Thursday, May 24, 2007

Review: Tomb Raider Anniversary

10 years ago, a busty brutette babe version of Indiana Jones with twin desert eagle pistols was hatched to sell a 3rd person puzzle/shooting platformer to males 12-35. Her name was Lara Croft. Now, after a decade of Tomb Raider games of varying quality, comes Tomb Raider Anniversary.

The gist here is this is a remake, nay, reimagining of Tomb Raider 1. It uses the Legend engine and Lara's model is very similar, though she's back in her trademarked classic aqua-colored top, short shorts and strappy holsters. The level design's basic ideas are lifted straight out of the same puzzles you were working in Tomb Raider 1, though they're way prettier and utilize much more graphic processing oomph.

Top notch. Good performance, good special effects. Wet skin glis
tens and dries over time, particles galore, detailed models, rich textures, dynamic lighting, all that kind of good stuff.

Sound: As good as Legend, but with the added bonus that cards by Creative Labs don't have the same performance issues that Legend did.

Control: The game stumbles a bit here. The controls were clearly designed with a console gamepad in mind. Too often, you will have to hit a movement key (wasd) AND shift in a precisely timed sequence that I can usually only hit one out of every 5 attempts. The camera sometimes gets caught and/or stuck in the wrong direction. Other than those minor gripes, the controls are reasonably intuitive and satisfyingly responsive.

Gameplay: If you've played a tomb raider game, you know what to expect. The levels have a heavy amount of "Legend" influence in them, lots of clinging to ledges over long, long drops and swinging around horizontal poles. One bit that was slightly disappointing t
o me, was that they didn't carry over the "swan diving into cement makes Lara's neck audibly snap" part of Tomb Raider 1.. Oh, swan diving from too high into rock still hurts and can kill you, but it just invokes the same ragdoll physics and meaty "thumps" that any fall from a great height would trigger. It used to be a lot of fun, making TR1-Lara swan dive off a 5 foot ledge to her death with a wet snapping crunch. But I guess that's just me being wierd.

Also, some of the shooting is a little awkward, the grapple is nowh
ere near as easy to use as it was in Legend, and the famous T-Rex fight can be an excercise in frustration because of the abovementioned control issues. But it's a lot more engaging than some of the past crap that got Lara's two globular co-stars slapped on the cover.

Fortunately, you can barely walk 10 feet without finding a new checkpoint, and there are infinite do-overs, so it's very friendly to people who like to mess around or maybe haven't quite got their skills up to "L33T" rating just yet.

The Good -
Great Graphics, less technical issues than legend. Good nostalgic trip for old school gamers and good introduction for those who were too young when it first came out.

The Bad -
Slight control and camera issues just bad enough to be worth mentioning, but not entirely gamebreaking.

Here are some screenshots for your perusal.

Main Menu

Classic Lara Reborn


Mmmm... Lara's all shiny from the dip.

Yeah, you like that? Who's laughing now, smiley? Yeah!!

Rating? B+. And that's the word from Bandit Camp...

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