by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
Making it easier for the gamers
One feature of the upcoming title that we weren’t entirely convinced about is the so-called survival power, or survival instinct. This allows, at a push of a button, Lara to see a highlight around objects that she might need to move or utilise, or paths that she might need to take. Therefore, if the gamer ever gets stuck with a puzzle, they no longer need to use their brain cells to figure the problem out: all they need to do is press a button to use this survival instinct and immediately see if there is something in the room that glows with an eerie light that they didn’t try moving or using yet.
You, the reader, can probably see that we didn’t really appreciate this feature. To us, the main attraction of earlier Tomb Raider games has always been the puzzle solving and the satisfaction that comes from having figured out the solution to some of the brain teasers. Now, this satisfaction seems to be easily removed by the temptation of simply using the survival instinct to find the solutions quickly and effortlessly. We truly hope that this isn’t really the case, but the presentation left us a little bit worried.
Making it look good
Certainly one of the most stunning aspects of Tomb Raider our man on the scene saw was the realism of Lara’s animation, and especially the expressions on her face and in her eyes. The animators used motion capture to achieve this level of detail, allowing us to actually see it on Lara’s face when she’s scared or hurting. And the voice talent behind Lara’s voice and her cries of pain and anguish seems to be on an entirely different level from any of the previous titles in the series. Lara also speaks and gives you verbal clues as to her whereabouts and her condition at all times. She seems alive and it’s amazing.
The motion capture technology allows Lara to interact very realistically with her surroundings, such as touching walls as she walks close to them and passing through waterfalls. And when an inexperienced Lara leaps, she will flail around adorably as she barely catches the ledge. But as the game progresses and her skills develop, these animations/skills will sharpen and the animations will more closely resemble the Lara we all know today.
The environment also has an effect on Lara and her equipment: her torch may well go out when she passes through a section of a cave where water is dripping from the ceiling, and it will definitely go out if she passes through a waterfall or attempts to swim while holding the torch.
Crystal Dynamic’s attempt to make the game look more cinematic also brings about the familiar QTEs (quick time events). In many games QTEs have been one of the most hated features (requiring you to press 4 or more buttons in order at the right time when the cue appears on the screen), practically taking the joy out of the game when you have tried to repeat the same action sequence over and over again until you get it right. This was also the case with Crystal Dynamic’s previous Tomb Raider game, Anniversary, but it was far less annoying in Underworld, We can only hope that the QTEs in Tomb Raider will also be there for additional spice only and not designed to frustrate the players.
She’s gonna make you wait
The release of Tomb Raider is still one and a half years in the future. In that time a lot can change and much of what we saw of the gameplay features at E3 may well be changed or abandoned entirely. But already the animations of the characters and the cutscenes are amazing and really brought out true emotions. Lara is scared and unsure and it works so well it’s scary.
Crystal Dynamics will most certainly keep their focus on making this a more emotional experience than any other Tomb Raider game has been. Many old-time fans of Tomb Raider may be dismayed by this change in the approach, but I, for one, am looking at these changes with great expectations. If a game can provide me with an emotional experience on top of all the more usual offerings (puzzles, action, adventure), it can only make it more interesting and definitely more memorable.