TombRaiderHQ at E3 2015

Posted: Jun. 4, 2015
Updated: Jun. 25, 2015
View ALL of my E3 photos on Instagram! (I only chose a few selfies to accompany each written update on this page.)

June 25, 2015, 11:57 AM - Today, I've got my final exclusive E3 video finished. At E3 2015, I filmed alternate close-up footage, as well as behind-the-scenes before and after footage, of the Square Enix Presents Rise of the Tomb Raider interview with Crystal Dynamics Senior Community Manager Meagan Marie and Game Director Brian Horton on June 17, 2015, Day 2 of E3. I've edited the original Square Enix Presents segment from YouTube (it was 720p) together with this additional 1080p footage as well as selected inserts. I hope you like it, unfortunately I didn't break out the tripod, I was shooting through glass and there were a few issues with the Square stream, but I did the best I could!

June 24, 2015, 6:23 PM - In today's post, I'll wrap up my thoughts about E3 and the Rise of the Tomb Raider gameplay demos that we saw at the show. I also promised to answer any questions that were sent my way, and Max Raider (who has given awesome support to me from day one in the fan community) sent in a bunch - so many, in fact, that they turned into an interview! So as long as you promise to come back, before you read further, first go check out my post-E3 interview at!

While this will be my last E3 post with lengthy written content, I still have one more exclusive Tomb Raider video from E3 that I think some of you will like, so please stay tuned for that! And I've been given permission to tease this - each of the fansites who visited E3 will also soon be sharing a MAJOR feature article about Rise of the Tomb Raider in which we were able to interview Crystal staff. These articles will debut on the Official Tomb Raider Tumblr Blog in the coming weeks, so trust me when I say you do not want to miss those. Once the madness of all the E3 coverage dies down a bit, I'll also start clearing a few of the cobwebs around here and catch up on some non-E3 content. If you want an easy way to stay in touch with me, be sure to follow me on Twitter - I'll always highlight breaking news or anything particularly awesome over there.

So let me go into some of my final impressions about E3 and about what we saw of Rise of the Tomb Raider at E3. First, a word about E3. I have to make sure that I say this one more time - I'm so grateful to Xbox and Crystal Dynamics for creating the Ambassador program to give fans a press-like experience and the chance to attend this amazing industry event. It really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me not just to attend E3 but to get to do so at such an important time for Tomb Raider, and not only that but to be able to meet Tomb Raider fans literally from around the world and share the experience with them - there's no other way that us fans who were selected for the program would have been able to meet each other in person, and that was truly a special experience. I said this in my last post, but I'm also especially thankful to Rise of the Tomb Raider Game Director Brian Horton and Franchise Creative Director Noah Hughes, who spent so much of their valuable E3 time with us fans, and I could not say enough about Meagan Marie, Senior Community Manager at Crystal, who does so much for the fan community and who took care of us while we were in LA - she has the biggest heart for the fans.

To preface my final comments about what we saw of Rise of the Tomb Raider at E3, I have to mention first how I felt about the 2013 reboot. If you've read my lengthy review of the reboot, you know that I unabashedly described it as "a perfect video game" and "a masterpiece reboot." You'll also know that, while I've been a gamer since the 80s, I was a newcomer to the franchise with the reboot. What drew me into the adventure was the risk that Crystal Dynamics took to start fresh with basically a blank slate and create a captivating origin story in a completely new way for the franchise. Tomb Raider (2013) promised a story and a character that connected with me in an emotional way - that's an integral part of the experience I look for when playing a game - and the reboot delivered on that promise. (It also didn't hurt that the reboot looked amazing and had fantastic gameplay.) So that's I wanted to see when I came to E3 - how would Crystal push this journey forward? Would they continue to pursue innovation in this franchise, or would they rest on their laurels from the reboot's success?

From what we saw at E3 - the Avalanche demo (internal name "Mountain Peak"), the Bear Fight demo (internal name "Siberian Wilderness") and the Syria demo (internal name "Sacred Oasis," also referred to as the "Prophet's Tomb") - Crystal have been very hard at work crafting Lara's next adventure. What's spectacular about the work they've done is that they've taken everything from the reboot - and I really mean every single aspect of the game - and pushed it not just to the next level, but completely beyond the next level. They were not content to just redo what they had already done - the amount of technology and assets that they rebuilt from the ground up in order to make Rise of the Tomb Raider a hundred times better than Tomb Raider (2013) and the most amazing next generation Tomb Raider game that they could make is just insane.

Rise's visuals are truly breathtaking. Right at the beginning of the Media Briefing demo, we saw a huge vista of mountains, and the quality of the visuals literally blew me away. One of the real visual highlights was the spectacular appearance of ice in many shapes and sizes - and the ice is just the tip of the iceberg! The behavior of particle systems such as falling snow, wind-blown snow drifts, fire embers and other atmospherics are exceptionally well done, as are other effects such as fire and explosions. The lighting in the game is stunning in its realism. Lara herself has been refined to perfection from her appearance in the reboot and its definitive edition, and actually, Rise's Lara is an entirely new character model. The game's environments look and feel truly alive, with wind and movement and wildlife and immersive sound effects that are just perfectly mixed. With the promise of huge hub spaces, more tombs and more challenge in the tombs, everything we've seen so far points to an adventure filled with exploration and a world that's going to be an amazing experience to discover.

Some of the other things that really attract me to a game are intuitive controls and gorgeous, efficient UIs. I was just waiting to see what they had done with the UI, and Crystal did not disappoint. They've retained the beautiful design work from the reboot's UIs and, just like everything else, they've really taken them to the next level. The demos featured a lot of Lara just moving around through the game world, and there are so many small details (great footstep sound effects, her breath in cold air, the paths she makes in the snow, the impact she has when she lands on the ground or during traversal) that it really feels like she is part of the world she is in. The behind-the-scenes featurette shown at the Square Enix Press Conference was a huge wow moment for just how realistic Lara looks and how realistically she moves through environments in the game. At E3, we got to see even more of her stunning animation in the Syria demo, and just as Tomb Raider (2013) drew me into the story, everything I've seen so far of Rise of the Tomb Raider is drawing me into this story that Crystal is telling, this adventure that we will get to experience personally with Lara. One of the key examples of this in a literal way is the dynamic camera that follows Lara around perfectly, whether at medium or close distances, and which appears even more refined compared to the reboot.

It's an amazing time to be a video game fan, because we're now in an era where the technology for storytelling has enabled developers to create truly immersive interactive entertainment experiences without limits. I've been a huge fan of various franchises in the past, from BioShock to Bethesda's Fallout games, but the direction that Crystal Dynamics has taken and have continued to take Tomb Raider has me more excited than I've ever been for a game. Once again a new Tomb Raider game is my most anticipated game - I absolutely can't wait to play Rise of the Tomb Raider and experience this next chapter of Lara's journey with her!

I guess that means it's time to sign off! Thanks to everyone who followed my E3 coverage, and I hope you'll stay tuned for my final exclusive E3 video and a lot more great Tomb Raider content to come!

June 24, 2015, 1:20 PM - At E3 2015, I filmed alternate close-up footage, as well as behind-the-scenes before and after footage, of the Square Enix Presents Lara Croft: Relic Run interview with Crystal Dynamics Senior Community Manager Meagan Marie and Relic Run Game Producer Laura Carter from Simutronics on June 17, 2015, Day 2 of E3. I've edited the original Square Enix Presents segment from YouTube (it was 720p) together with this additional 1080p footage as well as selected inserts. I hope you like it, unfortunately I didn't break out the tripod, I was shooting through glass and there were a few issues with the Square stream, but I did the best I could!

June 20, 2015, 2:13 PM - Crystal Dynamics and Xbox brought 11 Tomb Raider fansite and forum representatives from around the world to be a part of the Rise of the Tomb Raider experience at E3 2015. This video is a highlight reel of the trip, and shows just some of the amazing and crazy experiences we had. It was really incredible for Crystal and Xbox to create this adventure for the fans, and I'm especially thankful to Rise of the Tomb Raider Game Director Brian Horton and Franchise Creative Director Noah Hughes, who spent so much of their valuable E3 time hanging out with us fans as well as answering a TON of questions about Rise of the Tomb Raider in individual as well as group interview sessions. It was also amazing to meet Earl Baylon ("Jonah" voice actor), and to hang out with famous but more importantly wonderful Tomb Raider fans Melonie Mac and Jenn Croft, who joined our group. I could not say enough about Meagan Marie, Senior Community Manager at Crystal, who does so much for the fan community and who took care of us while we were in LA - she has the biggest heart for the fans. Most of all, it was truly awesome to meet passionate Tomb Raider fans from around the world. This trip was all about the incredible experience of E3 and Rise of the Tomb Raider, but the adventure is all about the time we get to share with other people. Be sure to check out my other E3 videos, including Noah Hughes giving a special message to the fans!

(Oh, and stay tuned for my detailed, final impressions about Rise of the Tomb Raider at E3 2015, as well as even MORE exclusive Tomb Raider E3 video footage!)

June 20, 2015, 12:18 AM - This is the world premiere of the official 1080p Rise of the Tomb Raider full 15-minute Siberian Wilderness Bear Fight Gameplay Demo that was shown first at the Xbox Media Showcase night and then on the E3 show floor in the Xbox booth area in the cave theater... NOT to be confused with the Avalanche demo from the Xbox Media Briefing!

June 19, 2015, 2:14 PM - Crystal Dynamics Rise of the Tomb Raider Game Director Brian Horton and Franchise Creative Director Noah Hughes react to receiving a GameSpot Best of E3 2015 award on Day 1 at E3, and Noah Hughes shares a special message for Tomb Raider fans.

June 18, 2015, 9:59 PM - At E3, not only did I have the privilege to meet Tomb Raider fans from around the world, I also had the honor of meeting Jenn Croft. Jenn is a funny, friendly, down-to-earth and extremely talented not to mention truly amazing Tomb Raider fan and it was awesome to hang out with her in the group. When I realized how much great footage I had captured of her, I knew I had to create a video for her. Here's a little behind-the-scenes peek, and my first E3 2015 Tomb Raider video, dedicated to Jenn Croft, below. Make sure to watch in 1080p for the best quality - at least the best quality that YouTube allows!

June 17, 2015, 11:34 PM (Day 4) - The second demo that we saw at E3 yesterday was the approximately 10-12 minute Syria demo. We arrived on the E3 show floor early, prior to it being opened to the press. Inside the Tomb Raider cave theatre in the Xbox booth area of the show floor, there were small individual seats spaced out in several rows with a headset at each seat. The Syria demo was a press-only and behind-closed-doors demo that would be run in a different area. We were the first people ever to see it (outside of Crystal/Xbox) - we saw it before any of the press. The demo they would be otherwise showing in the theatre was the first gameplay demo that we saw the previous night at the Xbox Media Showcase. I'll start with a rough play-by-play, and then I'll revisit a ton of points from the first E3 demo (which we got to see again) with clarifications and additions. I should note that my memory and notes about the press-only Syria demo are far leaner than the earlier demo, as we only had the chance to view it once.

The demo was narrated by Rich Briggs and played by Jason Botta. Both at this demo and the Media Showcase demo viewing, we heard joking between the devs about bets they had placed on whether or not the dev playing the demo would die or not - or at least whether or not they would die when they weren't supposed to. The deliberate death by bear mauling in the first demo was shown to illustrate the deaths in the game, and the death we saw in the second demo sounded like a fail by Botta from the dev's joking reactions, but was explained to prove that we were watching live code.

We start low to the ground in a desert environment and see a scorpion. Inside a jeep, Lara and her guide are heading "into a war zone now." An on-screen title reads "Northwest Border of Syria". Some type of military-like aircraft approaches, and Lara realizes that the guide has sold her out. The aircraft begins to fire at them, and the guide realizes he's been screwed. A splatter of blood coats the inside of the front windshield - the guide is dead. The vehicle rolls and Lara bails, the jeep exploding. Lara hits the edge of a cliff and goes sliding, struggling to get a handhold with the pickaxe.

Here I have to skip ahead, as during this demo I was torn between just enjoying it - since we would only see it once - and taking notes.

You've probably already heard this - "white ledges" are back. I kind of feel that with fan reaction against them, I have to defend them a little bit. I will say this - including white ledges as a way to assist you in knowing what you can get a hold on (and then choose where you want to go) actually really showed off Rise of the Tomb Raider's incredibly detailed textures. I wasn't at all distracted by them - I was really wowed by the variety of ways that "white ledges" were communicated, and I wanted to stare at the texture work all day.

One of the things that really stood out to me was that as Lara traverses, jumping and climbing through environments, every time she hits a surface, rocks crumble and fall, adding to the realism of the environment and really grounding and immersing the player in the environment.

One of the things that really stood out was a close-space sequence similar to those in Tomb Raider 2013 where the camera moves in close to Lara, creating an especially personal moment while the player retains control - I am assuming that the player would retain control in what we saw, but can't confirm that as I wasn't looking directly at Jason. Here, I felt that the sequence was used to even greater effect than those in the reboot, and crafted even more exceptionally. There was also a great little bit where Lara basically rolls on her back to navigate through a small opening into a tomb. It reminded me of the movement Lara has in the reboot where she clambers through small square openings. It was animated wonderfully and the player will enjoy it with a close camera view.

So Lara enters a tomb!

"(We want to make sure that) Tombs come across as ancient, awe-inspiring deadly spaces," said Rich, or something very close to that. We couldn't record anything so that was one of the good quotes I liked and that I also managed to transcribe on the spot.

Lara discovers a monolith in the tomb, but she can't yet completely decipher it. To do so, she needs to increase her skills. As Lara examines murals on the walls in the area surrounding the monolith (we were told that she will also examine scriptures), her understanding of ancient languages increases so that she can translate the monoliths. In the demo, examining two murals, a Greek progress badge started to fill (and also granted XP). It was said that translating the monolith would unlock secrets in the world, collectibles and crypts.

"Tombs are deadly and they are filled with traps," was another quote from this demo. We saw swinging spike traps as well as a trap that clamped Lara's leg in place, resulting in a deadly underwater race against time.

As with the reboot, my first impression of Rise's sound effects are that they're incredibly immersive, they spund amazing and they're perfectly mixed into the game's overall soundscape, whether they're subtle or they take the foreground. Rise's spund is spectacular.

And now, some updates in point form to things I previously reported in my first demo play-by-play, based on this repeat viewing:

- As with the reboot, tips are displayed when loading a game
- One of the tips included the wording "use survival instincts"
- The snow that Lara trudges through in the beginning of the demo is thigh-high snow
- The 16 items that Lara can forage for span two categories - Common and Exotic
- Another upgrade for Lara's Makeshift Bow is called String Nocks
- Just as Lara leaves tracks in the snow, so do her enemies
- Crafting ammo (such as poison arrows) happens on the fly
- To make bandages, Lara uses cloth, not paper - I don't know why I thought it was paper, that's what the icon kind of looked like but obviously that's illogical
- When injured, Lara uses leaves to stem the bleeding
- I didn't see arrow shafts in the bear during the sequence where Lara defeats it (using a lot of arrows to so so), although I might have missed seeing this detail if it existed due to the frantic pace of this fight
- So far we've seen an orange flare and a blue flare - will there be other colors?
- The number of enemy guys that Lara takes out with the gas can is 3
- The Mongolian "things" are probably best described as totems
- Foraging for wood, sometimes you'll get multiple forages from the same source - Lara breaks off the top of the remains of a small dead tree, and then she goes to the bottom, splinters of wood flying as she breaks off each piece

In my next post, I'll give my final thoughts about all of E3 and especially my final word on my anticipation for Rise of the Tomb Raider and the gameplay demos we saw, AND I'll answer any questions you have, so if you have questions, please send them to me ASAP! Also, stay tuned for some very exciting videos I'll be posting!

June 17, 2015, 8:49 AM (Day 4) - Yesterday was the first official day of E3 and the last official day of the Xbox/Crystal Dynamics E3 2015 Rise of the Tomb Raider Fan Ambassador Program! The day started with the ambassadors presenting Crystal Community Manager Meagan Marie with a booklet of postcards from each of our countries, with a message from each of us thanking her for all her work to create this experience for us and also to wish her a happy birthday. Meagan turned 30 on June 13th, the first day we arrived, so she had to work on her birthday!

We departed for E3 from the hotel, and we met up with the camera crew who have been filming us during this trip. They filmed us entering the convention center - twice! - and then we headed inside! One of the first things that caught our eye flanking the entrance to one of E3's two show floors was an amazing, huge illuminated Rise sign featuring Rise's cover art, of which many photos have been posted online by everyone, including my own social media channels.

Our E3 passes were exhibitor passes, which meant that we were able to go onto the show floor before the show actually opened! The Xbox "booth" space on the show floor was surrounded by a giant, brightly illuminated green "box," basically huge glowing green walls - it was very exciting to see this glowing box as soon as we entered the show floor. Our excitement might have topped our excitement from the arena Xbox Media Briefing, because by now all of our excitement and energy had built up to a critical mass, and many of us were getting a bit crazy - video to come!

We came into the Tomb Raider area of the Xbox booth space and it was a giant snowy rocky mountain area, with trees and a glowing orange-red cave entrance to the presentation theatre. We waited for a while here, taking photos, and Jenn Croft practiced her poses to prepare for spending the day posing for photos.

At this point we went into the theatre, and we saw two different demos... by now, you've probably already followed lots of coverage about the Rise of the Tomb Raider demos at E3. I'll post more details and my impressions of these demos in my next post!

After the demos, the show floor was opening, and the camera crew filmed some short interview clips with us. We took a break for lunch at the convention centre's eating area, the camera crew finished up the interview clips, and then we were free to explore as much of the E3 show floor as we could!

Wrapping up our time on the show floor, we had a special treat - Earl Baylon, the voice actor of Jonah from Tomb Raider (2013) and Rise of the Tomb Raider, dropped by to meet us. There was also really fantastic news to wrap up Rise's Day 1 E3 exposure - Gamespot awarded Crystal Dynamics and Rise of the Tomb Raider with their Best of E3 award! I have a something special for the fans concerning this award - stay tuned!

We were joined on the show floor by Noah Hughes, Crystal's Franchise Creative Director. At this point, we left the show floor to head back to the hotel for Q&A sessions with Noah. There were to be three Q&A sessions - one with Official Forums rep Patrick, one with TRF rep Jack, and a group session. Patrick conducted his questions during our bus ride back to the hotel, and once in the meeting room at the hotel, we had the group interview followed by Jack spending his time with Noah. Noah is an amazing conversationalist, and we received some really great insights from him, which will be finding their way onto the forums at some point soon.

Today, I'll be walking around the show floor and will try to post some cool photos of other stuff going on at E3 during my last day at E3! Stay tuned, there is so much more to come!

June 17, 2015, 12:14 AM (Day 4) - Yesterday (as it is now past midnight) was an incredibly busy day, and tonight I need to get ready to leave, to spend the day at E3 tomorrow and leave from E3 directly to the airport. I will resume my E3 coverage ASAP, but I may not have a full-length post until late tomorrow night. In the meantime, be sure to follow my Instagram! This room service pizza is SO good!

June 16, 2015, 9:06 AM (Day 3) So I wasn't able to get this up last night, but I've typed up about as much as I can and I haven't proofread it, in order to get it out as fast as possible. Last night at the Xbox Media Showcase, a club-like party where a number of games were running demos, Rise Game Director Brian Horton and a few of the other Crystal guys were running a demo of Rise of the Tomb Raider in a cozy corner of the social event. Three small couches surrounded a nice large television. Four people at a time would don headsets and watch the 15-minute demo - two per couch, to the left and center of the television - while the Crystal guys - to the right of the television - ran and narrated the demo. It was not hands-on for us, and we were not allowed to film any video or take photos.

Let's get the business out of the way first with some important information. What follows is everything I can remember and everything I made notes on while watching the demo. Everything that follows should be taken as "what I can remember" and "to the best of my knowledge," in case I word something incorrectly. I was in the first group of four to watch the demo, and then I hung around in the crowd for multiple subsequent showings, trying to observe what I could even though I wasn't hearing the audio. (I can't recall exactly how many times beyond my initial viewing I watched it - probably an additional two and a half times - the extra half is because I was also doing some filming.) So be sure to check out as much coverage out there as you can to get the best idea about what the demo was like, until hopefully it is released online at some point. Speaking of which, I have no idea when or if that will happen. We haven't been given any information on that at this point.

The demo opened on a loading screen with what appeared to be an office, with a desk lamp on a desk, a map on the wall and a comfy black office chair at the desk. A small piece of text on the demo menu said "Welcome to Rise of the Tomb Raider E3 demo!" A menu listed the following options - I believe the demo we saw was the second item on the list:


(As mentioned, the demo was approximately 15 minutes long. Today, on the first official day of E3 proper on the show floor, we'll be watching this same demo in a less noisy environment - a show floor theater - and then we were told that we'd get to see some additional gameplay demo footage of a puzzle tomb.)

The demo began with a quick recap of the footage that was streamed live yesterday morning from the Xbox Media Briefing. Lara is travelling with Jonah in a mountainous environment, and the two are separated.

We then open with Lara making her way through a snowy forest environment. The environment is truly incredible and it really feels alive with movement. Wind is blowing both trees and gusts of snow in a very realistic manner. Despite her seeming-appropriate outfit, Lara is shivering, her clothes and her hair are covered in snow (with the snow in her hair being very particulate and detailed), and we see her breath in the cold every time she exhales.

Lara is trying to proceed along a path with deep snow. As she walks, she creates a deep path in the snow with each step, and the snow being disturbed in her wake is taken up and blown about by the wind. Brian comments that deeper snow slows down Lara's trudge through it.

The path opens up a bit and Lara begins to forage to survive. She breaks off pieces of wood from what appear to be perhaps small dead trees, splinters flying off as she does. She then spots a dead deer. As she crouches to scavenge hides from it, a small pack of wolves runs parallel to Lara, and she catches a glimpse of them through a gap between mid-range trees.

Continuing her trek through the snow, now carrying the pieces of wood she's foraged, Lara collapses, dropping the wood. With a fire going, we then see Lara putting the finishing touches on a small hut comprised of wood branches.

The base camp "Wilderness Refuge" now established, we see a very similar menu to the reboot's base camp menus. The menu elements - and the rest of the UI - have a wilderness survival guide feel to them, which very much carries on the iconography of the reboot and the intuitive slickness of the menus but, in my opinion, really takes it to the next level. The items on the base camp menu are: Skills, Inventory, Loadout and Fast Travel.

With items she's foraged, Lara can craft the Makeshift Longbow. We now get to see crafting/upgrade menus, which have received an overhaul and, at least from the very fast manner in which they were flipped through during the demo, have a great feel to them. I believe that three of the upgrades available for the Makeshift Longbow at this stage were named Grip Wrap, Reinforced Limbs and Wrapped String.

Lara also crafts ammunition. By foraging for mushrooms, she crafts Poison Arrows. Another ammo type that I saw on the craft screening was Silent Arrows.

It's mentioned that there are - I believe this is the number that was mentioned - 16 different types of items in the world that Lara can forage for. We very briefly see a screen listing the items, and they're in two columns, which seem to be divided by more common and less common items, but don't quote me on that. I was too busy trying to write down what some of the items were that I didn't have time to pay attention to the column headers. So that list of the some of the items: Bear Fat, Deer Antlers, Exotic Hides, Magnesite Ore and Bear Hides.

It's during this part that I noticed that Lara has what appears to be a small patch on her red jacket on her left arm. It's circular with what appeared to be a bullseye design. I couldn't make out any further details about it.

Lara goes to sleep in her makeshift hut. We see a close-up of her face as she suddenly wakes up. Her face in this demo, by the way, is covered in small cuts. We now switch to the forest area surrounding her hut - her fire has attracted unwanted attention from a number of men. We see one of the men approaching the hut, and he fires 5 shots straight into it, aiming at the ground where Lara is sleeping. Except when he looks, she isn't there. He starts to walk a short distance from the hut to try and find her, and the camera pulls up.

Lara is crouching on a tree branch. The UI gives the enemy guy an orange-yellow glow outline. Lara drops down on top of him to take him out. She earns +25 XP.

Lara scales a tree and grabs onto a branch, pulling herself up. She then jumps to another tree, grabbing a branch and swinging off of it, to land feet first on another branch of a third tree. She's now above two more enemy guys. Brian tells us that these guys are wearing protective clothing - I couldn't quite tell what they were wearing, but they had protective head coverings as well - and that a headshot won't take them out. Shooting a poison arrow between them, Lara takes them both out with a small cloud of poisonous gas. She earns +320 XP.

Brian tells us that another way to get the drop on enemies will be to swim underwater.

Moving forward, Lara approaches an enemy encampment with numerous enemy AI. She fires an arrow to distract one guy and separate him from another. Taking one guy out, Lara takes his radio and throws it as a distraction for another guy. Grabbing a gas can, Lara sets it on fire, tosses it, and a pretty spectacular small explosion results.

A bright red light permeates the scene, and Lara quickly scales a tree to get onto a raised area of the terrain to proceed and investigate the source of the light. All of a sudden, Lara finds herself face to face with a bear. The bear gives chase, catches up to Lara, gets her pinned on the ground, and mauls her to death. Brian tells us that deaths are back!

The autosave system used by Tomb Raider (2013) seems to be back. We've noticed the TR letters and circling line in the upper left corner of the screen indicating when autosave is taking place. This allows the Crystal guys to try and escape the bear again.

Take 2. Running away from the bear, Lara gets herself into a tight space with the bear clawing at her, trying to get into the space. She gets out of the tight space only to find herself at the edge of a cliff. The bear rears to attack and Lara manages to get her pickaxe sunk into the bear's side through a quick time event. Turning quickly, the bear shakes Lara off - and sends her hurtling over the cliff. Looking down on her, the bear moves off. Lara limps away, and the blurred vision effect and blood lens effects when Lara suffers injury are back. She crafts healing bandages from what looks like paper she collects from a container she finds, as well as berries (I believe).

At this point, Lara comes out of the forest to reveal a large hub space in a mountain valley - an abandoned Soviet facility, which Brian tells us, as we had previously learned before E3, that the hub spaces are 2 to 3 times larger than those in Tomb Raider (2013) and will contain puzzle tombs.

Brian also tells us that hub spaces will contain "Allied Missions" (I believe that's what he said, although it might have been "Ally Missions"). Brian quickly clarified this for me after the demo. Lara can meet allies in the world, get missions from them, and return to them for a reward. To be clear, these are not co-op missions. They're just people that Lara will meet and interact with in the world.

At some point during this whole sequence, Lara acquires an orange glowstick. She can walk holding it up, which illuminates a small but not-too-small area around her very nicely. The effect seems much refined and more useful to the player from a gameplay perspective than the torch was in Tomb Raider (2013). Even when she puts the glowstick on her belt, it continues to glow on Lara, although the radius of the glow is confined to just a small area surrounding the glowstick.

We now jump ahead a bit. Lara has upgraded her bow and is now ready to face the bear again, at its lair. It's daytime, and Lara has a basecamp on a small plateau just above an open circular space where the entrance to the bear's lair is. Lara jumps down from the plateau, sending up particulate matter when she lands.

Drifting snowflakes and thin blue banners streaming beautifully in the wind really show off the impressive atmospheric effects here.

The bear emerges, and we see his breath in the cold air just as we previously saw Lara's. Lara shoots him, and then as he gives chase, she shoots him again with one the poison arrows. This allows Lara to move to another position and hide from the bear's sight, giving her a respite. Shooting him again, the result is a frantic chase with Lara constantly trying to circle the bear to get a shot in. The bear's attacks are brutal and Lara mostly avoids getting too close to him. Finally, after sinking an incredible number of arrows into the bear, he finally succumbs.

There are various things surrounding the entrance to the bear's lair, but I never got a clear look at any of them. Brian tells us that these things are Mongolian in origin. Entering the lair, Lara is in a large ice cave. She begins to proceed up a path. As she does, a notification appears in the lower left corner:

Optional tomb nearby
Explore to find the tomb

The demo ends with Lara coming around a bend in the path inside this expansive ice cave to see a large ice cliff face, with a large masted ship frozen in and emerging from the cliff face.

Up until now, I've tried to give you a relatively objective play-by-play of what happened in the demo. I'll now give just a few thoughts. From everything I've seen so far, it looks like Crystal Dynamics have taken everything they introduced in Tomb Raider (2013) and taken it to the next level. Exploring the environment with Lara, engaging in combat and using gameplay systems such as the weapon upgrade system or the ammo crafting appears intuitive, just as it was in Tomb Raider (2013). The environments and the lighting especially are incredibly impressive, and I was blown away by the visual fidelity of the game. At various times of day and in various weather conditions, the game always looks colorful, vibrant and is full of atmosphere and mood. Effects such as fire look amazing. The game has an incredible movie-like, cinematic feel to it. This truly is next generation interactive entertainment at its best.

I can't wait for this game - it's going to be torture until the end of the year.

And that's it! Stay tuned tonight for any follow-up impressions I have of this demo when I see it again today, as well as impressions of the new stuff we're going to see today.

And finally, a couple quick but important notes. The E3 show floor is anticipated to be poor for WiFi, so as always, if I can't get something up right as it's happening due to WiFi, I'll get it up as soon as I can. The other thing I need to mention is that unfortunately, we won't have the chance to attend the Square Enix event this morning, but I'll be adding coverage of that event as soon as possible.

June 16, 2015, 12:35 AM (Day 3) - I'll keep this update short because I'm not sure anyone really wants excruciating detail about our dinner menu (I posted a photo on Instagram of a portion of the menu) or our roller coaster bus ride - and I want to write up my impressions of the Media Showcase demo (NOT the same as what was shown in the morning at the Media Briefing) ASAP.

Our evening activities for Day 2, or Madness Monday as I like to call it, kicked off with an amazing Mexican dinner at Rosa Mexicano. Between eating, each of us had the chance to spend a short amount of time asking questions of either Brian Horton or Noah Hughes for upcoming feature pieces. It was originally planned to also conduct group interview sessions tonight, but those were delayed until tomorrow.

It was then off to the Xbox Media Showcase, which was a hip club-like event. At the showcase, Brian and a few of the other Crystal guys were running a demo of Rise of the Tomb Raider in a cozy corner of the social event. Four people at a time would don headsets and watch the 15-minute demo while the Crystal guys ran and narrated the demo. I will have a full report on this demo as soon as I can type it up, hopefully within the next 2 hours - stay tuned!

June 15, 2015, 2:28 PM (Day 2) This afternoon we are hanging out at the Marriott and working on various projects. Tonight, we will be conducting individual and group interviews with Crystal staff, so we need to finish any final preparations. We are also shooting self-interview footage with GoPros, so we've all been working our way through a new batch of questions. I can't wait for the Xbox Media Showcase tonight, where we will apparently be seeing gameplay footage from a different part of the game than what we saw this morning - we'll be seeing the full E3 demo!

June 15, 2015, 12:26 PM (Day 2) This morning, we were up at 7am to leave for the Xbox Media Briefing. It was an early morning to rise and a few of us picked up coffee before the bus departed for the Galen Center for the briefing. We arrived and had a short time to wait in the line before we entered the arena venue. Green was everywhere, and we were issued lanyards with LED lights that were controlled via transmission within the venue to glow different colors and flash at different times and for different games.

A number of games were featured at the Briefing, and the pace was brisk - devs would give a short intro or follow-up to the videos. Every time a new segment started we held our breath that it was Tomb Raider. Needless to say, when Tomb Raider came up, we went crazy. Personally, I was really blown away by what we saw today. It's still a blur, because I haven't yet watched it again online. We've just been whisked away from the Center to the nearby Marriott hotel, where we're having lunch, catching up on our social media and prepping for a short work time.

The things that really stood out to me: Action set pieces that are even more mind-blowing than those we experienced Tomb Raider (2013). AMAZING visual detail and spectacular, expansive environments with incredible variety. Lara's character model in action is looking incredible. In short, I was really blown away by the event and I really feel that this sequel to the reboot really will be the rise of the TOMB RAIDER.

Make sure to follow me on Instagram!

June 15, 2015, 8:21 AM (Day 2) - In line for the Xbox Media Briefing for Rise of the Tomb Raider. I've been posting tons of photos on Instagram so make sure to follow along!

June 14, 2015, 11:57 PM (Day 1) Our Day 1 morning started at the Coffee Corner in the hotel. Ambassadors drifted in and out of the coffee area and we took it easy prior to our lunch meeting at 12.

Our lunch meeting conveniently took place in a meeting room in our hotel. At the meeting, we were issued GoPro cameras for us to record ourselves answering interview questions that a production company will be using to create promotions for Rise. The afternoon was spent by most working on our first batch of questions, while a select few were whisked away for a studio filming session.

At five, we departed the hotel in a bus for the TCL Chinese Theatre and the shopping/food district surrounding it. We ate dinner at a crepe restaurant, and then headed to the TCL for 3D IMAX Jurassic World!

I promised video, and it's coming... but I'm going to hold off until after E3. Even with my plan to do simplified video during E3 and something longer afterward, there is simply NO time to put together the video here in Los Angeles.

June 14, 2015, 11:47 AM (Day 1) - We're about to head into our first meeting of E3! I've got more pictures posted up on my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook channels. Stay tuned!

June 14, 2015, 6:10 AM (Day 1) It's 6 am... Today is actually our day to sleep in and start at a leisurely pace before the madness of Monday. But there's too much to do to spend time sleeping!

June 14, 2015, 12:59 AM (Day 1) - Finally catching up from today, Day O of the Rise of the Tomb Raider E3 Ambasador program. I posted a ton of travel photos on my multiple channels: Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Coming up as soon as I can - a video piece showing the journey to LA.

I believe everyone is now here in LA, or will be tomorrow if they're not here today. Local time is now 12:49 am in the morning (just past midnight). Ambassadors suffered the usual dangers of flying - delayed flights and one case of not-yet-found luggage. Most ambassadors arrived by around 8 pm, and a bunch of us gathered to walk over to the Universal CityWalk, a food/retail district, where we enjoyed conversation and the local cuisine.

That's really the essence of the day, a lot of travel and by the end of the day, after long flights and staying awake all day to meet each other and hang out, some of the ambassadors had not slept for 24+ hours.

I think that wraps it up for tonight! Stay tuned for my Day 0 Video, and much more tomorrow!

June 13, 2015, 3:53 PM (Day 0) - T-minus one hour until my flight leaves from Vancouver to LA... Boarding will start soon.

June 13, 2015, 2:40 PM (Day 0) - At the airport waiting for flight from Vancouver to LA! Check out my Instagram (link at very top of this page) for a ton of photos. I'm thinking Instagram might be the way to go for posting photos, whereas I will use this space to write longer comments and updates. I'll still post selected photos, and any Instagram posts will also show up in my Twitter feed. I'm keeping it flexible, so stay tuned!

June 13, 2015, 11:54 AM (Day 0) - Preparing to leave Richmond, BC, Canada for LA and E3!

June 12, 2015, 6:42 PM (T-minus 1 Day) - Packing! In less than 24 hours, I'll be on a plane to Los Angeles for E3! It's a quick/bad iPad photo because the good camera is in the photo ;)

June 4, 2015, 11:27 AM - Just announced on the Official Tomb Raider Forums and the Official Tomb Raider Blog - I am one of the fansites that was selected this year to be a Fan Ambassador and report live on Rise of the Tomb Raider from E3!

Bookmark this page for all my E3 updates! All updates will be date and time stamped, with newest updates first. Also be sure to follow my E3 coverage on Twitter @tombraiderhq hashtag #TRHQE3. will be in Los Angeles for E3 this year as part of the Crystal Dynamics / Xbox E3 Ambassador Program. Please note that E3 events occur before E3 itself actually starts, so I'll be starting my E3 2015 coverage of Rise of the Tomb Raider on Saturday, June 13, 2015. I'll be attempting to post up-to-the-minute updates right here (and on Twitter), so make sure to follow my Twitter account and tune in here!

Rise of the Tomb Raider E3 2015 Ambassadors

Transportation, lodging, and E3 badge provided by Crystal Dynamics and Xbox as a part of the E3 2015 Ambassador Program.