E3 2018 Hands-on: Shadow of the Tomb Raider

If there’s one thing I might consider a “down side” to being a games reviewer, it’s that I’m so often focused on getting through certain games that other big releases end up passing me by. One of those is the reboot of the Tomb Raider series. It’s one I’ve heard significant praise for and has always been in the back of my mind, but until now, I’ve never actually found the time to play it.

Leave it to E3 to finally force me to try out the series. We were offered the opportunity to try out the latest upcoming entry in the reboot series, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, at the conference a couple of weeks ago. The demo was courtesy of Nvidia, so of course, that meant we got to try out the game on all of their latest and greatest hardware (as well as ogle at a massively beautiful 4K HDR living room display with surround sound they were showing off).

The demo itself showed off snippets of the game’s opening sequence, beginning with series mainstay Lara Croft learning of the location of a relic she is hunting for, as well as the fact that an opposing force is already present and searching for it. After this quick cutscene, we are whisked away to the first gameplay area.

We’re shown a few quick cuts of what looks like gameplay involving Lara getting to the demo location – parts that I presume will be playable in the full version, but played out automatically to give context for the demo. Once I got control, my first thoughts to this point were, “This game with these settings would absolutely melt my current PC.” I can’t believe that I forgot to ask the PR reps, but I think it’s safe to assume that we were playing the game in 4K with maxed settings…this demo was in a gaming hardware booth, after all. Aside from some occasional screen tearing during some cutscenes, Shadow of the Tomb Raider on this setup was stunning to look at.

The actual control of this exploration phase of the demo was just as fluid. Poking through the ruins and solving minor puzzles to move forward was all very intuitive, minus one part where I had to jump off a cliff and wall-scramble up to an edge. The game didn’t tell me what the command was, so I had to have one of PR reps help me out. He did mention that this move was taught during an earlier part of the game not in the demo – I assume the portion that autoplayed earlier.

Despite a few gruesome deaths, I managed to make find the relic Lara was searching for. In true Indiana Jones style, though, once she takes the relic, the ruins she’s in begin to fall apart around her. This leads to an area where I have to use stealth and gunplay to get around the aforementioned baddies to escape. Stealth was handled rather simply, having to just stick to the shadows and underbrush to sneakily take down enemies. I had some trouble with the gunplay, but I believe that came down more to personal skill than anything with the game itself – gunplay controls were simple and intuitive.

The ruins collapse catches up with Lara, though, and we’re lead into another auto-gameplay scene of her trying to escape the destruction, which eventually stretches out to a nearby town. A scene plays out showing Lara deeply affected by the death and destruction that she seemingly caused…and here, the demo ends.

As a teaser to get players interested, I have to say, bravo, Eidos Montreal and Crystal Dynamics have succeeded in spades. So much so that I finally downloaded the original Tomb Raider reboot when I got home from Los Angeles. Between the stunning presentation, easy-to-pick-up gameplay, and what seems will be an interesting story, this is a title that I’m definitely looking forward to.

I can easily say that Shadow of the Tomb Raider was one of my personal highlights of this year’s E3.