We’ve seen Lara’s new look, but now we learn a bit more about the gameplay in this E3 demo.

The Microsoft press conference starts things off with a bang this year at the Electronic Entertainment Expo with another action-packed demo of Modern Warfare 3, but following in its wake was a look at Crystal Dynamic’s reboot of the franchise Tomb Raider. The CGI trailer that was released last week featured a younger, 21-year-old Lara Croft on a voyage out at sea. Things don’t go according to plan and Lara winds up shipwrecked on a mysterious island. To watch the demo, it is the second presentation of the Microsoft press conference.

The CGI trailer in case you missed it.

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In the demo–which was the beginning of the game–we find that Lara has been captured and is dangling upside down in an underground cavern. It’s obvious she isn’t the first prisoner, as she swings back and forth in an attempt to free herself. A fire burns nearby so she’s able to come in contact with it to burn the rope that has her bound. She tumbles to the floor of the cavern, which isn’t a short drop, and when she sits up, we noticed that she has been impaled by wooden stake. Her vision blurs and specks of blood are on screen to simulate her disorientation and pain. An X button appeared onscreen, which was pushed repeatedly for her to pull it out. It was a little hard to watch as Lara yanked the stick out of her gut, but being the tough young woman that she is, she did it and continued on, clutching her side.

Through the underground cave that was littered with debris and morbid miscellaneous items, she came across a dead body that had been bound by the wrists, dangling several feet above ground. It’s clear that Lara recognizes this person but presses on because this is about survival, and she has no time to stop and mourn the dead. Lara grabs a torch in the room and makes her way through the cave, squeezing through tight cracks and lighting sconces along the way. Even injured, she’s able to jump onto a platform and pull herself up. However, her escape is interrupted when a native decorated in face paint–likely one of her captors–grabs her leg and tries to drag her back. The LS button appeared, indicating that we had to wiggle it back and forth to escape. Lara does eventually give him a good kick in the face and a large rock falls between them but she keeps going. The entire experience was intense and cinematic. With the tight camera angles, Lara’s convincing voice acting, and her pained movements, the struggle that she was going through was all emphasized.

As she found her way into a flooded cave, she was faced with a puzzle of some kind, involving a metal cage and some flaming barrels. Here, we were introduced to her survival instincts that sucked the color of the environment, highlighting key objects that would help her move forward. She pushed several barrels into the water and followed the water current, but the cavern was quickly crumbling around her. As she was running, rocks were breaking away and falling around her; thus, she tripped and slid down a passageway. Here, we caught a glimpse of the Lara that we’re used to, as she leapt over chasms and climbed her way toward (what we hope) to freedom. Another island native tried to grab her, but with the LS, she also managed to struggle free and a boulder falls, this time on the pursuer. Her escape came to a dramatic finish as she slipped and almost fell into the abyss, but using the two analog sticks that appeared onscreen, she quickly climbed her way out to emerge into the world above. The camera panned around, and we saw the aftereffects of the storm and her wrecked ship.

The demo ended here, and we were told that Tomb Raider is primarily about survival and will have open environments to explore. It’s difficult to find out just exactly how the game plays. We know there are button prompts that appear, so there will be some quick-time events, but how much control you have of Lara is still unclear. It was an impressive first look, even though it was a more scripted experience than we’re used to. But having a more character-driven approach isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it will be interesting to learn more about what makes Lara tick. There will be plenty of time to find out more about Lara’s new adventure as the game is set to be released in the fall of 2012.

By Sophia Tong