Although your mother always cautioned against the judging of innocent books by their seemingly forever misleading covers, the quality of a game’s graphics can almost always be accurately assessed on first impressions. In continuing the above already overstrained metaphor, Tomb Raider walked into the room, took off all its clothes and screamed at the top of its lungs “LOOK WHAT I’VE GOT”. For those of you not well versed in metaphorical ravings let me offer a translation: the graphics were breathtakingly bold. From the very second that the game blazed onto the screen, it was clear to see that ‘ground-breaking’ was the brief given to the developers. The cave environment bestowed with the responsibility of entertaining EGX attendees was fantastically detailed, in a way you never though an inanimate cove ever could be. Lara herself has taken a large leap into the world of reality. She’s now so near to being a tangible person, you almost believe that there could really be a tomb raiding archaeologist/supermodel/genius in existence and that she has chosen to spend her time letting you follow her around. You lucky lonely thing, you.
After a conflict heavy Tomb Raider (2013), there was much speculation within the Tomb Raider fan base as to whether the sequel would follow along the same lines or shift the focus back from combat to exploration. In other words, there were high hopes that our affectionately termed ‘Tomb Raider’ would actually be raiding tombs as opposed to merely taking down bad guys for the majority of play. And indeed, the choice of demo presented at EGX does undoubtedly seem to signify that the new game has reverted that emphasis to the former, as we begin in what would certainly appear to be a ‘tomb’, with only a couple of armed enemies encountered during play.
Unfortunately, we’re not entirely convinced that this is the case. The game places a heavy emphasis on the use of a ‘hint’ (Right Analogue) button to guide you through the more explorative portions of the game, which is a significant negative in the adventure column. It’s easy to have your finger resting on the RA button for the duration of the more challenging areas, which starts to make you feel like you are rushing through the tomb raiding elements rather than taking time to puzzle them out. If the focus really was on the tomb raiding rather than the combat, we can’t help but get the feeling that hints should only have been made available after you had been laboriously struggling over the same problem for days or just removed the easy to reach hints button altogether, so that the player would be forced to trudge all the way to their web browser and read a walkthrough. Like the good-old-days.
Despite this, there have been some much needed improvements to the gameplay in the – namely the superbly improved camera controls. Whilst playing Tomb Raider back in 2013, I was also concurrently playing The Last of Us. Which admittedly, is difficult for any game to compete against, but in this case it overemphasised the lack of natural flow in the third person viewpoint. A factor which detracted from any opportunity of becoming immersed because you would be constantly aware that the camera was nowhere near as intuitive as it could have been. You’ll be pleased to hear that this new release seems to have tamed the rebellious camera entirely. You may now rest assured that playing The Rise of Tomb Raider will provide you with the high quality escapism you’ve all been praying for, as there was not a single time during the entire duration of the demo that we were required to slow down play to readjust the viewing angle.
There also appears to be a new form of skills building, which saw Lara gain experience whilst examining objects/translating from foreign languages. Although during the timescale of the demo there wasn’t enough time to get to grips with the new system in it’s entirety – it certainly promises to add a new dimension to the game.
On top of all this, the storyline already has us hooked. The narrative was so packed with climatic tension (the best kind of tension), that it could almost have convinced you to rush out and buy an Xbox One. Almost. For those of you who have been convinced or are otherwise already the lucky owners of an Xbox One (or 360), The Rise of the Tomb Raider is out on the 10th November this year. Sadly, you lowly PS4/PC gamers will have to wait until autumn 2016 before you can get your grubby mitts on a copy.