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Tomb Raider | Legend | review | game | Lollipop

Tomb Raider: Legend

(Eidos for PS2)
by Mike Delano

It's really a testament to the DNA-encoded need for men to see hot, scantily clad women that the Tomb Raider series has survived into 2006. Sure, it's a hot chick exploring jungles, which are exciting. And she uses guns to shoot things in the jungles, and guns and shooting things are exciting. But honestly, Lara Croft could be exploring a file cabinet, it seems, and her games would sell. With such a frothing demand for the character, precious little time has been spent making the actual games playable since the original Tomb Raider debuted in 1996. Back then, frustrating camera angles, sketchy controls, and scattershot shooting dynamics were a worthy tradeoff for a sassy, impossibly proportioned Indiana Jane who raids tombs and shoots jaguars in the face.

Lara Croft's subsequent rocket ride into pop culture stardom in the form of movies, fan fiction, impersonators, et al. effectively made the quality of the games irrelevant: The name was worth more than the games. So rather than correct the glaring issues of the original, the makers of the series instead let the Tomb Raider sequels take a swan dive in quality as gamers quickly forgot why they ever liked the series in the first place. And Angelina Jolie signed her checks.

Tomb Raider: Legend is billed as a rebirth of sorts, but even with some major improvements, this latest installment isn't quite where the series should be after a decade. This time around, the storyline is pretty good, involving Lara's search for the mystical missing pieces of the Excalibur sword, nearly all of which, of course, have fallen into the wrong hands. There are tombs aplenty, but there are also some fantastic non-tropical environments, such as a shoot-out in the plush interior and on the rooftop of a Tokyo skyscraper.

One of the biggest compliments that can be given to this installment is that it's actually fun to play. A couple of hours in, when the game really its stride, the still-present control, camera, and graphical issues become a minor annoyance rather than a one-way ticket to the eject button. The action is exciting, whether it's jumping around while mowing down enemies from afar or utilizing some of Lara's new close-combat moves, like a springboard technique that slows down time Matrix-style.

Still, after ten years of the series, couldn't Lara aim and strafe a little smoother? Couldn't the graphics, which feature incredible depth and shading at times, muster up some post-Syphon Filter visuals for some of the interior battles? And is anyone really hankering for the return of the mind-numbingly boring push-and-pull style puzzles that serve only to break up the action and exploration scenes?

Maybe next time around. After all, the fact that video gaming's most perfect woman has always been riddled with flaws is not without its charm.


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