Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is much more like an arcade actioner than any Tomb Raider title we can think of. In fact, if we had say which game it's most like, it would probably be Killzone Liberation on PSP. Like Lara, Killzone was a departure from the main series' mechanics to deliver a more immediate and arcadey experience.
Of course, The Guardian of Light has way more puzzles than Killzone, but look at all these aspects that weren't in any of the main Tomb Raider games:
Every enemy you kill leaves behind a score notifier on the screen, often leaving the screen littered with scores when you get in a big scuffle. Small spiders earn you 500 points, dinosaurs get you 1,500 points and the bigger demon-like enemies we saw secured 2,000 points, exploding with dangerous energy projectiles heading in five directions as they die.
The game's fixed, elevated perspective makes this feel much more like a handheld game than a full-blown console release. But in a good way. It's refreshing to have a more clearly signposted 3D world to vault around, which means the gameplay itself can be more complex and intense without screwing with your brain. It's also good to be able to assess your survival chances without being blind-sided by a 3D camera.
The game features collectible gems that lie around on the floor. Totec and Lara can race to see who reaches them first, adding a fun competitive element. We saw a menu option for 'online leaderboard' on the options menu, so we should imagine there will be recognition for the best players and/or the best teams once the game is live.
Unlike the save points and checkpoints of previous games, if Lara or Totec should die, they can be revived by their partner. If they are not revived in time, there is a short delay before they respawn alongside the continuing player. This is also true of death by falling and it keeps the game moving along nicely.
Liek Killzone and Army of Two: The 40th Day, you can see every bullet that Lara fires. The game works as a twin-stick shooter, which is a novel twist for our heroine. She's currently dual-weilding her trademark twin pistols, and while the PR rep couldn't show us any more weapons (or indeed explain the mystery third bar under health and ammo), we were told that you could expect to see some more classic Tomb Raider weapons. Shotty time!
It's also worth noting that bombs have a visible detonation radius when you place them. It goes completely against the 'one energy bar if you're lucky' screen furniture approach of the old games.
On-screen achievement goals
At one point, Lara blew up a parked truck by planting and detonating a bomb with the Y button. A message flashed up, saying 'Destroy all Trucks: 1/10', which is a much more obvious indication that you're being rewarded for specific in-game goals rather than merely your overall progress.
The game is being readied for release on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC for a summer release. The online or off-line co-op play looks certainly to be its biggest selling point, with some very clever level design and good balancing of puzzle difficulty. With the main Tomb Raider series losing its mass-market appeal, a more gamey, accessible Lara experience could be just what the lady ordered. We'll have hands-on time with this in the near future, so check back soon.
14 Apr, 2010