Tomb Raider Legend Review

Xbox 360

April 22, 2006 by

Tomb Raider Legend Image

Often referred to as one of the sexiest video game characters around, Lara Croft has quite a task on her hands to prove that she offers more than good looks. This has proven to be somewhat of a difficult task, with previous Tomb Raider games being somewhat of a disappointment due to clunky controls and aged gameplay. Fortunately, developer Crystal Dynamics has managed to pinpoint Laras weaknesses and improve upon them considerably; delivering an enjoyable, varied and action-packed experience that is only hampered by the games short storyline.

Fans of the original Tomb Raider games will recognize the familiar gameplay that Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend offers. To ensure that the game nods appropriately to the much-loved classics, the developer has opted to play it safe by including many of the classic gameplay elements that fans hold dear to their heart, all the while including new additions that breath 21st century into the classic gameplay and prevent the experience from decaying rapidly. Throughout your journey, which last around 7-8 hours for the first play through, youll visit various exotic locales, kill plenty of baddies with a small variety of weaponry and perform impressive acrobatic maneuvers to make your way through unforgiving terrain.

The amount of level variation that Tomb Raider: Legend offers is pleasing, pitting you through a variety of different locales that makes each mission feel new and fresh. 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. Unfortunately, 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.

Fortunately, the various puzzles and platforming elements that make up the majority of gameplay time are far more varied and enjoyable. While many of the puzzles are easy to solve and can be accomplished upon first attempt, the level of variation that each puzzle offers is commendable. Many of the puzzles make appropriate use of the environment in which you are in, requiring you to pull specific levers, jump on certain platforms at the right time or move an object to allow access to a new area. Fans of the platforming elements in the Prince of Persia games will feel right at home with what is in store here, with plenty of running, jumping and hanging from various objects as you make your way through the varied game worlds. The simple environmental puzzles and the platforming sections are one of the key shinning aspects of Tomb Raider: Legend, as each mission introduces new tasks to perform and accomplish.

If you fail to solve a puzzle correctly or mistake a jump that leads to Laras death, the regular checkpoints ensure that you arent forced to trudge through an extensive piece of previously played sections before reaching your original position. The developers have managed to place them at perfect intervals, with sections that are likely to see you making a mistake being pre-loaded with a nice little checkpoint beforehand, allowing you to quickly jump back in time and immediately attempt it again. While some may complain that this makes the game a tad too easy, it does eradicate any frustration that may be caused by having to re-play 10 minutes of previously done sections in order to reach where you were before dieing.

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.

Unlike Laras previous adventures, Legend offers fluent and smooth controls that are far from being frustratingly clunky. Lara controls and moves smoothly and accurately, allowing for the easy maneuvering of tricky areas and jumping from platforms-to-platforms. While the camera can, at times, become disorientating and prevent you from viewing your surroundings effectively, there is little to complain about in the controls department.

Tomb Raider: Legend offers a great collection of visuals that include accurate character models and detailed environments. Characters look and move great both in-game and during the regular cinematics, delivering plenty of eye-candy that will please most fans. Some great lighting effects sees the underground tombs teeming with variation and moody appearance, which reflect appropriately whenever Lara moves through the rays of light.

A great collection of music and voice acting accompanies the games impressive visuals, delivering entertaining in-game chatter as Lara and her two buddies communicate through the radio system to each other, delivering helpfully information or chatting humorously on random topics. The expansive game soundtrack offers a collection of music that suits each individual level that they appear on, which often aid in immersing the player into the games world.

While it doesnt offer anything completely new or revolutionary, Tomb Raider: Legend successfully takes the series back to its roots and injects plenty of new elements to keep long-time fans happy and refreshed. Although the shooting aspects are disappointing, the simple environmental puzzles and platforming sections help in overlooking most gameplay hurdles. In the end, there is only one major complaint that can be made against Laras latest outing, and that is the short storyline that ends too quickly. If youre not bothered by the relatively short experience, Tomb Raider: Legend proves to be a worthy purchase.

Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.