Review by Fein

"Tomb Raider III. Boulders? Check. Dogs? Check. Spikes? Check. Lara? Check."

Tomb Raider III

It is official, Eidos have taken Lara Croft too far. This is down to their awareness of Lara being a fanatical franchise of her own and their pre-clever to sleazy marketting skills of displaying her in the most unsavoury way that has in time become something of an annoying booger. Back when the Playstation was needing a mascot to compare to Mario for Nintendo. Sony then chose the first group of platforming characters to be the first to emerge in the sales rush - Lara Croft and Crash Bandicoot. Both have transcended into what feels like endless sequels but the nation adoring Lara instantly shot her into the computer dictionary. And so became the tale of Eidos' justification of existing - Lara Croft. And here is the second part to that tale;

This is where the u-turn for Tomb Raider all began.

It's one thing for a computer character to be popular, it's another to exploit them. Think of all of those manufactured 'musicians' we have today and you'll see Lara bursting out from the cannon Eidos stifled her in. Topless shoots in games magazines and the shaping of Nell McAndrew's career is truly disturbing. Suddenly, the world owes so much to Lara Croft that any sign of marvel in the games have and will be left behind the stakes of her looking more and more human like for people to fantasise about her. And you what the real travesty of it all is? The fact that Lara Croft isn't even a bimbo like character in her games. She's a self made millionaire who's travelled the world and collected the most precious artefacts around the world, she won't stand for any abuse from any man and has probably killed more men without conscience than we'll ever know - and she's done this without a man in her life. Quite feministic wouldn't you think? Once a believer in flattery and the engagement with a character will do to you, to call Lara an inspiration is a little sparse considering all the tricks she's pulled (sorry, Eidos have pulled) just to gain that landmark. You should be shuddering with 'ooh, this crap is creepy'.

Glorious polygonal environments rendered with remarkable graphics at the time with spacious exciting gameplay has now become tried, cliche and dull events of running from boulders, jumping from high ledges, running over collapsing floors and avoiding the odd spike filled pits. It extends to the heart of the third installment of Tomb Raider whose only improvements are the extra actions Lara are given and the choice of route on the globe you can visit first. Added with a few fluid adrenaline rushed cutscenes, there is little to be whimsical about if you're over the busty heroine already.

This time Lara is on the creaky path (that collapses in 0.39 seconds) to finding yet another artefact and stopping the competition. To be honest, the plot is baffling, uninteresting and dire. Plus, no plot has been successfully able to carry it's heroine anyway. What does carry Lara is the very magnetic graphics that have been polished in tone since the last venture. The usual debate of how bigger her breasts are aroused many, but who really cares? Honestly now? Once is charm, second is recognition, third time when her arse line is practically giving her wedgie, is just creepy. Enhancements in level design have been polished nicely but the premise of Tomb Raider's gameplay is still confined to hours per level (and that may just be covering the length of it) and solving puzzles via using the landscape to access new areas in the game and gunning down exotic creatures to masochistic men (what else do you call women beaters?)

Lara's new abilities include being able to sprint, crouch, monkey swing and the nice little inclusion of being able (in fact, having to) use vehicles. Such would be the quad bike and the kayak - they add a little excitement to the odd level that can be hampered with the usual tasks of having to climb and jump all over the place. Another grateful return are the save crystals that can be used anywhere in the macabre levels. Eidos have also tried to include a mild area of stealth which the control mechanism do not compliment well whatsoever. And after completing the first levels of India, you can choose your route around the globe that has Lara changing her costume (phew, finally!). And luckily the camera angle has been modified, repelling some of the antagonism the previous games gained over it's hazardous camera angle. Even more so than the second installment of Tomb Raider, Eidos has proposed more exciting levels and concepts that should keep both Lara and yourself busy in awe and frustration.

In London our Lara dons a very tight black leather catsuit that was last seen camel toeing on Catherine Zeta Jones in Entrapment. And I know exactly what you'll be thinking of when you cast your google eyes on those small ripped denim hotpants when she's in the tropical locations; I can read your lips Lara!. Then in the desert Nevada you have Lara performing a stunt with a quad bike that Johnny Knoxville sure didn't teach her - poor Lara shoots over a fence, tumbles off the bike for it to explode while she smacks her body off rocks until she dents the ground. And the amazing thing about that is that not one scratch or bruise emerges on her bullimic bones (er, well, her stomach is a little erm, dented?). This game needs every sales pitch in the book, so I'll continue, aherm - Lara also finds herself incarcerated in the Nevada desert prison with common criminals, she's unarmed and possibly under the threat of being gang-raped any minute, every minute (unless the inmates of Nevada have gotten around to friendly anal probing and haven't come off it - or! they, like the sane people of our time, just find her like a polygonal hound). If that doesn't float your boat then Lara also dabbles in the world of Dino Crisis in the tropical forests when lipstick red raptors lunge at her, she infiltrates Area 51 and I'm not talking about an airport and if that wasn't enough, Eidos threw in a Lara lookalike baddie with blonde hair and made the two vixens battle it out in the form of Lara chasing her up to the roof-tops while the blonde tries to frazzle her with lightning bolts. How nice.

Other than that, you have your usual jargon tossed in the game such as inane-in-other-words killed off characters that only serve to waffle on about plot development and what you'll be doing in the upcoming level after they've been either shot, lost their sanity, commited suicide or been savaged by some raging beast. And perhaps it is because of the rather lifeless plot that when you encounter the genetic insect boss that you're rubbing your head obnoxiously. But with over 15 expansive levels that require in-depth exploration and given the perfect chaperone with superbly distinctive 3D graphics.

Although it's very hard to understand the extent of Lara Croft's sex appeal, that's not to say Eidos haven't pulled out a hat trick with sparkling graphics that do the game justice. Perfect lighting conforms into lifelike visuals, such as the very detailed water effects and the textures have also been improved making the surroundings less squared and blocky (even Lara's jaws have been reduced slightly). As for Lara herself, she's ageing fairly well with and the Playstation's RAM has been kind to her....arse. However, being almost forced to stare at it because it consumes most of your eye precisions allows you to generally think man, that's a huge ass. But splurge the graphics with some first class presentation effects in the form of the FMV movie sequences, Tomb Raider III is Eidos' best looking game to date.

Something that should at last be addressed regarding the Tomb Raider series is it's genre. I'll be frank and very firm, the way you dirty players like it with Lara - Tomb Raider is NOT, I'll repeat this, NOT IN ANY CIRCUMSTANCE, an action game. I would call this criticism a valid one only against Eidos, not particularly the actual game. Maybe if Eidos stripped Lara of her trademark pistols then the game would be tried as an adventure game. Though it is misleading when you see a busty 'babe' on a front cover wielding two pistols only to play the game and find very little use for them, hence Eidos' stupidity (before they turned to peversion) of designing Lara to be your typical action gal. How would you put this? She's just not that type of girl. Lara Croft is supposed to be more Indiana Jones than Rambo. Then again, she's not supposed to be Pamela Anderson either.

The Tomb Raider's controls have always been the predominant factor in criticism that has maybe prevented the title from reaching it's true potential. As much as giving Lara new features to handle is innovating, Eidos' idea of fixing the much complained about speed problem of Lara by just giving her a sprint fixture is just foolish and illogical. Moving her around with the directional butons are still not as responsive as they could be. This includes turning corners. Mapping sidestepping to the R1 button was a clever move, but even cleverer if they had used one of the other shoulder buttons to serve as a camera angle toggler. This would have helped the excruiating camera angle immensely considering that Lara doesn't go into transparency when her big fat bonga is in the way of the perspective. A lock on target mode would have been useful as well as Lara being able to strafe around while shooting an enemy instead of having to run in circles to shoot and avoid enemy attacks.

Musically, there is not much to hail about in Tomb Raider III. What has been heard before is heard again, the death ridden traps are attempted to be glorified by adding acoustic fiddles and sometimes, the dynamic orchestra while Lara eludes the boulders, jumps over the sharp spikes, sprints across the creaky floors and slides past the closing walls. Traversing the levels without any music is uncannily claustraphobic with breathy sounding effects as you do so, but it would be nice, and effective if Eidos used a little more weaponry regarding the music. Voice acting is again used to a limit. Lara's voice is the same mature woman, but still inemotive and very blase to everything that happens throughout the game. It's not the mark of an experienced traveller but the poor acting of the actress who's playing her. A little less flippant remarks from Lara would make her character perhaps shun some of the cheap marketing tactics Eidos has used against her.

Other than the story, you have Lara's mansion to play in. Upgraded with more secret areas, including a quad bike race track, a shooting practice feature, a secret museum room gathering the artefacts from her previous travels, two assault courses from the last two games and the chance to lock the old farting butler in the freezer again, there is extra fun to be had in Tomb Raider III. It has to be said as to why her furnishings are shoulder length with her, and how she could use the sink as a jacuzzi is above bizarre.

At the end of the day, Tomb Raider III is surpassed by one thing; Lara, herself. With video game evolving, Tomb Raider III does not evolve into much else than it already was, and it's still not as half as fresh or exciting as it's predeccessor was. But if you can excuse the quite yucky, sleazy, crummy, appalling and insincere skills Eidos have used to sell the game with, Tomb Raider III is a solid entry into the series that- whilst having it's merits- is in desperate need of an uplift in it's gameplay structure to win over a possible waning audience for a not-so grandeur franchise anymore. If Eidos want a great Tomb Raider game, then they have to stop blemishing any good points by overlooking everything else in favour of a really unattractive heroine.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 11/22/04

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