With clunky, stilted movement, the first run for Lara Croft has a rough time keeping up with modern times. Tomb Raider will remain an influential classic, even if the sluggish game play can’t keep pace. For those accustomed to modern gaming, Anniversary is the only way to play through the first game, now modernized and updated with stunning results.
Fans of this long running series will recognize this entry, both for its sometimes similar puzzles and familiar feel that is a carry over from the equally superb Tomb Raider Legends last year. This isn’t so much of a remake as it is a re-imagining. The massive technology leap allows lead designer Jason Botta to expand the puzzle concepts dramatically.
Nothing remains fully intact from the original game. All cinematics have been reworked for the new graphical style, again in tune with Legends. Levels will feel familiar in terms of enemy placement and style, but traversing them will require a heftier set of platforming skills. Lara is far more agile, and her grappling can significantly alter her means of progress. While there are moments of déjà vu, such as the unforgettable T-Rex battle, Anniversary could have been advertised as another sequel and likely passed scrutiny.
However, bigger proves yet again that it’s not always better. Simply because the ability now exists to expand the stage design doesn’t immediately mean you should. In the case of Anniversary, this can prove a frustrating element.
Puzzles can span an entire level, and by the time you find the item you’ve been questing for, you’ll forget where exactly you need to be in order to place it. There’s a little too much freedom given to the player at times, leading to dead ends or useless ledges that seem as if they’ll actually go somewhere. It does eliminate all feelings of this being a linear run, yet also falsely bumps up the total game time.
Combat could also stand improvement, though it’s limited enough not to cause problems. The automatic targeting is hardly adequate; yet trying to cram both a necessary, intricate camera system plus an in-depth shooting mechanic is nearly impossible. Running or climbing away can be integral to avoiding a fight, and a standard dual analog targeting system would only serve to complicate that.
Even with aging hardware, Anniversary still manages to impress graphically. Environments are expansive, and they feel like it. Challenges can dwarf Lara, giving them an imposing sense of mass. This makes completing them quite satisfying.
Hardly a cheap way to utilize the successful engine from the prior Tomb Raider or a cheap exploitation of the original, Anniversary is a finely produced and arguably needed remake. Fans have every reason to revisit this title in its latest incarnation. The slight flaws are not enough to disappoint the longtime Lara followers.
Source: Blog Critics, by Matt Paprocki, July 05 2007