Take it to the Tomb!
Lara Croft is a legend. Nearly everyone involved in the gaming world can acknowledge the contributions of the Tomb Raider series, not only to gaming but to pop culture as well. Its blend of challenging puzzle/adventure gameplay, combined with its presentation and wide scope made the original Tomb Raider series a must-have on the original PlayStation. However, as time went on, the Tomb Raider franchise grew in lore. It even spawned two movies. But in a very interesting twist, the Tomb Raider game series all but completely vanished in the wake of darker super series like Metal Gear and Resident Evil. But the Tomb Raider series has been slowly making a comeback, and this resurgence of all things Lara Croft has culminated in the release of Tomb Raider Anniversary.
The game starts off pretty much how you remember: Lara is just chillin’ when someone makes her an offer she can’t refuse. And no, it doesn’t involve money; it involves ancient artifacts. I know, they get me all excited too. So then you’re off on this adventure that involves you traveling around the world in search of the coolest ancient artifacts ever. To accomplish your task, you’ll have to do some pretty fancy maneuvering. The real basis of the game lies in your ability to solve these room-based puzzles that generally involve some sort of switch or lever and a lot of jumping. And for as much as Lara jumps, you can tell that she is one limber lady. Once you solve the puzzle of each room, you’ll generally move on to a different location for a whole new round of jumping and puzzle-solving.
But, as fans of the series will recall, there is more to this game then solving the various tombs. For as much as this game is about using your surroundings to push forward, it is also about shooting. A real hallmark of this game was its unique and intelligent blending of the FPS and Puzzle genres. These two genres couldn’t be more opposite, but apparently searching for archeological artifacts can really create a unique experience. Sure, you have to use your brain to unlock the secrets of the various tombs, but what do you do when a crazed wolf or bear comes hurtling after you? Well, you’ve got to use your skills as a gun-toting femme and shut them down! And while you won’t get too much gunplay in the initial levels, as time goes on and tombs become more dangerous you’ll find yourself going up against more challenging opponents that will test both your timing and your marksmanship. And like all good FPS games, Tomb Raider gives you ample opportunity to find new and more explosive weaponry.
This formula of shooting various targets and figuring out how to press forward is really the entire experience of the game. For all its strengths, Tomb Raider: Anniversary still delivers a somewhat shallow experience. I also realize that, to a lot of people, the formula of shooting and puzzling and then doing it again sounds a little repetitive. But I really think that the Tomb Raider formula of puzzling and shooting makes for a very fun game. One thing’s for sure: there’s nothing out there quite like it. Tomb Raider Anniversary gets major points in my book because it still is what it was ten years ago…and is still just as fun. It may not be as engrossing or as difficult as some of the other games out there, but Tomb Raider is one-of-a-kind, and I think that is what makes the vintage gameplay in Tomb Raider: Anniversary really valuable.
Controls are pretty simple and mimic the classic feel of the original game. You’ll be using the left stick to jump around and the A button for jumping. And while jumping does constitute a fairly good amount of the gameplay (we’re talking jumping on ledges, poles, bridges, you name it, Lara’s jumping to it), you also have an X-controlled hookshot at your disposal. The Y-button is mainly used as an etc. button, and its use varies from a leveler button (when you lose) your balance) to an item inspection button, with many other possibilities along the way. And then the shooting, as you might expect, is controlled by the right trigger. Although the interesting thing is that when Lara wields two guns, the right trigger controls both. Perhaps this is the modern gamer in me talking, but I kind of width they had the more modern dual-trigger system. But it’s not too big of an issue to really gripe about.
Visually, this game is an obvious improvement over the original series. And it’s even a slight upgrade over last year’s Tomb Raider: Legend. But the visual prowess still falls short of what I had hoped for. Ms. Croft looks excellent as always, and there’s not too much to complain about with the environments. But there’s not anything graphically that’s really going to “wow” you either. And the lack of HD-support really magnifies this shortcoming. Perhaps I expected too much, but I really wanted Tomb Raider: Anniversary to look cutting edge in this gen, like the source material looked cutting-edge ten years ago. But it does receive a passing grade for the visuals, which is good enough for most.
Sound quality delivers pretty well. Voice acting is spot-on in most situations, and while the music is so-so, you can’t really fault it because this is supposed to be a vintage experience. And the music definitely does a great job of alerting you to an enemy and inducing the frantic shooting frenzy that comes with enemies. I just wish they would have beefed up the individual level scores. There’s so much done with the sound in modern games, and I feel that this would have been a perfect opportunity to give this classic an upgrade. But much like the graphic, the sound in Tomb Raider: Anniversary receives a passing grade for being true to the series and delivering an experience that is good enough for most people who are fans of the original.
Tomb Raider: Anniversary is definitely an experience. For most of us, it hearkens back to the days when the PlayStation was the console to have, and Tomb Raider was the best game ever. Playing the original Tomb Raider game through this new lens also reminded me that sometimes less is more. There’s such a simple premise to the game, yet it has lasted ten years. Playing it today felt just as new and exciting as playing it ten years ago did. And that is this game’s main strength. I suspect that gamers who played the original and those who have only recently been introduced to the Tomb Raider mythos will find something to love in Tomb Raider: Anniversary!
racing action is captured in cinematic style and players are rewarded for showing off their skills a
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
Pretty standard next-gen graphics, but nothing really impressing. 4.0 Control
Very easy pick-up-and-play controls that hearken back to the original. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
It does its job, but a audio upgrade would have been nice. 4.5 Play Value
This game will definitely bring on the nostalgia for those who have played before, and the good news is that it’s still a blast to play! 4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.