Tomb Raider: Legend Review

When Lara Croft first appeared in the original Tomb Raider game, she quickly established herself as the queen of action-adventure gaming.  In the intervening ten years since then, her crown has become somewhat tarnished thanks to some sub-par games released in the interim.  Now the Dark Ages have passed and Lara Croft is back in Tomb Raider: Legend, reasserting her role as the reigning queen.  Long live the queen!

Tomb Raider: Legend marks a return to classic form for Lara, updated to take full advantage of today’s consoles.  Full 3D environments are designed to let you jump, grapple, shimmy, spin, and vault your way through locations that vary from jungle temples to frozen wastes.  If you’ve played any of the Prince of Persia games then you have a good idea for the feel of Tomb Raider: Legend.  The controls are smooth and responsive and let you guide Lara easily through her athletic and gymnastic moves.  The game is thankfully forgiving when it comes to aligning jumps, going so far as to allow you to recover from near-misses with one-hand grabs.  It’s then a simple matter of pressing Y to hoist yourself up and you’re on your way.  Don’t get me wrong – you can still miss jumps and turn Lara into a pretty pancake on an ancient stone floor, but this won’t happen as a result of you starting your jump a couple of pixels too far to the right or left.  With the bevy of moves at your disposal, most of the rooms and outdoor environments become puzzles unto themselves as you look for vines, ropes, poles, ledges, and anything else that looks like it can help Lara reach the other side. 

While on the topic of puzzles I should mention that there are plenty of them of them in the game.  Most are mechanical in nature and can be quite intricate.  These puzzles will require you to think spatially in three dimensions and to take advantage of the game’s physics engine.  For example, in one puzzle you’ll need to weigh down switches in the floor with steel crates.  However, the crates that you need are in a trench and there’s no way to lift them over the ledge.  There must be some way to flip the crates into the air and onto the ledge…  Should you find yourself stuck, the game has a simple built-in help system in the form of a special pair of binoculars.  When you use these you’ll be able to identify the interactive parts of a puzzle and even hear Lara think aloud as how to approach the puzzle.

Tomb Raider: Legends isn’t all death-defying acrobatics and puzzles; you’ll find yourself in some situations where guns will help you out more than brains.  When fighting enemies you can lock on to your target which allows you to jump and roll to dodge bullets while you’re fighting.   The fights are pretty straightforward affairs, but are made more interesting by the ability to use the environment around you to score some kills.  For example, you can send a pile of boulders down a slope to crush a few enemies before they even know you’re there.  You’ll also face various wild animals with bad intentions in the game, but these fights are a bit awkward.  The animals don’t move very realistically and give the distinct impression that they’re slightly drugged.  You almost feel guilty for pumping a clip’s worth of bullets into these sad creatures.