Tomb Raider: Legend Review

You may not realize it, but Tomb Raider: Legend is the seventh Tomb Raider title.  We have the original Tomb Raider, Tomb Raider 2 and 3, Tomb Raider: Last Revelation, Tomb Raider Chronicles, Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness, and finally Tomb Raider: Legend.  Drop in there a few Gold versions, two movies, and a few different Croft models, and it is easy to see that Tomb Raider is very well rooted in the origins of modern video gaming. 

The Tomb Raider series has gone through some dizzying highs and abysmal lows.  The first game was heralded as one of the best 3D adventure titles to date.  In the days of Voodoo video cards, 3Dfx, and Glide, Tomb Raider delivered fantastic spacial graphics with gameplay that matched the cutting edge effects.  The first title featured a powerful heroine named Lara Croft who has been hired to venture into dangerous tombs and caves to recover an ancient artifact called the Scion.  Up to this point, most adventure titles were point and click adventures with very little in the way of combat.  Tomb Raider meshed acrobatics, jumping, swimming, and gunplay with puzzles and platforming and it took the gaming world by storm. 

Following up the smash hit Tomb Raider, Lara seeks out The Dagger of Xian in ancient China, taking Lara outside of the confines of the tomb setting of the first title.  Tomb Raider III further diverged from the roots of the original title by adding new weapons, vehicles, and and trips into areas such as Area 51 and London in her quest to recover the heart of a mysterious meteor rock. 

In an attempt to reinvent the series, the next title, Last Revelation, moved back into tombs and tried to focus more on the intrigue and adventure

Tomb Raider: Legend uses a modified and very enhanced engine that is built on the foundations used in Legacy of Kain: Defiance and Project Snowblind.  While the game was originally designed for the PS2 and Xbox, the Xbox 360 version features some incredible lighting, shading, bump mapping, and just about every other chunk of eye candy that you can stuff into a graphic engine.  This makes the game look absolutely stunning, but it also occasionally causes the framerate to bobble a bit.  It never dips into gameplay-damaging levels, but it just feels that the game could have benefited from a little bit more time and tuning.  Unfortunately, this would have caused the game to miss the simultaneous multi-platform launch date. 

Don’t let the slight framerate bobble worry you, the game does look fantastic in widescreen 720p or 1080i.  I have a few comparison shots that show the difference between the current-gen settings and the next-gen settings of the Xbox 360. While the gameplay remains the same in all versions, there is no doubting that both versions look fantastic.   You just have to justify whether the graphic upgrade is worth the extra money.

If there is one area that truly shines in all six of the previous games, it is the sound.  The music in all of the games stood out as cinematic and served to heighten the immersion levels.  Tomb Raider: Legend’s score is certainly well done and does a good job of residing in the background enough to move the scene without interrupting it.

The sound effects are similarly well done.  Gunshots and large-scale stone puzzle pieces rumble the 5.1 surround sound.  Lara is voiced by Keeley Hawes, who has done some extensive TV and Movie work, turns in a great performance.  Lara delivers some great English-wit one-liners, all while telling the story of how she became the globetrotting artifact collector after a horrible childhood accident in the Himalayas.  Her two companions, Zip and Allister help her via camera and voice link.  Lara and her companions are given full voiceovers, and while Lara is the standout of the bunch, the other performances are certainly decent.

There are a couple of niceties in the control system for Tomb Raider: Legend.  The first is that you can invert the X and Y axis.  You can also separately invert the X and Y axis for using your binoculars and aiming, should you feel the need.  There are subtitles if you wish to enable them, as well as sound/music/voice adjustments.  You can also adjust the brightness and contrast

The first thing that you will notice when you play Tomb Raider: Legend is that they have eliminated the grid-based movement system.  In the previous titles, you had to take multiple steps to make a forward leap.  Now, Lara is able to run, leap, slide, climb, and clutch ledges without any setup steps to make it happen.  This change eliminates the issue that hurt the previous title most.   In previous titles, if you were not lined up correctly, Lara would simply fall to her death.  In Tomb Raider: Legend, Lara will make an attempt to clutch on to the ledge or wall, and will correct her grip so you can scramble up.  This makes the game a pleasure to play instead of a linear reload-fest. 

The previous games also featured an incredible amount of box pushing puzzles.  While you will be moving some boxes around for some puzzles, the physics engine used in the game make the movement system absolutely fluid.  You’ll move boxes around, but they can slide in any direction instead of just the primary four directions.  You won’t be just moving boxes to solve puzzles.  You’ll be using levers to launch boxes, surfing on coffins, swinging on vines, swing-kicking pillars, rolling boulders, flipping switches, and so much more.  The puzzles progress from the simple to the complex, and while none of them are overly difficult, they will present enough of a brain teaser to make it challenging.   To help you in your puzzle solving, you can use binoculars with RAD

There is one major detractor to Tomb Raider: Legend

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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