Three years have passed since Lara and Eidos were laughed at by pretty much the entire gaming industry as they released TR: Angel of Darkness. At the time, it looked like Tomb Raider had run its course and deserved to be locked up in its own tomb. The days of Lara being at the top of her game were gone, as were the block pushing puzzles and the mind-boggling secrets.
Then came the biggest announcement of 2005…Lara Croft would be back to her best! Eidos had taken Lara back to her roots [What’s this got to do with her hair? —Ed] and the puzzles were back…oh and she’d be on the 360 as well. So come Friday 7th April when Ms Croft knocked on my door (Ok, it was the postman, but its close enough!) I couldn’t help but instantly stick Tomb Raider Legend into my Xbox 360 to see whether she was truly back to her breast…’err I mean best.
TR: Legend starts off with a “mission impossible” style intro, with some stunning visuals. Croft is leaping about cliff faces, with no climbing gear of course, and instantly you can tell that the 360 version of TR is going to rock your socks in terms of graphics. But let’s be honest, it’s not just about graphics right? Well maybe it is in terms of what all lonely gamers want Lara to look like, but there has to be some sort of gameplay element to the game.
Luckily, there is. Animations in TR: Legend are fluid, and in some cases, damn right sexy! Lara has, as always, improved on her agility skills with new leaping and climbing moves to keep you on your toes. These new moves will obviously help you as you progress throughout the game, as you’ll have to do quite a lot of climbing and working out where to go. That’s the genius about TR: Legend. Although there are gun fights, and they can be somewhat intense, the game doesn’t focus on them. It’s a very simple shooting system of holding the right trigger to shoot, and locking onto your targets with the right analog stick. The focus is more on the puzzles and exploring aspect. You have to fully utilise all of Lara’s skills (and your own thinking ability) to solve puzzles.
If you’re an avid Tomb Raider fan, then the puzzles won’t take you too long to work out, although some of them do require you to sit back, check out the entire room and work out the solution, which is nice. If you’ve never played TR or you’ve barely touched the puzzle aspects of TR (E.g. if you’ve played only the later Tomb Raider titles) then you may find yourself scratching your head and looking for tips online on how to solve some of the later puzzles, as they can be quite tricky.
A new aspect to Tomb Raider is the grapple tool. By simply pressing X you can launch a grapple onto objects and pull them. This is handy as the new physics system means that certain puzzles will require you to use the weight of boxes, or simple gravity laws, to open doors or bring down needed tools.
As with all Tomb Raiders, there is a story involved. Lara is basically travelling the world, looking for parts to an artefact (a sword) which her mother used (and died from) when she was younger. I don’t want to give away the ending to the game, but let’s just say it’s a) annoying b) opened it up for a sequel.
In some ways however, it feels that maybe Eidos were trying too hard. Certain sections of the game sometimes feel slightly repetitive, as you find yourself leaping between cliff faces for the fourth time in a row. The motorbike levels are also annoying. There are two or three different occasions where Lara decides to hop on a conveniently placed bike, and ride off, shooting enemies who are also on bikes and leaping across bridges. The first time you play it, its good fun, and a nice addition to the game. The second time you play it, you start to ask why you’re playing the same section again, but with different scenery. By the third time, you’ve pretty much had enough of the vehicle aspect of the game, and you want to hurry it up and get off. Ok, maybe that’s slightly harsh, but in all honesty, the motorbike levels seem like a nice idea, but are quite repetitive. Happily though, they don’t come up too often, and you’ll quickly find yourself back onto the cliff face.
Another aspect of the game that is lacking is the swimming. There isn’t a huge amount of swimming involved in the game, which is a shame. Lara looks fantastic in the water, and she swims very realistically. There weren’t really very many puzzles in the game that required you to be under the water, but when you were, it felt a lot like the originals — which was nice. The major gripe with the swimming was the camera. It was as if the camera was obsessed with Lara more than the scenery, making it very hard to see where to go underwater, as the camera was a bit too close to Lara herself. I guess in a way it’s good that there wasn’t too much swimming as we’d have probably complained about the lack of vision underwater.
The real element of genius is Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend are the small touches. The little animation tweaks, the way Lara leaps between each cliff face and the overall smoothness of the game brought a tear to my eye. Even when you get out the water, it takes a while for Lara to try off, and it really looks like Lara has just jumped out of the water. Draw your guns and roll about dodging bullet fire, and you’ll notice Lara gets dusty, even during the cut-scenes!
Tomb Raider: Legend took me just over 5 hours of gaming to complete, which is a slight disappointment. The game is very addictive, and enjoyable to play, but in some cases it was quite short. Ok, so you have the option of going back and playing the levels again in time trial mode, which is basically the same level but you have to do it quickly, or you can go back and take your time, looking for the secret ‘rewards’ that are hidden throughout the levels — but the actual rewards themselves aren’t as big as you would have wanted for the amount of time and effort put in to finding the secrets.
A few costume changes, some character bio’s and one or two extra interesting cheats aren’t really much of a reward… which brings the longevity score down somewhat.
However, Lara is back, and she’s very good! It’s about time Eidos pulled Lara back to her best, and brought the things we loved most about the original, the puzzles! The simplified shooting system, along with the fantastic visuals and awesome small touches make this game well worth the money spent on it, even it it’s slightly shorter than we would have hoped. If you liked the original Tomb Raiders, then you will absolutely love this game.