Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Lara Croft; Tomb Raider: Legend

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Electronic Theatre ImageLara Croft is undoubtedly the most famous female videogame character ever, even your mum knows who she is. Back in the glory days of the PlayStation she was one of major factors in the mainstream acceptance of videogames as a pastime not just for the kids. Whether or not Lara purists want to admit it, it was not because she was a strong female lead, or because she embarked on perilous quests to save the world from ancient prophecies and the like, it was because she was one of the first videogame characters to be considered to have actual sex appeal, a factor that was amplified exponentially by the press of the time. Since then Lara Croft has become a multi-million pound franchise complete with films, merchandise and, of course, several sequels. Despite the fact that the last three Tomb Raider games have been mediocre at best, with the most recent, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness, bordering on unplayable, Eidos have decided that Lara’s fame is still significant enough to warrant another sequel. So, ten years, two films and countless breast jokes later, Lara Croft returns in her seventh home console adventure; Lara Croft; Tomb Raider: Legend.

The videogame industry is plagued by this kind of game, typically a well-known franchise reheated and regurgitated back into the market without any real development or flair. However Lara Croft; Tomb Raider: Legend has a new development team, Crystal Dynamics, and boasts a total gameplay Electronic Theatre Image overhaul, new control system and the return of a developer from the original Tomb Raider. Can this new team breath life into the flagging series? Or are there only so many games you can sell with an impossibly proportioned woman?

The first main change instigated in Lara Croft; Tomb Raider: Legend is that Lara isn’t quite so impossibly proportioned any more. Crystal Dynamics have redesigned Lara from scratch and have given her a vastly more realistic shape, removing the novelty element and giving the game a much more serious feel. Couple this with the obvious AAA nature of the game and you have a title that makes an excellent first impression. Thankfully the presentation isn’t the only improvement. Gone are the days of spending five minutes lining Lara up for a jump, only to miss the damn ledge anyway. Instead her controls are akin to another famous videogame character in the brilliant Super Mario64 and she can now be controlled in a much more fluid way than in her previous games.

Gameplay has also been rethought, with the emphasise back on making your way through treacherous environments and solving puzzles as opposed to the ill conceived combat heavy and stealth elements of the recent sequels.Electronic Theatre Image Puzzles start quite simple, with many making great use of the incorporated physics engine, before becoming less forgiving toward the end of the game. This is a welcome redesign and gives the game that exploratory feel so effectively used by the earlier titles. That being said, Lara is no slouch when it comes to combat and Lara Croft; Tomb Raider: Legend utilises the tried and tested Lock-On System to great effect, with the added bonus of using a different fire button to shoot at a highlighted, damageable section of the environment, usually with satisfyingly explosive results. She also has a selection of close combat moves, some complete with the now obligatory Bullet Time, but unfortunately they are never really used to great effect. Medipacks are regularly dropped by enemies making fire-fights less of a challenge this time around, in-fact, combat is definitely a lesser presence than in other games in the genre.

Despite Lara Croft; Tomb Raider: Legend’s heavy dependence on puzzling, thankfully the try everything-with-everything logic required by some of the earlier Tomb Raider’s isElectronic Theatre Image less apparent this time around, although this may make the game seem significantly easier to the Tomb Raider faithful. Another new feature is the interactive Cut-Scenes. Similar in nature to the Cut-Scenes in Resident Evil 4, the set-pieces are infrequent and regularly unexpected, but are usually spectacular – and spectacle is something the Tomb Raider does very well.

Lara Croft; Tomb Raider: Legend also features some fairly unoriginal, but still quite fun sections, namely the decently incorporated vehicle segments and the briefly puzzling Boss Fights. The motorcycle sections are about what you would expect, fast races across uneven ground with several bad guys in pursuit and despite the uninspired nature of these parts, they still offer a good sense of speed and danger which is exactly what is required. The boss fights are not exceptionally difficult, but offer the kind of logical puzzle fans of this genre will enjoy.

Shockingly for a multi-format title, Lara is looking good on the PlayStation2. Featuring some uncharacteristically high-resolution textures and a superbly modelled Lara,Electronic Theatre Image Lara Croft; Tomb Raider: Legend can join God of War as proof that the PlayStation2 has some life left in it yet. The Levels are also quite expansive and offer a great sense of scale, especially in the case of the huge statues and waterfalls that litter the more exotic of Lara Croft; Tomb Raider: Legend’s locales. The underwater sections, usually the bane of the PlayStation2 gamer, feature some of the nicest graphics you will experience on any of the current generation systems. There are small but noticeable effects present – such as the surprisingly realistic smoke that emanates from the barrels of Lara’s pistols – that really help to drive the polished nature of Lara Croft; Tomb Raider: Legend home. Shadows and lighting effects are also of a high-standard, albeit with the occasional glitch, meaning that Lara Croft; Tomb Raider: Legend should please even gamers that are convinced graphics are everything a game needs. Keeping-up with the great presentation of the game, the sound is also good. The voice-actingElectronic Theatre Image is provided by experienced videogame voice-actors except Lara, who is voiced by Keeley Hawes of the BBC’s Spooks fame. Cut-Scenes are frequent in Lara Croft; Tomb Raider: Legend, so it’s just as well that the acting and lip-synching is good. However in-game there is no lip-synching and there are occasional volume problems, but they rarely distract you from this otherwise excellently presented game. The music is suitably epic and sounds more like an orchestral film Score than the usual sub-standard tunes that frequent multi-format games.

Lara Croft; Tomb Raider: Legend isn’t as big a revolution for the series as Resident Evil 4 was for Resident Evil. It is, however, a fine return to form for everybody’s favourite heroine. There is nothing this game that you haven’t seen before and Lara Croft; Tomb Raider: Legend makes few excuses for poaching some of its ideas. It has, however, taken some of the best ideas from some of the best games and integrated them seamlessly into itself and it is for this reason that if you have never played a Tomb Raider, or gave up with the rest of the world after the third incarnation, you should buy this game and revel in the way a Third-Person Platform/Adventure game should be done. Electronic Theatre ImageElectronic Theatre Image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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