Tomb Raider 2: The Dagger Of Xian Review

By: John Doe


"Sheís got a couple of big guns!"

Sorry for the cheesy opening, but come on people, letís not ignore her two biggest assests: Her pair of magnums. Okay, now that that unpleasantness is over with, lets get on to the review shall we? I am a fan of the series. I enjoyed most of the first game and most of the second game. Who doesnít know this game? Well, maybe N64 owners but that looks like that will change.... The Tomb Raider franchise is a third person Indiana-Jones style 3D exploration/action/platform game. You play a female named Lara Croft who is a British babe who really is a master of a lot of firearms, as well as very agile for someone with her dimensions. She canít seem to punch or kick, but man can she shoot!

This game is about exploration. Miles upon miles of exploration. Level after level of exploration. Which isnít a bad thing, if you like exploring in a 3D environment. In TRII, the gameplay is basically the same as TRI, you run, you jump, you shoot, you climb, you swim, you push big blocks, you pull big blocks. A nice addition to the sequel is the ability to drive vehicles, namely a boat and a snowmobile. Also updated for the sequel is the handy and necessary skill of climbing up ladders or walls (when the game wants you too...you just canít climb anywhere).

In the first adventure you basically took on wild animals. TRII pits you against a lot more human enemies as well as wild beasts (and mythological ones too) who are smarter and tougher this time out. It also takes you out of the Tomb and puts you in exotic locales like Venice, The Great Wall of China, A sunken ocean liner (no you wonít find Leonardo floating around...) and even Laraís spawling mansion.

All the levels offer up their own set of unique challenges and are always great fun to explore. This brings me to the reason why I loved most of the first game (enough to buy the second) and most of the sequel. Eventually I got a little bored of the exploration thing. Honestly, donít get me wrong the games are real quality products but I did find them a little repetitive after awhile. While playing the first half of the sequel I was pretty damn sure this was one of the funniest games I had ever played and then at a certain point I didnít feel like continuing anymore. Now why is that? Short attention span? Maybe. However, I did continue on to the end (I like to complete games) but it was almost a chore, until the last level.

Graphically the game is easily recognizable as a PlayStation game thanks to the grainy look. The graphics are great but not crystal clear. More advances have been made graphically with PSX games and Iím surprised TRII didnít sport a glossy new look. The dynamic light sourcing plays a big part in this game. When itís dark, Lara must light flares to see the way. This was a great touch that added to the atmosphere of the game. You can even use the flares underwater, or while driving one of the vehicles.

My favorite upgrade in TRII has to be the ability to save your game at any point. The first game made you find blue spheres whereupon you could save your game. Yes, it added to the challenge, but saving anywhere made me enjoy this game much more than even the first one.

Controlling Lara is spot on. Once you get used to her intricacies, like backing up and running to jump across a pit or slowly creeping to the edge of a crevice, then youíll do fine. There are a lot of moves to learn, and be prepared to use them all. Shooting while jumping and somersaulting backwards while blasting two magnums "John Woo" style is a technique once thought to only exist in video games made in Heaven. Well, this move is now available on earth, and in this game!

Musically, TRII isnít all that much different. The music is used sparingly and this accentuates parts of the game. A great cinematic touch. When you hear the music swell, you know youíre in for it!

Camera control as in the first is a little awkward at times, especially when lining up neck breaking jumps. This seems to be the #1 complaint of 3D action games. As the genre grows, Iím confident the problem will eventually be resolved for good. It will just take time. You can always use the first person view to look around or line yourself up for a jump, but be wary that you can be attacked while sightseeing!

If you arenít a fan of exploration games than Tomb Raider II is not for you. If you have been putting off this purchase or rental, then by all means see what all the fuss is about. It offers loads of action, miles of ground to explore, great locales, an interesting story (that develops as you play with cut-scenes and is not just hastily thrown in to flesh out the manual), wonderful control and a lot of bang for your buck. This game wonít be over in a weekend (unless you have absolutely no social life...). There are great secrets which can be found on this site thanks to your friendly neighborhood code guy that will pump up your weapons and health kits, allow you to level skip and even blow up poor Lara. Ouch. Well, no one said saving the world wasnít a pisser. Oh and no people, Lara doesnít get nude in this game either.

Final Analysis:

Rating Legend 1-10 (10 being the highest mark)
Graphics: 8.0 (A tad grainy...)
Control: 9.0 (However, not yet analog controller compatible)
Music/FX: 9.5
Innovation: 6.0 (The first game started a new genre...this one builds on it)
Replayability: 5.0 (Once you beat it, I donít know if youíll want to go back so soon)
Frustration: 8.5 (Dust off some expletives for some of this game!)
Longevity: A week for the hardcore gamer, weeks or months for casual gamers.
Rent or Buy: Buy both games! But I liked TRII more.

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