Review by KrayzieGuy86
"The house of Blood Omen put Tomb Raider back on the map"
...and it's about damn time!
After a trio of mediocre to straight-garbage installments in the series (The Last Revelation, Chronicles, Angel of Darkness), the franchise was in serious peril. However, Eidos Interactive finally had enough and relieved Core of their duties in charge of the game + the franchise they created, and instead gave the development reins to Crystal Dynamics of Blood Omen (all of them), Gex, and Pandemonium! fame.
This move undoubtedly has saved the TR franchise, barring some sort of total boycott of the game for some reason. lol. There's no way in hell this game will fail (critically & publicly). It's a surefire hit, and with very good reason.
After a cheesy intro video, the main menu pops up showcasing the menu format of the game (simplistic), as well as an up-close model of Lara to the right of the screen. In the background, you are given a view of the locale you are currently playing in. I.E. If you're in the beginning of the game, you will see Bolivia. If you're somewhere else, save, exit, and then load up again, you will see that locale + outfit on Lara, instead.
Anyway, the menu is coupled with a stunning main theme that rivals even that of Metal Gear Solid fame. Incredible. But, we'll get into that later.
The GUI is fairly lacking of any real flair, though, but does what it's set out to do.
I'm running the game on a 7600GT, and the game runs flawlessly (never drops below 60FPS) with everything enabled + on high, except the "Next-Gen content" enabled (real-time shadows + lighting, bump mapping, and higher polygon models). However, when ANYONE (at this point) turns it on, the game lags very bad every time a new area is loaded on-the-fly. Otherwise, it's playable... until you reach a new area/room/something.
So, the conclusion with that is that the game's "Next-Gen content" is poorly optimized for the computer at the moment. I find it hard to believe that most high-end computers (including mine) can run Oblivion faster + visually better than a 360, yet a 360 runs TR:L with the "Next-Gen content" enabled better than our computers. Yeah... right! I'll be looking forward to a patch and/or new driver releases to fix this issue.
But anyway, the game looks fantastic, regardless. With the NG content, though, Lara displays a sort of a plastic feel. Either way, the game looks great, no matter if you can run it with or without NG content.
Stunning. Absolutely stunning. The main theme is fantastic, the ambient sounds during the game are incredible, and just about everything else dealing with sound is top-notch. My only complaint is that sometimes when Lara's speaking during a gunfight, I simply can't hear what is being said and conversed to the guys back in her Manor. But, it's understandable.
I can't sing the sound's praise enough, you'll have to play it to hear it. But, make sure you play with some surround sound. The sounds of temple walls cracking around you will stun you.
And this, my friends, is where Tomb Raider: Legend shines. Think Prince of Persia with a modern twist (guns and some industrial areas).
Although the game is extremely linear, with the only "other" paths leading to secrets and unlockable items, the gameplay is still fantastic and a breath of fresh air for the series.
Again, there's only one or two paths to the way you have to go, and it's more-or-less the same thing with a small or tougher twist (ledges that break off within 5 seconds, etc.). Still, the POP-like gameplay is a welcome change in the TR franchise, as opposed to the original game's "jump here, do this puzzle, shoot a few baddies, make a few long jumps, do another puzzle, repeat".
The gunplay in this game can leave a lot to be desired, however. It's ridiculously easy, and I never died once to an enemy on the hardest setting (with exception to bosses). Still, it's wholly engaging, but can leave a bit to be desired when it comes to strategy and AI.
The puzzles are your standard Tomb Raider fare (you know... moving boxes, pulling levers/switches, etc.), with some new kinds of puzzles that relate back to the POP-like gameplay.
Overall, I'd say this entry has the best gameplay in the series to date. Unfortunately, however, the action is over way too quick, as the game clocks in at an average of 9 hours of playtime per person. Fortunately, there's some things to do here and there (collectibles) to unlock everything possible in the game, but that only extends playtime by a mere fraction of the overall playtime...
To be honest, I stopped playing Tomb Raider games seriously after Tomb Raider III, and I never got into the games afterwards (I'd play them once and walk away), so I'm not entirely sure what the story's about anymore (especially the ones after TRIII), but TR:L focuses on an event in Lara's past, that follows her into the present, even after she has gotten over it ("you must move on with the past in order to live in the future").
I don't want to give anything away, but although the overall plot is simplistic, it can be complicated at times (in the middle) and have you wondering "why am I here?" in some locations (Kazakhstan).
In the end, the story ends on a bit of a sour note, but leaves the game open for a sequel that is sure to be even better... as long as Crystal Dynamics is developing again.
I'd say this is one of the (if not THE best entry) in the Tomb Raider series. I simply can't get over how much this game blew me away. I was not expecting this to be that good AT ALL, and it obviously surpassed and destroyed my preconceptions of the game.
In any case, any fans of the action-adventure/platform genre should definitely pick up this game and give it a try. You won't regret it, I guarantee it.
Lara's back, fellas!!!
Kudos to Crystal Dynamics for resurrecting a seemingly dead franchise, and Eidos for relieving Core of the duty.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/12/06
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