Tomb Raider Legend ReviewCain Dornan
One of the most well-known heroines in the gaming world, Miss Lara Croft, has finally returned to her gaming roots after experiencing a recent number of sub-par outings that disappointed many gamers. After returning to the consoles and PCs with a fairly impressive and enjoyable adventure (we gave it an 8/10), developer Crystal Dynamics has brought Tomb Raider: Legend to the PlayStation Portable. For the most part, the PSP version plays very similar to its console counterpart, with the added inclusions of a new multiplayer mode that can be played over the PSPs wireless capabilities. At the same time, however, the game also suffers from a number of problems that drag down the experience slightly, given the niggling control issues that the PSPs limited hardware and rough console-to-handheld translation has uncovered.
The most pressing and expected issue that Tomb Raider: Legend suffers from on the PSP is the games controls, which arent quite as precise, effective and free-moving as its console counterparts. Due to the limitations that are faced with only the single analog stick, you have virtually no control over the games camera, apart from the often useless ability to force the camera to swing back directly behind Lara. Given the nature of the game, which requires you to solve various environment puzzles, overcome various acrobatic feats and locate enemies swiftly before they have the chance to shoot you, having to wrestle with clunky and downright frustrating camera and controls sees the game quickly becoming much more frustrating to endure. As time passes, youll learn to deal with the difficult camera and occasional jagged controls, but there will always be moments where youll be cursing the games camera and controls that truly are annoying.
With the most important complaints out of the way, lets take a look at the games story. The story sees Lara spanning the globe as she overcome difficult obstacles in a fairly impressive variety of different locations. While youll make your way through the usual tombs, youll also find yourself atop of large skyscrapers in Tokyo, infiltrating a dangerous test facility in Kazakhstan, climbing through the ruins of a decaying amusement park in England and then making your way through the freezing snowy conditions of the Himalayas. Thankfully, the game gives solid reason to jump from place-to-place with each passing mission, as the story follows along the lines of Lara attempting to uncover the truth behind some secrets that have haunt her past. The mysterious death of her mother plays a key role in her decision to locate and retrieve pieces of a powerful sword, which have been conveniently scattered throughout the world.
Of course, retrieving these pieces of the sword isnt as simple as casually walking into a tomb, grabbing the piece and then calmly making your way back out. As luck would have it, a group of mercenaries are also after the same pieces of the sword that you are, giving an appropriate excuse for the common gun battles that you find yourself in.
Talking of shooting, this brings us to another problem that the game suffers from. Unlike the camera and controls, which are only a problem in the PSP version of the game, the shooting aspects of Tomb Raider: Legend were never really executed as effectively as they could have been in the console and PC versions, and as such, this same problem has been carried over to the PSP iteration. The shooting aspects dont feel as polished as they should, delivering a rough and unfinished experience that proves to be too simple and repetitive. Most of the enemies require little more than targeting them with the left shoulder trigger and then shooting several rounds into them. Although the ability of picking up the weapons of fallen enemies, which include machine guns, assault rifles, shotguns and grenade launchers, these additional weapons fail to offer further depth and variation into the shooting sections. While the occasional boss battle does demand some more thought and maneuvering, the majority of the shooting gameplay remains to be basic and unvaried.
The occasional motorcycle levels, which sees Lara speeding along atop of Ducatis that conveniently pop-up in the most unlikely of places, offers a nice breather from the usual running, gunning and jumping. These sections, while usually brief, involve racing alongside a speeding train while shooting down enemies, or racing through a dry desert as you attempt to catch-up to a lorry of trucks that are causing havoc to a friend of Laras. We also managed to locate a motorcycle atop of a large skyscraper, which allowed us to speedily jump to a nearby building whilst riding the bike.
The only new gameplay offering in the PSP version is the inclusion of two-player mini games, which sees players going head-to-head over wireless ad-hoc play through three different mini game types. Theres a race-like mini game, which requires players to race each other through various different levels to the end. Many of these levels can prove to be maze, heavily leaning on various platforming elements to determine who is the fastest Tomb Raider. Another mini game type sees each player hiding their own artifact, which then sees players attempting to find each others object. Unfortunately, this mode offers no real essence of enjoyment when we tried it out, and was in many ways quite boring and somewhat difficult to understand completely to begin with. The third and final mini games sees players racing to activate three beacons that have been scattered throughout the levels. The two-player mini games are a nice little added extra for handheld gamers, but it doesnt offer enough gameplay life to justify the annoying camera and controls that PSP gamers are forced to deal with.
Tomb Raider: Legend offers some beautiful visuals on the PSPs small backlit screen. While obviously not as impressive as the console counterparts, the PSP offering includes detailed environments and fluently animated characters with no real noticeable visual complaints to be made. That is, apart from the game being presented in a rather dim fashion, failing to make full use of the PSPs usually bright screen. Regardless of how high the PSPs back lights were set to, the game always felt to be too far on the dull side, with many inside locations being difficult to navigate due to the dullness of the game. The same collection of quality music and voice acting has also been included on the PSP, aiding in providing a more immersive experience.
While Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend does provide a fun and worthwhile experience for action adventure fans, the number of problems that the PSP suffers from makes it difficult to recommend the portable version over the more sturdy console and PC versions. The limiting controls, frustrating camera and often dull screen presentation that makes the game look far too dark manages to dampen the experience slightly, one that was quite enjoyable when we first played on the PSP a few months back. If you cant get your hands on a console version of Tomb Raider: Legend, the PSP version is still a worthwhile purchase for fans of the series, but still not quite as good as the console offerings.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.