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Hands-on with Tomb Raider - the best looking game at GamesCom

on 16 August 2012

Survival and exploration are at the heart of the latest Tomb Raider videogame and our hands-on time with Lara Croft at GamesCom proves that she's just the right person for the job.

At GamesCom, we kicked off our hands-on time with Tomb Raider, stranded on a tropical island with no weapon at hand to protect ourselves. The lush jungle setting and vicious waves that pound the cliff edge are immediately impressive, as is Lara’s new look. She moves more naturally than previous games in the series.

Instantly the gameplay feels familiar as Lara shimmies across a cliff edge and stumbles across a downed-plane suspended upside down between trees. This creates a pathway for Lara to climb up higher and as she does a brief cut-scene kicks in as she loses her grip. This blend of real-time gameplay and cinematic interlude happens frequently during this particular level adding a degree of surprise and tension as she walks cautiously through the woods.

A corpse dangles upside down from a tree. The dead man has a bow strapped to his back and in typical Tomb Raider style Lara has to find a pathway into the tree-tops. Tomb Raider is all about exploration and surveying your environment and it's not long before we've found a rock to jump on as we made our way to within an arm’s reach of the bow. During this sequence, Lara moves fluidly and naturally and the camera shifts and pans around her to create a series of dramatic angles.

With weapon now in hand, we test out the bow on two wolves that spring out of nowhere. With an instinctive reaction, we kill them swiftly and earn XP, which can later be spent on skill points. Though the path through this demo is linear, the environment is wide open and exploring the woods yields rewards in terms of XP for killing animals and finding salvage, which can be used to upgrade items and weapons. In this case we use it to upgrade an axe so that it’s strong enough, in this case, to break locked chests. We also stumbled upon an entrance to underground shelter, complete with blood-stained murals on the wall, where more salvage could be found.

Sadly, we spent a large part of our 30 minutes hands-on time with Tomb Raider exploring the woods shooting rabbits, deer and wolves and searching every nook and cranny for salvage and didn't get to see the conclusion to this specific sequence, which apparently ends with a QTE style battle. But we did see enough of Lara to know that we can't wait to play more.

Not only does Lara move more smoothly than ever and look fantastic, but it really does feel like you're a survivor left alone to fend for yourself in the dangerous woods. Tomb Raider is a huge production, but it's already looking like they're will be plenty of substance too, with some slick platform sections and combat, while the inclusion of the XP system should add an extra layer of depth of the adventure.