|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Crystal Dynamics||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix Europe||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 18, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Even though this title is non-canon and the plot isnt exactly integral to the gameplay, there is a story here. Two millennia ago in Central America, Totec banished Xolotl (pronounced ZOH-tuhl), an evil spirit, as well as the Mirror of Smoke, a powerful weapon, to the Temple of Light. It turns out that when you dont want a weapon to fall into the wrong hands, its a bad idea to lock it up in the same place as the owner of the wrong hands. When English archeologist Lara Croft discovers the Mirror in modern times, Xolotl and Totec awaken. Mercenaries arrive on the scene and steal the Mirror, but Xolotl kills them and escapes with it. Croft and Totec team up to save the world.
The games presentation is nothing short of spectacular, as it should be, given the two-gigabyte (seven on PC) download size. While the floating camera lets the developers get away with a little less detail than theyd need for a full retail release, the game utilizes the full Tomb Raider: Underworld engine. Theres some beautiful shadow work, meticulously crafted environments, realistic physics, and well-done cutscenes (some in full 3-D, some presented as comic-book-style 2-D images with voice acting, which admittedly is kind of odd). We noticed few graphical hiccups, and the loading times are brief and seldom. The dark techno music is unsettling and ambient without being hyper or overbearing, and the voice acting is good, if a overdone in places. In terms of polish, the only complaint we had is that we managed to get ourselves stuck once, and had to restart a level.
Those who enjoy the game should keep their eyes peeled for the upcoming downloadable content; the developers will release five packs from October through December. Three will be typical expansions, and two will allow you to swap in other well-known videogame characters for Lara and Totec. We wouldnt mind seeing a competitive multiplayer mode or two, but well have to wait and see.
In short, Tomb Raider fans, action/adventure fans, and gamers in general would be well advised to grab Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. It is an expertly crafted, addictive experience that, while short, is easily worth the asking price. Especially in such a slow month for video-game releases.
CCC Freelance Writer