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Tomb Raider: Legend
Score: 94%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Adventure/ Platformer (3D)

Graphics & Sound:
The first lady of gaming has returned and what a glorious return it is! Lara Croft is revisiting the PS2 and in such a way as to completely erase the debacle that was Angel of Darkness. The graphics are lush and brimming with all the touches that made Tomb Raider such a successful series on the PlayStation.

Crashing waterfalls, deep pools of water, dank caves and of course, the requisite musty tombs are all present and accounted for in Tomb Raider: Legend. Lara's travels will take her globetrotting across Bolivia, Nepal, England, Russia, Peru, Japan, and Ghana. Each exotic locale is rich with color and detail. Lara looks fabulous as always and has a number of different costumes. Each level brings a new outfit and also there are many more that are unlockable by picking up treasures and finishing the game in Time Trial mode. One nice touch was that when you turn on the game, the menu screen shows the background of whatever location you are currently saved in, with Lara in the foreground wearing the appropriate costume. A nice little touch.

Now, I must say that I was truly impressed with the graphics, that is, until I saw this game on the 360. Then I was blown away. So if you have a 360, opt for the prettier of the two.

In the sound department, Lara's sidekicks, Zip and Alister, are a hoot. They provide a running commentary and are your eyes and ears during your missions. Needless to say, its a good idea to listen to their banter as they often provide clues. Background music is sweeping and orchestral and a perfect companion to the gameplay, whether you are shooting it out with enemies or calmly exploring a trap-ridden temple.

Lara has a few new tricks up her sleeve in Tomb Raider: Legend. She carries a PDA around with her that has a running list of her missions and sub-missions, along with a list of what rewards she has picked up, time spent on a level, etc. She also has a rechargeable personal light source that she can use when she ventures into those dark caves. Her binoculars have a standard mode and a R.A.D. (Remote Analysis Device) mode, so Lara can look around slowly and when she spies an item of interest, she will say "I can move that" or "That's a mechanism of some sort" or something to that effect. Basically, these are little clues to help you figure out a puzzle if you get stuck. She also has a splendid little gadget in the magnetic grapple, and you will use this over and over in the game, so get used to it. She can use it to swing over chasms, to pull things towards her, to trip switches and many other things. Its a very handy little device.

This go round, Lara can only carry one extra gun in addition to her standard, unlimited ammo pistols. Enemies drop weapons to pick up, along with ammo, health packs and grenades, but Lara can only carry 3 health packs, 4 grenades and whatever ammo will work with the gun she has currently. I found, more often than not, that I simply used the pistols and grenades.

In addition to Lara's traditional moves, she has a few new ones. She does a lot of swinging on bars and such and this is used a good bit in puzzles throughout the game. When Lara jumps and catches onto a ledge or bar and she doesn't have a good grip, the triangle button will appear indicating she is struggling. Hit the triangle button quickly and she's get a better hold. Don't and she will fall.

Remember those twitch response moments in Resident Evil 4 and God of War, where a moment gets tense and random buttons will appear on the screen? If you were quick enough, you hit the corresponding button and saved your skin; if not, you died. In various parts of Legend, this same type of mechanic is thrown in. It doesn't happen too often and I enjoyed it when it did, however if you mess up and die, the exact same sequence appears, so it is easily memorized and not as much of a challenge as the randomness would have been.

In addition to spelunkering and rappelling off mountainsides, Lara will also do her fair share of swimming, shooting and beating up bad guys, driving motorcycles, solving puzzles and far much more platforming than we've seen in past iterations.

The difficulty is fairly evenly distributed in Tomb Raider: Legend, although I must say that the bosses tended to be easily beaten once you figured out the twist. There are plenty of puzzles scattered throughout the game and a smattering of human and animal enemies, with a healthy dose of deadly traps. However, with a little persistence, the game is easily beaten on the Adventurer (Medium) setting. Guess this means I need to go back through it on Tomb Raider (Hard). For those new to the genre or series, there's also Explorer (Easy).

Game Mechanics:
One of the nifty things in Tomb Raider: Legend is that an excellent physics engine was employed in the game, making environmental objects move realistically and bodies fall like ragdolls. Kick a box and it rolls as it would in real life. This adds a nice twist to puzzles where you must launch items and such. You will also encounter environmental hazards that can be destroyed from afar to take out enemies like explosive barrels or boulders capable of creating rock slides. This adds an additional aspect as enemies can shoot those things to kill you as well.

One major downside, in my opinion, was the placement of the Accurate Aim Mode as R3. When you hit this button, it brings you into target mode, as if using a sniper. Now, this is nothing new in a Tomb Raider game as it is a great tool for lining up a jump, however I believe it used to be mapped to a shoulder button. By placing it as R3, I found I hit it constantly while in a firefight. When you are in that mode, Lara doesn't move an inch, she simply rotates around viewing things in a reticle. This leaves you wide open to have the crap kicked out of you until you hit the button and turn this mode off. It caused at least one controller-throwing incident for me.

That being said, there's a lot to love in Tomb Raider: Legend. The good far outweighs the bad, so if you have been itching for some great action/adventure/platforming goodness, go out and pick this one up today.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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