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Tomb Raider: Anniversary
Score: 89%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Adventure/ Platformer (3D)

Graphics & Sound:
Ahh, Lara Croft. How I loved her and Tomb Raider all those years ago. I've been a serious fan of the series since then, aside from the Angel of Darkness debacle, and so I was anxiously awaiting Tomb Raider: Anniversary as it was the original game that first sparked my love for action/adventure titles. I can still remember how the first howl of those wolves in the initial level in Peru sent chills up my spine and damn near made me crap my pants. Now, here we have TR: Anniversary, made with the lovely TR: Legend engine, looking quite beautiful, I might add, but it just didn't have the same effect on me. Sure, I was expecting the wolves, but it just didn't move me.

Anniversary looks fantastic for sure, but it seemed very different from the things I remembered from the original. Levels have not only been revamped, but changed completely in some cases. Keeley Hawes reprises her voicework role as Lara, and while she does an admirable job, I personally still prefer Shelly Blond, the original voice. Geck0 was in the room while I was nearly drowning Lara and when she came up for air, having almost run out, she was gasping and choking. All he had to say was, sarcastically, "Well, that's certainly far more sexy than the 'Ahh, air!' from the original." I couldn't agree more.

Sound effects from the guns and the animals that attack are all just fine and get the job done. I did experience some weirdness from time to time with sound, which I chalk up to using the PS3 instead of a PS2. For starters, the sound effect for hitting a checkpoint (which happens often) is a little chime, but for a while, for me it sounded like concrete breaking loudly. Then, strange "enemy" type music would blare off and on for a while. It was really weird. During another round of play, my background music and all sound effects except gunshots cut out completely and I had to restart. Again, a smple reboot fixed it, but beware that you may encounter this while using a PS3.

The same haunting strains of the original Tomb Raider theme music are back, with variants as well. It's still beautiful to listen to and kicks up when enemies are present, dying back down in times of peace.


Gameplay:
For me, Tomb Raider was the first game to draw me in to this type of gameplay, lots of action, exploring and a hefty portion of platforming. In fact, when I got the original game, I didn't even have a memory card. Yes, sad but true. I still played it, getting further than I can even believe now, without the ability to save. Then I quickly bought a memory card, of course. Back in the day, I didn't have GameFAQs to consult when I was stumped. I didn't need it, to be honest. Yet, I find myself going back again and again in Tomb Raider: Anniversary. I've played this game before, all the way through to completion, so I didn't think I'd have a problem with Anniversary. Hmpf.

But let's start with the storyline, shall we? World-traveling spelunkerer Lara Croft is after the Scion of Atlantis, which has been broken into several parts and scattered across the world. She wants to add it to her collection of goodies, but so does Natla, the power-hungry owner of Natla Industries, and she's hired several goons to go out hunting the famed object. So Lara's in a race.

She'll travel to Peru, then Greece, then Egypt, then finally to the Lost City, solving puzzles and fighting enemies along the way. Oh, and the jumping she will do! Jump here, grab there, grapple this and swing to that. I swear I don't remember this much platforming in the original.

Enemies that she'll encounter include Natla's goons like Pierre, Larson and The Kid, along with 4-legged varieties such as gorillas, lions, alligators, bats, wolves, rats, dinosaurs and so on.


Difficulty:
Well, the puzzles aren't all that hard, in general, however what is hard is falling to your death over and over again. And again. Well, really, it's easy to fall to your death, which makes the game hard. You get the picture. Some of the areas, such as Damocles' Room in Greece, seem insane where you are required to perform jumps that don't even seem to make sense. I don't find it fun gameplay to fall to the ground, wasting a smidget of my health, only to have to run around a room once more and try that jump again, scads of times. This only serves to frustrate me and not to draw me into a game. There was a lot of that in Tomb Raider: Anniversary. I also found it difficult that boss battles seemed to always require you to do things a certain way, i.e. use the Adrenaline Shot, instead of merely just shooting the hell out of enemies. I don't like being forced into a box and this is what it seemed the developers did here. Oh, and don't get me started on Centaurs that can shoot fireballs down many feet into water. What kind of mythical freaking fire is this, anyway?

Game Mechanics:
A new mechanic (which I hate) that has been introduced is the Adrenaline Shot. Lara shoots an enemy, building up his rage meter (located below the health meter on bosses). When it flashes red, he attacks Lara, time slows down to a blur and she must hit either Left or Right on the Left Analog stick and then the (Circle) button. She then performs a head shot and on smaller enemies, it's a one-hit kill. However, on bosses, it's required to defeat them. It seemed whenever I'd try to perform this move, invariably, the enemy would decimate me. Very frustrating since it seems you are required to stop shooting for a second or two to activate the move. How am I supposed to stop shooting when I am being pummelled by an angry Centaur shooting fireballs or a really hungry T-Rex?

They've also brought back the grapple feature introduced in Legend and while this opens up a lot of new opportunities for puzzles and such, I found that sometimes I'd hit (Square) by mistake and off my grapple would go, unintentionally. Throughout levels, golden rings would be scattered about and Lara could grapple on to these to get to difficult-to-reach spots, plus she could grab onto things that had handles and move them about to aid her in puzzle solving.

Another new mechanic introduced seems to have been borrowed from God of War and that's the rapid button presses during cut scenes. Lara gets into a firefight with Pierre and then the various buttons appear on the screen and you must hit them quickly and accurately to get past the scene. Eh, I don't necessarily think this added anything to the game, but it's not horrible.

I did find that sometimes, the targeting wouldn't work. Take the T-Rex battle, for instance. He'd be right in front of Lara and dammit if she wouldn't be shooting in the opposite direction. Frustrating! Then there's the jumping, over and over again. And falling, and climbing back up and jumping some more. I was never so frustrated with a game than in falling over and over in St. Francis' Folly, only to have to climb all the way back up again. However, I did find that I quickly wailed through the various rooms (Atlas, Poseidon, Hephaestus and Damocles - ok, not Damocles, but the others.) I don't remember getting through them this easily in the original, so the puzzles seemed easier.

Levels seem considerably shorter and some have been changed altogether, like The Cistern. Shorter and yet, more frustrating. While I am enjoying this bit of nostalgia and getting to sort of relive the original, but not really, I can say this. In fact, I yelled it after a controller-throwing episode - had this been the original, I doubt I would have ever played another Tomb Raider game. I can't believe I am saying this, but it is true. Tomb Raider: Anniversary and I have a very love-hate relationship. I want to complete the game and see the rest of the changes, but I am not altogether pleased with this new iteration. If you want to relive your glory days from the original Tomb Raider, this is not that experience. However, it is different enough from the original that you get a new, albeit sometimes very annoying, experience. Take that for what it's worth.


-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins