Publisher: EIDOS Interactive
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
N Amer - 06/05/2007
Intl - 06/01/2007
Digital Download - 06/01/2007
Tomb Raider Anniversary Review
Back in November of 1996 a legend was born. Lara Croft hit the PC, PlayStation and Saturn systems in her first adventure, appropriately titled Tomb Raider (featuring Lara Croft). In some ways she was the video-game counterpart of Indiana Jones (who had hit the big screen back in 1981). Perhaps Eidos and Core Design knew that Lara was destined for greatness. Maybe they didn’t, but greatness is, nonetheless, what she achieved.
It’s been a tad over 10 years since her debut and Lara is back in a PC adventure aptly called Lara Croft Tomb Raider Anniversary. It is the very first Lara adventure, updated graphically to bring it more in line with the 10 years, or so, of technological advancements. The developer this time around is Crystal Dynamics, and they have done a terrific job of pulling that old 1996 adventure off the shelves, dusting it off, reinvigorating some life into it and presenting it anew.
The result is the same platforming explorations – you know, jump to this pole, swing on that vine, work and jump from ledge to ledge – with a solid mix of acrobatic gun play that sparked the original. Ok, perhaps the original didn’t play out as fast way back then on an old DOS machine, and the movements in Anniversary are much more fluid and the action has a brisker pace on a dual core machine. The game uses the same engine that marked Legend, which means you will have a grappling hook, as well as the ability to shimmy up poles and ropes.
The story, for those who do not know, involves Lara being contracted to go after the Scion of Atlantis. It is an artifact her late father had sought, and a mysterious woman (who has evil written all over her bony angular face and long, pointed and sharp blood-red fingernails) has given Lara a few clues as to where it can be found. Played out over three locations – Peru, Egypt and Greece – the game also has the same type of adversaries that the original game had, including a T-Rex.
The first stop is Peru. A mountain guide bumbles his way to the top of a plateau, which has some imposing gates set into the mountain face, and manages, en route, to destroy the easy way to the top, the ladder. This is the gamer’s introduction to the platforming elements of the franchise. You have to jump, work across ledges using your fingertips, and maneuver through the simple maze-puzzle to get up to the top. Once there, the doors open, wolves come growling out and kill the guide. Tutorial No. 2 is now engaged – an overview of how to lock on targets and use Lara’s famous dual silver .45s, plus incorporating a few acrobatic flips to avoid the outstretched maws and claws of the beasts, to put several rounds into the beasts.
The game has checkpoints along the way inside the tomb, and when you die, if you should, you will respawn automatically at those checkpoints. Inside the tomb you will find not only the artifact you are looking for but relics and health packs. A test was conducted – after collecting a relic, Lara fell to her death (sorry, but we can do cruel things in the name of game testing), and Lara respawned at the last check point. The interesting thing here, though, was that she had the relic. The game did not penalize the effort to get to it, and rewarded the player for that effort.
Now before you think that all is warm and fuzzy with this game, it needs to be pointed out that there are a few glitches. The game is more puzzle/platforming than action. If you have played any Tomb Raider games – or any adventure game of this type – before, it’s not hard to figure out which direction to go in the game (though not all the puzzles are simple). And if you angle it right, you can get the mobs hung up on environmental elements, making them easier pickings. And the camera can get hung on the environment, making it hard to see where you are going at times and making you take a leap (literally) of faith. But in spite of this, the game looks superb and plays well.
Graphically, this is a loving treatment of an old gaming friend. Lara looks great and the environments are very well realized. The sound is a worthy supporting cast mate.
What makes this game so noteworthy is that this is vintage Tomb Raider, with slightly more in terms of challenge, and absolutely wonderful graphics. If you have ever played a Tomb Raider game, especially the earlier ones, you will understand how you can start to care about the central character. This game brought that feeling back. It was not so much about constant action – which this game does not have – or mind-numbing puzzles (yes, there is a certain sense of accomplishment when you either work out a puzzle or stumble upon the answer), but rather the way you interact with Lara and the environments through her. This is more of a personal relationship, and in that regard, it captures the essence of the Tomb Raider franchise very well.
Review Scoring Details for Tomb Raider Anniversary
A few problems with enemies getting hung up on environmental elements (as well as the camera); the game is still a puzzle-heavy run through gorgeous environments. The puzzles run the gamut from simple to tricky (an early one has you having to jump from precisely the right spot to perform a second jump quickly and land on a tiny ledge, using your fingertips to secure the purchase), but the control mechanics are responsive and easy to learn.
Lara looks great, the environments look great … if there is one word to describe this game, it would be … uhmm … great? Yep. This is a visual treat. Ok, there are a few moments when you kill a bat and it sort of slides out of the frame, but the glitches are tiny.
Solid sound elements that play out well through a stereo or 5.1 system. This is a solid adjunct to the graphical elements.
Some of the puzzles are tricky and some are easy. You get to a place and see a pool in the center of the courtyard; you just know you are going for a swim. In spite of some predictability, though, the game does not disappoint.
Take the original game, give it some updates and make it feel fresh – not easy to do, but accomplished here.
Lara is an old gaming friend that gets a great treatment in the retelling of her original adventure. This is “vintage” Tomb Raider, given a facelift, and sparkling as a result. It is fun to play, and fun to watch.
Lara Croft Tomb Raider Anniversary is a wonderful journey with a good friend and gaming icon
Reviewer: Michael Lafferty
Review Date: 07/20/2007