SONY PSP REVIEW: TOMB RAIDER: LEGEND

Often frustrating, yet entertaining, TR: Legend feels a little too ambitious at times for the PSP. by Mike Chasselwaite

June 25, 2006 - Lara Croft, the tomb raiding video game vixen of yesteryear recently received a makeover courtesy of developer Crystal Dynamics, who replaced Core Design the original team responsible for Ms. Croft in the first place. After the dismal Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness for the PS2 which was gawd awful, Eidos realized that the world's greatest female adventurer needed some new blood. Crystal Dynamics went the distance and Legend, released for the consoles last month was well received by critics and gamers alike. It would appear that indeed, Ms. Croft hath returned and reclaimed her throne.

And now we have the handheld version. I can't fault Eidos for wanting to port Lara's latest adventure to the PSP as visually it's not too far off from the PS2 version. Unfortunately the proof is in the playing and the PSP just doesn't have the necessary functionality for a game that requires this much platforming. I found myself fearing the camera more than any man, beast or boss throughout the entire game and that never sits well with me, especially after thoroughly enjoying the far superior console versions. If the absence of the R analog stick wasn't bad enough (you can adjust the camera by holding Square and using the L analog stick), the overall directional control just seemed off. Tack on a fluttery, sputtery frame rate and the frequent ham-fisted controls and you've got a "less than it could have been" port.

The story allows an insight into Lara's past and present relationships and gamers will get an inside look at the chemistry between Lara and her mum and why she blossomed into the globe-trotting adventuress she is today. As Lara circles the globe in search of articifacts that involve none other than King Arthur himself, she will shoot, flip, swing, jump, ride and climb her way to success.

For anyone who has played a Tomb Raider game in the past, Crystal Dynamics set out to break all of the control rules for Legend. You won't have to worry about taking precise walking steps to line up jumps anymore as the game is in complete free-roaming 3D. This new configuration helps the game flow much more naturally and while you might be wishing for precise movements in a few areas of the game, Legend really is a far superior product than previous TR games in my opinion. The only caveat being that I really, really liked TR2.

The polish and presentation is retained as much as possible from the Xbox and PS2 versions and players with infinite patience will get off on the aspects of Legend that don't require any gaming finesse whatsoever. The shooting portions of the game work well due to the lock on button that enables you to keep your enemies in your sight. Like the console version, the shooting isn't terribly exciting anyway, but you'll feel "on your game" more than you will say trying to attempt to jump a chasm without missing. Platforming is where the majority of the frustration will occur as you'll be almost constantly fighting with the camera and controls to execute what was a simple maneuver on the consoles. When you're faced with solving the game's many puzzles, Legend performs to expectations. They aren't hard to solve and at least the game isn't slowing down and you won't be fighting with the controls. Riding a motorcycle while shooting enemies feels tacked on and happens to go on so long, I thought the game was experiencing a never-ending glitch, but eventually I arrived at the end of the sequence. Talk about extended play value artificially. Why not make the motorcycle levels 8 hours long? I had the same complaint with the console versions too.

Graphically speaking, the PSP does a fantastic job of bringing Legend to life on the handheld. It's very polished in terms of animation, character models and backgrounds and is one of the more impressive PSP games to date in terms of presentation. The games audio is one of its shining stars as the voice-acting is excellent with just the right amount of B movie melodrama, while the musical score hasn't been sacrificed in the least for the handheld. Use headphones and marvel at the quality.

The PSP version manages to best the consoles in terms of ad-hoc multiplayer, in which the consoles had none. There are a small variety of mini-games that involve either a hide and seek treasure hunt, a race to the end of a particular level or activate three light sources within a level. You won't be spending countless hours replaying these but they're a fun addition, even if they do tend to suffer from some of the same problems outlined above.

Although I was brought up to sandwich my negatives, I will say that on the whole Legend is entertaining and fun if you can weather the frustrating parts. If you haven't played the superior console versions, I would still suggest paying Ms. Croft a visit on the PSP if it's your only option. Tomb Raider: Legend is one of the best Tomb Raider adventures, but it does feel too ambitious for the PSP platform.

Features:

  • Lara Comes to Life: The dual-pistol wielding adventurer's polygon count and animation set has been increased significantly, presenting Lara in the finest fidelity to date.
  • Return to the Tombs: Lara's new quest brings her to lost ancient realms that guard Secrets of the Past.
  • Fluid Movement: The revamped control system provides intuitive and fluid character movement
  • Dynamic Action System puts focus on continuous motion giving Lara the ability to seamlessly handle any obstacle and interact dynamically with any surface.
  • Move & Shoot: Lara uses her physical prowess to combind gunplay with unique signature moves.
  • Variety of Player Choices: Use the environment, technical gear and weapons to overcome challenging situations.
  • Physics, Water & Fire Systems bring the perilous environments of Lara's world alive, and challenge the player to improvise solutions to obstacles
  • Visit a Vast Array of Cinematic & Exotic Locations including ancient tombs, dangerous jungles, snowy mountain ruins and numerous unexpected surprises in between!

By Mike Chasselwaite
CCC Freelance Writer

Rating out of 5
Tomb Raider: Legend (PSP)
4.3

Graphics
It's one of the PSP's finest lookers. I'm not too impressed with the frame rate drops however.

3.0
Control
You will be constantly be adjusting the camera while trying to get comfortable with the "awkward" feeling of the left analog stick.
4.8
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Par excellence!
4.0
Play Value
There is a lot to see and do and the PSP exclusive ad hoc multiplayer mini-games help stretch the play value.
3.8
Overall Rating - Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PSP
Dev: Crystal Dynamics
Pub: Eidos
Release: June 2006
Players: 1
Review by Mike

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best