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

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Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)

Electronic Theatre ImageLet’s face it, ever since the first couple of Tomb Raider games, the series’ creator Core Design rested on its laurels. Gamers have had to sit back and watch Lara Croft’s assets go from pert and perky to stretched and sagging, with the only noticeable difference between instalments being changes to her cup size. Core Design were finally and sensationally kicked off the series after the hateful fifth sequel, Lara Croft; Tomb Raider: Angel Of Darkness, and US studio Crystal Dynamics was brought in to give the old girl some much needed back support.

re-discovering what gamers really wanted from it. They even brought in Lara’s original designer, Toby Gard, as a consultant for the new game. The result of their research was that gamers wanted to explore vast, exotic locations and raid tombs in them, not to mention take control of a much more responsive and dynamic Lara as part of a captivating and entertaining story. Lara Croft; Tomb Raider: Legend is exactly what Platform/Adventure gamers have been searching for ever since the original Tomb Raider broke new ground in 1996. Crystal Dynamics’ fresh approach to the series has brought back the basics that we all know and love, while renovating every aspect of the game to finally wipe clean memories of the series’ torrid past. Without the aid of implants, Botox or under-wired support, Lara’s looking better than ever.

The game opens with a flashback to Lara’s youth, where she and her mother are involved in a plane crash in the Himalayas . After escaping the wreckage, the two stumble across ancient ruins and Electronic Theatre Imagelegendary artefacts, but an unfortunate series of events results in only Lara making it back into civilisation. From here the game cuts to current-day Lara, climbing a Bolivian cliff-face Mission Impossible 2 style in search of an ancient temple complex. However, events take a turn for the dramatic when an old face from her past returns, and before you can say Indiana Jones, you’re in search of one of history’s most infamous weapons.

When Lara reaches the top of the Bolivian cliffs, the game pushes you into action with its subtle and understated tutorial area. Rather than bog you down with instructions and boring Set-Pieces, Lara Croft; Tomb Raider: Legend gets you in the mood for adventuring by allowing you to explore the opening area yourself, merely popping up gameplay hints when they’re needed. It’s natural and unforced, leaving you free to breeze through when you replay the game, and if you’ve played any Platform/Adventure game from the past five years you’ll barely even notice it.

We never thought we’d say this, but Lara controls like a dream. Gone are the nightmare days of the grid system with its sluggish turning and ridiculous need for pixel-perfect alignment; in its place is a completely free, uninhibited input method similar to the ones that Third-Person games have had for years. Hardcore Tomb Raider fans will weep tears of joy the first time they send Miss. Croft running, rolling and jumping around the environments with the freedom she’s always deserved, leaping from precipice-to-rope and from Electronic Theatre Imagerope-to-ledge in a series of silky-smooth manoeuvres.

Not only is she faster and more gratifying to control, but Lara is now equipped with a portable magnetic grapple, giving her even more flexibility. You can use the grapple to latch onto metallic objects, and either pull them towards you or pull yourself towards them. Over the course of the game’s eight Levels you’ll be using it to swing over ravines, yank enemies off ledges and even pull yourself along as you ride a floating coffin. You can always tell that a new addition to a character’s arsenal is a success when you can’t see how you managed to play the previous games without it.

Crystal Dynamics has managed to pack a fair bit of fighting action into the game, and as a consequence our favourite heroine is a dab hand with even more forms of weaponry. Although for most of the game you’ll be using her iconic akimbo-Pistols, you’ll also get access to Grenades and Sub-Machine Guns, the odd Turret Emplacement and even Grenade Launchers. Thankfully our Lara hasn’t become some kind of crazed American gun-nut, carving a path of destruction and making everyone sorry she had Electronic Theatre Imagea traumatic childhood: she just has an easier time killing the mercenaries that peculiarly turn up at pretty much every location she visits. Despite this, combat is still the weakest part of the game and hasn’t been refined as much as other aspects. It is competent and breaks-up the adventuring well without having an adverse effect to the game’s quality. At close-quarters the combat becomes even more rewarding thanks to a selection of Special Moves; when locked onto an enemy from a distance, you can roll around and back-flip to avoid fire, but when you get up close you can knock your foe to the floor with a swift kick, be it from standing or sliding, and even more satisfyingly, you can jump onto a bad guy and enter a Bullet-Time flip, filling him, and the guy next to him, with lead before you hit the ground. It’s still a complete pain in the arse to kill animals, though.

The story unfolds through the game at pace, never stuttering and at points even pits you against interactive Cut-Scenes – a lá Resident Evil 4 – where you have to quickly react to on-screen prompts to keep the young Countess of Abbingdon alive and in one-piece. Your search for one of history’s most elusive blades takes you to Japan, Africa, South America and even back to England – oh, and you can even head into Croft Manor for a spot of exploration. However, the chances are you’ll spend quite a bit of time re-exploring every location in the game, as you can uncover a number of Collectable items in each, unlocking new costumes, secrets and extra features. Sadly the game itself will only take you between ten and twelve hours to finish off; the unofficially agreed length for story-driven titles within the industry.

The game throws in an extra twist with some surprisingly fun motorbike sections that involve chasing and killing at high-speed. The fun may be simple and short-lived, mainly involving racing at full pelt with the fire button held down while occasionally steering to pick up Health Packs or take an alternate path. These may prove to be contentious additions for die-hard fans, but they’re enjoyable and short enough that they don’t feel unwelcome.

One of the most puzzling additions to the game has to be Lara’s new friends – her constant radio companion and logistics man Zip, and her research assistant Alistair. While the two do provide some extra voices to dispel the feeling of isolation, to be perfectly honest they add very little to the experience. You don’t even get to know why they’re working for Lara, or learn much about them at all – a solitary moment where it’s assumed many of the players are die-hard Tomb Raider fans. That said, all of the Voice Acting is superb – especially that of the lovely Keeley Hawes as Lara – and both the music and sound effects are top-notch.

Electronic Theatre ImageOne of the concessions Crystal Dynamics has made to the game is a slight simplification of the puzzles, which otherwise feel quite grand in scale. The result is a number of intuitive logic and physics-related puzzles, such as flipping boxes up onto a higher ledge via a see-saw or racing back and forth to pull a statue’s arms free from their restraints. The puzzles are at most moderately difficult, and no doubt fans will take issue with this fact. Boss battles, too, are somewhat simplistic affairs, leaving you to either pump your foe full of lead or use the environment to do them harm.      They’re not particularly original and only offer brief respite from the puzzle solving, but thankfully quite rare in Lara Croft; Tomb Raider: Legend.

One thing no-one will have a problem with is just how good the game looks. While the Xbox360 release may benefit from occasional next-gen effects, the Xbox version still manage to impress with their stunning attention to detail. Crystal Dynamics has finally made Lara into the female Indiana Jones she’s always threatened to be, and even managed to fill the game with memorable moments, such as an incident with a motorbike on the rooftops of Japan, swan diving off a high-cliff into a lake, and even base jumping into the middle of a combat zone. Lara Croft; Tomb Raider: Legend – while not quite a classic – is a fantastic return to former glory after years of falling standards and half-arsed sequels. The Croft family’s honour has been restored with a game that’s a triumph of design, adventure and good old fashioned fun that gamers have always loved.Electronic Theatre Image






















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