Shadow Of The Tomb Raider Hands-On Preview: Finishing the Fight

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Earlier this week, Square Enix revealed the first ever footage for Shadow of The Tomb Raider, which is set to wrap up the reboot trilogy which kicked off in 2013. We were lucky enough to be on hand at the reveal event in Los Angeles, as we saw the first extended trailer of Lara Croft in action, and even got to play an hour of the game’s epic story.

Shadow of The Tomb Raider moves the action from the snowy locales of Asia to the dense jungles of South America. This was intentional, as this game serves as the final bridge to bring Lara Croft to the “tomb raider” that fans have known and loved for decades. And it’s not just the location that has changed. Lara sports her iconic teal top, and while she isn’t wearing shorts, the developers have paid homage to her classic look with some carefully placed straps on her pants.

This time around, the minute-to-minute gameplay puts a much greater emphasis on stealth. If the 2013 Tomb Raider was all about survival, and 2015’s Rise of the Tomb Raider was about solving mysteries, this new game is Lara Croft as the hunter. She’s relentless, having shed what was left of her naivete, and now she actively takes the fight to the Order of Trinity.

During our hands-on time with the game, we got to play an hour of the story, which opens in Cozumel, Mexico, with Lara and Jonah tracking a high-level Trinity operative. Against the setting of the Day of the Dead, Lara dons a skull mask to blend in with the crowd. Stealth is a huge factor, as the player guides Lara through shadows as she tails two persons of interest. This had the feel of early Assassin’s Creed games, but with that now-classic Eidos Montreal flare (did we mention that Eidos Montreal is the lead developer this time around, as opposed to Crystal Dynamics?)

This is definitely a Tomb Raider game, and Lara climbs, rappels, slides, and even swims, and quickly finds herself in front of a huge Mayan ziggurat, which she must, of course, raid — I mean, it’s in the title. This opening tomb is as large (if not larger) than any of the ones in Rise of the Tomb Raider, and the puzzle elements give early indication that the player will be challenged early and often. There is the usual trial and error, with error meaning death, and soon enough, Lara finds her target, which she grabs before Trinity shows up and takes it for themselves. This sets off a series of events that will thrust the narrative forward in Shadow of The Tomb Raider, and the gameplay demo ended painfully, as we were left wanting more.

The stealth system is bolstered with new camouflage techniques, which are noticeably more sophisticated than what we’ve seen in earlier games. Lara can hide in the flora of the jungle, like the vines on walls, or bushes, and even coat herself in mud for a Predator-like experience. This gives her a combat advantage over her enemies for some surprisingly fun take down animations. It’s too soon to call this game “Tomb Raider: Snake Eater,” but the foundation is in place for that kind of gaming experience, especially with some sections taking place in dense jungles and forests. The action felt tight for a game still in development, and it looked absolutely stunning in 4K at 60fps (running on a high end PC, of course). Both of the previous games looked amazing, and Shadow of The Tomb Raider raises the bar even further.

The jungle setting is the perfect backdrop to give the developers a wide variety of settings to choose from, and all of that came out in the demo. From the cobbled streets of Cozumel, to the thick jungle, to the tomb itself, and then back to the city as it is decimated by a natural disaster, so much happens visually that I cannot wait to play this section again come release time. The gameplay reveal event did what it was supposed to do by ramping up the hype, and fans now have a long four-and-a-half-month-long wait to finally finish this story of Lara Croft’s early days, and witness her true rise as the world-spanning adventurer that gamers have come to know and love. Stay tuned for more features as we get closer to launch, including an interview with developers, and any new trailers as they are released.

Shadow of The Tomb Raider will release on September 14 for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Windows 10. The game will be enhanced for both PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X.

Disclosure: Hands-on time with the game took place at a publisher-hosted preview event. Lodging and transportation were provided by Square Enix.

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