Review by Fein

"This game should have been Tomb Raider's first."

Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation

If a computer game can span to it's fourth game, then it has a lot to say for itself. Though Eidos' Tomb Raider can't without mentioning it's buxom heroine, Lara Croft - the real reason why sequels have boldly sold into million's of households. And although Tomb Raider began as an innovating, original and a highly impressive concept, the sequels have only managed to give us slightly incremental changes to the things that stopped the game from being perfect. And then of course, there's Eidos' smug awareness of their greatest asset, Lara, who has overidden any recognition of their wonderful level design and Eidos' need to redesign cantankerous control mechanics and another innovating outlook in it's gameplay as the first ever Tomb Raider did. Who says we need to be thrown into countless caves, labrynths and catacombs all the time. This may have been acceptable for the first two releases but after the third, people were starting to see through the thin layer of gameplay Eidos gave us. However the fourth addition may not have much to allure us, but it does have something the 'others' didn't;

Lara Croft's first memorable adventure.

If you could, would you say that any of the other motivations for Lara trotting around the globe made any sense or was vaguely interesting? Those who have remained loyal and patient and kept the games, flicker through the instructional manual for the first ever game back in 1996. Lara Croft, disowned. Aha, tragedy! A great emotion to portray drama. Perhaps Lara being disowned is the reason why she's been so flippant about her dangerous travels. The Last Revelation bears reference to her meaty past, sordidness! Almost. Instead Eidos employ a sordid image of Lara at sweet sixteen and delve into her past with her mentor, Werner Von Croy for the opening level. Perhaps we are going to see her motivation for collecting these sought after artefacts and her current lifestyle? Totally. One of the lacking things about Lara as the supposed inspiration of her time was that you never really knew much about her personality, and you were left tugging with her expanding physical attributes.

Sweet sixteen and we arrive at possibly the first ruins Lara 'raided'. With her mentor, Werner, they both delve further into the caves and he challenges her to a race. Although this is merely to get the player used to the controls (as if they were that different), the level itself is typical Eidos' excitement. After Lara does or does not beat Werner, he is caught in some contraption that detonates the caves to suddenly rumble, Werner calls out for Lara's help but she is unable to reach him as he meets his demise, and Lara has to scramble out of the cave before she then meets hers. Then a cutscene shows Lara flinching, she had a flashback that was troubling her and now we're back in the future. Nice move Eidos, we have a more emotional Lara on our hands. And now that and the possible relevance it has to Lara's adventure in...where are we?...Egypt! It is obviously Eidos' answer to it's critics because it's an unofficial sequel and the plot isn't relegated to anything other than Lara (and this time, it's a good thing). Now, even I know it's cool to not like Lara and possibly irresistable to hate the polygon silicone she's made up with, but The Last Revelation will suprise many of those who do love and hate Lara and in the midst of her journey, you will see a different side to her. And by the very end, you'll be shocked and sympathetic for what happens to her.

The Last Revelation's premise isn't the only thing on the uppers. The graphics have been somewhat renovated in textural tone, and the pixels are very well shaded darkly in between the Egyptian tombs. The engine hasn't changed, but this game manages to give the game yet another polish to smoothen up the glitchy areas and blocky ledges. The polygons are smoother and sleek, this time outdoing usual debates of whether Lara has gotten more slender or if her breasts have gotten more bigger - but there was the overdone banter over Lara's teenage model resembling Britney Spears in the video for Baby One More Time, but amazingly, this was mostly the press. My response? Get a life. And that extends to Eidos, who just won't leave Lara's arse alone; it's getting fat. There, I said it! Now leave her alone, you torturers! Eidos have been realistic in presenting their levels -such as catacombs- and used terrifically dark and atsmopheric lighting to strike a melancholy ambience. The frame rate is also up to scratch, but more so on the console versions, suprisingly. Lara won't suddenly freeze when she's in a wide open space and there's environment movement around. Even the small detailed things as the pixelated waterfalls and weapons designs should you leave you with a watery taste in your mouth whilst awaiting for Lara to be on top form for new and better hardware. The camera angles are also improved, but have a long way to be susceptible of perfect roaming of a 3D world.

Guess what Lara can do aside from pose nude on crappy games magazines? She can now swing from ropes! Now in the opening level, it isn't a problem because a nice little pool probably filled with chlorine considering it's lovely colour is lurching below her as she tries it out for the first time but when you have to use it on advanced levels and the camera angle put's you into an awkward position and you're impeded with an unreponsive jump button and awkward timing before she can jump. The controls in general still aren't that better with the movement of Lara not being flexible enough to wander liberatingly around the 3D world Eidos have placed her in. It's as if she's on a leash. Also, combat controls are a hinderence with Lara still missing being able to strafe around an enemy although twisting and turning her to making her run in a circle like a dog with rabies has improved dramatically.

There is a new weapon with the handgun that has a scope, and when you use the scope, you realise yet another mistake made by Eidos - why not just give Lara a first person view mode that enables you to shoot with your gun also? It would help with the upgraded stealth that Eidos have employed again. To fuel the lack of enemies in the game, other than the expected glutton nibbling on your leg and a skeleton waiting to be blasted, Lara is equipped as if she's ready to take on the gestapo when she really doesn't need all that arsenal. Unsuprisingly unable to be on top of inventive ideas when concerning this series anymore, Eidos has yet again neglected to consider giving Lara a hand to hand combat system to delouse criticism that Tomb Raider is a third rate action franchise.

The Last Revelation mainly sticks to caverns, catacombs and labrynths and in turn, doesn't exceed the thrills the last game did and decides to focus on mind blending puzzles and cross examination of your surroundings such as utilising them to your advantage to get to a certain place. As always, the level design is next to flawless but it's a pity there wasn't a little more variation - especially when it comes down to boring examples of find mechanism to open the door or find keys and use them and pulling a lever and running under the closing door before it's too late. It's fair to say that the gameplay in general is the downfall of The Last Revelation because it mainly sticks to what the first game dealt with, but doesn't improve the controls to make the experience a lesser version of been there, done that. There is the sense that the engrossing story makes the gameplay so plain because they have to link the story but out of the two, it's welcoming and relieving that a good story has slipped through the barriers but the mediocre gameplay is what now fans have come to expect. It's also important to note that The Last Revelation is marred with easy difficulty because most of the difficulty has been played through the other games. Bad move, Eidos.

Managing to devoid of any criticism is the sound department. Composed expertly and superbly, you'll find the adventure scarily aural as you can sometimes hear foes and danger approaching with a net of excellent sound effects such as dripping water, snarling wolves, clanking bones, hissing scorpions, tricking waterfalls, rumbling, gunshots and even when Lara pounces, leaps and falls, the sound affects of her turn on you to make you shiver. Backed up tremendously with lighting effects, the flickering torches and the gravel tones of fire burning and the crunching footsteps as Lara walks in the amidst of silence is nothing to smile about when you're cooped in murky caverns with God knows what biled with you. Unfortunately, Eidos doesn't throw in more frights like this in the gameplay. On the music bill you have your Tomb Raider orchestra music that is timely directed when Lara has discovered an important area or when she's in a dangerous situation, the orchestra is there to clash and pound on your nerves. When the music recesses after an adrenaline rushed moment and you're left alone to ponder, the isolated feeling is both priceless and chord striking. The last end of the sound bill is the voice acting. At times, the main voice actors (Lara and Von Croy) sound a little camp but never as bad as the outrageously camp Resident Evil and even though her voice tone has been casual, there is a warmth in Lara's voice that has always been likeable. Sending arrays of maturity, sophistication and hostility, Lara's actress is much better involved here now that she has an actual storyline to get worked up about. At a time when the acting was becoming embarassing, Eidos prevail. But it's not enough.

So there you have it, Lara's first emotional journey. Aside from the norm gameplay suffering due to lack of explosiveness, The Last Revelation had all the right ingredients to win back the lost hearts of the first lady of video games. Sadly, Eidos decided not to detract the seedy publicity campaigns of exploiting Lara as some computer sex siren and during the game, it's hard to look at her without contempt and take the should be proverbial story serious. Eidos have nobody to blame but themselves. Marginally improving what they need to improve year by year will do nothing when all people are really playing Tomb Raider for is to what Lara looks like and how she graduates from each sex comparison to the actual game. Because of the fact that The Last Revelation is an unofficial sequel and in total contrast to it's predeccessors in style and approach in most areas alone, makes the game equally open to be extinguished and welcomed with open arms. Acceptable on some merits, be careful why you want to play this game.

But for people searching for a reason to either begin or toddle back into the series, The Last Revelation should be enough to deflect the shallow side of Lara Croft and transfuse you completely into a genuinely tense plot that has enough rivetting twists to keep you timidly satisfied with it's average gameplay - if the cliffhanger at the end isn't enough then there really isn't any hope for Lara. If this is Eidos' first attempt of serious storytelling, then maybe Tomb Raider and the reputation of Lara can be salvaged for a few more fun filled adventure titles although we should have seen this in the third game. However, there is no getting away with the fact that if the other titles didn't do it for you, then this series remains to be dreaded. One more game like this and the rest and Tomb Raider will indefinetly be more then teethering on the edge of being smashed into a below average territory where nobody will give Lara the time of day.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 11/02/04

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