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atari warlords
Written by  :  Donatello (463)
Written on  :  Jun 20, 2007
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

6 out of 11 people found this review helpful

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Great remake of a classic, perfectly capturing the essence of Tomb Raider.

The Good

As I have no experience with Legend, I compare this game to older titles.

I have never been a real fanboy of Tomb Raider but I had some great times with older games. There's just that thrill of adventuring in old ruins or dodging natural deathtraps in a jungle. Back in the days I loved them, they weren't something extraordinary special but they did kept my interest and as I played them with my older brother, I enjoyed discussing with my brother how to unlock that door, kill that enemy and so on. As the time passed, my interest faded, mostly because they became more of an action games and didn't add any major improvements to gameplay. I don't even want to talk about Angel of Darkness, that one was awful, strayed TOO far from the formula. I wanted to play Legend, mainly because it was supposed to be a reinvention of the series but never managed to actually play it. Then came Anniversary and I started to play it coincidentally. And I was pretty much blown away at the start, never did Tomb Raider feel so great and gameplay so fluid.

Most important, Anniversary captures essence of the original and gives you a real feeling of nostalgia. The areas are not 1:1 from the original but the most memorable areas are essentially the same like St. Francis Folly. There are also a lot of new areas and different puzzles, mostly because of the new technology and some puzzles/traps just would look lame these days. Areas are also revamped, polished and more detailed. There are four main locations in the game (plus Croft Manor), each has 3-4 levels. They're all quite interesting and fun to explore except the Atlantis (refer to the Bad Section). The new technology and graphics also allow to portray areas more realistically and show what the original couldn't (you remember the second level were there was supposed to be a "village", yup, now you can actually see that there's a village).

And when it comes to graphics, Anniversary certainly delivers. Locations and areas are certainly colourful and give a nice feeling. Peru for example is mostly filled with green grass and from the distance it's nice to look at the green landscape. Graphics also make Lara Croft more appealing. In the older games I always though that Lara looked like an ugly MILF (even concept art and CGI portrayed her a little ugly). Now she looks more natural, cheerful and younger. Now, where can I only get that nude patch, and fast?!?! Enemies look more dangerous and life-threatening than in the original; in the original enemies looked more like cute.

And while I'm on that, there are no human enemies in the game. Nope, you can only shoot animals and creatures. They mostly consist of bats, wolves, bears, panthers, gorillas and so on. Human enemies only exist in interactive cutscenes where you have to push movement buttons at the right time. They're quite neat (slow motion and all) but they chunk off some gameplay and ultimately shorten the game. Enemies AI is nothing to brag about but they do their job well by trying to bite Lara's high polygon buttocks all the time. They're quite easy to kill actually if you are on higher plane than they are. What would real Tomb Raider be without boss battles? There are 3-4 boss battles, most of them quite easy. Only one boss battle was a little challenging because it did take some time to figure out how to harm them. T-Rex wasn't so "holy cow" anymore although; in the original it was a real shock and at first I panicked terribly. Only downside was the last boss, but you can read my complaints about in the Bad Section.

You can control Lara much more freely than you could in previous games (except Legend which I haven't played) and Lara feels more natural. In the older titles Lara felt like a tank: she was clumsy, slow and painful to control. At first you may have some trouble with controlling her but after a few minutes you do it like naturally. Lara can't jump so high anymore but thanks to her new improved abilities she can do without it and she's really more agile and nimble. Combat is improved as well and there's also a new addition (even Legend didn't have that). You can basically dodge an enemy in slow motion and if you fire the weapon when target locks on, you'll perform a headshot, instantly killing the target. Nice feature that you have to master if you want to complete the game.

What makes Tomb Raider "Tomb Raider" are the puzzles and there's a lot of them. There are traditional find-the-key, flip-the-switch type puzzles and puzzles where you just have to get to point B from point A, figuring out just how to get there, especially in Egypt, where tons of deathtraps await you along the way. To me they are perfect, I just love this style of adventuring and guessing; no obscure puzzles that even Einstein can't solve.

Music and sound are nothing extraordinary, but they provide some nice ambient tunes, helping player to immerse himself/herself in. I did like some tunes, like the Main Theme and Bear's Theme (most memorable music piece from TR1). Nice little thing Crystal included was the final showdown with Larson. It really portrayed Lara as a human, not as a badass who can very well be Duke Nukem's mother. I think most of you find it silly and annoying but I just had to point that out a little.

After you complete a location, audio commentary with Toby Gard (designer of the first game and creator of Lara Croft) and Anniversary's creative director Botta open up. I found those commentaries very funny and they gave insights into TR1 development (why did they do that etc.) and what did they do with Anniversary like changes and reasons behind them. Commentators are most of the time in a good mood and provide more than few smiles. Besides audio commentary, you can also unlock new outfits, concept art, biographies and cheats by completing time trials and finding secret artifacts and relics. As a matter of fact, I tend to be the type who always likes to complete games 100% but I always just get tired of the game and quit . Anniversary on the other hand keeps me playing for some reason.

The Bad

There's nothing perfect in the world and Anniversary isn't exception, there are obviously some flaws.

First is the length. The game was in my opinion very short and you can pretty much complete it under 15 hours or less. It may take more time if you want to unlock every costume, concept art etc. but there are a lot of people who could care less about it. Or maybe it was just me? All good things end I guess and it's not a very big flaw, just my dissatisfaction with it. And the game is easy, even on harder settings. There are some frustrating and dangerous moments but you can overcome them quickly. And the locations are smaller, another reason why it's so short.

It's not really Anniversary's flaw but TR1's and it's the story. Story isn't exciting, it's more like flat-out boring. It's just the basic "evil-woman-wants-to-take-over-the-world" affair, adding nothing new and hardly developing Lara's character. It doesn't even have twist and you can see the end by miles away. Tomb Raider has never been known for it's great story but at least other titles were much more interesting, like Tomb Raider II. Here it doesn't matter, story is just made up so Lara could visit exotic places. It's original's fault but I hoped they would milk a little out of it and make characters more interesting. Oh well..

I wasn't satisfied with the final boss and the Atlantis section. Atlantis was boring, boring and there was too much shooting and too few interesting puzzles. Again, it's mostly TR1's flaw. I don't know how tough was the final boss in the original but here she was disappointingly easy. Even T-Rex in the start of the game was tougher!

The Bottom Line

+ Great graphics + Good remake of a classic and captures the feeling of the original, provides nostalgia + Improved combat and acrobatics, Lara is much more nimble and agile + Lots of exploration and puzzles + Audio commentaries and secrets - Too short - Last section of the game is disappointing, last boss is a piece of cake - Story is almost nonexistent and boring

I strongly recommend it to any Tomb Raider fan and to other people who are at least remotely interested in TR. It also introduces Lara's first adventure to wider people who were just put off by the ugly graphics in the first game. I wait impatiently for another game and maybe I'll even pick up Legend. As long as Crystal can keep series fresh, they can do as well 100 Tomb Raiders! I'll still play every single one of them!

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