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18th Mar 2006, 13:56
Tomb Raider: Legend: Hands-on Impressions

Lara strips for action, invades Tokyo, mounts a motorcycle, and gets her spelunking on.
by Douglass Perry

March 17, 2006 - Adventure games are kind of a relic these days. Like platformers, their kind has gravitated toward other genres. Instead of adventure games, we get action-adventure games (like The Suffering). Instead of point-and-click adventure games we get platformers (Psychonauts). And instead of platfomers, we get furry shooters (Blinx, Jak, or Ratchet). Then there's the indefatigable Prince of Persia, an genre-blending game that's equal parts action, adventure and platforming.

What's Tomb Raider? It's somewhere in the Netherlands of action-adventure and straight adventure. Returning Lara Croft to her roots, Crystal Dynamics has aimed straight at making a good healthy Tomb Raider, the kind we always wish we had. We recently got the chance to play four whole levels of the game, and though much of what we've learned isn't terribly new, the experience of playing the game continually from beginning to middle has given us new insights.

The first level is very familiar: it's the Bolivia mission. This was recently issued on a demo disc for all PS2 owners to play; it gives gamers a quick insight into the game's controls, mechanics, and visuals. It's the training level, though in the game proper, the level is much longer than in the demo. Visually, whether you play it on Xbox 360, Xbox, PC, or PS2, Crystal's take on the game is relatively the same. Lara is slimmer, more realistically curved than before, and the details in her clothing and facial features have been paid great attention. There are more polygons on the Xbox 360 and PC versions, but the PS2 and Xbox versions hold up very well with solid framerates (it holds at around 30), exactly the same character animations, and lots of little details in the environments, the enemy AI, particles and lighting systems. For instance, Lara is regularly offered interactive environments on which to swing (using her magnetic grappling hook), jump onto, or shoot.

For instance, in Bolivia you'll notice movable boulders. They're about ankle high and Lara can kick them. Seems like no big deal. But later on you'll find that using them to create a ruckus might help her sneak past a guard. Moving rocks and boulders also play into physics puzzles. In one section, Lara enters a dark, dank cavern. She starts on a higher plateau, with the lower one having ankle deep water and a teeter-tooter like device in it. There are also large suspicious boulders around, three to be exact, all on the lower level. It won't take you long to figure out the three boulders should fit in three square interactive platforms on the upper level. Ah, but it's getting those boulders into the platforms that's the trick. Here, it's a simple logic puzzle with a bit of newly added physics in the mix. When Lara places a boulder on the lower end of the device and jumps on the upper end, it catapults the boulders to the upper level. After a simple bit of heavy lifting, the three items solve the puzzle and Lara is able to exit the lonely chamber.

What's nice about the full, seamless experience of playing four straight levels is seeing how Crystal has paced the game and how the team introduces new elements to the mix. In the first five to 10 minutes, you'll have learned to perform all her major moves, after which you'll learn special combat attacks, the swimming mechanics, and the combination of acrobatic moves to complement combat attacks. In previous articles I spoke about these killer moves, so I won't fully list them here, but suffice to say, she's got handy bullet time attacks that will really please long-time Tomb Raider fans. To go along with these moves is a fully functioning Lara. In case you've been spelunking in a cave somewhere, Crystal has revamped her movement system so that Lara is a freed woman. She moves in 3D without magnetic boots and an electronic grid. She's nimble and athletic, and she has swift smooth animations to back most of these moves up.

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18th Mar 2006, 14:06
Thanks for the info,Trinity34.:)