Tomb Raider: Anniversary Preview

With the success of Tomb Raider Legend, the reboot of the fabled female explorer/action heroine franchise is in full force. Next up is a faithful recreation of the original Tomb Raider (it’s already been over 10 years, folks) titled Tomb Raider Anniversary. Powered by an enhanced Tomb Raider Legend engine, step back into the boots of Lara Croft as she traverses through the humid jungles, the gritty swamps and the abandoned temples to get your fill of exploring mayhem. A demo was recently released that samples one level from the game.

The demo level features Peru where Lara is hired to find the Scion hidden in the Tomb of Qualopec. You got some critters to deal with; for example wolves and bats early on. Fighting off wolves can be a pretty hairy task, since they can knock you down (hit space-bar to get back up) or grab onto you (use the directional keys to get them off). These new interactive brief cut scenes mark a return as well. The game auto-aims for you, for the most part, so with some dodging, fighting off these wolves are pretty easy.

Seeing the updated Legend engine in action is a sight for sore eyes. Animations are top-notch, motion blur and depth of field are used very tastefully, bloom is used in an appropriate effect, rag-doll physics return (Croft’s body, for example, will flop around if you miscalculate a jump, including a sickening crunch) and the vast rendered environments are great to look at. Trust me, creeping out of the cave to see the majestic waterfall and shimmering skyline at the beginning of the demo was beautiful. The engine is pretty optimized, so I easily ran the demo with every visual effect on, 4x AA, and a high resolution.

An early puzzle in the demo revolves around retrieving various cogs that are part of a massive set of gears. While the first cog is easy to find, nabbing the second cog requires some exploration. Climbing up a side of a waterfall is pretty breathtaking, as you can see the crashing waves and the flaring dust as Lara grabs onto rocky edges that are inches from a drop to her doom. After climbing your way to the top and a quick jump over the fast-flowing river (make sure to not fall in or you’ll be sucked back down the waterfall), you use your grapple to get across a massive ledge. After some more climbing, you finally arrive at the next cog but make sure to not stop and question why the folks who actually built this system of gears decided to separate these cogs so far from each other.

The grapple returns, but it’s no longer a magnetic grapple — instead it simulates more of a hook. Like in Legend, you’re given an on-screen notification on when to use it. In addition, the auto-grab option returns from Legend. If you don’t prefer the hand-holding, then you can turn off auto-grab, in which you have to hold down a second button in addition to whatever directional you want to jump too and the space-bar to actually jump. For the keyboard, this can be a mish-mash of keys, so it could be a little cumbersome.

Other little nuggets kept from the original Tomb Raider is the classic ring-styled inventory system; returning levels like Peru, Greece, Egypt, Atlantis and Lara’s Mansion; classic jungle bestiary; and some old characters. Crystal Dynamics is increasing each level size by adding more secrets and extra paths to open up some non-linear game play. Expect to sink in about 15 hours to get through the game, which is a jump from the shorter than expected clock of Legend.

The game is set for release on June 1st (Europe release) and June 5th (North America release) for the PS2 and PC, while a PSP version will be released soon thereafter followed by a special Wii version sometime in the future. In addition to a retail release, the game will be featured on GameTap. If the demo is what is expected to come from the entire game, then I’m sold. A faithful recreation of the classic original title, updated visuals, and bigger levels chocked full of puzzles and secrets; what can be better than that?


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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