In the 1996 game these puzzles were made all the more difficult by a control scheme that worked against you at every turn. In the original version jumps were practically impossible, you not only had to line them up perfectly, but many of them required you to get a running jump which was beyond frustrating given the title's awkward controls. Thankfully Tomb Raider: Anniversary doesn't have that problem. Instead of keeping the game's original control scheme, Anniversary completely throws out the clumsy old controls and streamlines them in a lot of good ways. Jumps are no longer a frustrating endeavor, the developers have finally gotten it through their heads that the fun of these games is not battling the controls, but rather being able to solve these complex puzzles and navigating the large worlds.
To that end, the controls in Tomb Raider: Anniversary actually feels pretty good. Climbing up and down ledges, somersaulting out of the way of enemies, shimmying from side to side and grabbing on to ledges all feels natural, and I don't think I'm risking my credibility to say that this Tomb Raider remake controls about as well as you can expect the series to control. There's always room for improvements, but I don't think too many people will have issues moving Lara Croft around the screen this time around.
When you're not navigating around the large (and often interesting) environments, you're forced to deal with a lot of wild animals. For the most part the combat is good, though it's certainly nothing you haven't seen before in other 3D action games. The way it works is that you basically hold down the trigger to lock on to your opponent and then start laying into them. Thankfully there are a few additions to this mechanic, including an adrenaline dodge that you can activate at the push of a button. Basically the adrenaline dodge slows down time for a few seconds and allows you to jump out of the way, while at the same time you can pinpoint where you want your bullets to hit (effectively giving you a headshot). But even with the slight gameplay additions, Tomb Raider: Anniversary is still more about exploration and puzzle solving than gunplay.
With only four locations (albeit with several sub-sections each), Tomb Raider: Anniversary isn't the longest adventure game you'll play this year. Part of this has to do with the source material; by and large games from the 1990s were shorter than the types of games we play today. Having said that, if you're new to the puzzles (or haven't played the original game in so long that you've completely forgotten the solutions to the puzzles) the game will take you a good amount of time to complete. I doubt that most people will come away from Tomb Raider: Anniversary feeling that they didn't get their money's worth, especially since this game is carrying a budget price (around $40).
Even though it's hardly the best looking game on the platform, this brand new Tomb Raider game definitely upgrades the graphics from the original. Not that this is a hard task to accomplish, the original is 11 years old and on a console that is now two generations removed. Even though psychologically I know this game looks much better (in every single way possible), part of me can't help but wonder what it would look like if this game was originally programmed to be a "next-gen" game. That's not to say the graphics look bad (because they definitely don't), but at its best it looks more like a slightly more detailed PlayStation 2 game. Of course, I would argue that the late-generation PlayStation 2 games certainly look good (maybe even on par with some early-generation Xbox 360 games), but it's just not the same as having a game made for the high definition generation.
Thankfully the game's graphics actually improve over the course of the game, and just about the time you're getting tired of seeing the same kind of environment, the game completely switches up the location so that to keep you engaged with the adventure. Oddly enough, the worst looking parts of the game are often the cinemas, which look a little stiff and are never as convincing as you would like them to be. The good news is that once you start playing the game the brilliant animation shows up and everything starts to look pretty again. In fact, I can't say enough good things about how the game animates. Even when you're messing up, you'll always enjoy bouncing around because of the way Lara moves around the environment. But at the same time part of me wonders what a next-gen exclusive Tomb Raider would look like; I can only imagine how much better it would look than this port.
While the graphics won't blow you away, the sound quality is surprisingly good. Taking notes from the original game, Tomb Raider: Anniversary doesn't offer a lot of music, but what's there is often good. The sound effects are also nice, though they tend to be the same sort of sounds you've heard in countless other games. The game does have a nice ambience, so I doubt you'll be too disappointed with the presentation.
It hasn't been easy to be a Tomb Raider fan for the last decade. Between all of the terrible sequels and the cheapening of the Lara Croft brand, Tomb Raider fans have had a lot to be depressed about. Thankfully this Xbox 360 remake is a great game that was certainly needed. This is the kind of game that will not only impress fans of the original game, but also introduce Lara to a new audience who never understood what all the fuss was about. With its attractive price and workable controls, Tomb Raider: Anniversary is easy to recommend to anybody who enjoys exploring dank and dark caves looking for hidden treasure.
After a decade of depressing sequels and lame movies, it's finally good to be a Tomb Raider fan again. Although it is nowhere near as exciting as Tomb Raider: Legends, Anniversary is still a solid adventure game that you can pick up for a budget price. Sadly this is hardly the first console to see this remake, but as they say, better late than never.
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