by Marko Susimetsä, reviewed on
Remaking Tomb Raider
Lara Croft, the young woman who obviously saw too many repeats of the Indiana Jones movies in her youth, began her adventuring career in 1996 in a game named Tomb Raider. The general design approach was to take a step away from the classic male action hero concepts and make puzzles and stealth the main focus of the game. The game was widely acclaimed and birthed several sequels, most of which have lost to the original in creativity and quality. Only the seventh title, Tomb Raider: Legend, from Crystal Dynamics managed to bring Lara back into the big league of platformer adventures. Now Crystal Dynamics have gone back to the very origins of Tomb Raider and actually remade the first game in the series from the ground up, using all the modern tricks that were used in Legends and adding some new ones to boot.
An old enemy returns
With the original story, we will also see the original cast making their appearance. Jacqueline Natlas, the double-crossing business woman, who is eventually revealed to be much more than that, is the force that puts the adventure in motion. She and her henchmen are on Lara's heels from the moment they hire her to find the mysterious Atlantean Scion. This mission sends Lara all over the world, including the mountains of Peru, Greece, Egypt and eventually the lost city of Atlantis itself. Only this time, these locations are realised in more detail and with a beauty that may leave you gaping from the moment you first enter the large cavern deep inside the mountains in Peru with its waterfall splashing in the back.
Fluid movement and interaction
From the very first moment, Tomb Raider Anniversary shows you how much technological progress has been made over the past decade. Not only is Lara herself beautiful, she also moves gracefully as she runs, jumps, crawls and swims through the various levels. Even her unbelievably long jumps from one ledge to another are made almost realistic by the fluid and smooth animations.
With all that graphical splendour on your screen, you might expect the game to stutter once in while, but it doesn't. Not even when I had my web browser and image editor running in the background and I kept Alt-Tabbing between the applications and the game. Given that many modern games hate anything else running on the background, it is clear that Crystal Dynamics have perfected the code with evident expertise. In a similar vein, you will not even notice when most of the loading happens since these are hidden at moments when Lara runs or crawls through curvy hallways to the next area. The only thing marring the otherwise perfect mechanics is the camera that sometimes withstands any attempt of the player to find a viewing angle to actually see if there is something that Lara could jump towards next. Most of the time, though, the camera performs very well.
The 'platforming' is relatively easy though occasionally you will need some tricks to get Lara out of trouble. One slight miscalculation and you will be scrambling for the correct button to help Lara recover from a jump that leaves her faltering on a far-away ledge, a fall to a deep chasm imminent.
Fortunately the basic controls are easy to master and then it is only a matter of the player being able to perform them at the right time and in the hardest spots. If you fail on those occasions, it is very likely that your heroine will die or get seriously injured when she falls from a high cliff. Overall, controlling Lara is a joy and you will feel confident that she will not accidentally twitch too far and fall to her death when you have her step towards an edge of a high ledge. If Lara dies, it is usually because you did something wrong, and not because of poor controls. Luckily, even when this happens, Lara merely returns to the last checkpoint and these are frequent enough not to have you lose too many minutes of game time.
No Pros and Cons at this time