I barely raised and eyebrow at the news of Tomb Raider: Anniversary. That's not because I wasn't impressed by the original Tomb Raider; it's just that Tomb Raider wasn't a great example of classic old-school gameplay. Rather, it was the first, accomplished step in a new platforming direction. It was a filmic experience, with a grand soundtrack and cinematic scenes, and it kicked your jaw off with the unprecedented ability to hang from ledges, in 3D, as a woman.
Lara Croft was as close as we had at the time to feeling like we were controlling a human, with arms that weren't just used to put above her head when she jumped. She'd leap around, hang off stuff and slam her dumplings again and again into sheer rock faces. It's a style that's been consistently built on, so this is exactly the kind of game that could benefit from enhancing surgery.
QUALITY AGAINST TIME
We're all aware of the slow decline and sudden rebirth of Tomb Raider, but here it is again, in a nutshell. Excellent first game spins wildly into quickly released sequels, and a world of boobalicious merchandise. Lara Croft gets her own press office, while the quality of the games degrade into unfinished, repetitive crap.
Lara jumped, then flipped mid-air and shot a number of sharks with The Angel Of Darkness. Then, she was unexpectedly resuscitated on the other side of a number of sharks when Crystal Dynamics took over the development, and produced the gridless, physics-powered Legend. And now, Core Design - who made all the games up to The Angel Of Darkness - have to suffer the indignity of Crystal Dynamics making their first baby better.
So, what criticisms has the game faced? "Not enough tombs" is a good start. "Too much shooting animals" was one cry, until animals were replaced with gangsters, at which point "it wasn't Tomb Raider enough". In remaking the original game - the very definition of Tomb Raider, surely - the decision has been made to keep it as pure to that ill-defined Tomb Raidery-ness as possible. It's a level-for-level remake, so that means tomb after tomb mixed with raiding galore.
The only skyscraper is in a cut-scene, and there's certainly no Tokyo level, which the more cynical players of Legend would describe as a wank break.
WHAT ONE WAS
Let's talk about the original Tomb Raider, then. Players of Legend might be surprised by the lack of globetrotting. The original game took Lara through three large tombs, working for and then against the shadowy Natla Corp. Tombs had a Peruvian, Greek, and Egyptian theme, each split into a number of levels. These levels generally took the form of a hub room which requires three cogs,four keys and three gold bars, basically xof y, which could be found in puzzle rooms branching off from the hub.
It was simple but effective, and felt more engaging than the more linear levels of late. Then, it was off to Atlantis, where it was revelations galore and the end of the game.
Playing the original Tomb Raider again for this review was a predictable eyeopener. From 1996, I mainly remember the fact that I was impressed, that it seemed like games had suddenly changed a little bit, and that I said to my thenflatmate: "It's like someone threw a dimension at Prince Of Persia."
Since those days, my brain has blended the bad-jigsaw textures, smoothed out the polygons and with every advance in graphics in the real world, my memories of the original Lara got upgraded to match. So I was appalled when the reality was shown to me; how on earth did people make a fetish of this bad Frank Sidebottom impersonator?