Tomb Raider: Anniversary
Tomb Raider once had the reputation of being one of the most innovative games out there. It had fun gameplay, nice graphics (at least back in those days) and a soundtrack which could actually create a great atmosphere. The developers managed to continue on their élan right up to Tomb Raider 2, but Tomb Raider 3 started to show some quality loss and in later versions we couldn’t even find the smallest evidence of what Tomb Raider once was. Then Crystal Dynamics came along to save Lara Croft with a very new game, Tomb Raider Legend. Now, some months later, we’ve come to a new ‘next-gen’ adventure: Tomb Raider Anniversary and this, my friends, is great…
Everyone who ever played the first part will probably confirm the fact that Tomb Raider 1 is the best game of the entire series. The most innovating gameplay in those days, lovely environments, and so on. This, however, was a long time ago, ten years to be precise. Because of this tenth birthday, people at Crystal Dynamics have come up with a marvelous plan: “Let’s go back in time”.
The main idea was to introduce new gamers -who missed the start of the Lara Croft franchise- to the game with which it all started and grant them a taste of old-school Tomb Raider. Of course they didn’t forget the older fans either! Although you’ll visit some locations that’ll seem very familiar, most puzzles and levels have been adjusted in such a manner that you’ll still be able to point out where you are, but you’ll have to look around a bit to solve new puzzles. Just think about the many possibilities offered by the grapple hook when you have to solve these new “brain twisters”. This new game forms the ultimate mix of nostalgia and innovation. A game to get off on, and I’m not talking about Lara’s bossom.
Another aspect they managed to copy out of the first is the stress. Some puzzles and courses are so f*cking hard you’ll suddenly get the need to throw you computer up against a wall and start smashing it with a sledge hammer. Missing a pole by half an inch, making you drop to your death, slipping of a ledge with the same consequences, … It’s all part of the game.
It’s no game for heart patients and aggressors . What makes the game even harder is the bloody camera, something they clearly haven’t learnt is how to make sure a camera maintains its overview. Some time ago I was hanging on a ledge. It seemed very clear to me where I was supposed to go, the pole behind me… Unfortunately I couldn’t see it from my hanging position so what do you do in that case? Indeed, you try and turn the point of view in such a manner where you see where you’re going. Now, the problem being, once I turned to the point where I hit the wall, the camera stopped moving. No zooming, no going thru the wall, nothing. Basically I had to make a jump into the unknown. Of course you can guess what happened then. I missed the pole and plunged into the abyss, falling to a certain death and having to start all over again. I have to say I had some great fun in those Peruan caves!
Before I forget, the entire point of this game is the story. This time, Lara gets hired by a mysterious dame. She asks you to search the Scion of Atlantis, a centuries old device containing the power and knowledge of the ancient kingdom of Atlantis. You’ll be guided through many old and new locations right to the Scion, but be wary. The enemies you’ll encounter on this journey are more dangerous than ever, or at least they look like it…
The graphics engine does what it has to do, erasing every possible comparison with 10 years ago. The driving engine is the same one used in Legend and delivers a great result as it did before. On the other hand it aren’t graphical miracles being put on screen, but it does its job and brings enough atmosphere and feeling into the game. PLUS you can see what those square poles look like when they’re round!
The audio is very much ok also. Let’s return to those mountain caves. Imagine this; you come into a room where stalagmites hang from the ceiling and drops of water fall down to the ground making a soft splat sound. One of the most soothing noises ever. Eternal rest… That’s until you come around and start shooting around with your guns, jumping with your heavy combat boots, … Suddenly you hear some music, clearly telling you something’s about to happen. Think about the movie “Psycho”, the showering scene. In Tomb Raider Anniversary you have the feeling like you’re playing in an interactive blockbuster. It’s just great!
The mix of old and new in this game is magnificent, just old enough to let new gamers understand and see the beginning of gaming as we know it and to let the old ‘experts’ experience something new and yet keep the nostalgia. Personally, I had the ‘wow’ feeling. I felt 11 for just a couple of minutes there. Fans, this is one must have!