Publisher: EIDOS Interactive
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
N Amer - 06/05/2007
Intl - 06/01/2007
Tomb Raider Anniversary Review
In a world where tough marines take down hell’s minions in a Mars outpost and in a Duke Nukem universe where brute force and corny one-liners are the order of the day, Lara Croft was a shining example that characters can be more than just one-dimensional and of the opposite sex. Tomb Raider was a different kind of adventure and its hero, Lara, became a pop culture icon that not only inspired game sequels but also movies, comic books and even an upcoming animated series. Having come from a major PS2 disappointment like Angel of Darkness, Lara’s return in Tomb Raider: Legend revived our love for this courageous adventurer. This brings us to Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Anniversary, a remake of the original that started it all.
Following the same plotline from the PC and original PlayStation game, Anniversary takes place in 1996 as Lara is relaxing in a Calcutta hotel lobby only to be disturbed by a messenger. It seems a mysterious woman is offering Lara a job to locate an ancient artifact connected to the lost city of Atlantis. The item known as the Scion of Atlantis is very familiar to Lady Croft seeing as it’s one her father has taken an interest in for a long time but never found. So she takes the job that will take her across the globe while discovering the secrets of the Scion and the power it possesses.
You’ll quickly find that this update has been given a complete makeover without really altering the original’s overall level design or situations. The game still begins in Peru and like the original you’ll still watch your guide get mauled by carnivorous wolves and once inside the Incan temple you’ll encounter many of the original’s puzzles and other familiar locales. The visuals, of course, have been improved (but we’ll get to that a bit later) but the real changes comes in the form of Lara’s moves, a new gadget and some gameplay mechanics introduced in Lara’s last adventure Tomb Raider: Legend. In fact, you’ll find Legend’s influence throughout Anniversary, which is a really good thing.
Like Legend, you’ll have the grappling hook from the very beginning, adding the ability to swing to places you couldn’t get to in the original. You can also pull objects that are hard to reach as well as use it to practically wall walk to a new platform. Lara’s other moves have improved as well and her acrobatic skills will have her making some tough jumps to other platforms and even try to keep her balance as she steps on the tips of poles placed strategically near other platforms. Lara can even hang from a ledge and push herself up to grab a higher ledge above her.
Combat has changed as well but not by very much. Sure the targeting system works just a tad better but oftentimes you’ll find that when your targeted enemy runs off screen your gun will still be fixed on the target in another room or chamber of the tomb. When an enemy manages to knock you down, Lara can attempt a quick recovery and there are moments when you can deliver a headshot when you go into the new Adrenaline Dodge move. Basically, Adrenaline Dodge allows Lara to perform a last-minute dodge when an enemy is barreling towards you and you can evade the attack and respond with a headshot. This feature works rather well but much like the classic original it still takes an entire clip to kill a lowly wolf and even more to take down a bear or a vicious raptor. Unfortunately, the enemy AI is still as wacky as ever and you’ll still find that the enemy can sometimes get caught in a corner and try desperately to try to twitch its way out of a corner or a narrow passageway.
Another major flaw that also makes a comeback is the camera. Sometimes the camera doesn’t offer the best view of another platform and if you know your Tomb Raider games this means you’ll be falling to your death quite a few times throughout the game. While it’s not as bad as the original game, you’ll often dive to your death thinking you were facing the opposite ledge when in fact you’re off a few inches. Yet technical flaws aside, Anniversary does justice to the level design and scenarios of the original perfectly. There are still plenty of interesting puzzles to solve that - despite the dated concept and pull-a-lever puzzle solutions - will still get you to stop and think. Even exploring Croft Manor can prove to be challenging thanks to a number of Tomb Raider: Legend-styled puzzles. There are even many of the original’s great moments scattered throughout the game. Remember the moment your jaw dropped when the T-Rex made its appearance? You’ll find yourself doing the same thing here.
Overlooking the flaws for the great level design and story is easy and even more so thanks to the great number of extras you can unlock along the way. There are plenty of goodies to unlock in this game and most of the treats come in the form of artwork, interviews, and different outfits for Lara. The game also includes developer commentaries for each level and you can even listen to the soundtrack while reading through the character bios you can unlock for each character in the game.
The game, of course, has also been visually upgraded and while they’re nowhere near as beautiful as those seen in Legend, the graphics will not fail to impress. Lara has always looked good even in the early games but here she sports softer features and she actually has some realistic expressions that are evident throughout the game. The game’s backgrounds and locales are also good to look at and while they’re not in the same level as the last game in the series it still looks really good for a current-generation title. Yes, the PS2 is still able to give us some great graphics.
As for the game’s sound, Anniversary has a great soundtrack that still manages to make you feel like you’re playing an epic adventure. With a sweeping score that plays well throughout the game, it’s the sound effects that add something new to exploration. Unlike the original when you’ll hear bats once they’re just mere inches away from you, this game uses sound effects to let you know when something will spring up and try to bite you. You’ll know you stepped on a trap in this game and you’ll know when you’re nearing a cavern because you’ll hear an extra echo. Your weapons will now sound realistic as well. There’s also some good voice acting in the game that sounds convincing.
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Anniversary takes this timeless classic and adds a fresh coat of paint as well as some new bells and whistles to a game that’s still just as fun now as it was back in the day. Surprisingly enough, many of the flaws from the original also make a comeback but with some new moves for Lady Croft and upgraded visuals, it’s easy to overlook these problems. If you’ve played this game the first time around you are in for a treat and if this is your first time playing Lara’s first adventure, well, you’re in for a treat.
Review Scoring Details for Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Anniversary
Taking several pages from Legend, one of Lara Croft’s finest adventures to date, Anniversary introduces Legend’s cool moves as well as the grappling hook. The game’s levels will feel familiar in a good way but why does the bad camera and weak enemy AI return as well?
The updated graphics are stunning and Lara, as always, looks amazing doing what she does best. The environments are certainly better than the original but somehow it’s not as gorgeous as the exotic locales seen in Legend.
Caverns echo with the sounds of vicious bats and in the distance you can actually hear a body of water nearby thanks to water trickling down in echoing drips. Even the voice acting is good in the game’s few cut scenes and the sounds of the beasts like the T-Rex are top notch.
There are familiar and not so familiar challenges aplenty and there are even puzzles that will have you really thinking hard. Still, there’s nothing here that will stump veterans of the series. Gunfights are still a bit tricky thanks to the aiming feature and the fact that it still takes half an ammo clip to take down a wolf.
Part of the charm of the Tomb Raider series has always been the locales and the tombs you’ll visit in this game are handled beautifully. The new moves and gadgets add something new to the classic and Croft Manor is a lot more fun to explore now than it was back when the game was first released. Oh, and Lara is still one of the toughest girls in gaming. You go girl!
Even if you played this game before a long while back, Tomb Raider: Anniversary does bring some new features to make this a worthwhile remake of a true gaming classic. It’s easy to ignore a few faults that still manage to pop up seeing as the game’s levels and extras do justice to such an iconic figure that gamers will remember for a long time to come.
Even if you played this game before a long while back, Tomb Raider: Anniversary does bring some new features to make this a worthwhile remake of a true gaming classic
Reviewer: Natalie Romano
Review Date: 06/22/2007