Tomb Raider: Anniversary Review

Crystal Dynamics hit a home run with Tomb Raider: Legend and successfully rejuvenated the troubled action/adventure series, but how’s the follow-up? I’m glad to say that Tomb Raider: Anniversary surpassed nearly everything Legend sought out to do and improved on a number of other aspects, too. This time around, Lara is actually back doing what she was initially billed to do: raid tombs! Well, not necessarily tombs all the time, but raiding is exactly what she’s doing, which is 100% better than whatever the heck she was doing in The Angel of Darkness.

Anniversary is not only a faithful recreation of the original Tomb Raider, it’s also an established game in itself, meaning that if you’re a new fan to the entire series, you have nothing to worry about it. The pacing is smooth, and you even have the Mansion to fool around in. As for the older fans, they’ll find that Anniversary is a great recreation of the original game. Many environments are recreated in their former glory, but there are also some new additions.

The visuals are one of the high points of the game. Many of the environments are just beautiful and once you jump into the game, you’ll be taken aback on just how large many of the environments are. In addition, the game boasts several graphical enhancements; things like motion blur, HDR lighting and real-time shadow rendering. While that’s some nice technical babble, just think of this: Lara is standing in a large empty tomb, and you can see the sunlight pouring in and reflecting off of the stone walls. You can see dust billowing up in the sunlight, and bugs and flies fluttering in the distance. Any distant objects are blurred and gradually come into view as you creep closer. All of these details really enhance the game and just makes it feel as if Lara is actually traversing through these beautiful environments.

Minor details, like water dripping off of Lara after taking a swim, the water glistening off her body (which also properly refracts light that’s nearby), and the little smoke trails billowing from her pistols are all also very entertaining to notice. In addition, the game boasts an upgraded physics engine, so not only will bodies flop around correctly, but there are some physics-based puzzles, too. These little touches enhance the game, brings out the atmosphere and offer different puzzles as you go through the story.

Character animations are also vastly improved. Not only are there some new moves Lara can perform, but most of her moves just look very fluid and smooth. Whether it be lunging for a distant ledge Lara can only grab with one hand before quickly putting up the second hand or taking the leap of faith off a waterfall and into a perfect dive, it all looks great and exciting to perform.

The voice acting is top-notch and really brings the game’s experience to an even greater level. Keeley Hawes returns as the voice of Lady Croft and she delivers her lines with grace. In addition, the writing is excellent. All the cutscenes are pretty exciting to watch and combined with the excellent animations and pacing, they rival Hollywood films.

Returning are interactive cutscenes. Sometimes during selected cutscenes, they require some button pushing from players — usually during some sort of battle sequence. Thankfully, the only button required to be hit is just one and you’re given a lot of time, so you won’t be hammering down on multiple buttons at once or be given a split second to react and move your fingers in time. Fahrenheit is one example of a game where interactive cutscenes were too overboard and thankfully, Anniversary is light on user participation. Instead, you should be savoring the great cutscenes!

Along with involving cutscenes, these interactive moments can also occur in-game. Usually they involve battle and occur when an enemy is charging at you (dubbed the enemy’s "rage attack"). For example, a raptor is charging at Lara and you’ll see that time slightly slows down (complete with motion blur), and the input required will appear. From here, you can dodge and Lara will flip to a side and while aiming, you can squeeze off a precious shot that’ll usually ice the charging enemy. Quick, easy, and quite satisfying.

Unfortunately, the combat is a little barebones in Anniversary. You’ll be fighting plenty of wildlife (look away PETA) which is different from Legend and the armies of humans you were gunning down there. While the interactive moments can happen during an enemy charge, most of the combat will just be rolling, strafing, and non-stop clicking of the mouse or pushing of a button to fire your pistols. Some of the bigger wildlife like raptors, bears, and wolves have a tendency to knock you down (which requires a jump to get back up), and that is a little awkward. There’s just something mistimed, rather it be the animation or the time it takes to get back up, but if you’re clumsy, you’ll be getting knocked down a lot and it gets pretty annoying.

Puzzles and exploration are the key features of the gameplay. While Legend may have been shorter on the hours of game play, Anniversary offers way more in the game play time log. Along with offering multiple paths for most of the puzzles (which is a step-up from Legend), many of the environments are just enormous. The game offers plenty of climbing, exploring, spelunking, traversing, and jumping. In fact, also spend some time just looking around, since relics and artifacts are strewn everywhere (which open up special features like cheats, clothing and commentary).

Usually after every major puzzle, the game will auto-save, which is very handy to have. In addition, especially for the PC version, you can manually save whenever you want to too. Personally, I’m very trigger-happy when it comes to saving, so being able to do so, especially in an adventure game where one bad move can mean death, saved me some agony. But sometimes the manual saving interferes with the auto-save, so after miscalculating a jump and losing a bunch of health, I wanted to reload to a manual save but would end up a little further back to an auto-save. While it’s not game breaking, that can get pretty annoying.

Unfortunately, part of the extended gameplay hours involves a lot of backtracking through the levels. After figuring out some puzzle, you’ll usually have to travel back through most of the level to get back to wherever you have to go. While that may not have much of an effect on seasoned action/adventure players, this tactic may turn off new players.

The game also introduces some new moves, including using your grapple to run across walls and to yank objects around. Naturally, you’ll be using many of these moves through the different puzzles and they open up different approaches to gameplay. Running through St. Francis Folly, for example, you can hop on top of the different columns to get to the object you need, but you can also utilize the different wall hooks and just wall-run over gaps instead to get to the object.

While providing some great visuals, the game runs really well too. With just a gig of RAM, AMD 3000+ processor and an ATI Radeon 9600, I easily ran the game on 1152×768 with all the visual effects on (AA was the only one turned off) and had a great framerate.The developers also did a great job of implementing a seamless loading time in-between levels so there’s barely a noticeable load time when going from level to level.

The bottom line is this: Tomb Raider Anniversary is a great game. It’s perfect for any Tomb Raider fans or just fans of the action/adventure genre alone. While it won’t be an over-the-top adventure game (like Prince of Persia), it harbors just enough gameplay fun for new adventure fans or seasoned veterans. Character animations and the wonderful voice acting makes the game a near picture-perfect movie experience and the excellent visuals and exciting gameplay makes the game a gem in the rather rocky past of the franchise. Seeing Lara back to her roots is a sight for sore eyes.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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