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Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider


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As you might remember from my review of The Last Revelation, I had never played a Tomb Raider game until a few months ago. After thoroughly enjoying the most recent game in the series, I decided that the rest of the games deserved a look as well, and besides, there just aren’t very few good games on the Playstation left that I haven’t played. Even though this game was released four years ago, it is plain to see why this game got so much attention when it was released–I had no idea what I was missing. Yes, this game has some flaws in graphical presentation, simply because this sort of thing had never been done before, but it more than makes up for it in gameplay.

What’s Going on Here?

Our heroine, Lara Croft, begins her adventure when a mysterious business woman, Jacqueline Natla, contacts her with respect to an unusual artifact, the Atlantean Scion. After a brief monetary discussion, Lara is on her way to the tomb of Qualopec in Peru to retrieve it. Soon Lara discovers that there are three separate pieces of the Scion, and she must travel through Europe, Egypt, and finally Atlantis to reach her final goal.

I’m convinced that people don’t play Tomb Raider games for the plots, because there’s only so many variations on “Evil person needs something to rule the world. Hires someone to get it for him. The assistant realizes, almost too late, the consequences of his actions and must stop the evil person’s plans.” There are very few plot twists, and to be honest, I pretty much ignored the plot since I was having far too much fun simply exploring the many locations in the game. The plot does tie the game together, so creativity aside, the story is satisfactory.

Overall Plot Grade: B

How Did it Look?

As far as the game’s graphics are concerned, there’s definitely a dated engine driving the first Tomb Raider. The position of the camera behind Lara is automatic, so there are inevitably some scenes when the camera’s view of the action is blocked completely by some object or wall in the current room. Movable blocks seemed to have hollow “cells” on their edges and corners, with flickering a regular occurrence. (I played the Playstation version of the game, so these problems might not be as prominent in the other platform releases.) As far as Lara goes, she appears to be more sharp than curved, with minimal polygons representing her features.

These minor faults, however, should not be held against the game. Tomb Raider was one of the first third-person action/adventures, and considering that, Core did a great job. Lara’s actions are extremely well-modeled, and even with a small number of polygons, all of her motions look perfectly natural. In fact, all of the animation in the game is very well-done. The attempts to visualize water and fire in the game work, although they are a little bit primitive.

The in-game movies are very well-done, with seemingly better quality than those included in The Last Revelation. Yes, the characters move stiffly, and there’s not very much detail, but the movies serve their purpose in telling us the story while looking very slick.

Overall Graphics Grade: B

How Did it Sound?

I was surprised by the lack of music in Tomb Raider. There are only occasional snippets of music, which either serve to warn you of some monsters ahead or reward you for reaching a new area of the game. Both of these work very well–there’s nothing like walking through a small passage into a gigantic room filled with wondrous architectural structures, with a groundswell of music urging you to explore. Other than these tonal moments, playing Tomb Raider is a very quiet experience. The sounds that the various monsters make are somewhat unrecognizable (instead of hearing a sound and saying “there’s a lion up ahead,” you will instead hear the sound, see the creature, and say, “if I ever hear that again, don’t forget that there’s a lion around”), and your weapons don’t sound very realistic.

Although it’s above average, the voice acting could still have been much better. I know there are good actors out there who would kill to have a part in one of these games, so why can’t the developers find them? Perhaps it’s a social stigma, or perhaps the actors are simply not paid enough … I know it’s possible to have great voice acting (see Fear Effect or System Shock 2), so the only real conclusion that I can draw is that if the voice acting isn’t up to par, what other corners were cut in the development of the game?

Overall Sound Grade: B

Was it Fun?

This is where Tomb Raider shines. Little did I realize when I put the game into my Playstation that I would not take it out for over a month. I spent hours and hours playing it with the following conclusion–this is a true classic. Tomb Raider has more “game” packed into a single CD than many other games with multiple discs. The different areas are simply gigantic. Like the other Tomb Raiders, the game is divided up into different areas, and these areas are subdivided into levels. These levels start out pretty easy at the beginning but soon advance to the point where they take a full hour or two to finish, without getting boring or repetitive. The goals of each level are fairly consistent–find a particular object/key, figure out how to reach a remote area, or escape with your ponytail intact. There’s such a large number of variations on this theme that the developers have since made three sequels, so this game is just the tip of the iceberg as far as potential.

No matter how good the game’s concept is, it will always fail unless the controls are easy enough to learn and use. Tomb Raider has probably the most intuitive interface I’ve even used–granted, I used a Playstation controller, which is specifically designed for games like this, but I found it so simple to move Lara around in the game that after the initial training levels I was able to explore without giving a second thought as to which button to push. Given the wide range of actions that Lara is capable of (running around corners, grabbing narrow ledges while jumping, jumping to the side to avoid boulders, etc.), this is a significant accomplishment on the part of Core and should be applauded.

(Although it’s not documented, I found an interesting move while playing the game that was very interesting. While holding the “walk” button, I jumped up and grabbed a ledge, then pushed up to pull myself up to the new level. Instead of the normal animation, a strange flipping handstand took place that was very graceful and neat to watch. If you get the chance, try it out!)

Overall Gameplay Grade: A+

When it was released, Tomb Raider broke new ground in the third-person arena, and it continues to do so today. If puzzles and exploration are up your alley, I strongly recommend that you go out and get this game as soon as you can (although I think I was the last person left on the face of the earth who hadn’t already played this game). As far as “game for the dollar” goes, Tomb Raider is tops.

Final Grade: A

Erik Reckase

Erik Reckase

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