Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend Review

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Publisher: Eidos
Developer: Crystal Dynamics


Platforms: Xbox 360, Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube, PC, PSP and DS
Reviewed on Xbox 360

It's not enough that a plane crash at age nine has haunted Lara Croft, Countess of Abbingdon, for all of her adventuring life. Now, treasure hunter Lara Croft must revisit that tragic past. After both Lara and her mother miraculously survived that crash, Lara's mother was annihilated in an accident involving an ancient powerful artifact. Recently, Lara's competitors have joined forces with an old friend to acquire a related artifact with untold destructive potential.

Only by investigating a myth held in common by all the world's cultures, trekking around the globe and jumping a lot of bottomless pits can Lara learn what destroyed her mother and thwart her dangerously narcissistic competition.

Rating:
Kyle Ackerman


Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend is more than an historic tour de force. Legend is exactly what Lara Croft has desperately needed. The first Tomb Raider games were a marvel. They set a new benchmark for action-filled platformers just as they raised the bar for grotesquely large polygonal breasts. But with each subsequent Tomb Raider game, we lost something. Other games got better. Technology improved. But Lara, her adventures, and her digitally enhanced chest stayed much the same. Finally, Core Design promised everything would be redeemed when it released Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness. It wasn't. This time, Crystal Dynamics has taken up the Croft torch, and brought the Tomb Raider franchise back into the race. Lara has a new look – and her franchise has found new life.

Legend is the Tomb Raider game I have been waiting nearly a decade to play. It's not perfect, but the controls finally make intuitive sense, Lara Croft looks human and the franchise is fun again. Legend isn't hard – the fun is in exploring and finding the hidden treasures scattered around the game. Aside from a few, slightly challenging, boss battles, Legend is entirely about slingshot-ing around poles and leaping between widely spaced, tenuous ledges. The game can easily be completed in a weekend of casual play – the puzzles critical for completing the game are just difficult enough to instill a sense of accomplishment, without being unduly hard.

The difficulty and extended play time comes from the game's optional time trials (complete a level in a specified time) and finding the many collectibles scattered throughout the game. In fact, the rarest gold collectibles can be harder to find and recover than completing the final levels of the game. All these challenges unlock new cheats, costumes and art – and can be hard to resist.

My only disappointment withLegend was that it fell short of its ultimate potential on the Xbox 360. Given that the game was developed for a number of platforms, including the original Xbox and PlayStation 2, this isn't so surprising. The visuals are still more than good enough to make the game entertaining, but certain features (such as the waterfall in the ancient English tomb) clearly don't take advantage of the Xbox 360 while probably pushing the limits of platforms like the PlayStation 2. And as an aside, it irritated me that torches glinted very much like certain functional objects shine... and no, not the torches that can be grappled.

The levels are all creative and surprisingly varied, exploring settings ranging from snowy landscapes to fiery tombs and tourist traps. There are even motorcycle and forklift sequences that, while easy to play, provide a break in play style and keep the game from becoming monotonous. And to make events both tense and spectacular, there are interactive cut-scenes in which Lara survives spectacular stunts through a series of well-timed button presses. This lets Legend put Lara into situations (like jumping a motorcycle from a rooftop) too complex for even the acrobatic engine to manage.

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend is perfect for casual play – lots of fun, without too much pressure. Try it and enjoy stealing from sepulchers and ripping off ruins to your heart's content.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on April 3, 2007 2:39 PM.

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