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‘Shadow of the Tomb Raider’ hands-on preview

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HIGH

Excellent images
A lot of tense moments
The stealth combat is still satisfactory

LOW

It differs little from its predecessors
The new direction of the plot is a little predictable

Shadow of the Tomb Raider will see Lara Croft looting tombs and killing the bad guys, but this time, she will face serious consequences.

The third title of the Tomb Raider series restarted is advancing in his character until the end of what could be considered his story of origin. Where the first two games of the series found Lara taking advantage of her potential and finding a way to survive, Shadow of the Tomb Raider has actively sought her out in the villainous Trinity organization and has taken the fight to the bad guys. In doing so, Shadow of the Tomb Raider seems ready to leave Lara in an agonizing moment as she confronts who she has become. She previously faced death, destruction and torture. This time, however, he must deal with the consequences of his increasingly violent attitude. In the brief 45-minute demonstration that is shown to journalists, it is Lara, not the bad guys, who causes a disaster.

The demonstration begins with Lara and her friend, Jonah, in Cozumel, Mexico. They are following the leader of Trinity, an archaeologist named Domínguez. Lara is determined to discover what Dominguez is looking for, so she follows him through a Day of the Dead party. Players take control of Lara as she moves through the crowd, talking to locals to get information about Dominguez and discover what she is looking for.

In a short time, Lara finds her way to the Trinity excavation site and hears that Trinity has located what they are looking for. That’s when Tomb Raider fans expect kicks. When reading inscriptions and looking at murals, Lara determines that a Mayan temple is not far away and goes down a cliff to find a way to enter a cave.

Return to the form

Fans who played the last two games will be at home with Lara’s abilities to hang the cliffs, which include a new ability that allows her to repel down. The cliff is, ultimately, a linear path in which each of Lara’s tools must be used in a specific way, as in the last games. The anguished roads through impossible heights make funny puzzles, and carry that sense of imminent danger.

When Lara finally finds her way to the cave, she discovers a hidden Mayan pyramid. It is one of the new tombs of Shadow of the Tomb Raider, which entails a new approach. The design approach of Eidos Montreal for the game seeks to make Shadow tombs go beyond the intricate and beautiful locations that require intelligence and ability to solve; the developer also wants them to be scary. These tombs are underground and, as in Rise of the Tomb Raider, are downright scary.

Shadow is also restoring the ability to swim to the Tomb Raider series, with Lara submerging under the pyramid and navigating an underwater temple. There is a certain claustrophobic intensity in the moments under water, where Lara is forced to make her way through narrow confines while she writhes and struggles, trying not to drown.

However, we are not sure who among the Tomb Raider fans wants a return to these underground depths. In the Shadow show, the underwater portions are taught and are fast, but sometimes awkward, and feel like a return to a different era. The short scenes of this type felt fresh when the first reboot of Tomb Raider came in 2013, but today they are less inspired, five years later.

The tombs we saw were full of riddles that recombine elements of previous games. The arrows of the rope are back, in which Lara fires an arrow with a rope tied to it in a certain kind of wood or object, and then can pull it to break down a barrier or move something. On her way to the top of the pyramid, Lara was forced to jump between bells, each slowly lowering its weight. At one point, you must use a crank to turn the mine car into position, then use another rope and the same crank to lift the car up a hill. When cutting the rope, the car was released to send it careening in one of the bells, creating a new way up. The sequence felt tight, even smart, but it’s smart in a way that some players may find too familiar.

Unforeseen consequences

At the top of the pyramid, Lara discovered what Trinity was looking for: a powerful dagger artifact. Fearing the supernatural antics her enemies would get if they secured the dagger, she grabbed it, which immediately caused a tremor on Earth and sent her running out of the cave, and back to the dig site, where the Trinity soldiers were preparing to assassinate the Mexican workers they had hired. Cue a combat sequence, complete with stealth.

You probably know what’s next, since Shadow plays exactly like the previous games in the restarted franchise. Lara can sneak up on strangers to execute them with stealthy killings, kill them with their mostly silent bow and arrow, or shoot them down with a multitude of other weapons. The craft will also return, and Lara will find resources such as fabrics and bottles on the road. The bottles are useful to distract the enemies, but they are combined with cloth and become Molotov, offering a less subtle approach.

We notice a new addition to stealth. Lara has learned to weave through walls covered with vines, offering more roads through areas and more places to sprout and kill her prey. Eidos Montreal explained that he plans to make the jungle an important character in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and that Lara can make use of its elements, such as walls covered with vines or trees that can climb, to hunt enemies. It will also contain risks, of course, including some elements that will alter the elements of experience based on survival, such as parasites. Those were not in the demonstration, but they seem … unpleasant.

After killing a handful of Trinity soldiers, Lara came face to face with Dominguez. He revealed that by taking the key, Lara had meddled with forces that she did not understand, unleashing a “cleansing” in the world. In the demonstration, that takes the form of a massive tsunami that thunders through Cozumel, sweeping Lara with him.

The final part of the demonstration shows that Lara dodges death since the current has its past risks, such as collapsed houses or jagged rods. Finally he manages to leave after submerging himself in a market full of floating bodies. Later, as she climbs up the side of a building, Lara watches a child fall under his feet, just out of reach.

That, too, feels familiar. The past games of Tomb Raider have delighted in the absurdly lethal challenges that Lara must conquer. However, blaming Lara is a new twist, and the bets have been marked up to 11. While the original plot of the reboot implied an evil and bigger, it was mainly about the survival of Lara and her friends.

Rise took a similar approach, using a struggle over the power of immortality as a backdrop to explore Lara’s past. However, the shadows immediately endanger the entire world and imply that Lara herself is directly responsible for it. In doing so, the game seems ready to question whether her obsession with Trinity is making her the hero she believes is or is beyond her reach.

It remains to be seen how that will translate into the rest of the game. Where Shadow seems to be able to separate is to challenge his protagonist and explore his character in new and unexpected ways. Dealing with these problems gives the franchise a clear, and perhaps foreseeable.

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