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Tomb Raider Anniversary


The Tomb Raider franchise is over ten years old at this point, but still seems to capture a portion of the gaming community that enjoys a solid adventure title. Tomb Raider: Anniversary is very similar to the last entry on the Xbox 360, Tomb Raider: Legend. The presentation format is almost identical, using recorded movies in between levels to push the story along and in-game button-sequences to accentuate the action scenes. The narrative is mildly interesting, but certainly doesnít hold a candle to large scale productions.

Gameplay

As a Tomb Raider adventure title, each level is filled with puzzles, climbing challenges and a variety of wild animals to avoid. Lara has the ability to traverse rock walls, grapple onto metal hooks in mid-air, leap over chasms and perform wild acrobatic moves when being charged by enemies. Similar to old Tom Raider games, Lara can pick up items and store them in her inventory for use at a later point. Many puzzles require collection of pieces to make them work, so the inventory comes in handy.

Gunplay received an extra move which combines defense & offense into a lethal combination. When an enemy, such as a giant grizzly bear, has been sufficiently provoked, it will go into a blind rage and charge Lara. Hitting the red B button will send Lara into a slow motion dive and bring up a targeting system. When the targeting system finished auto aiming, one pull of the trigger will deliver two bullets into the head of the beast. This instant kills comes in handy quite a bit and saves health for future battles of multiple creatures. The auto-targeting system on the controls works well for regular battles as well.

Even on the harder levels of difficulty, the game never feels tough. Perhaps it has to do with the numerous checkpoints and the general sparseness of enemies. As always, the difficulty of the game relies more on the competency of the player to solve puzzles and escape the numerous traps laid out along the way. Even the timed-button press sequences are ridiculously easy as there is barely any speed requirement involved. I even had time to look down at my controller to double check the button and look back up before to click in time.

The game is also more forgiving when it comes to grasping ledges. Itís easier to regain Laraís hold on the edge of a cliff or rock face. I also found the number of collapsing ledges to be reduced greatly. I do wish some ledges were marked more clearly. Similar to the past games, I found myself leaping into the unknown too often to grasp something that looked like a ledge. Additionally Lara occasionally wouldnít grab ledges when I fell off a cliff face, which becomes tiresome and frustrating early into the game.

The achievements are similar to the previous release of Tomb Raider, offering points for finishing time trials and certainly difficulties. The developer took more time to spread out the points and achievements evenly though. There is nothing overly difficult to beating a level without dying as the game doesnít care if you reload to the last checkpoint. The collection tasks do take a chunk of time to finish, but the set as a whole is only moderately challenging. Still, itís very accessible to the casual gamer and thatís always good for business.

Graphics

Visually, the game engine doesnít seem to have been altered from Tomb Raider: Legend. The only noticeable difference I caught was a more accented shininess when Ms. Croft emerges from a body of water. The environment and character models are well detailed, but certainly lack the definition of titles built specifically for the 360. The animation is on par with the last title, although Lara seems a bit more limber. The camera has problems though. Going underwater often means wrestling with a troublesome camera angle which wastes precious time or pull a lever or traverse a flooded cave. The framerate is usually steady and the load times certainly arenít as annoyingly long as Tomb Raider: Legend.

Audio

Much of the game takes place in the wild, hence the sound effects emerging from a solid 5.1 surround system are impressive. Monkeys screeching in the trees, birds chirping in the jungle, and bears roaring to life will tickle the ears when traveling through each level. The musical score typically kicks in during the most frenzied time to highlight the dangerous mood. Otherwise, the music is silent for the most part. The voice work is perfectly fine and each actor portrays their character very well. The voice of Lara is Keeley Hawes, the voice from the last title as well as the upcoming sequel. She gives Lara a lifelike personality and handles the character admirably.

Conclusion

This is an interesting release, especially at the discounted price point. Lara isnít covering any new ground in this title, but rather re-visiting her past. If you have fond memories playing through the original Tomb Raider, you will surely get a kick out of seeing the old levels in full high definition detail. Unfortunately you will also know exactly what to do in those sections, but thereís enough new content wrapped into the game to give it a fresh feel. Tomb Raider: Anniversary is a nice throwback, but doesnít offer much innovation to adventure gamers in this generation of consoles. Still, itís a great bargain for Xbox 360 owners tired of the $60 releases.