While it’s certainly not going to revolutionize third-person action gaming, Tomb Raider: Legend delivers a few hours of solid entertainment. You’ll explore new and old locations from adventurer Lara Croft’s past—including a whole bunch of tombs filled with elaborate booby traps and intricate puzzles.
The Tomb Raider games have always succeeded in evoking an Indiana Jones-like sense of wonder at the artifacts left behind by long-dead civilizations, and Legends follows suit. The tombs look beautiful in all their next-gen glory. Everything is normal-mapped, dynamically lit, reflective, and shiny. The gameplay is at its best inside these ancient chambers, where you’ll have to solve a variety of physics-based jumping and climbing puzzles, in addition to fighting man and beast.
Whenever Lara leaves the ruins in favor of more modern settings, the game falls flat. The run-and-gun levels—all the Japanese levels and the village ambush—would be more fitting in a first-person shooter. And the vehicular levels are a drag, even if you play with a gamepad. The motorcycle is virtually impossible to control—at best, you swerve wildly out of control from one area to the next. Combat sequences are briefly entertaining, but the pathetic enemy AI renders the gunplay overly simplistic. The boss battles are also annoying, requiring you to jump, duck, and shoot, without any real strategy or skill. They’re simply endurance contests between you and the AI.
Crystal Dynamics tore a page from the Indigo Prophecy playbook with the cutscene mini-games. During many of the cutscenes, you’ll be presented with simple, quick tasks—usually tapping a button or one of your movement keys. Lara’s fate depends on your ability to perform the action in the time allotted. We’re not fans of pre-rendered cutscenes, but anything a developer does to make them more interesting is OK by us.
While you can play Tomb Raider with a mouse and keyboard, a gamepad makes more sense—with the game’s automatic aiming, there’s really no reason to muddle around with the unwieldy keyboard config.
Month Reviewed: August 2006