This article originally appeared in PSM3 magazine.
We've been told that this younger Lara Croft is weak and inexperienced, struggling to survive in a harsh environment, but the gameplay revealed at E3 tells a very different story. She's the epitome of the overpowered videogame action hero, mercilessly slaughtering her enemies by the dozen. She shoots them with arrows, stabs them in the neck, blows them away with a shotgun, and sets them on fire by igniting a gas tank.
The demo is described as being from 'later in the game', so maybe by then Lara has picked up some new skills, but this isn't the mature, realistic Tomb Raider we were promised. It looks like a dumb action game, borrowing liberally from the Uncharted series - which, of course, was originally inspired by Tomb Raider itself. This is by no means a bad thing; it just isn't what we were expecting from an allegedly 'gritty' reboot.
In the demo, Lara darts quickly between pieces of flimsy cover as they're blasted away by an enemy gunman. She waits for him to reload, then bursts out and kicks him off the edge of a cliff. Like Nathan Drake, Lara can flit between melee and ranged combat seamlessly, as well as ducking behind cover and climbing on scenery. It looks impressively fluid and dynamic, although the game wasn't playable at the show, so we don't know how the controls actually feel.
Crystal Dynamics say exploration will be a big part of the game, but the level in the E3 demo contradicts that too. It's essentially a corridor full of enemies. The magic of the vintage Tomb Raider games was entering a huge chamber full of puzzles and platforming, and wondering how the hell you were going to reach the top. We really hope there's some of that in the new game to counter these linear action sequences.
At the end of the level, Lara is tumbling down a deadly waterfall that she somehow walks right into - presumably because she's inexperienced, and not because it was a convenient way for the developers to throw in a cinematic setpiece. Expect there to be a lot of these punctuating the gunplay. As she's thrown around by the water, you can move left and right to avoid debris, but hitting objects doesn't seem to result in failing, just grunts of pain. These seem to permeate every second of gameplay: Lara's constantly yelping, screaming and straining.