Well, that’s more like it Microsoft and Square-Enix! The new extended gameplay demo of Rise of the Tomb Raider is a considerable improvement over the arguably dull E3 2015 appearance. So much so, it’s hard to imagine why Microsoft went for the video they did for their on-stage gameplay reveal over the new one released over the weekend.
The timed Xbox exclusive is one of the year’s biggest releases and the gameplay reveal at E3 was one of our most anticipated parts of Microsoft’s show. But then it happened and they turned E3 into QTE3. It wasn’t a bad demo by any means, but there was a heavy focus on quick-time-events and climbing rather than showing us extended on-foot scenes. Tomb Raider scenes.
This latest trailer will restore any faith that may have dwindled as you watched Lara bounce off the side of a mountain in the mother of all blizzards. Seriously Lara, check the weather ahead next time, yeah? The new demo takes place straight after the E3 one, where we find Lara picking herself up after somehow not dying after tumbling down the mountain and using her face to smash through walls of ice.
With the blizzard still raging around her, she must seek shelter and build a fire before freezing to death. As we’ve come to expect, the weather effects on display are stunning and there’s a real physicality to her movements that pull you in further than most games. For example, when trying to break some sticks for firewood we see her put all her weight into it and stumble after they break. It adds a little human-touch to her character as we’re all too used to seeing gaming characters go through the pre-canned animations (animotions?) and rarely seem affected by recent injuries. Well, the great games make a similar effort and we’re hoping Rise of the Tomb Raider can keep the effort up so we can put it up there with Naughty Dog’s Uncharted and The Last of Us, who both have superbly nuanced human animations.
The new trailer gives us a much better vertical slice of the gameplay as we briefly see the crafting options as Lara builds a makeshift bow and you can pause the screen to have a peak at some of the potential upgrades.
After weathering the storm, Lara must escape from patrolling guards. I say escape, I mean murder them all. Lara can now use poisonous mushrooms to craft arrows that unleash a toxic cloud, which can take out multiple enemies at once when fired nearby. Or just fire a traditional arrow into their backs as they wander around their patrol route. Radios can also be borrowed from dead guards and set to play static when thrown to one side causing soldiers to converge on one position before chucking a fuel can to take them out in a flaming eruption.
It wouldn’t be a Tomb Raider game without Lara taking on a bit of wildlife and she’s opting to take on bloody huge bear that’s guarding the entrance of a cave. Apparently causing a distraction is no longer a valid tactic, but firing twig like arrows into its roaring face while occasionally swinging a climbing axe at it is. Subtle, Lara is not.
Frustratingly, the demo ends just as Lara enters what looks like a tomb. We’re really hoping the whole tomb raiding side of the game is a core pillar this time around, as it was very much an optional part of Lara’s adventures on Yamatai.
The new demo wrapped up with the same trailer as the E3 presentation, showing a wider range of environments, including some much warmer settings which saw Lara ditch the jacket for the traditional vest outfit while gawping up at some seriously impressive stages. Yeah, we can’t wait to climb around those things. We’d settle for a few dinos too.
While it would have been nice to see a non-snow stage of the game in greater detail, it’s great to have at least seen some improved extended gameplay. Yes, the E3 stage demo had some exciting moments (that avalanche was pretty awesome), but isn’t it time publishers got used to the fact we’d always opt for proper gameplay reveals for a game we’ve been itching to see in action? Extended demos featuring nothing more than QTEs really need to become a thing of the past, especially when there’s an alternative available, as we suspect was the case with Rise of the Tomb Raider -unless Square-Enix could only get that demo ready by the end of last week, which was too late for Microsoft’s E3 presser.
Or perhaps, I’m putting too much importance on the E3 pressers themselves. This new trailer is easy to find and can take advantage of the fresh buzz surrounding the game in the E3 afterglow. But on the other hand, isn’t the stage the place set out your stall, especially for Microsoft whose first-party lineup for Christmas is looking pretty damn unbeatable in terms of console exclusives.
So how about it readers? Was the new demo a better example to whet your appetite for Rise of the Tomb Raider? Or do you think showing it after the mountain-climbing one was a better move? Are you more likely to pick up the game after seeing the new footage? Or are you considering buying an Xbox One specifically to play the game?