Review: Tomb Raider: Legend

Original Article Here


Welcome back Lara, we’ve missed you…

In the ten years since Lara Croft became one of the most recognised figures in video game history, she’s had two movies, a comic book series and even a clothing label in her name. However, the games which made her famous had slowly slipped into mediocrity. Lara’s last game, “The Angel of Darkness” was so poor that Edios dropped Core, original creators of the Tomb Raider franchise, and passed the torch onto Gex developers, Crystal Dynamics.

So have Edios made the right descion, and does Tomb Raider Legend signal a return to form for Ms. Croft? I’m pleased to say that early reports look good.

You see, Tomb Raider as a series, had to change. But not in the “darker” direction that Angel of Darkness tried to take. In fact, Crystal Dynamics have gone back to the series roots to find out what made the original games the masterpieces they were, and indeed the influence shows through tremendously. Taking us back to what Lara does best, raiding Tombs, the levels are fairly varied and creepy, while also having a feeling of awe and indeeed mystery about them. From ancient stone temples in Peru, to an underground tomb in England the locations are classic Tomb Raider fare, and really do feel an improvement on previous iterations.

Lara in Black Dress

Taking their cue from other platformers that had since bettered the series (the Prince of Persia series springs to mind) Lara now has a range of moves at her disposal, and the animation and feel of Lara’s repitoire is a LOT smoother now. She effortlessly goes from a clamber, to a jump and pulling herself up into a handstand with ease, and the moves just flow so smoothly, you feel she could do it with her eyes closed. And the levels really do take this into account, making the gameplay experience feel very fluid and polished. The most obvious change to previous TR games is that CD have (wisely) abandoned the old “grid” system of the previous games, which makes the levels and the gameplay feel a lot more realistic.

The graphics are also very nice indeed. Far from the blocky textures of old, the levels are given a nice atmosphere, with the dim lighting showing up some of the more creepy artifacts, and Lara herself is looking better than ever, with a range of obligatory costume changes throughout the game. However, the same can’t really be said for the enemies, who all look quite similar, and indeed, show little sign of variation other than those that fire Grenade Launchers compared to the normal goons. This is one reminder of the old days that, quite frankly, we didn’t want. However, Tomb Raider Legend also has an Ace up it’s sleeve – in the PC version reviewed anyway – in that it features an option called “Next Generation Content” – which turns the already fab looking graphics into even more detailed, gorgeous textures and lighting effects that positively make the game look stunning, providing you have the PC required to run the game with these grpahics switched on – we’re probably talking SLI or Crossfire and above for consistently high framerates with it turned on. Click the thumbnail below to see a comparison between the two modes.

Lara in Black Dress

And as much as this review has been somewhat of a positive one so far, there are a few niggles which do unfortunately deny Tomb Raider Legend from being back up there in quality with the first three games. The first of these niggles is the motorbike sections. Fair play to Crystal Dynamics to try and introduce a bit of variety into the gameplay, but these sections are, quite frankly, poor and mar the game slightly. The very twitchy and seemingly random handling make this feel more like a frustrating mini game rather than part of the game as a whole, and do feel a bit tacky. Quite unessercary. Another addition that is a little niggly is TRL’s descion to hop on the bandwagon of recent games such as Resident Evil 4 with interactive cut scenes, whereas you must press the button displayed on screen at the right time to save Lara. Again, these bits feel slightly tacked on and don’t seem to gel as well as the rest of the gameplay.

The final niggle with Tomb Raider Legend is that the new additions have made the game feel…well, a little too easy. Yes, most of the game flows well and is fluid, but thanks to this and the rather shallow combat system, most people will be able to complete the game in less than tweleve hours. Even the bosses, which can be frustrating, can be vanquished in seconds once you work out their weakness or the “trick” to killing them. For example, I killed the final boss in less than thirty seconds. And to be fair on Crystal Dynamics, they do offer a fair few incentives, such as hiddden treasures and Time Trials – completing which will unlock rewards like concept art, extra outfits and the like – but whether that’s actually incentive enough to play the whole thing again will be down to personal preference. However, Lara’s Mansion, a training level in other TR games, is now a level on it’s own, and is indeed quite fun to run around and find all the hidden secrets, and is indeed a welcome addition.

Lara Climbing

In spite of that last paragraph, Tomb Raider Legend is great fun to play, and a step in the right direction for Ms Croft – it’s not quite up there with the original three Tomb Raider games, but it’s pretty darn close, and Edios have left the future of everyone’s favourite video game heroine in safe hands. Well worth a purchase.

Final Score: 89%

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