View Full Version : 1UP Previews Xbox360 Legend

18th Mar 2006, 01:14
by Jeremy Parish 03/16/2006

At the 1UP offices we've been spending some quality time with Lara Croft lately-- generally impressed and genuinely enthusiastic to see her in a game worth our time at long last. Tomb Raider Legend is important for reasons beyond its quality as a game, though; equally significant is that it marks the series' jump into the next generation.

Despite having been designed primarily for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, Legend will be appearing on Xbox 360 just a few weeks after its current-gen debut. This isn't the first time a TR title has spanned multiple generations, of course. But unlike the pitiful Dreamcast version of Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, Legend's 360 iteration is more than just a higher-resolution version of its more humble siblings.

That being said, Legend on 360 still appears to be the same basic game as it is on current hardware. Having played through the first few levels of both versions, we didn't notice a single difference in the level layouts, puzzles or enemy encounters. Even the secret collectible treasures are placed consistently.

That's certainly no bad thing, as Legend is shaping up to be a downright exceptional game. But it does mean that the improvements offered by the 360 version are entirely cosmetic.

Crystal Dynamics has indicated that every visual asset in the game has been recreated for HD, and it really shows. Characters and many objects are clearly built of more polygons than on PS2, and textures are much more detailed. Some of the changes are a little strange (like the realistic bump-mapping on young Lara's lips, which seems terribly at odds with the simplified and slightly cartoonish character designs) but for the most part they look stunning.

Of particular interest is the improved lighting in the game, which truly brings the game world to life. Lara is just about the only thing in the world that casts a true shadow on PS2, which leads to occasional moments of silliness when you can look down from a ledge and see her shadow all by itself on the floor below. That is absolutely not a problem with the 360 game; every wall, ledge, trap and mechanism casts a shadow. Exploring the ruins on 360 leads to moments of genuine visual splendor where light streams in through windows and holes in the surrounding stone, casting deep shadows and adding a diffuse glow to the air. It's not something you notice while exploring the outdoor areas, but the dynamic lighting adds an amazing sense of life to the crumbling ruins of Bolivia and Peru.

Also of note is the fact that the 360 version gives you a better sense of what's underwater when swimming. Taking a dive can be a risky proposition on PS2, as you can't always tell what the topography of the ground below the surface is like. Those details are much easier to discern in HD, which means less time wasted becoming oriented and more time getting to where you want to go.

Of course, no one is going to mistake Legend on 360 for a cutting-edge next-gen title; next to something like Ghost Recon it falls a bit short. Still, 360 owners who feel they've been abused by low-effort conversions like Gun and Tony Hawk should be pleased to have a game that shows off some of their system's whizzy features and looks so much better than its last-gen peers. And considering that Legend is one of the best-looking games on PS2, that's no bad thing at all.