We all remember the original Tomb Raider. Many of us recall our first experience with the franchise, and while we’ve watched the series grow and flux over the years, we’ve suffered through some pretty mediocre titles. On the other hand, the most recent installment - Tomb Raider: Legend - went a long way towards restoring the well-known name to its past glory. So what’s next on the list? Crystal Dynamics' remake of the original, as they follow in the footsteps of other series like Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid. Come on, you should’ve expected this.
It’s called Lara Croft Tomb Raider Anniversary for the PS2 and PSP, and will provide us with the original’s same basic format, with some updated visuals and a bunch of other goodies. And once again, the developers give Lara her just due by putting her name in the title; after all, we have to admit much of Tomb Raider’s success is due in some part to the main character’s...erm...curvaceous body type. In the original, Lara will traverse an age-old path, a path they resurrected in Legend by emphasizing a lone adventure with plenty of action and puzzles.
So in other words, fans of the last installment should very much enjoy Anniversary. Calling it a "remake" might not be accurate, though, considering the sheer number of alterations they’ll be instituting in this one. Lara will now be able to shimmy along ledges, leap like a true acrobat towards swing-able tree branches and poles, and the player will once again experience context-sensitive controls (ala Legend). Although the adventure will remain mostly linear, there’s simply more to do this time around, and you’ll be able to explore every nook and cranny with Lara’s newfound ability and techniques.
The developers have offered up a quick demo to the media, and it shows Lara working her way through the classically-portrayed ruins of Peru. She’s seeking some lost artifact known as the "Scion," and fans of the original will instantly recognize the setting: remember that big gears puzzle? Well, it’s a perfect example of what we mean in regards to a remake with significantly altered and enhanced mechanics. Before, all we had to do was strategically place a few gears, and we could move on unimpeded. But this time, you’ll have to utilize some of Lara’s sweet new skills to climb about the apparatus and the surrounding environment to locate those gears. It’s just a small sampling of the heroine’s fresh new batch of abilities, as she leaps along a series of poles later on in the demo (she’s light on her feet for such a top-heavy girl). However, to add to the revamped style, Crystal Dynamics would like to emphasize that certain abilities aren’t necessary, and while they’re potentially beneficial, they’re also risky.
Sounds to us like there should be more strategy involved, and it’d be unfair to simply call it a remake of a straightforward action/platformer. Then again, the combat won’t be unrecognizable. Lara might be able to execute a variety of attack combos with more effortless grace in Anniversary, but hey, battle is battle, although there’s a small chance we might see that slow-motion feature from Legend. Furthermore, the intimidating enemies are making a return; those who remember the original should be prepared for most of them: bats, bears, raptors, and the bone-chilling T-Rex. All of your foes may or may not have the same attack patterns they had in the original, but if Lara has a bunch of abilities, than maybe…
The best part of the game is very clear- rather than simply upgrade the original title with better graphics, Crystal Dynamics is rebuilding the entire experience from scratch. This allows them to implement the aforementioned changes smoothly without sacrificing gameplay flow, and this should ultimately satisfy both hardcore and emerging fans. They’re also planning a PSP version, which should be a direct port and will include some new multiplayer modes. Overall, Lara Croft Tomb Raider Anniversary is shaping up to be a very intriguing title, and one we suggest you keep an eye on in 2007. It’s roughly scheduled for a second-quarter release, but there’s nothing concrete beyond that.
12/23/2006 Ben Dutka