Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 04/11/06 | Genre: Action
I’ve said before that Lara Croft is like that ex you just can’t seem to stay away from no matter how many times they hurt you. For the better part of a decade now, Lara’s disappointed us time and time again, but now here we are in 2006 and the original video game hottie comes waltzing back onto the stage once more and this time she’s packing some serious substance behind her style. Tomb Raider: Legend is exactly the kind of game Ms. Croft needed to get her career back on track. Almost every facet of this game has been done masterfully by the development team at Crystal Dynamics and the result is the Tomb Raider experience the world has been waiting for.
The story in Tomb Raider: Legend sends Lara on a quest to solve the mysteries of her past. Lara sets out to find an ancient artifact that may uncover the truth around her mother’s apparent death and quickly finds out that she isn’t the only one interested in the hunt. This journey will send Lara all around the globe from the dazzling neon glow of Tokyo to the ancient temples of Bolivia. Luckily, you’ll have some of Lara’s support team back in England on a secure audio channel for much of the adventure. Zip and Alister will sometimes give you hints about what you should do next, but mostly just add a bit of humorous banter to the adventure.
This new Tomb Raider title has upped the bar when it comes to visuals in the series; especially on the Xbox 360. The character models are amazingly detailed and the animation is great as well. Also, this is the most colorful title we’ve seen in the franchise for years. Finally! No more all brown color palettes! While these visual upgrades are nice, it is the gameplay that ultimately makes the title so great. Say goodbye to the stiff and rigid controls of the past; Lara moves gracefully and on command. She’s also been given some acrobatic enhancements and the targeting system is easy to learn and simple to use.
With the new control scheme and freedom of movement, running and gunning through levels is a blast. However, in true TR fashion, expect plenty of puzzles that need solving as well. Add to this a few Shenmue type quick time event sequences and some absolutely thrilling motorcycle chases and you’ve got one hell of a great game on your hands. The aforementioned chase sequences are some of the most memorable moments of the entire game and simply have to be played to be appreciated.
As you make your way through the game, you’ll come across different medals that can be collected for bonus content. You’ll find bronze, silver and gold medals hidden throughout the game and for 360 players these not only unlock hidden features, but also count as achievements for upping your gamer score. The game also features four different difficulty modes including the standard easy, medium and hard modes. However, where things get interesting is the fourth mode: time trials. Stages that took you an hour and a half to complete your first time through have insane time restrictions, some as low as twelve minutes. Attempting the time trials for each stage is a lot of fun and forces you to play at your best and rely on instincts. Completing these can also unlock some bonus content whether it’s a new costume for Lara, a new cheat code or a weapon upgrade, they’re all pretty interesting.
Yet another area where this game stands apart from the crowd is the fantastic audio. If there’s a soundtrack out for this game; I’m going to buy it. The music is excellent and really fits the theme combining traditional tribal sounds with modern music beats. Also, the game sets a new standard for voice acting in video games. The characters, for the most part, sound great. There are a few exceptions here and there, but Lara and other main characters make it a very enjoyable experience and should be used as a reference for other companies on how to do good voice over work in a video game.
At the end of the day, Tomb Raider: Legend stands as a great game and among the best that the 360, or any other console, has to offer. That's why I proudly bestow upon it CVG's highest honor: an A+. The only issue I had was that at times the camera can give a shoddy angle of the action, but these instances are few and far between and are not enough to have a real impact on the overall experience. This game comes highly recommended as a definite buy for all action game fans. This is what Tomb Raider was always meant to be.