Review by ABrea

"While Billie has "Honey to the B", this game is Rotten to the CORE!"

Lara Croft.

What goes on your mind when you hear that name? To me, it reminds me of a fearless, strong and agile heroine, exploring huge ancient ruins, chubby silicone polygons, the smell of gun powder and the excitement of item/treasure collecting.

After the triumphant original and the more-of-the-same-but-still-kinda-fun sequel, the third edition is pretty disappointing.

Just when you thought that Lara has done it all, the call for adventure and the mystical treasures has lured her to India, where the Infada Stone, a unique, out of this world existence awaits.

Upon obtaining the sacred stone, new info began to stream in, hinting the existence of other similar objects of extraterrestrial origin were once found in the icy continent of Antarctica. It was believed that certain objects of this nature had been brought to this world by the crash of a meteorite centuries ago. First discovered by the British sailors of the 19th century, these objects were to be carried back to their homeland. However, a ghastly supernatural phenomenon occured, caused the artefacts to drift apart towards the various corners of the world.

In Lara's new adventure, the lure of the artefacts will take her around the world. Core has implemented a new “Free Scenario System” where upon the completion of the introduction stages at India, you'll be given the choice of the next 3 destinations and you can complete them in any order you like. Different destinations will lead Lara towards a different goal, and interesting things will happen to Lara on the path of her adventure, including encountering mystic Voodoos, the bizarre Immortals, pursed by an assassin or even get thrown in jail. The types of level varies from deserts, snowfield, temples and an old subway station, so it's unlikely that you'll get bored from the lack of variety. My complaint in this category is the lack of plot development. Cut scenes are VERY rare, and FMVs are also impossible to find after the initial India stages. The plot almost nonexistent in certain stages.

Graphically, the game is much detailed compared to the originals. Most of the polygons are much smoother, and Core has implemented triangular floor tiles this time. The frame rates remains decent inside dungeons, but drops horribly when Lara ventures outside so Lara fans, keep a packet of Asprin near your PlayStation. The lighting effects are a HUGE improvement over the originals. The light given off from gunshots are now much “smoother” rather than feeling “solid” like in TR2, but the bad thing about it is that the luminous effects of gunshots don't last as long to provide adequate lighting, which brings me to my next point.

A majority of the levels (especially indoors) are covered by darkness, with poor lighting elements and they're rare and far between. When I say “dark”, I mean _really_ dark, you cannot see a thing, so you'll neither have to wonder through the darkness or be forced to use Flares, poor lighting tools introduced in TR2. Flares are, IMO, the worst feature to be introduced in the TR series. They're sorta rare, provides only decent lighting to a poor radius, don't last long and Lara cannot hold onto both a gun and a Flare, which makes enemy encounters in darkness more of a pain than usual. There was nothing wrong with the lighting in the original TR. This brings me to the conclusion of (and I must quote my friend Happy Matt who said the same thing about TR2) “Why spend so much money on a game just to stare at a black screen?”

Compare that with Silent Hill, which doesn't necessarily have the best graphics but you can still see your surroundings in those night scenes, even with the torch turned off!

Core titles has always excelled in the sound department. The voice acting are excellent, like the previous TRs and contains some of Lara's best quotes! (My favourite is “……Thanks…” and “Happy retirement.”) The music is again, great and fits the surroundings nicely, with a mixture of heart-thumping new tunes and original ones that brings back memories. Sound effects are pretty good, since it'll be the only thing you hear throughout the majority of the game.

When game play is concerned, it's back to the same-old same-old that any TR veterans will feel familiar with. Lara does have a few new moves though, such as the monkey climb, sluggish craw and the fast sprint. However, with the new moves, it also means that new and demanding puzzles involving them will be added to tailor those moves. If you hate timed switches (I do) then sorry, better keep a punch bag near you since many of them will acquire the use of her sprint to complete, which is much of a pain when the narrow corridor comes to a corner. The problem with the monkey climb is that you cannot look beneath you when you're hanging from the ceiling, so sometimes you'll drop down a pit or whatever. Also, Lara will automatically fall when she goes over the edges, which is another pain in the butt since it's sometimes very hard to distinguish what can or cannot be climbed.

One of the most frustrating elements comes from the shear volume of instant death traps: razor sharp grass/glass/spikes, boulder rolls, pitfalls, long drops, you name it, are about the only thing you see in certain levels. Couple that with the new save system, you'll really have a recipe that will not only give a heart attack to senior citizens, but regular healthy citizens too.

Talking about the save system, remember how convenient the “save anywhere” system in TR2 was when nature's callin' or whatever? Yup, they've taken perfectly good save system and combined it with the save crystals in the original, forming the new system, in which save anywhere is permitted, but only at the cost of a Save Crystal in your inventory. Save Crystals can be collected at various points during the level, apart of the level's Secrets and are given to you at the start of the game. Well, there sure isn't enough of them. I mean, the save system worked fine in the original because the levels were much smaller (so you'll always have the feeling of “There should be another crystal when I make it past this corridor”) and their ain't as many death traps. This is the most annoying during the London stages since you're basically playing “roof hopping” with Lara in a cat suit, during the night and you'll never know which tiles are “stable” and which ones are “slippery”.

What else... Oh yeah, vehicles. Lara will get the chance to play with a land-rover bike, a kayak, mine cart whatever... They are really bad addition to the game because their controls are horrible, so you'll be falling off the narrow bridges into Pandemonium every now and then (only forced to go back a long loooooong way since you haven't saved in a while.)

Other new things worth mentioning (and criticizing) is that Lara can be poisoned in this game. Snakes and poison blow darts all carry poison. When Lara gets poisoned her life bar will turn yellow and starts to deplete slowly. A Medikit item will remove the status and restores lost health at the same time. While snakes can be easily detected and avoided, blow dart throwers (both human and mechanical) cannot. This is the major problem during the Pacific Island levels since there are so many dart traps and human dart throwers can see Lara before she can see them (and they have the range.) Your Medikit supply will go down really quick, leaving you at the boss without much ways of healing yourself.

Another good point in this game is that sometimes, certain bosses cannot be defeated by switching to bigger guns, or even rocket! You need to think of other ways to take them down, which is good and refreshing from the previous titles, although it sometimes gives the gamer much frustration in looking for a way which getting blasted by big guns and fiery explosions.

Core attempted the implementation of Analogue and Dual Shock controls, but neither was very good. It's completely pointless to control Lara with a stick, since the grasp is very loose, and you can easily fall off a cliff when you tilt the stick just a little too much. I don't know about you, but it didn't have _any_ vibration effect with my version of the game.

So all in all, Tomb Raider 3 is interesting to look at but extremely frustrating to play with. The difficulty will turn off even masters of the previous games in the series, and you REALLY need a guide if you want to play through this game. I gave this game a 6 because the game play is still there, and it's every bit as engrossing and exciting as the previous, especially with the new places to explore, but the system is rough and unpolished, a disappointment because it can score a very high on the Annoyance Scale. Those who enjoyed the previous should rent it first, while those who are new to the series should try out the original Tomb Raider before giving this a go.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 12/18/99, Updated 12/18/99


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