Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Release Date: November 1, 2005
Tomb Raider: Legend was a very, very different sort of experience. For this title, which will be a multi-platform release, the build we saw was a PS2 beta. The graphics were extremely impressive for such an elderly system, with only a few signs of low polygon count betraying the PS2's low specs. Lara's new design was strikingly beautiful, a balance between realistic and cartoony that was frankly much sexier than her previous incarnations. The level we saw took place in what looked like an Aztec tomb, with more of an emphasis on Prince of Persia-style puzzle solving and platforming than combat. Lara had to navigate through lots of death-traps like spinning blades and pits full of spikes. Lara has a high-tech arsenal at her disposal now, virtually all of which you can actually see stored somewhere on her character model.
Crystal Dynamics was extremely aggressive about emphasizing the differences between their Tomb Raider and some of the recent, ill-received sequels like Angel of Darkness. The combat sequence really showed off the change in attitude, with Lara's melee prowess weakened and the "wild animal" enemies completely replaced with human enemies.
Lara now has a dash of Indiana Jones to her personality, relying on speed, smarts, and skill with her pistols when it comes to dealing with enemies. While she could attack enemies directly with punch and kick combos, these combinations did very little damage. The intent of the new combat style was for players to use the melee combos to confuse and disorient enemies, setting them up to be finished off with a few point-blank shots from Lara's hip-holstered guns. It's also worth noting that in the entire level shown to us, Lara only engaged an enemy for one very short, fast-paced fight sequence.
The rest of the level was spent solving problems and using Lara's athletic prowess to progress through the dangerous environment of the ruined tomb. Crystal Dynamics' rep was quick to point out the level of detail in Lara's animations, as she could now leap, swing from ropes, and cling to walls using some extremely convincing motions. Lara could also swing from horizontal bars like a gymnast, which was used as part of a puzzle that required the player to move an immense stole wheel. The puzzle oriented gameplay was refreshing given the increasingly combat-oriented nature of most platform games, and we're looking forward to getting out hands on the game when it's more complete. It doesn't really play like the old Tomb Raider games at all, but looks like it could be a lot of fun.
Lara Craft Tomb Raider: Legend is set to go on sale this fall, and we look forward to seeing how it shapes up as the year progresses.