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Tomb Raider: Dissected

Picking apart the E3 gameplay demo

Tomb Raider returned at E3 with a more realistic style, dangerous new setting and a far more vulnerable Lara Croft.

It's the first time we've seen the new Square-Enix title in action, getting our first glimpse of the reboot with a playthrough originally hosted on the Microsoft stage.

The new, gritty direction is maintained throughout - sometimes to sickening effect - but there are also a few new gameplay mechanics on show that are bound to add a whole new feel to the franchise.

Does everyone have their dissection goggles to hand? Good.

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Things start off badly for Lara. We find her tied up and hanging upside down from a cave ceiling. She already looks like she's been dragged through a bush garden by her legs.

She's panicking a little bit, which is a side to Lara we haven't seen before, but her survivalist spirit hasn't slipped away entirely.

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In what might be considered a rudimentary puzzle to begin with - perhaps hinting at the kind of predicaments players will have to get themselves out of further on in the game - the player starts to swing Lara towards a naked flame without being prompted.

Obviously it was a developer playing at E3, so he didn't need to be prompted, but we hope that the game has a similar 'work it out for yourself' approach all the way through the game. Later on we'll see why that may not strictly be the case.

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Lara burns away her bonds and, heartbreakingly, tells herself "This is going to hurt" before she plummets to the ground with a scream and lands on this monster spike, triggering another, far worse scream.

She pulls the wooden stake out of her side and the screen turns a blurry black and white, which is obviously the 'dangerously low on life-juice' indicator.

As our heroine makes her way through the caves, she comes across a fellow who's had a worse time than she has and she exclaims, "What has he done to you?" Charred him good and hung him up by his wrists and ankles, from what we can tell.

Lara clearly knows who her captor is though and remains very talkative throughout the demo. She mutters about how she can't let him get her and how she has to get out. Someone's been hanging around Nathan Drake too much.

Onto some of the mechanics and our first comes when Lara picks up a torch of the wooden variety. Up pops a small icon identifying the newly acquired item pointing towards the inclusion of an inventory system yet again.

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We see Lara use the torch a number of times during the demo. She lights it on a burning lamp (someone has made the cave system into a kind of habitat) and an icon of a flame appears to tell the player how long to hold the X button for.

The fact that there is a specific icon for using the torch rather than a generic action prompt suggests that Lara will be lighting torches and setting things on fire a lot in the Tomb Raider reboot.

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Other sequences in the demo involve actions that are a little bit Heavy Rain. When a mysterious and somewhat aggressive bloke catches up to Lara and grabs her, for example, the player escapes by frantically abusing the left analogue stick.

Later, when Mr. Mystery catches up, we see the same mechanic come into play for a similar struggle, only this time hammering X after the stick waggling makes Lara kick her pursuer in such a way that he ends up under a boulder.

The crushing looked pretty final, but it's made fairly clear that the poor chap was trying to help Lara rather than harm her. For some reason we get the feeling that we'll see more of him.

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