Guess who's back
TOMB RAIDER: LEGEND
Developed by Crystal Dynamics and published
by Eidos Interactive for Xbox 360 ($60),
Windows XP ($40) PlayStation 2 and Xbox
($50); for ages 13 and up.
Lara Croft, Surviving Bad Sequels, Returns to Fight Again
By CHARLES HEROLD
Published: April 27, 2006
NOTHING can kill Lara Croft. The protagonist of the Tomb Raider games has been impaled, sliced, shot, crushed and burned alive. She has endured cookie-cutter sequels, an ill-conceived makeover and two mediocre Angelina Jolie movies. But she’s back, and she’s looking good.
For a while, it was not looking good. While the Tomb Raider mix of exploration, puzzle-solving, action and cheesecake was always fun, the games failed to evolve and gamers got bored. A 2003 attempt to revamp the series, Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness, just made things worse, with a collection of poorly executed ideas pulled from popular games that pushed Lara to the edge of irrelevance.
But the buxom heroine has returned in Tomb Raider: Legend, a game from Crystal Dynamics that fulfills all the promises broken by Angel of Darkness.
Once again, Lara seeks out adventure, this time exploring a series of ruins in search of an ancient artifact that may be connected to her mother’s strange death. It is a search that takes her around the world, a journey made more difficult by armed men who are after the same thing.
The ancient ruins Lara explores are dangerous; columns have collapsed and passageways have crumbled, although surprisingly every booby trap is in perfect working order.
Lara must swing from vines, shimmy along ledges, jump chasms and shoot the occasional savage beast. Tombs are large environmental puzzles that Lara must navigate by shoving stone blocks into position or using a magnetic grappling hook to move a platform.
This is not substantially different from all the other Tomb Raider games. In fact, the designers’ goal was not to reinvent the series but simply to refine the original formula. Lara moves with a fluidity and ease the other games never managed, and her gun battles have been supplemented with melee moves that include a sliding tackle and a flying kick. Legend has smartly modeled itself after games like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which was itself strongly influenced by the Tomb Raider games.
While it has modernized the gameplay mechanics, Legend feels like a walk down memory lane, recreating the feel of the original games. This is somehow comforting; no matter how many times Lara misses a ledge, is crushed by a boulder or dies in a hail of bullets, you feel she will always be there for you.
posted by Steve @ 12:22:00 PM