Tomb Raider: Anniversary Review
publisher: Eidos Interactive
developer: Crystal Dynamics
genre: Action Adventure
CPU 1.4 GHz, 256MB RAM, GeForce 3, 4GB HDD
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Jun 05, 07 (released)
|» All About Tomb Raider: Anniversary on ActionTrip|
When Lara first graced our PCs and PlayStations with her dazzling virtual body back in 1996, she became a legend over night. The original game quickly received a full-blown sequel, which marked another major success for Eidos and Core Design. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, the series lost its edge. Eidos just kept spewing out generic sequels, most of which brought little to no innovation. This bad streak reached its high point (marking the low point of the series - Ed) when Core dished out Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness, which, on top of being exasperatingly buggish, turned out to be a huge disappointment in terms of gameplay. The franchise, ultimately, landed into the lap of Crystal Dynamics, a talented development studio known for its Legacy of Kain series. Tomb Raider: Legend was born, literarily rescuing TR from plunging headfirst into oblivion. They successfully breathed new life into an otherwise stale franchise.
Back off, you hairy apes! No, I'm not gonna climb the Empire State with you!
You like staring at them, don't ya! Perv!
In a smart move to recap on the adventures of the world-famous archeologist, Lara Croft, Eidos Interactive releases Tomb Raider: Anniversary to commemorate the decade-long existence of the industry's sexiest heroine.
Believe it or not, returning to a familiar world in TR: Anniversary turned out to be a rather pleasant experience. After playing through the first couple of sections, the nostalgia started to kick in and we were hooked (yeah, 2lions couldn't resist seeing some virtual cleavage as well).
So, what's the game all about anyways? Well, the idea was to refurbish the old TR game with new puzzles, better gameplay and a richer storyline (as opposed to the rather sparse story in the original). As you would expect, the game received a complete visual makeover to give the old Lara a more up-to-date look.
The game starts like any other typical Lara's adventure. She agrees to recover a valuable artifact and pretty soon, she realizes the trip was more than she bargained for. Trouble awaits around every corner and, once again, Lara faces death-defying leaps, inhospitable bloodthirsty creatures and hazardous traps at almost every step of the way.
Graphically, this game is pretty solid, sporting a smooth frame-rate and a rather satisfying range of visual effects. Granted, it's not exactly next-gen, but it does give the old Tomb Raider a slick new look, which works really well. It's certain that Eidos made the right move when packing the game into the polished engine of Tomb Raider: Legend.
The controls also work okay on the PC version. Hopping around and shimming across cliff edges is very straightforward. Sadly, TR: Anniversary has its flops in those regards. Despite the fact you won't have much trouble controlling Lara, movement and orientation is frequently a nuisance given the game's clumsy camera. When our heroine is clinging for her dear life on a ledge, it's impossible to pan the camera around for a desired angle, so as to find out where you can latch onto next. Such slip-ups tend to cause serious aggravation when trying to find out what to do next, or to assess a particular part of the level.
Aside from the awkward camera, the developers made some questionable moves when designing particular levels. Completing a segment of a level sometimes requires you to backtrack a long way - almost to the beginning of the chapter, in fact. As such, a majority of players is liable to get stuck on a number of occasions. Fair enough, the game throws a few subtle hints as to where you should be going, but it never clearly points you in the right direction. Instead, you can simply end up roaming through a huge area, with absolutely no clue as to where Miss Lara should be going. The confusing level design is obvious in the game's Lost Valley chapter and throughout certain points in the Greece chapter. So, if you're used to linear games, be advised that a great portion of TR: Anniversary involves a slightly unrewarding method of puzzle solving, often making you retrace your steps to revisit areas you've already explored (like ALL the way back - Ed).
Bad programming is apparent when encountering enemies too. AI-controlled monsters sometimes get stuck behind pillars or rocks, which makes them easy targets. (Not to mention that I killed the T-Rex boss by simply bugging it behind a palm tree. - Ed)
Also, combat is a bit awkward when the weird camera syndrome starts to kick in. In certain boss sections, it was almost impossible to effectively pan the camera around to view the surrounding area and aim at the opponent at the same time.
Aww! Not another waterfall!
Argh! I'm slipping!
Okay, it's not all bad, I can assure you. If you are patient enough to solve all the puzzles and challenges, there's still plenty to experience in this game. The overall design does offer plenty of that magic which made 'Legend' a great game. 'Anniversary' was squeezed into four chapters, featuring around 15 huge levels to explore and adventure in. Of course, if you wish, you can always return to replay each level and find any relics, secrets or hidden treasures you might've missed the first time around.
On the audio front, the developers have done a decent job by adding a wide array of realistic sound effects to go along with the game's ambience. Surprisingly enough, the lack of music in the backdrop isn't doesn't really a bother. Instead, you should have fun listening to Lara's gasps (or shrieks if she accidentally falls off a cliff).
The main thing is that despite some of its obvious drawbacks, Tomb Raider: Anniversary is quite enjoyable. It takes you back to the days of leaping across ravines, sliding down misty passageways and performing a variety of stunts and acrobatics. Also, if you're never played any Tomb Raider game before, this is a good time to start.
In all, Crystal Dynamics made another fine tribute to the TR franchise;
Questionable moves in level design, frustrating camera issues, lousy AI and some scripting bugs.
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