But where was the bear?
Rise of the Tomb Raider stopped by PAX Prime this year to show off a hands-on demo that mainly featured Lara’s ability to walk forward through a temple. And it was fantastic.
The demo took a linear path through a ruined cave, but flourished the movement with cinematic moments of action. There’s the classic ‘wall crumbling down on you as you hang from a ledge’ and ‘platform falling from beneath you’ stumbling blocks, but also moments where Lara races towards a blinding light through a hall flooded with rushing water and the bones of ancient corpses. It’s the retina-pleasing, pulse-raising experiences like these that gave the title a fighting spirit despite the simple movement and mechanics.
The demo begins with Lara traveling to a mysterious marker in a sprawling desert of Syria. It’s not long before enemies appear on her tail and she discovers her driver has sold her out to mercenaries. Oddly, this revelation was missing a certain tension… or spike in emotion… or anything that would show Lara kind of dislikes being completely stabbed in the back. The scene was fairly discordant, but it wasn’t long before the adventurous tone was revived with Lara being dramatically thrown off the side of a mountain and landing flat on her back with a reverberating slam.
Luckily, she almost broke her spine right outside the entrance to her cave of interest. The player then leads Lara onwards through scorpions, skulls, and crumbled walls begging to be ice-picked to hell. The tomb itself featured relics of an ancient healer, wrongfully killed and star of many aged frescoes that Lara observes and interprets. All of these discoveries and actions, while prompting little input from the player, are full of life, beautiful effects, and Lara’s fantastic visual and vocal acting.
After a bit of tomb crawling, Lara ends up in the midst of a gunfight. The demo plopped her in front of two baddies, purposefully skipping additional gunfight and cutscenes to avoid some spoiler-ific moments. The shooting itself proved to be spectacularly standard. Easy to handle, clearly not the game’s focus, but solid and surely not a drawback.
Gunplay truly takes a second, perhaps third, seat to the treasure hunter gameplay of Rise of the Tomb Raider. Conundrum-filled exploration lies at the heart of Lara’s adventures; sadly, though, the most complex riddle featured in the demo simply required Lara shoot down an obstacle in order to climb it and move forward. The demo stressed that the more intricate levels were omitted to avoid “giving everything away.” Nonetheless, it would have been an even stronger showing to include the sort of challenges Rise of the Tomb Raider is surely capable of, and likely laden with elsewhere.
The session wrapped with a tried and true ‘sprint out of the collapsing temple’ sequence, where everything from the violent rumble of the controller to the powerful booms of the temple’s destruction brought the player the excitement they were waiting for.
Rise of the Tomb Raider‘s demo easily excited, but failed to flex all of its muscles. The experience was far from bland nonetheless, and ushered the exact intensity and action that will be key to Rise of the Tomb Raider’s success.
Rise of the Tomb Raider hits Xbox 360 and Xbox One in November 2015, Microsoft Windows early 2016, and PlayStation 4 late 2016.