Previews

Tomb Raider: Anniversary

Preview: Hands-on with the best Lara game ever?

Despite Lara Croft's latest tomb-crawling romp trying in many ways to take the series back to it's roots, many still consider her first game, released on the PlayStation and Saturn in 1996 to be the best. That's why Crystal Dynanmics has reached into the archives and ripped out the best parts of the original for this anniversary-marking PS2 and PSP remake.

First things first though - although the environments, weapons, enemies and puzzles will seem familiar, this is not a direct and total rip of the old game.

Much of the level design has been remixed, recreating the original's best puzzles and key events but rearranging levels and altering puzzle solutions to make it a new experience, even if you know the old game like the back of your hand. It's a bit like the Peter Jackson remake of King Kong - it features enhanced versions of all the main set pieces, but the transitions between those parts are totally new.

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Nostalgia flooded in as we hummed away to the iconic title screen music, and saw the graphically-improved Lara wearing the old outfit and sporting the same old-school ponytail.

The level we played contained the instantly recognisable cog puzzle, where in the original you had to fit missing cogs into place to get all the gears in a complex of cogs turning. All the environmental details from the old game was in there but had been expanded for the PS2 generation - the waterfall near the cogs is now several times higher, and the whole room is much larger, as are many of the areas in the game.

We took a brief look at the Lost Valley level which, again, looked massively familiar. But whereas before these areas featured bland, pixelated walls and little to actually see, the stone walls now feature little stone-made homes to make it look like an ancient civilisation had actually lived there.

As we worked our way through the demo, Lara leapt from ledge to ledge with the intuition and fluidity of Tomb Raider: Legend, but uses her old inventory. In fact, Eidos doesn't only want to improve the gameplay, it wants better the whole experience while remaining as faithful to the original as possible.

But a couple of new moves have been added to freshen things up. Lara can now climb up and slide down poles, and leap from one pole to another. The really hardcore fans may remember the grappling rope that Lara used in the original game's cutscenes but never actually in gameplay - that's been added too, so now you can swing from hooks and various objects.

Marrying updated graphics and fluid gameplay with what is widely considered to be the best plot in the entire Lara Croft series sounds like the dream Tomb Raider game to us.

Tomb Raider: Anniversary might be a remake, but we could be looking at Lara's best outing yet. We'll let you know when we get our hands on a more final version.

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