Back in 1997, you must have been playing this game!
Tomb Raider: Anniversary is the follow-up to successful Tomb Raider: Legend by Crystal Dynamics mostly known for their Legacy Of Kain series. While Legend being a great game on its own and certainly a welcome addition into a long-run Tomb Raider series I felt it was somewhat lacking. It was a sunning professionally executed brilliantly written game. Superb action and a new revised look of the main heroine showed that finally after years long years of constant failure, franchise started to move in right direction. But still it remained just number two in my book. Despite of mind-boggling action of this new offering the game was extremely linear. The exploration was the centerpiece of each Tomb Raider. And there certainly wasn’t enough of it in Legend. I always felt led by hand through a sheer dozen of beautiful levels with no step left or right allowed.
So to remind myself what once made the original Tomb Raider such a hit I took my old dusty copy of this oldie …. and was utterly disappointed. “What the #@$% is this?” I cried. It’s not the game I played ten years ago. How on earth could I see ancient Coliseum in those lumpy sets of polygons or be impressed by the detail in that triangular breast? Now mind you, I’m a very tolerant person in terms of old titles. I still think of the VGA-era of graphic adventures having the most beautiful artwork and ingenious game design this side of Milky Way has ever seen. But on the dawn of 3D era the game engines were so limited and controls were so atrocious and unintuitive that it’s pretty understandable that those titles crumbles under heavy weight of sands of time, especially those from a third-person perspective (another one that immediately comes to mind is Fade To Black).
And then like a send from the heaven a new game in the series was released. And what a game it is! Tomb Raider: Anniversary is not simply a remake; it’s the reinvention the old genre in regard of modern gamer demands. My memory must be playing tricks upon me, but this is THE game I played 10 years ago, and not that monster from 1997 I carelessly installed a year ago.
I am not talking about specific details because most of the game has been altered due to all the possibilities that exist in game mechanics these days. I am talking about the spirit and the essence of the original Tomb Raider. And it most certainly resides now in the body of Tomb Raider: Anniversary. The game firmly reminds players why it’s actually called Tomb Raider and not any other title. It’s about exploring tombs, for god’s sake, finding lost civilizations and experiencing the sense of grand adventure. Obviously not shooting cops in Louvre gallery or hiking through military base number 245.
Above all I’d like to mention an incredible level design. Taking basic ideas from original game the designers have revised them and then expanded upon them. No room serves no purpose. Each level is unique and aesthetically pleasing. The Greek-inspired level with a crumbled stairway is a bright example of what most of the current game designers aren’t capable of. Except for Crystal Dynamics, with a little help from Core Design. As for others aspects of the game, everything is really top-notch. The game features the most fluid animations of animals I have ever seen. The battles are fast, dynamic and really vicious. Be sure to the turn the lights on while playing Tomb Raider: Anniversary or you might lose a bit more of them nerve cells then you would do otherwise. The music is beautiful and fits the game so well that you start to feel affection for it on a really close, personal level.
This game is faithful to the original. Maybe too much faithful for it’s own good. Of course it’s nice to see so many familiar places spread over four grand levels of the game, but Crystal Dynamic doesn’t have to prove us anything, we know what they are capable of, so a bit more of creative freedom would have been certainly welcome.
The only major grudge I have with this game is the unfortunate decision not to include next-generation content at all. I can’t care less about marketing policy Eidos is taking, so don’t start on me. If they don’t want to release it on the next-generation console then why we the PC gamers have to suffer technologically dated graphics. Just imagine what would the game look like with the entire next-gen extravaganza… Not gonna happen! Sorry.
The Bottom Line
If you still remember what the word “adventure” actually means, if forgotten civilizations still send you spinal shivers, if you young at heart and open in mind, then don’t miss this one. You wouldn’t forgive yourself if you do!