Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend
Game Info
PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360
Crystal Dynamics
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence
The Good

• Large levels that look great
• Nice balance of action and platforming
• Variety of locations and gameplay elements
• Timetrials and unlockable content

The Bad

• Controls could use some tightening
• Long loading times


Do I really have to go through the whole sordid past of how the Tomb Raider series lost its way? Or should I just point to the sloppy almost-nail-in-the-coffin Angel of Darkness? After that one, Eidos handed the game development reins over to Crystal Dynamics, who have spent most of this generation putting out solid Legacy of Kain action adventure titles. What gamers finally received is an action adventure game that resets the series back on track and really delivers an exceptional story with varied locations.

Legend reveals bits of Lara's past, including the events where her mother is lost to her after a plane crash. During her modern day tomb raiding, Lara finds clues that her father's work was not actually in vain and was actually an attempt to discover what happened to her mother. This, of course, leads her to do some serious globe trotting to various locations, including Bolivia, Peru and England. While the player is taken to a number of traditional tombs, the story also leads them to nontraditional places, like the office building in Japan and the base in Kazakhstan.

As with most third-person action adventure titles, Lara controls with the two analog sticks. The X Button performs jumps while the Circle Button performs crouch and rolls maneuvers. The Triangle Button is used as an interact button. When in combat, you can lock on to targets with the L1 Button and fire your equipped weapon with the R1 Button. The R2 Button tosses grenades while you can enter a special aim mode with the R3 button. While in the aim mode, you can get better shots at both enemies and destructible items in the area.

The D-Pad acts as a quick menu to select Lara's most used items: Up to use a health pack, Down for one of two equipped weapons, Left for a high tech flashlight, and Right for Binoculars (which can be used to see items that can be interacted with).

When you find yourself in combat, Lara does have some moves at her disposal. Running towards an enemy and hitting the Circle Button makes Lara perform a slide tackle, while jumping onto the head of an enemy puts her into a slow mode. Lara can use a power kick and her own magnetic grapple along with jumping and dodging manuevers.

While Lara does have a lot of combat scenarios, she does spend a great amount of time hunting through tombs, which requires a good bit of platforming. At this point in the series, the platforming mechanics have been pretty well refined, proving some fine puzzle-solving elements to the platforming, along with timing jumps and figuring out the best path that doesn't end in horrible death. Lara can scale certain walls, shimmy along cracks and perform gymnastics off of poles. She can also use ropes to swing and even uses her magnetic grapple to solve certain puzzle elements or just to cross certain spans. Yes, there are still a number of block puzzles, but they've been handled with a bit more variety to keep them from being too mundane.

To break up the gameplay, Legend does feature story-specific elements. Much like Resident Evil 4, Legend features some quick timing events where the player has to hit a specific button to progress the cutscene. Failure leads to death. There are also a couple of motorcycle sequences where Lara has to survive a course of vehicle riding enemies while rushing to her goal. Also, throughout each level is a number of Rewards (Bronze, Silver and Gold) that unlock bonus items and handgun upgrades. Also, once you beat a level, you can go back and play through on other difficulty levels or even through a time trial.

Visually, Legend is the best the series has ever looked. It's as if the massive locations have finally gotten the treatment they should have. Legend's levels are large and often feature some gorgeous scenery. The lighting and texture-work go a long way to making the player feel the mood of the location. Character models are decently done, though I think that with a few more polygons they would really stand out. This is not to say they're bad, but the PS2-ness really shows a little bit of age. The same goes with some of the levels that have some less than natural edges to it. Still, the whole game looks great in comparison to the rest of the series and still looks good for the genre. I can't image how good a Tomb Raider built specifically for the PS3 and Xbox 360 would look.

Audio-wise, Legend works well on all fronts. The sound effects are varied and exhibit a great range of tones. Weapons, explosions and the various mechanics of the tombs all sound dead on. Musically, the game features some well done dramatic themes, ranging in various styles depending on the location and the level of activity on screen. During high intensity action sequences, the music ramps up, pushing the adrenaline. Voicework is well done without falling into stale stereotypes. Keeley Hawes is excellent as Lara: confident and sultry at the same time.

For the most part, Legend is dead-on. If I have any really issues, its with the looseness of the controls, which still don't feel responsive enough. But, compared to Angel of Darkness, they're vastly improved. There are times where it doesn't feel like Lara's responding fast enough, but this never hurts the game too badly. Also it issue are the sizable load times, which can be a problem if you find yourself dying often.

Where Legend is successful is in capturing the charm and feel of the original games and truly feels like the first modern take on the series. Tomb Raider fans should do themselves a favor and pick this one up. The adventure feels well done and adventure fans will enjoy their experience.

- - Kinderfeld

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