|Tomb Raider Anniversary|
|Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Release Date: Out Now
Tomb Raider was originally released eleven years ago. In its wake, Lara Croft has spawned a huge franchise. The post-Tomb Raider 1 commercialism alienated Laraís creator Toby Gard. And he was brought back by Crystal Dynamics to bring Tomb Raider back to its roots in following the dismal Angel of Darkness , Coreís last Tomb Raider game and ultimately the reason Eidos passed the reigns over to US-based Crystal Dynamics. Their first game, Tomb Raider Legend really did bring the ailing and tired Tomb Raider games back to its roots. The original game is considered by many to be the best and Eidos commissioned the remake of the original to herald over a decade of Lara Croft and Tomb Raider.
The story has been updated slightly, or rather fleshed out to make more sense of the original. Some may argue that that the plot is a little flimsy. However, the update serves to make the plot more cohesive rather than get carried away with many cut scenes and unnecessary plot twists, to ensure the player can focus on the game play, which is ultimately the most important thing. Lara is hired by Jacqueline Natla of Natla Technologies to recover a piece of an ancient artefact known as the Atlantean Scion. In doing so Lara finds herself globetrotting the usual Tomb Raider hot spots in Peru, Greece and Egypt.
You also have the option of visiting the Croft Manor at any time during the game. Principally this is a training level. But there is much more to do here than simply learn to jump, swing and climb before heading into the main game. There are secrets to uncover here too.
Graphically Anniversary looks excellent on the PS2, although there are a few texture issues. Nonetheless, the environments look terrific with lighting playing a big part in the ambience provided. Pretty much the best you could expect from Sonyís now superseded console.
Level design was one of the stand-out achievements of the original game. And Anniversary doesnít disappoint. The levels flow from one to another which puts each level into more context, based on the continent youíre on. Each level is only broken by a quick summary of your performance for the level youíve just completed. The levels are very well designed and only the rosiest tinted bins will fondly recall the blocky environment you once had to traverse. Of course, being Tomb Raider and a remake, there are still levers to pull and keys to collect in order to progress. Itís a stayed formula, but with such detailed environments and atmosphere. Itís nothing more than a pleasure. The only issue here, and itís only a minor gripe, is with the puzzles. Whilst very well revised and well designed, theyíre not particularly challenging. Indeed some levels seem to pass quicker than others; The Coliseum for example, is over before it seems you started.
Game play is superb and the controls feel fluid and well implemented. And jumping from ledge to ledge feels as rewarding as it did in Tomb Raider Legend. Crystal Dynamics have left the Legend system largely untouched. Lara can now use her grapple to run along walls when prompted to do so. Notably the gamer now has the option to switch off manual grab. This is a simple but very effective way of providing more of a challenge. A great addition for anyone who felt Tomb Raider Legend was perhaps a little too easy; and more so given the emphasis in this game on raiding rather than combat.
Combat plays a bit of a back seat in this game as Lara really only has to deal with the occasional bat, bear or rock hurling Gorilla! However some attempt to spice it up has been implemented; Ďbullet timeí (or Adrenaline Dodge as itís called here) has been introduced for the first time in the franchise and whilst itís an admirable attempt to provide more depth to combat, itís doesnít feel as satisfying as it could and feels a bit tacked-on. But none the less mastering it is essential for ensuring you can deal with certain bosses and youíll need to use it to ensure you can move on through the game, if only on the odd occasion. One example is the much anticipated T-Rex encounter, and as a result this boss encounter feels a little like itís on rails, with out much invention from the gamer required to defeat it.
Music and sound effects play an integral part to achieving the atmosphere and isolation in Anniversary. Lara often is left is relative silence whilst she raids her way towards her objective. Events in the game often trigger some music. Whether thatís encountering the occasional enemy or compounding the effect of entering a new area of the level for the first time. This is incredibly effective and the sparing use of music definitely means less is more in this case. This serves well to ensure you feel itís just Lara and a bit of disgruntled wildlife on each level.
Ultimately this game is a lot of fun and holds true to original, entering a new area, solving the puzzle to moving on. And anyone with fond memories of the original will find themselves playing into the small hours to finish a level to move on and see how The Lost Valley, St Francisís Folly, Coliseum and the Egyptian levels all look and play in this new game. There is plenty here to keep fans of the original and those who never played it equally happy. And it will take longer to complete than Legend offering many contented hours raiding. And there are always the time trials and artefacts to find to ensure you unlock all of the content, such as photos, commentaries, alternative outfits etcÖ
- Game play is spot on
- Atmosphere and sense of isolation in spades
- Great level design; familiar levels re-imagined well
- Terrific score and sparing use of sound effects
- Enough story to give the game purpose Ė no unnecessary narrative
- ĎBullet timeí feels tacked on and superfluous
- Some puzzles whilst updated and well designed, donít really challenge