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Feature Article

Shadow Of The Tomb Raider's Early Hours Feel Familiar: The Highs And Lows

Under the cover of darkness.

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Lara Croft's origins trilogy comes to a close with Shadow of the Tomb Raider where she's now hunting down the villainous organization known as Trinity, instead of piecing together their motives and escaping their grasp. The new game doesn't stray too far from what you've come to expect from this current era of Tomb Raider, though--beginning with the reboot in 2013 and the follow-up, Rise of the Tomb Raider. We spent about four hours with Shadow of the Tomb Raider at a preview event, and while we hoped some minor flaws would be addressed this time around, the best parts of the series' formula still shine through.

You can count on an action-adventure game about seeking ancient relics to bring you on a tour of exotic locations. The lush vegetation of Central and South America provides some wonderful exploration through branching paths and optional side quests, and makes the tried-and-true process of discovery feel refreshing. The dense foliage affords some creative approaches in combat like covering yourself up in mud to blend in or using overgrown vegetation as cover.

The tropical setting isn't solely tourist eye-candy either. One of the game's early hub areas, a Peruvian village called Kuwaq Yaku, showcases the rough nature of a small community holding itself together. We wish the expansive main hub Paititi was playable in the demo, because it's promising to see Shadow of the Tomb Raider create a more vibrant world than past games, with culture and society now a large part storytelling.

Lara's going to have to work with the locals to raid tombs and hunt Trinity down.
Lara's going to have to work with the locals to raid tombs and hunt Trinity down.
Gallery image 1Gallery image 2Gallery image 3Gallery image 4Gallery image 5Gallery image 6Gallery image 7Gallery image 8

Puzzles have been a highlight of Tomb Raider, and the clever solutions that accompany them let you flex your mental prowess. Although the rewards don't seem too gratifying early on in Shadow, the process of unraveling the sequence of steps is the fun part. The fluidity of movement and combat is still intact, too. Slipping into cover at the last second or lining up an arrow for a kill just before getting spotted remains satisfying. However, if either aspect gives you too much trouble, the game allows you to tweak the difficulty of combat, puzzles, and exploration separately. Puzzle and exploration difficulty in particular affect the number of visual cues on screen, while combat difficulty affects enemy health and damage and resource availability.

Unfortunately, enemy behavior still leaves a bit to be desired. They'll often walk into dubious situations that are easy to exploit. One sequence allowed me to pull off a series of stealth kills off the ledge of a boardwalk since each enemy saw suspicious activity in my area. Patrol patterns and enemy placement don't offer much of a challenge, with many guards conveniently having their backs turned to Lara. We expect the action to ramp up, but there just isn't enough to chew on in the early stages.

Moments of close calls have gotten pretty stale in action-adventure games. The cliche of escaping death at the very last second to keep up the intensity would be fine if it was saved for key moments, but when they become too frequent--especially as a narrative device--it gets predictable. Shadow is filled with these close calls, even in the opening hours, and its effectiveness in ratcheting up tension wears thin. Even during normal gameplay, Lara will occasionally slip while scaling walls or jumping to ledges in which a QTE button prompt is your savior. Thankfully, an early ability that costs one skill point negates this altogether.

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We had previously seen the early chapter that takes place during Day of the Dead festivities in Conzumel, Mexico, which was part of this hands-on demo session. After Lara swoops in on an ancient artifact that's said to cause a catastrophe, a flood consumes the entire village, leaving several dead and many more in a state of crisis. Although Lara's companion Jonah scolds her for not even considering the situation at hand, the consequences of her actions aren't really felt in that moment. In the context of a campaign where you're essentially racking up a body count, this may not seem like a big deal, but even a hardened Lara might want to reflect on a foreign town's destruction. The loss of lives feels like an afterthought, but we can assume that Lara's focused on the bigger stakes since Trinity escapes with this mysterious artifact. It remains to be seen how she'll internalize these events and if this will come back to haunt her as the story progresses.

If you've been a fan of the franchise's new direction this generation, you'll be happy to know the formula remains strong, though not without some lingering issues. Lara's latest adventure appears to be taking on a darker tone, and hopefully that comes with narrative surprises. You can experience it for yourself when Shadow of the Tomb Raider launches for PC, Xbox One, and PS4 on September 14.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

highammichael

Michael Higham

Associate Editor at GameSpot. Southeast San Diego to the Bay. Salamat sa iyong suporta!
Shadow of the Tomb Raider

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Good_Coop89

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"combat difficulty affects enemy health"

Total schoolboy error. Combat difficulty should increase damage to the player, not allow the enemy to take more damage. People play higher difficulties because they want a more realistic experience, not just to make it more difficult at any cost.

Bullet-sponge enemies in an open-world game... The mistakes of Far Cry 2 being repeated again!

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deactivated-5bfc8187829ef

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game is great . as if uncharted 4 was not repetitive and Familiar??!! it was uncharted 3 with better graphics so i have to say TR series has evolved and shaped greatly . i really enjoyed 2013 and rise and this one woooff man it's look great .Lara is the best action hero in video games.

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lourenco30

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REALLY looking forward to this!!

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Terminator95

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So Uncharted but with a female ?

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Cappy

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Edited By Cappy

@Terminator95: I only played some of uncharted, so no expert here, but they feel like very different games to me. So much so that i stopped playing uncharted and not sure I will go back, but I love the Rise of the Tomb Raider, played through twice, and sunk many hours into the survival mode.

For me the main difference is that I love the stealth combat in Rise of the Tomb Raider. The combat in Uncharted, so far, just does not grab me all. I also feel like I am watching Uncharted cuts enes more than actually playing it. Not so with Tomb Raider.

To be fair, the cutscenes in Uncharted are done really well, but part of me was usually longing to skip them and get to actually playing.

The survival aspects of Tomb Raider is really good too. I sunk many hours in the survival mode for that and the satisfying stealth combat.

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archav3n

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thanks to sjws she's no longer who she was

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Cappy

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@archav3n: I’m not seeing the SJW influence here. She is a much more complicated character, with vulnerabilities as well as strengths. Personally I like both types of heroes, but find the ones with vulnerabilities make for richer storytelling.

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XenomorphAlien

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Enjoyed ROTTR immensely. Looking forward to this.

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ASnakeNeverDies

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Maybe there will be a progression system implementation for Lara to internalize her circumstances. Give you a chance to level up that PTSD! ?

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Midna

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I hope it’s better than Rise Of The Tomb Raider.

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SebB

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I'm just happy another singleplayer game is coming out.

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Sindroid

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@sebb:

Agree, they are getting more and more scarce each year. I dont do MP. So i take whatever comes my way.

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SebB

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@Sindroid: yeah. The only good thing about this trend is that I can replay the game again before a new one comes out. But by the third time I’ve had enough. So I replay other games in my library. One thing for sure is that I won’t be trashing any single player game that gets released from now on because that will give devs yet another excuse to not make them. I enjoyed Tomb Raider and just completed Rise of the tomb raider again today. Looks like the next one will be more of the same and that’s fine with me. I’m more looking forward to the story given that I already know the gameplay mechanics, that I like a lot anyway.

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XenomorphAlien

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Edited By XenomorphAlien

@Sindroid: Lol what? 2017 was THE year of SP games, the best we've had since 2007. And there's been lots of em this year too, and a boatload in 2019.

I know everyone's cynical about gaming today, but damn.

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ZmanBarzel

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@pasullica: How is Gamespot jumping to conclusions? They were presented with an opportunity to play what they were lead to believe — either by the reps or the game itself — were the first few hours, and have written about the good and bad parts of that section.

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SebB

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@zmanbarzel: I agree.

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Sindroid

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@pasullica: recently?

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hushed_kasket

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At 1:30 – haha, it's Miguel from Disney's "Coco & the Tomb Raider"

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warmblur

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Glad it's a jungle setting I didn't care for Rise atmosphere.

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MichelleBennet

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I love this new Lara, that is more human, she has fears, worries, she knows she has to be careful because anything can kill her...

The Classic Lara was the type of "James Bond" who faced multiple enemies and shooting her guns without even aiming, and always killed them all untouched

She was arrogant, merciless, and selfish...

If they develop the next game like the classic ones, shadow of the tomb raider will be my last one.

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Fackman1984

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Edited By Fackman1984

@michellebennet: Lara Croft was the female James Bond, and that's what was fun about her. She was a badass, and they turned her into a whiner. I hope after this game they get back to the character roots and make her fun again. I agree that it's good to humanize her, but CD wasn't able to do it the right way, they just turned her into an insecure teenage girl instead of a strong, complex character with emotions. The story and side characters in the last games weren't even B-movie worthy.

They can always create a new whiny and depressing character for people who like that kind of thing, just don't change the essence of existing ones.

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Edited By SebB

@fackman1984: to be fair the point of Tomb Raider (2013) was to show how she became the Tomb Raider. In Rise she doesn’t come across as whiny to me. If you look at the gameplay and how she kills enemies in the games she is even more badass than in the previous games. Not to mention the situations she survives. Just my opinion.

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MichelleBennet

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Edited By MichelleBennet

@fackman1984: Perhaps because it was they wanted to illustrate the origins of Lara in a realistic way?

Or did you expect her to born with dual pistols and being a wonder woman goddess?

You can have your opinion, but is not absolute truth.

I prefer this Lara, than the arrogant one.. but I understand why you like it, because you identify with her.

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ASnakeNeverDies

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@michellebennet: Aw, I missed your dumbass remarks! Welcome back, Michelle! ?

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MichelleBennet

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@asnakeneverdies: Well, I didn't even remember who you are...

perhaps because I have bad memory (or lack of interest) when it comes to jerks

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ASnakeNeverDies

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Edited By ASnakeNeverDies

@michellebennet: Let's hope it is just a case of bad memory coupled with a forgettable countenance. I just could not bear it otherwise, Michelle. ?

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PrpleTrtleBuBum

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@michellebennet: Old games weren't about stories or characters, they were about gameplay.

Perhaps I could like these new games and new Lara, but when every 5th second there's a QTE or some sort of miraculous plane crashing right in front of Lara's eyes or mountain crumbling under her feet or other shit like that I just can't. The old games had about 10 minutes worth of cutscenes and almost zero scripted stuff outside those.

In new games she even kills like 500 criminals compared to the 20-40 that the old Lara did.

But it's clear this isn't the real origins story (IV, V, Legend all showed Lara's youth already, which also contradicted each other a bit) so I really doubt these new developers really care about connecting the dots between old and new at all. It's just marketing jumbo.

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ASnakeNeverDies

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Edited By ASnakeNeverDies

@PrpleTrtleBuBum: The contemporary games are not attempting to flesh out the Core Design canon at all. ?

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santinegrete

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The bad thing about liking the story of the second so much is that the writer responsible left , and I think she has nothing to do with it. I just hope that they remain at least competent in that aspect.

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Fackman1984

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@santinegrete: Are you being serious? The story was the worst aspect of Rise. The characters were laughable, Konstantin has to be one of the worst villains in recent memory. I could predict the Anna and Jacob "twists" early on. The only fun thing that game had was the exploration, but story, writing and side characters were really bad. I'm glad they changed the writer, but judging for what I've seen so far in trailers I'm not keeping my hopes up. I've been spoiled with Uncharted.

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santinegrete

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Edited By santinegrete

@fackman1984: for TR standars, I meant.

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Sindroid

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Edited By Sindroid

Less TOMB more RAIDER it has become...

But now as this Trilogy has come to a close with Lara all growing up and stuff. Maybe next could be a fully fledged Indiana Jones type. Back to raid Tombs a plenty with tough and complex puzzles. That would be something. Maybe an adventure set in time past everything else made before.

But i like adventures.. So ill stick around for this one too..

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Edited By cboye18

I thought the Tomb Raider 2013 reboot was just good, not great. I didn't like Rise though. I'm probably skipping this one or wait for a deep sale.

I just don't seem to like the direction CD took with the franchise. I don't like the new Lara, I don't like the generic combat, poor AI and the streamlined exploration. The plot and characters are mostly uninteresting and the lack of mythological creatures/locations is disappointing.

It's like the franchise lost its identity and is desperately trying to follow Uncharted's footsteps.

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deactivated-5b8d89c601cb1

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@cboye18: Gamers are such a bunch of complainers. I've just looked at your history and you complain about everything. Maybe if we all went into games with a more positive attitude we'd like games for what they are.

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179107199999

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@lauracruz: we did and well we all have to pay to play online we have season passes dlc costumes loot boxes half done games etc.yes we do complain but way more now than 27 years ago

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129260

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@cboye18: I also don't understand why they keep changing her face. Every game is like a new lara. It is freaking annoying. Pick one and stick with it.

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archav3n

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Edited By archav3n

@129260: it's not only the face. her chest getting flat each sequel. she must be hating herself so much for having nice curves. girls i know in real life wanted to have curvier body but lara seems to be opposite. oh wait, they make her lesbian too. serious question, lesbians hate nice figure on themselves?

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deactivated-5b8d89c601cb1

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@129260: It's the exact same character model from the last game....

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