Tomb Raider: Legend Review

While playing Tomb Raider: Legend a strange feeling took over. No, not in that creepy sexual way (well, maybe a little), but a feeling not felt in the same room as a Tomb Raider game in years: fun. How is this possible? There has not been a fun game in the series since the second installment of the franchise. Well, after yet another failed effort at the highly anticipated Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness, publisher Eidos Interactive stripped the franchise away from CORE Design Limited and gave it to Crystal Dynamics (Gex: Enter the Gecko, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver). The result is one of the best platformers so far this year.

Legend is split up into a series of missions, these missions will take Lady Lara Croft all over the Earth in search of an ancient artifact that posses such great power it could destroy the human race (okay, so maybe the story isn’t terribly original for the franchise.). Along the way Lara will explore ghost towns, jungles, skyscrapers, and, most importantly, tombs. Each location is rendered beautifully.

As everyone knows, the core of Tomb Raider is platforming and puzzle solving, and it is in these areas where Legend delivers the knockout punch. From start to finish, scaling the complex and open environment will cast the shadow of a certain Prince. Don’t think this is just some cheap knock-off, though; Tomb Raider: Legend delivers on all fronts. The puzzles are enjoyable and intuitive, and you’ll use almost all of Lara’s utilities to their full potential; the acrobatics are the finest seen this side of Persia.

The camera is very similar to Splinter Cell’s free maneuvering camera, which players can manipulate in any way they desire. For the most part it is fine and becomes second nature, but once getting into some closed quarters and constricted areas, it becomes a real strain to get a good angle. The controls are smooth and responsive, unlike past iterations of the game (hello again, Angel of Darkness), and make that large leap seem much less daunting.

Lara has some new equipment in her latest outing to support her new look, she now wears a sporty headset for communicating with her team back at the Croft Mansion, Zip (field support) and Alister (research/analysis). Keep an ear open to what they have to say, as they will give hints on how to progress further through the level and discuss important story elements. The binoculars have a nifty new feature as well, switch them into RAD mode to scan objects to help solve a puzzle. Your team will also chime in with the occasional helpful comment after doing this. Although once after scanning a door, Alister was in awe of the complexity of it. "What an amazing device!" Not to judge, but it doesn’t exactly take an intellectual to understand how a door works. A new magnetic grappling hook makes getting across those large gaps a tad bit easier and can also be used to move objects around.

While exploring all the areas, there will of course be the occasional gunfight. Luckily, Lara has quite a few dodge maneuvers at her disposal when she’s facing multiple enemies. The auto targeting is a little questionable, and at times, won’t lock on to anything, causing nothing but frustration and blood loss. You can lock onto targets by hitting the LB trigger which can be helpful if there’s a particular enemy that is posing a greater threat than the others. Clicking the right analog in will cause the camera to zoom into an over the shoulder locked position, useful for aiming; although it is a mystery why you can’t move or strafe while in this mode. Take full advantage of these maneuvers, because no matter how much firepower they have, even the best archaeologists get overwhelmed at times. It is times like these when Lara must rely on the environment for support, whenever the Y key appears by an item it means it can be destroyed; take a shot at that unsteady rock formation above the enemy’s head and enjoy as it comes crashing down on top of a couple of mercenaries.

Along with the standard run, jump, and shoot gameplay there are motorcycle missions. These missions add a nice variation to gameplay, but it’s a shame that the same cannot be said about the motorcycle levels. The environments in these levels are extremely repetitive, so repetitive in fact it feels that the same two sections in the beginning of these levels are copy and pasted throughout, just to extend the mission. For what it’s worth, however, it is extremely enjoyable going over jumps and shooting countless mercenaries off of their bikes, all the while escaping disaster.

The ability to run around in Lara’s mansion is available at the main menu, there is not much purpose to this, but there are bonuses scattered throughout the mansion. Visiting Lara’s bedroom (ya know, the place in your fantasies) will allow her to switch into any costumes that have been unlocked throughout the course of the game. There is also a training room, with a rock climbing wall, pool and other various items to experiment with. Anyone who has seen the first Tomb Raider movie will instantly recognize the estate, it’s modeled to the exact specifications.

Nobody should have too difficult a time with Tomb Raider Legend, the average difficulty is overly forgiving and will be a walk in the park for any platform vets. Cranking it up to hard difficulty is more of a challenge, but still not quite as difficult as should be expected. Legend is not very lengthy either, a good night’s sitting should get an average player through the adventure, but that doesn’t mean the fun stops there. Each mission has hidden bonuses scattered throughout the level, upon finding them, special extras are unlocked. Extra costumes, cutscenes, character bios, and a lot more will keep that disc spinning inside the 360 for a while longer, once the short main gameplay section is over.

Tomb Raider Legend’s soundtrack is well done, creates tension and sets the mood the way it’s supposed to, but nothing is particularly outstanding. The same applies to the voice acting, there is nothing to complain about here, but it is far from Hollywood quality. The best way to look at the audio in Legend is as a garnish for the ears, doesn’t add anything to the overall meal, but makes the plate more presentable.

The visuals, on the other hand, are very well done, the character models are tremendously smooth and Lara has never looked better. The animations flow smoothly and help add to the overall immersion. What the real stunner is here are the environments, which are fully rendered in 3D, and the astonishing lighting just adds to the sheer beauty of it all.

When all is said and done, this is the Tomb Raider experience that fans have been craving since the series faltered: platforming action mixed with intense firefights and grand puzzles. For anyone looking for some quality next-gen platforming should not overlook this title, look past a couple of slight flaws ,and we’re left with an experience that rivals that of the first Tomb Raider.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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