Review by pandaramaster

Reviewed: 04/06/07

Those who look past Lara Croft will find a superbly designed game filled with intelligence

Lara Croft is a household name. Lara Croft is one of the few game characters to achieve such a status. Many have criticised that Tomb Raider is mainly about a big breasted lady, but look past that and you'll find an amazing game from start to finish. Debuting over 10 years ago the original Tomb Raider is still revered to be the best one and I agree.

The story is pretty basic in Tomb Raider; popcorn filmic is a way to describe it. After Lara Croft returns from an expedition in the Himalayas, she is contacted by Jacqueline Natla, a conniving businesswoman who convinces Lara to recover a mysterious artefact from the tomb of Qualopec in Peru. Wasting no time, Lara sets out on her quest to find one of the three pieces of the ancient Atlantean Scion, a talisman of incredible power. It has the usual twists and turns, and so what if it's basic? It's highly enjoyable and more than fits into the atmosphere and nature of the game!

Before you start the main adventure, I suggest you get acquainted with the controls in Lara's Home. It's a perfect tutorial level in getting use to the dynamic, and at the time, convoluted control system. Well, I say convoluted, everything clicks into place after a few minutes of controlling Lara. Soon you'll be doing all manner of things from jumping, climbing and swimming. That's when you're ready for the main quest. The only thing missing from the tutorial is weapon training, something you have to learn as you play the main adventure. I always found that to be a bit strange and not very helpful. Anyway, I digress, back to the game.

Controlling Lara is a bit cumbersome at first. She controls like a tank. You have to swivel her on a spot to make her turn. Of course, once you're more adept to this way of control you barely notice it and it troubles you no longer. The one thing that will grate is the jumping. Jumping is all fine and dandy, but when you have to make a precise jump things take a turn for the worst. You have to get it spot on, carefully lining yourself up and judging if you need to hold onto X to grab the far away ledge. I reckon about after an hour, maybe less, you'll find a way round this and it starts to play a little better. Still, there's the odd missed jump here and there. The majority of the exploration is handled really well if truth be told. Swimming, climbing, running and the graceful walking becomes second nature and most of all; it's actually fun to explore the many wonderful caves and tombs. Like I said, there's the odd hindrance when you have difficulty judging the distance of the jump or get lost when you're submerged in water. But that's just the trial and error nature of the game. It wouldn't be so bad if it wasn'’t for the harsh save system. Spread out through the levels are blue crystals that can only be used once, and believe me, they're spread out a bit too far. It's annoying when you have to do what you've already done a dozen times because of one tiny, but life threatening, mistake. It may frustrate a few gamers, but at least you can actually progress.

Another aspect of Tomb Raider a gamer may not like is the vague puzzles. I say vague, what I really mean is the solutions to the puzzles are vague. You could spend an hour, maybe 2, just trying to figure out what the heck you're meant to do. However, in spite of the vague solution to the puzzles when you do solve it, it's actually quite satisfying. Sometimes though, the solutions could be so in your face the whole time you couldn't see it. Now that's infuriating! But the exploration and puzzles are the strongest point of this game; things aren't so great with the combat.

Don't get me wrong; the acrobatic gunplay was unheard of at the time. It's great jumping around, doing back flips while firing twin pistols. It's still exhilarating. That's not the problem. The problem is the troublesome lock on. The reason why it's so troublesome is because locks on automatically to the nearest. What's wrong with that, I hear you say? Well, try switching between different enemies. You can't. Well you can, sort of. But it's too cumbersome to be of any practical use or advantage in battle, you have to keep circling around or holstering and drawing your weapons constantly. Also, though the manoeuvring of Lara Croft works well in exploration they're not so hot during combat. There are virtually no evasive moves, except one. The jumping. Except the camera goes AWOL if you're backed against the corner and you're constantly jumping to avoid the enemy. Also, pivoting on the spot to turn during the heat of the battle is well, not disastrous surely, just frustrating. Of course, I may be contradicting myself here but after awhile you start to adapt to the shortcomings of the game and everything sort of works, however. You shouldn't have to adapt to the flaws of the game, but in spite of all that the game is just great fun to play.

Tomb Raider may not be the graphical showcase it once was anymore. But you have to admit, the sense of scale and isolation is brilliant. Especially since it's coming from a 10 old year game. The caverns scream with ambient silence. They feel old, decrepit, and derelict and there's an actual feeling of fear when you explore into the unknown. The caves and vast tombs are grandeur in detail and atmosphere, though they may not look it, are. What is surprising is how isolated and alone Lara Croft really is, but all this embodies to this epic, believable and compelling world. The environments have aged reasonably well, though when you look at the character models that are a different story.

Let's discuss Lara first, get her out the way. Yes, she's very well "built". No, I lie. Her animations and movement is top notch but her actual model hasn't aged well. Her hair doesn't move her legs and arms aren't natural looking. And dare I say it; her breasts could literally have someone's eye out! They're that pointy! But I do remember this is a 10 year old game and yes, the technology was primitive back in the day so it's unfair to merely downgrade the graphics simply because it's 10 years old. The enemy models are much more primitive (not in a good way) the tigers, wolves and dinosaurs all look like origami models. They're not as fierce as they once were, I'm afraid to say.

Many have criticised the sound in Tomb Raider, but personally, I think it's fantastic. The most memorable piece of music is perhaps the calming and chilled out menu music that's become a stable in the Tomb Raider universe (the Playstation era of course). The game's actual in game soundtrack is great as well. It really adds to the tension and excitement because it swells up and becomes more engaging in battle or running from a boulder, for example. It's one of the first games to use an interactive soundtrack, a soundtrack that responds to the player's actions. It's handled really well, but it just lacks a little variety. The voice acting for Lara and others in FMVs is handled reasonably well. Lara Croft is typically English, and the baddies all have acceptable, with somewhat stereotypical, voice acting. The sound effects are a bit weak, the roaring of the animals have this uncomfortable delay when they appear and gun shots are a teeny bit weak and a little muffled.

Tomb Raider's lifespan generally depends on how well you progress through the game. Some levels are about 10 minutes; others could last up to an hour. There are 15 levels in all, spanning 4 distinct areas of the world. I would estimate the game could take anything between 20-30 hours on the first play through, maybe a little less if you're really good. There's dozens of secrets to discover, but little else to go back to. Perhaps you could try to beat your personal time through a particular level to see if you can complete it quicker, but that's about it really.

Tomb Raider is a highly influential title because:
1) It redefined the Playstation as a must own console.
2) Enticed new gamers to the industry
3) Made a female as its lead.
4) Realistic 3-D environments unheard of before in a game console.

You may not agree with those points, but I can't list every reason! But the point is, Tomb Raider is still a brilliant game after all these years. It's evolved, sometimes changed for the better, and sometimes not. But Tomb Raider fans still regard this as the finest Tomb Raider title ever made and it's totally understandable. It may not play as well as its sequels. It may not have the graphical polish of later sequels and other games have since succeeded this. But what those games lack is the magic that made this so special. It was unlike anything else, and it captures the spirit of Tomb Raider perfectly. And no other game has ever achieved that. It may look primitive, it may play primitive but this is still a fine game and is worthy of a purchase and play. Buy it.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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