Good to have you back, sweetie pie. New Lara Croft is sexier, curvier, easier to move about and a joy to be seeing again. She's no moody prince. She's not a sulking ninja with problems relating to other people. She hasn't got a stealthy bone in her whole glorious body, and yes, she's still got the hourglass physique all the archaeologists can't wait to get their trowels stuck into. She's Lara Croft, this is Tomb Raider, and you're about to get one hell of a stylish adventure.
The first mission is classic Tomb Raider. You're in the decaying temple of Tiwanaku, a crumbling, overgrown mess of gnarled old trees and hanging vines in deepest Bolivia. This is what it's all about! You're chasing a bloke called Rutland, trying to gather pieces of some old magical sword or other. That's all the story there is to Tomb Raider: Legend, thanks to it ditching all the ludicrous plots of the last few games (like the one where she died) and starting again. Here we get Lara Croft Year One - an adventure to find out how her mother died by rebuilding the device that killed her.
A few flashbacks to young pre-teen Lara and one level where you 'play the past' are all the references to previous Lara Croft history in here, with the short, to-the-point plot keeping things brief and moving along at a scorching pace. It's a sensible story that gives you a reason for jetting between Bolivia, Peru, Kazakhstan and the deepest darkest corners of, er, Cornwall.
First up is Tiwanaku, where you learn how Lara's skills have come on, and it's immediately obvious that she's the most user-friendly Lara Croft we've ever made do things. She's loads more manoeuvrable than before, which makes the game less frustrating and more welcoming to everyone regardless of skill, age or familiarity with the series.
The old grid-based Lara Croft control system that had you lumbering around the locations in squares has gone, freeing you to explore the exciting world of angles. You no longer have to be perfectly placed to make a jump, thanks to this more nimble Lara and her ability to lock onto ledges and turn in the air. She doesn't stumble forward like a newborn lamb at every touch of the controller, either. She's fully able!
Lara now comes with different animations depending on how close you were to missing the jump, making her twist in the air and reach a little further to save the day if you weren't facing in quite the right way at take-off. It's great to see and very nice to not plummet to your death if you're slightly off line. In fact, it all feels almost exactly the same to play as the rather top-notch Prince of Persia series, with all fiddly control moments ditched in favour of a lead character who does things automatically.
She'll grab the edge of traps and cliffs instead of plummeting off, lock onto distant ledges with one hand while demanding you quickly press the Y button to tighten her grip and stop her falling, and there are all kinds of glinting scenery objects gently prodding you in the right direction. It's archaeology for beginners, and great fun it is too.
There's no awkward rucksack system either - all your possessions are organised on the D-pad. Pressing Up gives you a health pack, Right brings up Lara's binoculars, and you can also swap weapons in this way too. The pause menu no longer has to be called up every few seconds, and you can tell what weapons Lara's packing in reserve - they're slung over her shoulder, not packed away in the old non-existent backpack.
She also has a grappling hook, which can be combined with a double-jump move to swing over chasms, or used on its own to grab distant lumps of scenery and pull them down. Again, it's easy to use and is always called into action via a big, floating A button in the sky to let you know when Lara fancies a grapple. The Bolivian training mission also lets you know one other important thing - puzzles are still a big thing in Lara's world.