Entering the Tomb one more time
June 15, 2007 – It is hard to believe that it has been ten years since the debut of everyone’s favorite female archeologist. Of course Laura has had her ups and downs, but even then, she has had her loyalists going to bat for her time and time again. Whenever there was a new title, fans raced to pick it up and enjoy the latest adventures of one of the strongest female characters in gaming. Last year, gamers got a shot of Laura-goodness in the arm with Laura Croft Tomb Raider: Legend.
Crystal Dynamics treated Laura the way she should have been, in both gameplay and graphics, thus putting her back on top in a lot of gamers’ hearts. With the tenth anniversary looming, Eidos knew something special should be done, and they have provided, along with Crystal Dynamics, a reimagining of the original Tomb Raider classic. However, did we really need a rehash of a game that we played ten years ago?
The great thing about redoing a game must be that most of story details are done for you. This is not to say that there are a few tweaks here and there concerning the original story, but for the most part it is the story that we initially fell in love with. Laura will still be searching for the pieces of the Atlantean Scion, a talisman of incredible power and Jacqueline Natla will still be the reason your quest begins, and I’ll leave out the rest for the new gamers that have yet to experience the original story. For veteran gamers, the original story is still as you remember. Therefore, no real worries there.
What makes Tomb Raider Anniversary stand out is not how close to the original they made the game. Instead, it is the advancements that have been achieved in gaming in only ten years. Anniversary takes all of the problems with the original – the blocky design of the characters, the dull tombs, and sticky controls – and throws them out the window (for the most part anyway). The controls still have a few problems here and there, but are solved with a little trial and error gaming experience. For example, I could chalk up the fact that I repeatedly missed a ledge I was leaping at because Laura just would not jump, but I would also have to admit that maybe I did not press the correct button at the right time. Just like the Prince of Persia games, the acrobatic attributes of the Prince are vital but the timing of the player is also important to the overall character capabilities.
The things that were not removed from the game are what made it such a vital factor in the takeover by Sony in the gaming world. By the time Tomb Raider first appeared, gamers had grown a little and needed something that would challenge their minds a little more than just running, jumping, and collecting items. Tomb Raider provided thought provoking gaming that required us to figure out complex puzzles and tough situations. In Anniversary, we will not have the luxury of smaller environments to explore. In fact, the levels are almost five times bigger than the originals. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good in the sense that we now have more area to explore to hone our tomb raiding skills. The bad, however, are the checkpoints. While the first game had few saving points that only came after long stretches in the tombs, Anniversary gives plenty of checkpoints. This problem arises especially when you have spent the last ten minutes making it to a spot, fall, survive, and then pass through another checkpoint, all of your progress before the fall is gone. It is a bit frustrating at times, but of course this is one of the things that made the original a classic.
The true beauty of this reimagining comes through in the graphics. Having the Legend engine running it, you kind of know beforehand what to expect from the game graphically. The environments are lush and filled with detail. Individual cracks splinter along the rock walls. The bright contrasts between caverns are truly amazing. While the graphic improvements to the environment are worth mentioning in great detail, it is something that must be experienced. In fact, Laura herself is something that will blow away players once they see her. She does look very similar to her Legend self, but if you find an image or two of the original game compare those images with Anniversary and you will see how drastic the change really is.
Tomb Raider Anniversary does two things that are amazing: One – it takes a classic game and remakes it well to provide a whole new generation with the joys and frustrations the generation before had with the title. It proves that remaking a game is something that a lot of gamers could enjoy. Not to say that gamers just want repeats of games they love, but rather an occasional update to those games that made us gamers to begin with. Two – Anniversary boldly says that the PS2 still has some life left. It is unknown how much life is really left in the PS2, but with games like Tomb Raider Anniversary arriving you can bet that it will be quite a while before Laura will be searching for the long lost artifact – PlayStation 2.
TR Anniversary is exactly what Tomb Raider is all about!
June 13, 2007 – In 1996, one game stepped forward to show the world how 3D technology could revolutionize the game industry. That game was Tomb Raider. It was one of the first games to feature massive 3D levels combined with texture mapping and a remarkably realistic character that gamers would fall in love with.
The gameplay was simple, yet effective: Run through a level until you get stuck. Then, find out how to make an exit and how to reach the switch to make that exit. In between, you would run, jump, and climb over objects all while dodging and killing wild enemies and villains. Core used this classic formula for all of its TR games during the PS one and early 3D PC era.
As the series progressed, the TR games would feature more original stories, stranger locales, and more complex controls. Although the game would become more realistic, the simple action and classic adventure levels would still be fan favorites to this day. When the series’ popularity started to wane, Core removed some of the action and turned the game into a pure adventure with Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness. Fans of the jump and climb game series cried when Lara mostly climbed stairs and had to train herself to climb buildings, pull herself up, and even pick her nose.
Core had ruined the series they created. The series practically died due to either Core being too depressed to develop another game or due to the fact they wanted to stop. Eidos didn’t want to lose their money making gaming icon, however, and neither did Lara’s original creator. Eidos hired Crystal Dynamics, creators of the lesser known Core games, Gex, Akuji, and Soul Reaver, to change the direction of Lara Croft and restore her to her roots at the same time.
They did so with Tomb Raider Legend, which took out the RPG-esque adventure elements of Lara Croft and replaced it with a pure action/adventure game. Lara looked more realistic and moved more realistically, but not enough that she grew physically weak over time. The puzzles were fairly obvious, but more realistic than simple “pull the switch” mechanisms that haunted Lara in her past. She also was equipped with modern gadgets such as a magnetic grappling hook.
The modern physics, graphics, and return to action helped sell Lara Croft over many game consoles. Still, it wasn’t good enough for the fans. Although Legend was better than the last three TR games, Lara didn’t go exploring different paths in traditional places, and she didn’t remind gamers of the “old Lara.”
Crystal Dynamics realized this and decided to thank the fans for buying so many of Lara’s games. To this day, TR fans’ favorite is TR1 whether it’s on the Saturn, the PS one, or on the PC. It was time for Crystal Dynamics to deliver the same type of quality that Core had. To celebrate 10 years of Lara Croft, and to thank the fans who wanted the same TR1 action, Crystal Dynamics released Tomb Raider Anniversary for the PC and PS2.
Tomb Raider is my third favorite game series after Mega Man and Donkey Kong. I loved TR1 and played multiple times, completing it with and without codes. I was extremely excited to be able to deliver this review to you and I will directly compare TRA with TR1 and TRL, so you know what you’ll be getting for your money.
Tomb Raider Anniversary has the same title screen options as the PS one games, including Lara Croft’s manor. The manor has been totally retooled and is similar to the one in Legend, only Crystal Dynamics has added even more rooms to it, making it the largest mansion Lara has ever owned. It’s strange to see it as it is based upon Legend but featured in her first adventure. There are certain elements of it that remind you of her original 32 bit manor, such as a workout room and a pool, which is still under construction in this game. The layout is a bit different as the stairs are to the side of the front door and Lara’s bedroom is much larger than before. Overall, she has the same pieces in her manor, including statues, artifacts, a bed, a closet, a training room, a hedge maze, and a fountain. Even the butler is in the game, but he seems rather stiff this time around.
The manor itself contains a story about how Lara must turn her water back on since she came back during her manor’s renovation. In order to do so, she has to find the machine piece which can only be obtained by finding other parts which are obtained by exploring rooms and breaking objects. The manor is like its own little adventure. Completing the level unlocks the first award of the game, music from the manor. You can also try on multiple outfits in the manor after unlocking the outfits relic in the game’s multiple levels. Some of those outfits include her Legend outfit, her TR1 outfit, and her TR2 Sola Wetsuit.
The graphics during the manor level are quite stunning, but it’s easy to make a decorative box look good. The true test of a developer is to make natural objects look truly natural. Crystal Dynamics has certainly done that. In fact, Lara’s levels no longer feel like boxes any more as you can’t even tell where you really are in computer space. There’s no glitching, no black ceilings, and hardly any sprites. The remade levels truly look real as the PS2 version’s graphics actually rival 360’s Legend. If Crystal Dynamics developed every PS2 game from now on, I would be a happy boy.
Will this be an anniversary for Lara Croft to Remember?
Feb. 7, 2007 – Anyone who’s owned a Sony Playstation, read a video game magazine, or had any connection to the media whatsoever has heard of Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider series. After Lara’s initial release into the gaming world, her popularity as a character became more known than the actual gameplay. Though Lara Croft became a household name, her gameplay didn’t evolve with the progression of the console, unfortunately.
Our love for the actual series was rekindled last year when Crystal Dynamics brought the series back to light with a serious overhaul. Now, Crystal Dynamics is confident lightning will strike twice with a remake of the original Tomb Raider from the PlayStation console.
You’ll be happy to know the aforementioned remake, which is dubbed Tomb Raider: Anniversary, will not merely be just an exact duplicate for the PS2. Tomb Raider: Anniversary will be a combination of original levels with revamped puzzles. The locations won’t be unfamiliar to gamers who’ve played the original, but Crystal Dynamics will be redoing the puzzles with the use of concepts that were introduced in the recent Tomb Raider: Legend. Most notably, Lara’s grappling hook will be introduced again, but this will be new to the world of the original game. Another addition is the physics based puzzles from Legend; many can recall needing to kick boulders or push crates to activate weighted mechanisms in the Legends game. The use of rag doll physics will also be included in the anniversary edition.
The story will follow the original game also in which Lara has been. Lara commissioned to search for an ancient relic known as Scion. Many gamers may recall the Peruvian waterfall level which functioned by a couple of cogs in Legend. Your objective was to merely search for the cogs and insert them accordingly to halt the cascading water. Well, now that same waterfall is looking as impressive as ever as it stands towering over Lara to the point of intimidation. The cogs and waterfall were also intricately entangled in a new and improved Tomb Raider-like puzzle style.
Puzzles like the recreated waterfall level opened the door for Crystal Dynamics to create a larger, more non-linear game. Crystal Dynamics wants to take Tomb Raider back to what made it so appealing, and that’s the exploration. The environments are far larger than we have ever seen in any iteration in the series thus far. As the vivacious vixen, you’ll have more options for traversing the terrain this time around, via grappling hook, (no comma) and an assortment of acrobatic moves. Crystal Dynamics has even honored the original series by bringing back Lara’s inventory option wheel, which hasn’t been seen for some time.
Since Crystal Dynamics is taking Lara Croft back to pure exploration, there will be less combat than in Tomb Raider: Legend. Though popular in the comic series, Lara’s constant onslaught of animals and even human enemies in-game were frowned upon, so it’s probably a good idea on Crystal Dynamic’s part to reduce the unnecessary violence.
One of the more memorable experiences of the past games was the audio which, ironically, didn’t exist in a major way. The foreboding silence of the abandoned temples and seemingly lifeless forest gave an eerie feeling of loneliness. Crystal Dynamics, though honoring that notion, will add music at certain intervals in the game for cinematic reasons. It’s not certain exactly how much music will play throughout the game, but it’s safe to say the entire experience will not be void of music.
Crystal Dynamics has borrowed heavily from the Tomb Raider: Legend engine to enhance the graphics. You’ll get to see the revamped Lara Croft in a beautifully rendered nostalgic world. It’s very exciting to see the original levels as they were intended to look and not the blocky, jagged look of the Playstation version. The lighting and shadow effects are superb even this early in development. I can’t wait to experience the swan dive off the waterfall again (for the first time).
It was a decade ago when the very first Tomb Raider won my heart and I’m looking forward to seeing the Anniversary addition. With Tomb Raider’s enhanced graphics, audio, and a non-linear experience, I know I’ll be excited all over again. Though it’s released only on the Playstation 2, PSP, and PC, I’m sure there’s a method to Crystal Dynamic’s madness. They’ve clearly and confidently stated that they have material to make Lara last for years to come and I’m holding them to that comment. Look for more information when this game ships in 2007.