Written by  :  Richard Kaplan (15)
Written on  :  Oct 19, 2007
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars

9 out of 13 people found this review helpful

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Ooo, I'm scared and tense! I remember those feelings now.

The Good

Prowl around any Tomb Raider forum and you'll quickly learn that the fans are divided into two distinct groups. The first bunch loathe the direction Legend took the series, preferring the exploration feel of the earlier games. While the second lot embraced Legend's updated controls and fresh look, feeling that the previous control scheme was growing stale.

Now there's Tomb Raider: Anniversary, and it's managed to win the hearts from both of those crowds, which is a pretty amazing achievement.

The first thing I noticed when I begun playing, was the immediate sense of polish. Controls on cross-platform games are very finicky when it comes to the PC, but Anniversary works pretty darn well. While you have the option of using a gamepad, I never felt the need.

In particular, the general gun usage feels much more solid than Legend, with the guns drawing easily with the right mouse button (toggle or hold, choice is yours) and firing with the left. And a great improvement over the original Tomb Raider, is that Lara now draws her guns quick and fast, with a great hammer-clicking sound! Remember how you always ran around the original game with your guns drawn? Only ever putting them away to climb something? Probably wasn't what the designers intended. Thankfully in Anniversary, you can run around with your guns holstered knowing that should you need them, Lara can whip them out with speed. This may sound very similar to Legend, but I assure you that if you go back to Legend after playing Anniversary, you WILL find Legend's gunplay very cumbersome in comparison.

One of the big changes that Legend brought to the series was how Lara got around her environment. Anniversary has kept this pretty much the same, with a few new moves. The big difference though, is that the animations are much smoother and, as I said earlier about the game, polished. Now, this system was quite obviously 'influenced' from the new Prince of Persia games, but personally, I think Tomb Raider is all the better for it. And hey, the original designers admitted that they wanted the first Tomb Raider to be similar to the original Prince of Persia except in 3D, so things have come full circle. Despite using the WASD and mouse scheme on the Windows version, it works well and you'll never fight with the game to get Lara to do what you want.

When it comes to the graphics, there have been a lot of complaints because since the only console getting the game was the PS2, the developers didn't create any "Next Generation" graphics, meaning PC users do not get any "Next Generation" graphics. Let me tell you though, it's a misconception to think the PC version is simply using PS2's graphics, because that is not the case. While it's not Next-Gen, some areas are drop-dead gorgeous on the PC, not to mention very immersive. Speaking of that, they've pulled off a stunning job with the atmosphere. The sounds, graphics and lack of music (out of combat) all help hit home the feeling that you're very much alone in these places, which is exactly what old fans missed from the original game. A lot of the levels and rooms are inspired directly from the first Tomb Raider, but the challenges within them have changed drastically. You won't be pulling and pushing many blocks this time. Instead you'll be flipping, swinging, climbing and grappling your way around. There are a few puzzles in here too, but they're very good quality for an action game, and shouldn't leave you too stumped.

Another great change is the music during combat and cutscenes. Gone are the techno tracks from Legend whenever a fight breaks out. Instead, you'll be treated to some very characteristic movie-like scores during battles. Why do I say characteristic? Simply because each animal/beast you encounter has their own tune that plays when you go up against them, and for a lot of them they are very fitting! The themes for the bats, rats and T-Rex are good examples of this. One more thing about the music, if you're a long-time fan of the original Tomb Raider, you will notice some familiar themes cropping up, though most of the music is original work. The sound effects are also top-notch and won't cause any complaints.

Legend didn't rate very high in the 'length' factor, and while Anniversary isn't extremely long, it is about twice the size of Legend in comparison. And a better ratio of it is actual gameplay.

The story has had some modifications too, some of it good and some of it bad. The good is that there is a lot more involvement between Lara and the rest of the cast. This is no longer a simple case of Good vs Evil. One scene in particular will be very interesting to Lara fans, and is pulled off pretty well.

The Bad

What didn't I like? Well, I love a lot in this game, but there is a large amount I don't like. Unfortunately, a lot of it has to do with the story and quality of the lines.

The original Tomb Raider had a very basic story, but it wasn't bad. Do you recall the speech from the main villain in the original game? Do you remember that person's motives? Well, they've changed. In Anniversary, while the same scenes play out and the story follows the same arc, there is a different motive driving the villain, and I feel it is much weaker in comparison. But hey, at least if you know the original story, you'll get something new.

My other complaint is at the quality of the script. No matter how many insults were flung at Legend, there's one thing that people could not mock, and that was the lines. Sure, people disliked the story (Why? It was better than TR 1 - 5) and people disliked the new Lara, but despite all this, it was clear that Legend's lines were professional and well-written. That's the problem with Anniversary, you see. The one-liners, the conversations... they're all quite weak in comparison to Legend. It's understandable that there's less talking in Anniversary, since that was the goal, but when there IS talking, it's pretty cheesy and cringe-worthy. Lara loses her british flair a bit in this game, whereas Legend enhanced it. The voice acting is still good, but let down by the dismal script. I'm sorry, but it just wasn't down-to-earth enough for me. It was also more melodramatic than Legend, though I can understand this was an attempt to portray a younger, more emotionally-vulnerable Lara.

My third complaint is the AI, though it's an odd one. At the beginning of the game, the AI was terrible. While the rest of the game felt polished, the enemies intelligence seemed extremely lacking. Often a creature would get trapped by something or simply just stop moving, STARING at me while I shot it to death. Funnily enough though, as the game progresses, these occurrences seem to become non-existant, rendering this complaint invalid. Weird indeed!

My last complaint, a small one, is one scene in the game. Anniversary has a lock-on system when shooting. This works fine throughout the whole game, but one difficult-to-navigate area has shootable buttons on the walls. The problem is that when there are enemies (of which this scene has a lot), the game doesn't prioritise enemies over buttons. This means often Lara would lock onto the button when I desperately wanted her to shoot the threats!

The Bottom Line

Overall, this game is awesome. There are some complaints mentioned above, but if you love Tomb Raider for whatever reason, then you'll love this game. For old fans, this is the first Tomb Raider in a long-time to capture the original's feeling of isolation and tomb exploration. For new fans, the control scheme is very modern, and a it's good introduction to what made Tomb Raider famous in the first place (besides Lara, of course).

I can honestly, hand-on-my-heart say that you will enjoy this game if you have any fascination in third-person adventures.