She might not possess the arsenal (or syringe supply) of Far Cry 3′s Jason Brody, but Lara Croft will have to mold herself into every bit the warrior if she wants to survive her adrift-on-a-remote-Pacific-island-that’s-actually-a-pirate/mercenary-sanctuary misadventure in the upcoming Tomb Raider.
Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics have released an 11-minute walkthrough for the game chronicling one of Lara’s missions — a perilous mountainside descent as she scrambles to rescue one of her friends — and it gives us an operative glimpse at the combat choices, enemy encounters and environmental rigors players will be facing over the course of the action.
Narrated by Tomb Raider Creative Director Noah Hughes, the walkthrough delves deeply into Tomb Raider’s navigation mechanics and its multifarious combat structure. Utilizing the game’s auto-cover system, Lara’s dexterity and the branching pathways of each environment, it’s clear that many scenes will allow for getting the drop on unsuspecting enemies. Provided they don’t rush into combat (always a viable option, though, according to Hughes), opportunistic players can use these moments for tailoring their approach — finding the right vantage point, striking at the right moment, shooting out an oil lamp conveniently placed on a munitions box, you get the idea.
Reconciling these mechanics with enemy AI could prove vital to the strength of Tomb Raider’s gameplay. Hughes mentions on several occasions how Lara’s cunning — her ability to “create chaos” through intuition and destruction — can throw adversaries into disarray. And while we see our foes adapt adroitly in some instances (running to cover, creating their own cover, flushing Lara out of cover with a Molotov cocktail) we also see them fail farcically in an another (running blindly into barrels as Lara picks them off one-by-one with a shotgun).
Gameplay aside, the eleven minutes also illustrates the underlying grimness of Tomb Raider’s narrative. Crystal Dynamics has been advancing the concept of Lara Croft’s death-defying crucible ever since revealing its revamped, roughened protagonist in December of 2010, and the macabre motifs are on full display here: corpses hanged, piled and strewn about courtesy of the island’s merciless mercenaries; Lara’s deteriorating physical state — even an ill-fated water-stream ride culminating in the kind of lurid impalement we’d expect to see in Dead Space 3 (then again, Crystal Dynamics is collaborating with Dead Space series composer Jason Graves for the musical score).
In less than a month we’ll discover how Lara escapes her terrifying predicament, and it’s bound to prove as formative for the future of the Tomb Raider franchise as it will for her.
Tomb Raider releases March 5, 2013, for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.