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Tomb Raider: Legend Review

publisher: Eidos Interactive
developer: Crystal Dynamics
genre: Action Adventure

PIII 1000, 256MB RAM, 9.9GB HDD, 64MB video card
ESRB rating: T

release date: Apr 11, 06
» All About Tomb Raider: Legend on ActionTrip

I don't know how familiar you are with Tour de France's history, but let's just say the race remembers some great comebacks in its days. The memory of Lance Armstrong's achievements is still fresh in the history books, so I'll take you a bit further back in time.

When the closely fought '87 Tour reached the base of the Alpine climb to La Plagne, Spain's Pedro Delgado was two minutes ahead of Stephen Roche. Roche was out of gas, but the Irishman launched a monumental comeback in the last three miles, and as Delgado crossed the line, Roche appeared around the corner, four seconds behind. He collapsed and was taken to a hospital, but his comeback had brought him close enough to win the Tour with a victory over the Spaniard in the final time trial.

Now the world of cycling is full of stories like this. Sadly, that's not the case with the gaming industry... not until now anyway.

I believe that Tomb Raider Legend is the biggest comeback for a character in the entertainment industry since Quentin asked Travolta if he'd give it a shot at playing a hitman alongside Samuel L. Jackson.

I had the misfortune of playing The Angel of Darkness, and after that one, I was sure the Tomb Raider franchise was doomed to whither away and die... at least as a game series. But as it turns out, even EIDOS is able to make some right critical decisions, and they have definitely done so by placing Lara into the hands of the guys at Crystal Dynamics (best known for the Legacy of Kain game series), and also, the original creator of the world renowned virtual heroine, Englishman Toby Guard.

I swear to God, Toby Guard pulled a Stephen Roche on this one. He won Tour de France.

What do I like so much about this game?

Simply put, it has all the qualities that we have not seen in the Tomb Raider series since the very first title. Describing that difference would be like explaining the difference between a good action adventure flick and a bad one. It's not that the bad one doesn't have all the necessary elements; it's just that they are poorly done and they don't gel well together.

Tomb Raider: Legend is a solid title from the ground up. It has a nicely written story, with lively characters and a charismatic and sexy protagonist in Lara Croft. It has great voice acting and music, and the artists have done a marvelous job of creating beautiful and diverse locations for the game's backdrop. The layout of the levels as well as the design of the puzzles is simply brilliant. The game flows excellently; it's challenging and often intriguing, it shifts beautifully between puzzle-solving, acrobatic stunts and gunfights, so that there is not a dull moment in it. Advanced physics play an essential role in the gameplay, taking the physics-based puzzles to the next level. The control scheme is perfectly intuitive and easy to use, reminding me a lot of the Prince of Persia games. The design team obviously didn't want to mess with a winning formula and why would they. If anything, the control scheme and Lara's acrobatics seem even more refined than in the PoP games, with more moves and more emphasis on the physics and the environment. Another great thing about the gameplay is the inclusion of dramatic twitch-gameplay moments, where players are often required to think fast and think on their feet if they are to get Lara out of some really, really hairy situations.

And all the while, the player has a distinct feel of being a part of some fantastic adventure that's both mesmerizing and exotic, taking them to all four corners of the globe. Tomb Raider: Legend comes as close to capturing the true spirit of action adventure games as any game I've played. Period.

Naturally, TRL is not without its faults. On the gameplay front, I was a bit annoyed by the camera when Lara is close to a wall or one such large, flat surface, as the camera movement is very limited in that case, making it very hard to assess the situation on the fly (without using the binoculars). Another issue I've had with the gameplay are the rather poor controls during the motorcycle riding scenes. The vehicular action is too sparse to truly influence the quality of the gameplay, but the way that Lara handles the bike definitely left something to be desired.

Technically, the biggest blunder that the developers have made is to make what is obviously a current-gen game work like shit when the next-gen options are turned on. I played TRL on an NVIDIA 6800GT and 7800GTX, and both cards had serious, serious issues dealing with the shadows, the HDR and normal mapping of the next-gen setup. On the bright side, both NVIDIA and Crystal Dynamics are aware of the problem, and you can already pick up the patch that should sort that issue out.

In closing, Tomb Raider: Legend is an excellent adventure game. It's a game I wouldn't think twice about purchasing, so if you're into games like Prince of Persia, be sure to pick this one up. You won't regret it.


9.0   Excellent

One of the best action adventures I've played in recent years;

Camera issues, vehicular actions needs some fine-tuning, next-gen settings work like crap.



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