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PS2/PC Preview - 'Tomb Raider: Anniversary'

by Thomas Wilde on April 20, 2007 @ 5:38 a.m. PDT

Using an enhanced 'Tomb Raider: Legend' game engine, the graphics, technology and physics bring Lara’s adventure and pursuit of a mystical artifact known only as the Scion right up to today’s technology standards and will offer gamers a completely new gameplay experience.

Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Release Date: May 29, 2007

According to Eidos, after Lara Croft received her reinvention in Tomb Raider: Legend, the company received over 300,000 cards and letters asking them to use the same engine to remake the original Tomb Raider.

Crystal Dynamics has done this, after a fashion. Tomb Raider Anniversary is somewhere between a new game and a remake; it's like a very highly polished complete rip-off of the original game, and I say that without intending it to sound negative. It feels like the original Tomb Raider, but it has a lot of added features to bring it up to date with what we expect out of a video game in 2007. It's not a remake so much as it's a remix.

Anniversary, like the original game, is set in 1996, with Lara going after the relics that'll lead her to the lost civilization of Atlantis. She's on her own almost from the moment the game starts, when her porter gets killed by wolves; after that, the game reverts to the bizarre, minimalist approach that its predecessor had. You're alone in a large, inherently hostile world, with graphics and music that reinforce that sense of isolation and loneliness. In 1996, that approach was mostly enforced by the limits of the available technology; here, it's a deliberate artistic choice. Lara is out on the edge of the world, and you know it.

Naturally, though, you're not defenseless. Lara is still as easy to control as she's ever been, allowing you to turn just about any fight into both-guns-blazing acrobatics. The platforming is smooth and controls very well, with fluid animation, solid controls, and even a decent camera.

While the environments are similar to the original game, they aren't quite the same. The old levels from Tomb Raider have been updated for 2007 standards, with new solutions to old puzzles, multiple pathways through each stage, new secrets, better A.I. for the enemies, and a more robust physics engine. An autosave feature has also been added, because that's the kind of thing people want in games now, and you can opt to enable director commentary.

Lara herself is, naturally, sporting the more realistic look she has in Legend, and is carrying her grappling hook. The addition of the hook gives you another method of navigating through the levels, as well as my one current complaint with the controls; getting the hook to latch onto a grapple point is extremely finicky, at least on the PS2 version.

The weird thing about Tomb Raider Anniversary is that it's sort of two things at once. It has brand-new graphics and enough new features that it feels like an old game, but it deliberately invokes the same sort of feel as the original game did. It'll be interesting to see how the gaming public receives this, just as it'll be interesting to see where Lara will go from here.

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