It hasn’t been too long since we last saw Lara Croft in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Square Enix dedicated a sizable chunk of precious E3 floorspace to the upcoming prequel, indicating both high customer demand to see the game and high confidence in what they had to show. While the show floor demo available to the public consisted of the demo we spoke about last month, the press demo showcased a different level entirely. We managed to sneak our way into the press section and get our hands on the new level, and have our impression ready for your reading pleasure now.
Lurking in the Shadows
The demo level offered to us took place in a jungle. Here, we were tasked with taking out a large group of enemies. Simple, right? But Lara is no nearly invincible warrior of old; while she is tough, a handful of bullets will still take her out, and caution is required. Shadow of the Tomb Raider rewards careful exploration when enemies are nearby, because doing so uncovers multiple vantage points from which to enact death upon an unsuspecting enemy. One of the early examples was simple – death from above. A lot of people in real life often forget that in addition to looking left and right, they should also look up, a blind spot Lara is eager to exploit. This is the easiest method of enemy execution, and gives the player the most time to consider their options. First up was a poison-laced arrow. By hitting any enemy with one, they would quickly go into a neurotoxin-induced frenzy. Their frenetic behavior would attract the attention of their comrades, until the afflicted individual inevitably opened fire. Once the dust settled, few, if any, of the original enemies in the area would be left. It’s a classic tactic used in many action games, and it’s used believably here.
Other kill options included jumping onto an enemy and simultaneously impaling their carotid artery with a large knife, as well as hanging unsuspecting foes from a tree. Yet each takedown approach had its pros and cons. The aforementioned frenzy arrow would wipe out a lot of enemies, but it would put the remaining on a higher alert status, making Lara easier to spot. Dropping down for a regular knife kill usually resulted in being spotted. Hanging enemies did seem to draw less attention, but those opportunities were rare.
Pick Your Poison
This demo was much more about stealthily (or loudly – your choice) taking out enemies than the last demo, which was more about exploring and puzzle-solving. A set piece at the end involving a fiery, collapsing oil rig also brought the sort of heart-pounding action you’d expect in a globetrotting, treasure-hunting adventure such as Tomb Raider, as well. Unlike in, say, Uncharted 4, your next grab point is not by default conveniently highlighted, which means you actually have to look around and pay attention to Lara’s cues that something is reachable. I feel this is an improvement over the more gamified version common across this genre, as taking a few extra seconds between jumps or climbs adds to the tension in a high-action set piece such as this.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider looks to finish the prequel trilogy, and to solidify Lara Croft as a badass heroine once again. Based on the short amount of time we had with the E3 demo, this entry should do just that. Consider this a refinement of the previous games, to the point that it will be a hot-ticket item this fall. Look forward to more coverage and our review leading up to Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s launch on September 14, 2018.