Laura is Back With A New Coat of Paint
In 1996 gamers were introduced to Laura Croft and the Tomb Raider series. Eleven years and one developer later Tomb Raider Anniversary was released as a celebration of the series. The game isn’t just a remake, it’s a re-envisioned game. The characters, story, and locales are the same but the graphics, controls, and gameplay make it feel like a whole new game.
The story of the game remains the same. However, now you will be able to understand the story since it isn’t told in such an archaic manner anymore. Our Heroine is sent to go find an artifact called the Scion and travels from Peru, to Greece, and Egypt to find all three pieces of it. The only thing standing in Laura’s way is Jacqueline Natla and her band of evil henchmen. The story is told through cut scenes. It is very light and maybe a little ridiculous in the end but the story doesn’t really matter, the reason why you’ll want to play is for raiding tombs.
The gameplay has improved very much over the original game. No longer is Laura confined to a grid based movement system. Also added is a grappling hook that was introduced in Tomb Raider Legend. The grappling hook adds an extra dimension to the exploration. The controls are responsive for the most part, and Laura compensates for her position in order to make some jumps (IE she will twist in the air to reach some cliffs, ladders, etc.). Pushing blocks used to be a cumbersome activity but now is easy as pie. You can slide blocks, crates, and other things of that nature in any direction you want. Most of the game is spent jumping and shimmying from ledge to ledge. Thankfully it all runs pretty smoothly. Sometimes there are a few hitches where Laura will struggle to climb up a cliff or some advanced moves such as swinging and jumping across to another ledge sometimes don’t work.
Combat is few and far between but the controls are simple enough. You lock on to your enemies and shoot them. This works well for the most part but the auto targeting isn’t perfect and kind of difficult to manage when there are more than 3 enemies in your way. There are boss battles which take some kind of puzzle solving to beat but nothing too mind bending, they are all almost the same concept. Also somewhat combat related are small QTE sections that progress the story some and keep you alert. There aren’t many sections like these, mainly at the end of stages, so it doesn’t become tedious.
The graphics aren’t the best (mainly because this is a PS2 port) but they do look good. The scope of the environments are impressive and the the various details and textures of the environment look great. The character models look kind of cartoony which fits for this game, just don’t expect a level of detail you might see in Uncharted. Laura animates well and has a variety of various flips, spins, and tumbles for you to marvel. Also, when she touches water Laura gets wet. One might think it’s a pervy thing to observe but I thought it was a nice visual touch. There are some framerate issues here and there but it’s not anything that will detract from the game, especially when you see how big the environments are and no load times for entire levels. The start menu has a nice added touch of putting Laura in front of the backdrop of the level she is currently on. However, the not so nice feature of the menus is the ugly fonts that show up there and in the subtitles. But again this is a minor thing that doesn’t really affect the game as a whole.
The sounds in the game are alright. The score is minimal, but also enjoyable. The ambient sounds are good. The weapon sound effects won’t blow you out of your seat but they get the job done. The voice acting for the most part is pretty good. There are some cheesy lines but they are well acted.
The game also has a ton of unlockables. As you progress through levels you unlock artwork, cheats, and other goodies from the developers. One of the more striking things for me was the comparison shots of the original game to the remake. The two look completely different but apparently the levels are the same. There are also unlockable costumes that you can use on Laura including a “classic” skin in case you feel like burning your eyes with a character model from the original Tomb Raider. In case that wasn’t enough for you there are time trials for every level to keep you busy. The game took several hours to beat, around 15 on the hard difficulty. Add in finding the level secrets and the time trials and you end up with a great deal of playtime for an action adventure game.
Tomb Raider Anniversary is a worthy tribute to the original Tomb Raider. With revamped controls and graphics the game is a pleasure to play. With all the extras and secrets the game gives you a reason to keep playing. If you were ever curious about the original game, never got to play it, are a Tomb Raider vet or are new to the series Tomb Raider anniversary is worth your time.