At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Screenshots
Matt Bailey PlayStation 2 Eidos Interactive Crystal Dynamics 1 Here
Requirements Also on... Buy from Amazon.co.uk
Memory Card: Around 389KB PC Click here to buy Tomb Raider: Anniversary.

Tomb Raider: Anniversary review

You may have already seen Ross' review of Tomb Raider: Anniversary on the PC - a review I liked so much I was almost going to quickly retool it for this edition and post it. However, I wanted to have my own say on the PlayStation 2 version, and unfortunately for you critics of Tomb Raider, I'm not going to put any less praise on this impressive title.

What Anniversary does first and foremost is remind us of just how good the original Tomb Raider was for its time. It reminds us that running around in caves, jumping across chasms, shooting wolves, and finding artefacts had never been done so well, and particularly not in 3D. Where Anniversary truly succeeds, however, is in its ability to take this classic and adapt it to make it relevant to today's audience; able to show them why this series became so legendary.

What Crystal Dynamics have done is to take their successful Tomb Raider: Legend engine and retool it to use the story and environments of the original game. What you end up with is a game that is rather similar to the original, yet distinct with its own elements which should provide challenge to even those who know all the ins and outs of Lara's first adventure. The basic storyline is the same; businesswoman Jacqueline Natla hires you to recover an artefact from the tomb of Qualopec in Peru - an artefact that was also sought after by Lara's late father. Lara ends up in conflict with others seeking the artefact, and engages in activities covering Peru, Greece, Egypt and the "Lost Island". Each of these locations are split into a collection of levels, which unlike Legend flow from one to the other, echoing the structure of the original game. The Croft Manor also makes an appearance here, and has actually been extended since Legends with outdoor sections and other activities.

The differences between this and the original are quite significant, due to Crystal Dynamics providing their own interpretation of the game. This one is arguably shorter than the original (though longer than Legend), with many puzzles changed and, to some extent, made easier to increase the game's mass appeal. However, these changes, while great in number, ultimately do not deter too much from the feeling of nostalgia and enjoyment that is gained from taking the action back to the original locations, which actually involve tomb raiding.

Not only is Anniversary not a straight copy of the original, it isn't a straight reuse of the Legend engine either. With the game essentially having been taken back in time (to 1996, in fact), some of the additions Legend made to the series have been removed. This means no Zip and Alister, the voices over the headset; there actually isn't in a headset in the game, such was the technology 11 years ago. The PDA has been chucked out in the favour of the inventory rings seen in the first three games, though the main menu retains the new design. A new rage meter has been introduced for some enemies, allowing you to incite them to essentially charge at you. Others will simply do this upon sight, and both situations invoke the game's bullet-time mode, which allows you to jump out of the way, and secure a headshot if firing at the moment the reticle lines itself up with the target. It is mostly an effective implementation, but too often I found myself mistiming jumps, and ultimately losing out, particularly on the T-Rex boss fight.

Boss fights themselves are a not particularly welcome carry-over from Legend. While not essentially a bad idea, they do reduce some of the original game's more dramatic moments to simplified set-pieces. The T-Rex moment mentioned above is an example of this, and feels particularly ruined by the requirement to use the sometimes ineffective dodging, as well as the loss of drama the original invoked. Another less exciting Legend feature making an appearance is the interactive cut-scenes. Again, they're not a bad idea in concept (and have been seen in the likes of the exceptional God of War), but the idea of single button taps with overly generous time to carry them out makes them feel rather pointless, even if they are breaking up the amount of time you spend sitting around watching the story progress. There are features that have made the transition which we do applaud, however, such as the ability to unlock new costumes for Lara. These are unlocked by picking up Relics, while Artefacts unlock bonus features such as commentaries - both replacing the Rewards in Legend.

Anniversary's use of the Legend engine provides welcome graphical sheen to the PlayStation 2. The extra time has resulted in a more polished game that looks amazing on the seven year old platform. Animations have been improved, and even the Lara model has been given an update as Crystal Dynamics squeeze every last bit out of the console. Widescreen and 480p support are welcome additions, particularly if you're playing on a PlayStation 3 (it is compatible).

Ratings

Graphics Impressive graphics on an ageing system. The PS2 is clearly being pushed here, and somehow Crystal Dyanmics managed to make it look better than even Legend. Only the occasional graphical glitches let it down. 9/10
Gameplay Legend showed how to make Tomb Raider fun again after the series got stuck in the past, and its refreshing approach helps reinvigorate the original title. It has enough challenge for even veterans of that, even if the puzzles aren't quite as complex as they used to be. 9/10
Value With the amount of bonus content packed in, on top of a game of reasonable length, there's much to be pleased with considering it's bargain retail price of £30 (and available for less online). 10/10
Lifespan The main game feels a bit shorter than the original, but it's certainly longer than Legend. There's a lot of bonus material to unlock, making a second play-through enticing. 9/10
Audio Tomb Raider has always excelled at providing some excellent orchestral music at just the right moment. 9/10
Overall Crystal Dynamics have done well to honour Core Design's excellent first game in a legendary series. That they managed to make what looked on paper like a cheap cash-in into a game that to some extent even outclasses Legend is quite impressive. Now we want some bigger leaps with a proper sequel. 9/10

Click here to buy Tomb Raider: Anniversary from Amazon.co.uk.

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