It’s too bad that the Tomb Raider name became more or less synonymous with absolute garbage a few years back, because Crystal Dynamics’ drastically improved overhaul of the series with Tomb Raider Legend went all but unnoticed by those still wiping the bad taste from their mouths.
And who could blame them? The series was a complete nightmare, and that’s being generous. I was a fan of the first game, not because of its strict, grid-based platforming controls, but because of how vast and ambitious it was. I liked that you were fighting wild animals and dinosaurs instead of a bunch of lazily programmed goons with guns, and when you weren’t doing this, you were traversing colossal heights in almost complete silence.
Legend was pretty fun, though. I’ll admit it, I rented it on 360 just to get some achievement points, but it ended up being really enjoyable for the few hours that it lasted.
Which brings us to what I’ve been boiling with excitement about deep under my skin, never showing my cards for fear of it being a wreck of a product: Tomb Raider: Anniversary. This is Crystal Dynamics reimagining the first game and catering it wholly to their excellent control scheme and newly implemented scenarios.
Anniversary is a really fantastic television game. So absorbing is its atmosphere, that it doesn’t take long to forget that this is a Playstation 2 game. It is, without a doubt, one of the best looking games on the console.
But don’t let that sell you on the game. After all, the original game looked like total anal fungus, but that didn’t stop anyone from playing it. What’s special about this one is everything I mentioned before, but in playable form. I would never ask anyone to go back and play the PSone game again, but that solitary atmosphere is back, amplified ten-fold. At certain points, the platforming action provided therein becomes a hypnotic experience, whether you’re running along walls with your grappling hook, or just trying to find one more foothold to make it across the room.
They added a couple sort of superfluous things to combat, like the ability to dive from a charging beast at the last second and time a headshot. If anything, this just makes it that much easier to bat off the hordes of wild creatures. There’s also almost no point to using medi-packs anymore, because when you restart at one of the frequent checkpoints, you have full health again. Oh, and expect to watch Lara’s limp, broken body hit the ground a lot.
Apparently, Anniversary might be released in small DLC chunks on Xbox Live, made available tomb by tomb to those that own Legend, and perhaps even further down the road as a retail bundle with the same game. I can’t imagine the former being anything short of highway robbery.
Forget that, play it now, now, now.