Review by Acid Round
"Lara returns, but is the series running dry? Not on this evidence"
Lara Croft. A name that we all know too well. Since she was first bought to our attention in the very first Tomb Raider game 5 years ago she has become the most recognizable game character in console history. 5 years on, 4 sequels later and after gracing the cover of numerous magazines, people seem to have forgotten exactly what started the Lara phenomenom: The Tomb Raider games themselves.
The first Tomb Raider was, and still is, one of the finest games ever made. It changed the face of adventure games completely.
The sequels have varied greatly in terms of quality and most have never really lived up to the standards of the first game. That is, until now.
Tomb Raider:The Last Revelation (or Tomb Raider 4, if you like) is the fourth game in the series and is something of a return to the roots of the original game.
Set entirely in Egypt, the story is based around Lara finding an ancient artefact that unfortunately for her, releases an evil being intent on destroying the world. Being the tough nut that she is, off she goes to try and put things right.
Setting the game entirely in Egypt, was a wise move for game designers Core, as it brings back that Claustrophobic feel that everyone loved in the first game.
Alot of the levels in Tomb Raiders 2 and 3 were set out in the open air and although this was a nice refreshing touch, people (including myself) soon realised they actually prefered the idea of being closed in as it gave the game a creepy atmosphere. Its true that alot of the levels in TR:LR have parts where Lara is in the open, but as you delve further in to any given level you will find yourself feeling very closed in indeed.
Core very much seem to follow the ''if it ain't broke, don't fix it'' method, as you will notice while playing the game and although this isn't an extremly bad thing, it can be a little predictable at times.
The one big change though is the change in the scale of the levels. In the last game (TR3) the sheer size of the levels made life very difficult for even the hardcore Tomb Raider fans. More often then not you were left wondering exactly which way you were supposed to turn and what you had to do next. In certain levels, it was only by sheer chance that you would stumble upon the solution to a problem.
Most of that has changed in TR:LR and although the levels are still huge, the solution to any given problem is sure to be found within close range of your position.
The puzzles throughout the game do test your brain (and your patience) but they aren't usually so difficult that you have to give up. Sure, the puzzles aren't that original (the standard find-item-to-open-door type thing) but fans of the original Tomb Raider will be very pleased with them.
In terms of actually controlling Lara, there are no real suprises at all. All of the usual moves are there (crawl, sprint, climb etc) the only real new addition is that Lara can now climb and swing on ropes. But just how many more moves can Lara perform anyway? She already has about 30.
Laras weaponary is the usual selection of guns and what not, but the inventory system has changed quite a bit.
Gone are the ring of items that we all know so well and in comes a, well, line of items instead. It makes a change, but its hardly the most practical thing in the world, espeically when you have over 20 items and you have to flick through the list everytime to find the item that you want, which becomes VERY tiresome after a while.
However, there a couple of new items that make a welcome addition. Items such as the Binoculars and the Lasersight, which can be attached to certain weapons, allow you to home in on enemies and shoot them before they even have a chance to see you. Sound a little too easy? Well think again because although its easy enough to home in on an enemy, actually trying to shoot them is another matter altogether.
Yes, when you home in on an enemy, the auto-aim feature does not exist and so you spend ages wasting valuable ammo. Its at times like that when you wonder why you don't just go straight up to the damn thing and blow its brains out the easy way, even if you do risk taking some damage.
Enemies pose a different problem aswell. Certain enemies can only be destroyed in certain ways. At one point in the game I spent ages mindlessly shooting at something wondering why the damn thing wouldn't die. So I decided to switch to a different weapon and I found that this kind of half killed it, then the solution was obvious. Its very furstrating, but the relief is so great when you know what you have to do.
Being the fourth game in the series, Core decided to ditch the training level set in Laras English mansion. That dosen't mean there are no training levels though. The first two levels of the game allow you to control a teenage Lara who is being guided by her mentor Verner Von Croy. Its completely different to previous training levels but it works in the same way. You work your way through the level with Verner guiding you on how to make Lara perform certain moves. The sarcastic remarks they both make are pretty funny aswell.
If it wasn't for the stunning graphics in the game, you would often be left wondering which Tomb Raider game you are actually playing. The graphics are some of the best seen on the Playstation and really push the console to its limits. The lighting effects are fantastic and even the small things such as water dripping off Lara when she's wet, make a huge difference.
The only real big flaw is the camera angle. It can often switch to horribly uncomfortable positions that leave you staring at a screen of pixellated colours and by the time you get Lara back in view she may already have been squashed, stabbed, speared etc.
However, there are many other marvellous moments in this stunning game. The music at times is the most hauntingly beautiful ever heard in any game and of course there are the vehicles in which Lara can drive to add to the games variety.
But surely the thing that sets it apart from most adventure games is the fantastic FMV cut-scenes. They really are mind blowing with graphics to die for. In previous TR games the story was updated vaguely in places, but in TR:LR you are kept up to date with the storyline, sometimes in the middle of a level. The way the game blends into cut-scenes is superbly done.
But judging by the games title is this Laras last ever outing in a game? Don't be silly, Tomb Raider Chronicles is almost ready for release and with plans for more Tomb Raider games on Playstation 2, I think we'll be seeing alot more of leggy Lara yet.
Still, this is possibly her best adventure ever on the original Playstation and since it will soon be available for a measly £20, theres nothing to stop you buying it, is there?
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/15/00, Updated 11/15/00
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