During this year’s E3, we took in both a guided demo and had the opportunity to go hands on with Shadow of the Tomb Raider. We learned something rather interesting.
The video presentation – led by Eidos Montreal gameplay director Vincent Monnier – took us through an open hub, an ancient city thought long abandoned, that Lara finds to be teeming with life and culture. We also saw some environment traversal, including the new 360-degree swimming, and some crypts and tombs. It is a Tomb Raider game, after all.
The Shadow of the Tomb Raider presentation finished up with a combat and action sequence which, a little later, we were able to go hands on with.
The section begins with Lara, creeping through the jungle, filled with some very bad men. They have done something to her friend Jonah, so she is naturally quite upset about it. The lighting is dim and the terrain slicked with moisture; giant ferns and hanging vines bounce and recoil as Lara passes through them.
As in the previous Tomb Raider games since the 2013 reboot, Lara finds herself picking off enemies with a bow and a knife, using stealth and a little creative thinking to come through alive. This time, however, she has some new tricks, including an arrow tipped with some sort of venom that causes foes to become paranoid and attack one another. We relied on that one a few times.
Another new trick Lara has at her disposal, however, is more interesting: she can scoop up gobs of sticky mud from puddles, and cake herself in it. For the purposes of the demo section we played, this acted as straight-forward visual camouflage, just like Martin Sheen’s Willard in Apocalypse Now, though it’s worth mentioning that on-screen tool-tips suggested that you could also use the mud to cool your body temperate to avoid detection, so presumably, there’s a Predator in the jungle somewhere, too.
Later, after Lara has made her way through the stealth combat sections, she finds herself on an oil refinery platform which is for some reason exploding, and she has to climb across a collapsing structure lest she fall to her doom. Any similarities to the train segment in Uncharted 2 are purely incidental. But as is often the way with these sequences, you are doomed to fail in spite of your best efforts, because the narrative progression demands it. Lara falls from the structure into the water below, which is wreathed in a layer of flames, as a viscose blanket of oil coats the surface.
Lara rises through the water, a mud-covered silhouette, projected before a dancing blanket of fire and fury.
“This looks a lot like Apocalypse Now,” we say to Monnier, who following the guided presentation has joined us in the private booth for our hands-on demo.
“Yes, that’s intentional,” he confirms.
“And the mud, too? Like Willard?”
“Yes of course, it was all intentional,” he laughs. “You got it! In fact, this whole level you just played? During development we nicknamed it ‘the Apocalypse Now level’ for that very reason.”
So there you have it: Shadow of the Tomb Raider is most definitely inspired by Apocalypse Now. Whether we see any other similarities to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness through the course of the game remains to be seen, but based on what we’ve experienced of the game so far, both in trailers and behind closed doors with the developers at E3 this year, we wouldn’t be surprised.
Watch the trailer below, and see for yourself.