Review by Nightfall

"This gold version makes up for some of TR 3's shortcomings"

Tomb Raider: The Lost Artifact for PC is the game that I wish Tomb Raider 3 had been for the Playstation. The Lost Artifact is basically the ''Gold'' version of TR 3, with 5 new levels in addition to the home training level, and it is minus most of the faults that made TR 3 such a nasty game on the Playstation. A couple of these faults are corrected by virtue of the game's PC format. For example, you don't have to worry about the game being as dark as TR 3 was because you can just crank up the gamma level. Also, there is no worrying about when and where to save as there was in TR 3, because you have an infinite number of saves at your disposal with several save slots. Hallelujah. (Anyone who has played TR 3 for the PSX knows what I'm talking about). But probably the most important flaw in TR 3 that has been mostly remedied in The Lost Artifact is the difficulty level. TR 3 was just over-the-top, throw-your-Playstation-out-the-window difficult (although the PC version was much more merciful), but the difficulty level in Lost Artifact has been toned down enough that the game is actually playable, except for one, fairly brief spot in the game where the developers had a TR 3 relapse (that level was Willard's Lair). Overall I was very pleased with this game in the graphics, control, level design, and sound departments, although it does have a rather ridiculous ending that gave me Spyro the Dragon flashbacks.

Let it be said that I am a newbie to computer gaming, and I consider it somewhat of a miracle that I got this game to run flawlessly on my computer at all. I know very little about all the various components and configurations that enable a game to run well on a PC. So I won't be able to tell you a lot of crap about what configuration the game runs best under, or what drivers you need to have, or if a certain graphics card will make Lara come to life and pop out of the screen. What I can tell you is that I used a Gravis Gamepad Pro controller which worked beautifully. I have a Pentium 3 866 with a Geforce 2 graphics card, and the game ran without a hitch. I did experience a little texture dropout in one of the early levels, but that problem didn't persist further on into the game. So there's my techy advice.

I really liked the variety in the different level designs. The environments are varied enough to keep your interest. From mad Dr. Willard's Scottish estate, to an underground subway system, to a zoo, to strange, alien-looking catacombs where the walls have faces, this game makes sure you don't feel like you're repeating the same level over again. And all the levels have a spooky, almost horror-movie feel to them, because after all we're dealing with genetically altered creatures here. As far as the gameplay mechanics go, really nothing much has changed, which is one of the great complaints people often have about the Tomb Raider series. You do basically all the things you've done in past Tomb Raider games. One thing I did notice though was there seemed to be a little less combat in Lost Artifact than there was in TR 3, and most of the combat really isn't that challenging. None of the puzzles were all that difficult either. The gameplay is more linear than TR 3 was, so you're not wandering around forever wondering what in the heck to do next, which is nice. But don't expect to have an easy time finding all the secrets. Of the fifteen secrets in the game, I found nine of them on my own. I saw in an interview that the secrets in this game were supposed to be more than just power-ups; that they were supposed to reveal secrets about the history of famous things like the Loch ness Monster and Joan of Arc. Well, apparently I didn't find any of those, because all the secrets I found were power-up stashes, although they were stashed in some pretty cool locations.

Although I have not played many computer games, I do think that the graphics in Lost Artifact are very good. I ran the game at 640 x 480 resolution and I was very happy with the visuals. As I mentioned before, there was one level in the game (I think it was Willard's Lair) in which there was quite a bit of texture dropout, but I don't know if that had to do with my graphics card or just programming mistakes on the part of the developer. The Tomb Raider series has always been plagued by disappearing walls and such, so it's really not a major issue. There is some very creepy and effective light sourcing in the last level of the game. I don't care what they say--dead people's eyes shouldn't be emitting a red glow.

On the issue of control, the game controlled beautifully with my Gravis Gamepad Pro, which is an exact copy of the Playstation controller, minus the analog sticks. I didn't even have to touch the keyboard. Of course, Lara herself still has the same old control issues that she's had in every other Tomb Raider game. One of these issues involves the movement of the camera. When Lara aims at an enemy, the camera locks onto and follows that target until the lock is broken. Since Lara contols like a remote control car (ie., up on the D-pad or arrow keys is ALWAYS run forward), this erratic camera movement can make it hard to do with Lara what you want to, since the camera isn't simply tagging along behind her anymore. The camera has always been a bit of a problem in the Tomb Raider games, but after a while it's something you get used to. For a new player, however, it can be a bit frustrating.

I was very pleased with the sound in the game, but one thing you have to remember about sound in Tomb Raider games is that in between episodes of action, when you're wandering around trying to figure out what to do next, all you're going to be hearing is Lara's footsteps. If you're a horrible player and spend a lot of time wandering around doing nothing, then you're going to be hearing nothing but footsteps a lot. I thought the music sounded great, and the sounds for the different weapons were cool, especially the MP5. But the best sound of all in the game (SPOILER AHEAD!) has to be Sophia's laughter in the final level as she tries to fry your butt with her super laser-shooter-staff-thingy.

I stated earlier that the game has a ridiculous ending, and if I was allowed to give it away on this site I would, but I can't, so I won't. I'll just say this: if you want to see something that has absolutely no business being in a Tomb Raider game, then complete the final level. You'll think you are hallucinating. But despite this corny ending, I thought overall the game was one of the better Tomb Raider games I've played. If you're trying to choose between Tomb Raider 3 and The Lost Artifact, choose The Lost Artifact. It succeeds in cleaning up TR 3's mess a bit.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 08/16/02, Updated 08/16/02

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