E3 2010 Preview: Lara Croft & The Guardian of LightBy Stephen Johnson - Posted Jun 23, 2010
Developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is the first Lara Croft game that will be download only. It is scheduled to be released in the middle of 2010 on PC, PlayStation Network, and Xbox Live Arcade.
What we are seeing:
Lara Croft is like an aging movie star; once the most recognizable, famous face in gaming, Croft has since sunk from blockbuster status to one disappointing outing after another, with each feeling like increasingly desperate attempts to recapture the glory she had in the first couple of Tomb Raider games. Meanwhile, newer, hipper adventurer-platformer games like Uncharted 2 take home the Game of the Year awards. So think of Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light as a quality indie movie that showcases Croft's talents in new ways -- a career reboot if you will. It's more modest than a full-scale Tomb Raider title, but the smaller scale of a donwnloadable title allows for more artistic, gameplay risks and proves that there's still life left in Lara Croft's sexy polygons.
Unlike past Tomb Raider games, Guardian of Light is a fixed-camera, isometric platformer. The controls are one-stick moves while the other fires weapons -- in the case of the demo, the patented Croft dual-pistols but also an unlimited supply of spears -- giving the game an arcade feel. In the demo, you are outside a temple, and enemies swarm. Lara unloads tons of spears in all directions, smiting all her antagonists. In spite of the lush jungle setting, playwise, Guardian of Light owes a debt to shooters like Robotron 2040 or Geometry Wars -- same frantic action and dispatching of swarms of enemies. Of course it looks a lot better than those games, featuring a detailed jungle setting with ancient stone ruins and pyramids rising among the thick foliage.
Croft's acrobatics are still on display in interesting ways. She can embed a spear in a wall and create her own ladder, as well as coming equipped with the old familiar grappling hook to access higher platforms. You'll need it, too; the ground and ledges are littered with collectible gems and other treats.
Other than the overhaul of gameplay, Guardian of Light adds another game changing element: Co-op. Like an actress splitting time on screen with an up-and-comer, Croft is sharing the spotlight with a 2,000 year old Mayan warrior named Totec. The game features a separate co-op campaign you can play with your pal, and cooperation figures prominently in the game. Croft's spears are too light to support Totec's weight, but Totec has a shield he can use to hoist Lara to greater heights, so you gotta work together to get anywhere. If you're a loner like me, no worries: There's a totally separate single player campaign, so you won't have to deal with the frustration of an AI partner.
Maybe Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light will revive Lara Croft's career like Pulp Fiction did for John Travolta. Judging from the good-old-fun demo on display at E3, it looks like she's off to a promising start. I'm gonna download it.