The latest Rise of the Tomb Raider game play video has an emphasis on combat, with Lara engaging in outright hostilities with the enemies of the game. The video begins by giving us a brief look at some of the skills which can be learnt by levelling up. One of them, ‘Arrow Retrieval’ – in which you can collect some of your arrows back from dead enemies – is also in the previous game. This tells us that this game is not going to take the InFamous 2 route of starting off with the skills from the previous game and building upon them, rather Lara has unlearned everything from the previous game an we have to start again.
The video has Lara engage in combat with almost everyone she meets. We are shown that she will have all of the weapons from the previous game – bow, pistol, rifle and shotgun – though, presumably she’ll have to reacquire them over the course of the game as Lara has proven time and time again, she always leaves the fancy guns at home. She also makes use of a knife on several occasions to perform stealth kills and is seen making use of what is around her by picking up a glass bottle and smashing it off a persons face. It does, at times, get a bit brutal and I know that some bloggers have expressed some concern at this. I actually don’t have a problem with it at all. Lara has always been willing to pull out her weapons and gun down anyone who gets in her way. But shooting at someone from a distance and getting up close with a knife – or bottle – is a completely different thing – more difficult, more hands on, more bloody. It’s also entirely possible that this is the dark middle chapter of a trilogy and the escalating violence may be the major problem she can’t break out of. In the 2014 E3 trailer, the therapist says that for some people, ‘traumas become a mental trap. They get stuck, like a ship frozen in ice.’
That being said, I do wonder how much of the action is actually avoidable. While I doubt there will be a non-lethal take down option, there does seem to be shades of Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell in that you can distract the enemies and slip past them, or hide until they’ve moved on. One moment in the video has Lara throw a glass bottle, causing the guard to investigate the sound.
Sadly this moment also betrays that the AI on these isn’t great. He should be able to see Lara – she’s hardly immersed in shadow in the above picture – and yet he doesn’t, apparently not having any kind of peripheral vision. In another moment later in the video, Lara stands up in front of a guard walking towards her who just doesn’t see her. This level of blindness in reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid, a game which came out in 1999. All that’s missing is the question mark above the head.
Also shown in the video if the return of the white ledges and planks to indicate what parts of the landscape Lara can interact with. I do take issue with this. I can understand, from a developer point of view, wanting to aid the player in navigating the game, but this feels more like spoon-feeding. In this video we see that even the branches of the trees are white.
Why not just keep everything as natural looking as possible and keep all hints to the survival instincts mode, that way the player opts into a hint, rather than just having it handed to them?
What I’ve noticed now with all of these videos is that the bit I enjoy the most is always the last minute of them, because that’s when we get a look at a lot of different bits of the game that tease about what to expect. We almost always see Lara struggling against the environment in these and here we see her struggling underwater, against spike traps and working her way through a cave that doesn’t look overly structurally sound. It’s the last minute of this video that makes me look forward to the game more that the combat demonstrated in the previous five minutes, because it’s that last minute that actually looks like Tomb Raider.
No sooner had I hit the ‘post’ button than another game play demo turned up in my YouTube subscriptions, this time with footage from the Syria portion of the game. Unlike the last one, this is light on combat, instead showing Lara doing what she does best: raiding a tomb:
This is, without a doubt, my favourite of the trailers so far. It feels more like Tomb Raider, in terms of its setting – and ancient ruin, untouched for a long, long time before Lara comes along. We see the environment as her enemy, as she nearly falls victim to traps and crumbling architecture. Lara herself is also more like…Lara. She comes across more as someone enjoying the adventure, someone who is thrilled and excited to find the old ruin – as oppose to the person who declared in the previous game, ‘I hate tombs’. A few people – myself included – have bemoaned that these new games don’t feel like Tomb Raider any more. But this trailer – despite being heavily edited to give us a simple overview of this section of the game – still manages to capture that Tomb Raider spirit. If this is typical of what Crystal Dynamics are striving for outside of combat heavy sections, then Rise of the Tomb Raider might end up being one of the better games they’ve contributed tot he franchise.