what? We can't honestly say that we came away from Tomb Raider hating the whole thing (though the demo did end on a sour note of frustration) either.
There may well be a firm line forced between what we were feeling and what Tomb Raider was trying to evoke, but the mystery of the island is still there begging to be solved. That would be enough to draw us through for a few more hours, had the opportunity been there.
Though whether the resolution is there to make that investment of money and time worthwhile enough still remains to be seen.
Tomb Raider is being developed for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 by Square Enix. It will be released in March, 2013 on all platforms.