Review by KFHEWUI

"Complex and well-designed game that was a head of its time"

Lara Croft is the heroine of the game and is an archeologist from England, and she was not always going to be an archeologist however an incident when she was twenty-one changed her fate. Her plane crashed in the Himalayas, and after surviving the ordeal, instead of living the life of high society, she traded it in to be an archeologist. A woman named Natla is interested in a relic called the Scion of Atlantis, and never one to turn down an adventure, Lara accepts the job. Lara heads off to Peru to locate the first piece.

Tomb Raider has a decent story, and there is very little story telling in the game save for a few cut scenes. Even with the few cut scenes, Tomb Raider still tells a great story through the locales, and there is a nice surprise along the way.

Starting up the game, players can jump straight into the game or run around Lara's mansion, and Lara's mansion is a tutorial that is definitely worth playing through especially for people that are new to the series. Starting a new game, shows an impressive cut scene of Lara and her guide at a gate in a mountain, and Lara climbs up to hit a button above the gate that opens it also releasing wolves in the same process. The wolves kill the guide, and Lara backflips and shoots the wolves. The whole cut scene looks great, and the characters are well designed and model. Wolves do not look that bad either, and the animation is quite impressive.

After the scene, players gain control of Lara, and the game graphics are a huge dip down from the cut scene yet they still look amazing. Lara looks great, and her model is not blocky except her chest that does look strange. The enemies do not look that bad, but they are blocky. It is really noticeable in enemies like wolves and crocodiles. Textures look great, and first area of the game is a snow covered path with wolf footprints. Some of the later levels have nice textures like the flesh textures of the Atlantis walls or weather worn textures of Egypt levels. There are some eye candy in Tomb Raider, and the save crystal reflects the scenery and Lara running by. The water looks impressive with white lines that move across the surface to get water a look of movement. Plus when Lara jumps into water, there is a blue tint that gives the look of being underwater. There is one part of the graphics that does not look so hot, and it involves the lava later in the game. The lava is blocky, and the animation is weak. A nice touch is when Lara is shooting, she will grind her teeth together and open her lips.

Controlling Lara is not too difficult with the D-Pad to control movement, but Lara can also walk by holding down "R1". The controls are very complex for a game from 1996, and it does take a while to get used too. Once the player grasps the controls, they feel second nature, and the control scheme is good. Grasping the controls is vital to success and the jumping controls are complex and include backflips, side jumps, running jump, small jump, and swan dive.

Shortly down the corridor, the player will start hearing a bomsh, bomsh sound, and arrows will fly out of the wall. Like any good tomb, the levels are packed with traps and the traps range from arrow firers, swinging axe, fire, spikes, boulders, and more. Traps are well placed, and they help keep the player on their toes to be ready in a moment to quickly dodge them.

The music in Tomb Raider is absolutely stunning and beautiful, and the soundtrack has an orchestral sound however it is completely synthesized. Nathan McCree did a fantastic job with the soundtrack, and each track fits perfectly and sometimes create and uneasy feeling. Rather it is beautiful slow and mysterious tune when Lara stumbles up on something magnificent of it is the fast and ominous sound track, the sound track never gets old. The sound effects are great except the guns which sound weak.

Each level in the game is long and complex maze like design filled with traps, enemies, and secrets, and the game uses a lot of animals for enemies including crocodiles, lions, panthers, gorillas, raptors, and wolves however there are a few human boss fights. Enemies usually do not take too much damage before dying at the beginning, but later on more dangerous foes are introduce that can take a beating before dying. Lara starts out with a pistol (has unlimited ammo), but she will eventually gain a shotgun, Uzi, and magnum (these weapons do not have unlimited ammo).

Scattered about through each level are secrets and it is not necessary to find each secret however they house ammo and health kits. The secrets are well hidden, and when a secret is found a chime plays that never gets old. Some of the secrets are not too hard to stumble upon, but others are well hidden including one level where the magnums are hidden on an invisible platform high in the sky.

Getting through each level is no easy task, and Lara will have to find keys, flip switches, move blocks, and jump sequences. Tomb Raider has some unique puzzles, and one level has Lara manipulating a set of switches to open doors where Lara can collect a brick from. Later on in the level, she will come across the hand from a Midas statue, and she must place the bricks on the hand to turn them to gold. Tomb Raider does incorporate a lot of mythology, and some of it will be obvious like the Midas level.

The most important factor to success is the jump system, and for its time, the jump system is very complex. Mastering this is vital to success, and Tomb Raider using a grind system for the jump system. Hitting forward and jump will cause Lara to jump forward one sector however if she is doing a running jump, she will take a few steps then jump. This may lead some to think the controls are sluggish, but it is not. It may sound weird, but once the player gets the hang of it, it feels great.

There are a few boss fights scattered across the game, and they include a T-Rex, several humans, and a monstrosity that likes like a mutated E.T. The T-Rex fight is unique, and the first encounter is perfect. The player will reach a giant valley, and this anxious tune starts playing while the ground starts shaking. You just know that something bad is coming then the T-Rex rushes around from the corner, and the player has to act fast or they will become supper for the beast.

Every once in a while the player will encounter a purple floating jewel, and this jewel is used to save the game. The jewel only saves once so using them wisely is a must, and they are usually located near a big jump that will usually result in success or death. At the end of each level, the game will also allow the player to save.

As good as Tomb Raider is, the replay value is one area where it comes up short, and the replay value is ultimately decided upon which version the player finds. The original version has no replay value however the greatest hits versions included demos of upcoming Eidos games, and those demos included Fighting Force, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, Tomb Raider II and III, Gex 3, and a few others.

Tomb Raider does have some bugs, and the most famous bug is the secret bug where it is impossible to collect every secret because of a coding error. Every secret can be collected however in the final level, the counter will say two of three found even if everyone is found. There is also an impossible to reach health kit in the game however it is reachable with a corner jump glitch, and apparently there was going to be a path to reach the health kit. It seems the path was buggy and ultimately removed.

Tomb Raider is an impressive and complex game that ultimately changed the game industry, and it was the first 3D game I played that completely changed and shaped my view of video games. Not only did it have several unique concepts, but the entire game was made by a team of only six employees which is amazing. Tomb Raider is a masterpiece that is complex and difficult however the satisfaction from beating the game the first time is unforgettable. While not everyone will dig the learning curve, but those that do look past it will find a complex and well-designed game.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 08/08/12

Game Release: Tomb Raider (US, 11/15/96)

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