Tomb Raider: Legend
I'm Not Sure when things started getting out of hand with Lara Croft She's been on the cover of the late great Face magazine (where she was compared to Pamela Anderson and Yoda), the subject of numerous feminist academic research papers and she's been described as both a cultural icon and 'one of the most fascinating and enigmatic figures of our time' (by the developers of course). She's starred in a couple of ropey films and been used to sell everything from Lucozade to AT&T mobiles. The trouble is, when you start concentrating on extra-curricular activities like this, your day job suffers and one of the things that made her famous - the Tomb Raider games - have now made her a laughing stock.
So it's make or break time. And despite fearing the worst the good news which I'll get out of the way early doors, is that there's plenty of life in the old dog yet Crystal Dynamics have taken the essence of Tomb Raider, tightened the dynamics and delivered a solid, if short game without any visible bugs. It kicks off with a flashback - a narrative device that's used throughout the game to piece together Lara's past - to a plane crash in Nepal, before moving to the present-day and the obligatory tutorial which deposits you in a good old-fashioned tomb. And this is where you get on with what Lara does best - solving puzzles, pushing and pulling crates and dispatching bad guys and endangered wildlife with your trusty pistols. And while it doesn't manage to create the same sense of awe as the original, you have to put that down to the fact that we're spoilt for choice these days.
The pacing of the game is almost perfect You're propelled through the game on the edge of your seat without spending too much time working out where to go or what you're supposed to be doing. Regular checkpoints mean that you never have to backtrack more than one puzzle (or several somersaults) if you die, but it never feels like you're on rails. Everything's been designed to make the game flow as smoothly as possible. Take the new grappling hook, which you use to retrieve crates or swing to remote areas of the level. Rather than letting you work out which objects you can use through trial and error, relevant surfaces shimmer to give you a visual clue. And if that's not enough, you can use your binoculars to analyse objects and see whether you can move them, grab them or shoot them. In addition, your new 'accurate-aim' crosshair changes colour to ram the message home, as well as letting you shoot precisely at remote targets.
This perfect balance carries through to the puzzles, which are on the right side of frustrating, while being entirely logical and hard enough to give you a real sense of satisfaction when you crack them. (I must admit to almost whooping after cracking one first time, but thankfully I came to my senses in time.) The developers have even managed to avoid relying on obtuse methods of dispatching the end-of-level bosses, although the final battle is keyboard-smashingly hard, especially if you get sucked in without the maximum number of health packs.
The story takes in a huge span of Lara's life, and it's a quest to discover what happened to her mum and best friend Amanda, both of whom are missing presumed dead. And while much has been made of the fact that Legend takes Lara back underground, good game design means you don't have to keep a good woman down to provide the necessary thrills. In the eight (big) levels, you traverse the globe, taking in not only tombs, but a military base, a museum in Cornwall and a couple of giant skyscrapers in Japan. And it's the latter level that perfectly encapsulates the new game. It's so good that I'm not going to spoil any of the details for you, aside from the fact that Lara's definitely got a bit of Posh about her in a black cocktail dress.
The only criticisms I've got - and they're fairly minor in the grand scheme of things -hark back to the fact that Tomb Raider is a game that's a lot more comfortable on a console than a PC. You might be getting a simultaneous release across all platforms (which is most welcome), but the combat is fairly clunky - never less than playable, but definitely driven towards dual analogue sticks. Also, the visuals, while extremely pleasing to the eye and occasionally epic in scope, aren't going to blow you away.
It's a bit like criticising fast food for being unhealthy though - Legend was never designed as anything but a console game. You could also (if you were nit-picking) argue that it doesn't try anything new, which points to the fact that the developers were more interested in delivering a safe but solid game than taking a flyer on anything. But again, that was - given the size of the problems that beset the series before this -entirely the right thing to do.
Short But Sweet
And in a way, that sets the tone for the review. If you're addressing specific, almost non-higgles like this, you have to admit the overall flow of the game is relatively spot-. om Yps it's short - about 10-12 hours should see you through - but that doesn't detract from the quality. Although when a save game tells you you've completed 73% of the game and then one boss battle later the credits start rolling, you might feel a bit aggrieved, especially as Legem/leaves the story hanging in mid-air. Thankfully, it's good enough to guarantee another outing, and after finishing this in two sittings I can say that not only is it hard to put down, but that this reviewer is already keenly anticipating the next chapter, and that's something I never thought I'd say about another Tomb Raider game.
Legem/doesn't try anything new and it didn't need to. It just reminds you how good the Tomb Raider games used to be before the madness took over. It's not a Classic, but it's a defiant return to form and that's a huge step in the right direction.
Download Tomb Raider: Legend
Legend is a back-to-the-cat-acombs re-envisioning of Lara Croft's musty franchise. Eidos jumpstarted the series by handing it over to developer Crystal Dynamics, which hired Croft creator Toby Gard to lend a hand. "It's nice to see a group of people who take Lara and Tomb Raider so seriously," Gard says.
After six games that failed to evolve Lady Croft's clunky, prehistoric control scheme, she finally moves like a 21st-century game hero. Think Prince of Persia--Croft soars from ledge to ledge and swings from pole to pole with the greatest of ease. Lara's leaps feel a little more user-friendly, too. As long as Lara lands near a ledge or pole, she'll extend her arms and latch on automatically-- even if you're not lined up perfectly. Slip off a cliff and she'll save herself with a last-second grab, thus saving you from lots of cheap-death frustration.
That's not to say death doesn't surround her. We saw halls crammed with spinning-blade traps and other nasty surprises. Fortunately, Lara comes with a new grappler that makes swinging over spike-filled chasms easy. The gizmo factors into the game's newly streamlined puzzles, too. She uses the grapple, for instance, to haul over a raft and pull her way across a subterranean river.
Instead of the side-scrolling fare GB gamers are used to, this new handheld Tomb Raider uses a pseudo-3D overhead view. The result is a game that feels more like the original PSi game and less like a generic platformer with the Tomb Raider name slapped on.
In one word, short. In two words, short and awesome. This game may not hit any balls out of the park, but it hits a knee high line drive that gets us at least a double play. With satisfying visuals, good voice acting, and a nod towards the gameplay that made it great, Tomb Raider has returned in a big way. After perhaps one of the more embarrassing series failures of all time, it looks like Crystal Dynamics may have pulled it off, reinvigorating this once tired and sad franchise. This time around Lara is packing a healthier, slimmer look, complete with' ahem, polygons' that don't make her look like she'd break her back during simple stretches. Backing up the new look is a gameplay that's been tweaked ever so slightly to improve on the classic pattern. Will you like it? I think so. I did.
The story is familiar. Hunt down a powerful artifact. Learn secrets from Lara's past. It's all stock standard stuff, but entertaining too. Equipped with her signature pistols and anything she can take off of her enemies, expect all of your combats to be short range, nasty, and occasionally frustrating. I don't think combat got as much attention as it deserved however, so it suffers a little with range and movement problems.
The game really shines outside of combat, when you get to play around with Lara's amazing gymnastic ability. First off, there's a bevy of little gymnastic special moves that you can perform that just look cool. You can also press a button in time to your movements to speed them up. This really refreshes the gameplay, as you're no longer forced to wait for Lara, instead being able to control exactly how fast she climbs a ladder. Finally, you'll need to be careful with the camera. Since it ll influence the direction you jump and how you move, you'll need to be spot on to avoid dying from a badly positioned jump. Oh, and as a warning, the game features a couple of bike racing scenes that are a total throwaway. They're badly placed fluff that should've never been included in the game, as they?re repetitive and boring.
Graphically, Lara's adventure lives up to the next-gen name. It doesn't feature the hottest graphics around, but they do work. Overall, I'd give it a plus for having some good vistas, but two check marks; one for the repetitive racing sequences and another for the severe lack of big, epic, wowtastic views. There are a couple of Kodak moments in the game, but that's barely enough to whet your whistle. A decent soundtrack rounds out the presentation, and fans of the first three seasons of Spooks (MI-5 in the US) can spot Keeley Hawes playing Lara Croft herself.
All in all, I'm glad this title got made; I've wanted to play it for some time. Good gameplay, some basic improvements over previous generations of Tomb Raider titles, and only a few drawbacks make this a really enjoyable game. If there were a few more hours here, it would've been a really A+ title, but as it stands it's still a good purchase.
Snapshots and Media
- Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
- God of War
- Prince of Persia 3D
- Prince Of Persia: The Two Thrones
- Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
- Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
- Batman: Arkham City
- BioShock Infinite
- Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
- Half-Life 2: Episode One
- Onimusha 3: Demon Siege
- Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands
- The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
- Watch Dogs