Lara Croft's next outing is getting quite the publicity. Not least because, initially anyway, it'll be exclusive to the Xbox One. I think it's fair to say that I got drawn too far into the hype. I don't like it when that happens, because you often set yourself up to be let down.
Fortunately that doesn't seem to be the case with Rise of the Tomb Raider. Because it looks like we're in for a treat.
We managed to snag some brief play time at EGX in Birmingham, where Rise of the Tomb Raider was the main Xbox attraction alongside Microsoft's crown jewel, Halo 5. The lines for Tomb Raider were on par with those for Halo, reinforcing the idea that there's an awful lot of interest in it. Microsoft is, after all, including the new Lara Croft adventure in its "greatest Xbox line up of all time."
The demo I got to see at EGX was something of a traditional Tomb Raider style mission. It takes place in what's best described as, well, a tomb. We're a far cry from the snowy mountain scene we've seen in previous gameplay videos here. Instead, we're in the Middle East, charging along a dusty trail along the Syrian border. There wasn't much hint of what the prevailing storyline is but it appears that the gentleman driving Lara has "sold her out" as bullets come raining down.
Next thing you know you've had a crash and you're underground in a network of catacombs. From here on out the experience is very familiar. We've all heard about the new, grittier, more lethal Lara Croft, but in what I saw in this mission at least, there's also plenty of the 'old' Lara, too. You've got some puzzles to figure out along the way to your objective, because what fun is an easy ride? Shooting things, climbing, swimming, it's all there. And then you stay underwater too long.
The gameplay feels very familiar too, or it does if you've played the previous Tomb Raider game. To be clear, that isn't a bad thing. Not at all. The previous game was superb, as this one is shaping up to be. But I've come to a couple of key takeaways from my all too brief encounter with Rise of the Tomb Raider.
This game feels good for all the right reasons. It looks great, it plays great, it's challenging and overall enjoyable. It could turn out all the other missions are terrible, but somehow, I don't think that's going to be the case. It may not be too much of a departure from the previous game, but that's fine. There's an old saying that fits well here: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
The other thing that I'm left with is a feeling that it's the stuff we haven't seen yet that will really make this game shine. I wouldn't say the demo on the show floor was boring, but it was closer to traditional Tomb Raider than perhaps some of the earlier videos were. Lara wasn't too much of a badass here, but we know from earlier gameplay demos she's not going to take any prisoners.
There's so much we haven't seen yet and I honestly think its that we should get excited for. There's the potential for a great story to be told, and thankfully we don't have to wait too much longer to hear the rest of it.