Tomb Raider: Anniversary
With Tomb Raider: Legend, Crystal Dynamics rescued the nation's most cash-pregnant franchise from the spiked pit of naff. With Anniversary, it whipped its manhood out and declared the entire series its own, with a stream of hot, straw-coloured playability.
Although a lot of the niggles with Legend weren't fixed, they were never game-killing faults, just a feeling of relative ease and being slightly patronised by obvious flagging. On the other hand, the move to mouse and keyboard is thoughtfully done - the T-Rex fight and the Sword of Damocles room stand out as arcanely faffy moments, but the rest feels perfectly tailored for PC.
In truth, the game's finest moments come from revisiting the places you loved the first time around, and enjoying the new, massive cogs. But even if you joined in the series with Legend, this will be more-of-the-same fun, only with a dinosaur and a couple of centaurs.
Download Tomb Raider: Anniversary
Wow. Crystal Dynamics isn't messing around with this whole Tomb Raider thing. Anniversary is an excellent reimagining of the original game, with some gorgeous settings, clever level design, and even a fair share of reasonably challenging puzzles. Like Legend before it, it feels almost as much like an homage to Prince of Persia as to the original Tomb Raider, but that's a good thing; Lara was always meant to be as acrobatic as we see her here. In fact, Anniversary feels like the game Tomb Raider was supposed to be all along. An occasionally squirrelly camera and infrequent control issues mar the overall package...but the problem is, by the end of the game, when things start getting really ridiculously difficult, the camera and unreliable controls become fairly significant. Overall, though, Anniversary's a fine showing, an excellent service to fans, and proof that the series is back on the right track for real.
I'll go Joe one further: Anniversary sets the standard for remaking classic games. Reliving the signature moments here delivers the same thrills as a decade ago, not because the developers exactingly re-created the original, but because they used the new engine to create a vision that lives up to my fond memories. The PS2 manages the requisite natural lighting and lush details--if only the broader vistas didn't cause the game to sputter. I'll accept the technological limitations and handle the camera, though, to get to the game's feeling of isolation, exploration, and wonder.
Checking out Lara Croft in the original Tomb Raider today is like looking at the yearbook photo of your acid-washed, feathered-haired high school sweetheart and thinking, "I thought she was hot?" But playing the bargain-priced Anniversary is like finding out that ex-girlfriend is now a runway model. This game is beautiful--and it respects your nostalgia with clever reimaginings of famous encounters (like the '-Rex) and puzzles (such as the Sword of Damocles). Control feels loose--off-kilter leaps killed me more than anything--but I'll take it over the original's rigid grid-based system any day.