• Almost ten years ago a British game developer graced us with a title that endeared itself to our gaming hearts and the title along with the heroine, became a huge success overnight. Tomb Raider and our sassy little kick-ass heroine Lara Croft made her first appearance back in November 1996 and Eidos Entertainment along with Core Design had hit it big with their title and boy did we love the game. Time goes by as it does and sequel after sequel was launched keeping the Lara fan base happy. Happy that was until three years ago when Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness was launched and a game so poor that it pushed the self destruct button on the Tomb Raider game franchise…Or did it?

    Exit Core Design stage left and enter Crystal Dynamics for what is the re-birth of Tomb Raider and bringing Lara back to her swan diving, tomb-a-raider’ing, top heavy fun bags best. Three years is a long time to have no presence in the gaming world, and although as much as our favourite heroine is back, and back on the Xbox 360, what you really need to know is…is it worth your time effort and more importantly parting with your hard earned pounds and pence to experience yet another Tomb Raider game?Â

    Tomb Raider: Legend the title for this new experience was hyped that not only was Lara set to look even better than before in glorious HD on the Xbox 360, but that the game developer had actually listened to it’s fan base and the game would centre around huge locales with the exploring element that we all loved, back and featuring heavily throughout the entire game. Coupled with an exciting story line Eidos and Crystal Dynamics looked set to give the fans what they had wanted and screamed for, for years.

    Tomb Raider Legend

    The game starts with a flashback to Lara’s past and you see Lara as a child on a private jet with her Mother. Lightning striking causes the plane to crash and you are moved forward to a scene where they have both survived and Lara being the nosey girl she is activates an ancient artefact, which results in her Mother’s disappearance. Whip forward to present time and you are greeted with Lara, Mission Impossible II style clambering and diving across a cliff face before ending in what is your first quest and your training on how you are to control Lara in this game.

    Fans of the original game and subsequent games will know that Lara is a damn fine gymnast with the way she moves around the gaming world and her list of moves is endless. Well they are back in force in Legends and she has gained some sassy new ones to boot too. The opening level serves to teach you all of these moves in a very neat fashion with button hints coming up at each section. Lara can now produce a nice stream of jumping flips, dives and rolls at the press or repeated press of a button. They are easy to perform and look stunning when you pull them off too. Lara can also climb and swing from ropes and shimmy and jump from crevice to crevice, all moves again very easy to pull off and fluid in their execution. But without doubt Lara’s new piece of kit, the grapple hook will become your favourite toy throughout the game. Lara can hook this onto objects and swing across gaps, she can also hook this into objects and pull them over and if that was not enough she can also hook a line onto an enemy and pull them towards her. The grapple hook is easy to use and a hell of a lot of fun to use too.

    Lara is also once again blessed with her guns and her standard double pistols will never run out of ammunition. Pressing the Left Trigger locks your sights onto a target and pressing or holding the Right Trigger will fire your weapon of choice. Lara can also pick up one additional weapon from a fallen enemy and pressing down on the D-Pad changes between your two carried choices, one of them always being your pistols.

    Speaking of attacks, Lara can also pull off several moves on a targeted enemy which includes jumping and bouncing off them, producing slow-mo bullet time as she flips through the air Matrix style pumping them dag-nam-it mercenaries in the process. Other attack moves include sliding into your targeted enemy or pulling off a kick move to floor them. All attack moves are very easy to do and coupled with your natural ability to avoid gunfire by diving around with a simple press of the B face button, Lara can dispatch hordes of enemies without even receiving a graze. It has to be stated the games focus is not on its gunplay, so the moments you do have to draw weapons are not continuous or lengthy and therefore has been made quick and easy, so you can get the job done and get back to raiding those tombs.

    Now as much as I would not class these as moves, as they happen mid cut-scene but you are prompted during certain cut-scenes to press a certain face button or thumbstick command. If anyone has played Resident Evil 4 then you will understand what I am talking about. But for those that haven’t if you don’t press the requested button quickly enough, you will die, enough said, full stop. They are neatly done, although not as sexy as what you experienced or would have done with RE: 4.

    Just to finish off on the moves/functions within the game and having made a previous reference to it, your D-Pad also controls various functions. You carry a torch now rather than flares, you also have a set of binoculars, which can also be used to hunt out certain objects. You also have your med-packs equipped to the D-Pad and can carry up to three packs at any one time, and finally as previously mentioned you can switch your weapons using the D-Pad too.

    Groovy moves out of the way, Tomb Raider: Legends locales are truly…HUGE. It is very safe to say that the exploring element is back with a bang. Each level has so many hidden little nooks and crannies for you to explore it’s untrue, and whilst you carry out your objectives you are also given the temptation to hunt out hidden artefacts in the form of bronze, silver and gold artefacts on each level. Find all of these and you will be unlocking some nice achievements for your Gamercard.Â

    The level designs in Tomb Raider: Legends are superb, and the attention to detail is phenomenal. Whether you are deep within a tomb, clambering up a city skyscraper or sliding down an ice wall you could almost smell the atmosphere. Each level is great fun to play through albeit a tad easy at times but all the same great fun.

    And of course it would not be a Tomb Raider game without its traps and puzzles and yes indeed these are back and incredibly well done. Once again you can yank boxes or other objects around placing them on pressure switches, make your way through dangerous life threatening traps swinging, diving or sometimes literally running for your life and this is very Indiana Jones in looks and feel, but we LOVE IT. Figuring out each puzzle is by no means hard to do, but some take a bit of time and thinking to get it right. If you do get stuck on a puzzle you can always activate your binoculars and switch to what is deemed as ‘rad’ mode to seek out the solution, either that or stand still long enough and Lara will actually look in the direction of where you need to go or what you need to do. If I were to sum up with one word for the puzzles and traps in this version of Tomb Raider then that word would be “FUN”.

    Tomb Raider: Legends does take a break from raiding tombs at opportune moments in the game and places you on a motorbike, this moments although rare in comparison to the bigger picture have to be stated as the poorest moment in the game. The first time you ride the bike you will realise the controls are incredibly flimsy, and through later excursions on the bike you will only be groaning at having to get from a-z once again with this method of transport. Its just not in with the keeping of what Tomb Raider is all about and well could have either been done better with the controls aspect, or just left out. It was not needed in my opinion and only goes towards marring a floorless gaming experience.Â

    The looks and sound to Tomb Raider: Legends is spot on. In HD the game looks amazing at 1080i, locales are incredibly well detailed and the atmospheric sounds always suit the moment. Gun noises are slightly lame, but that would be me nitpicking. The only downside is that on some occasions Lara looks no where near as good as her location and her face comes across more cartoon like than life like, but hey once again I am nitpicking on a damn fine looking game.

    In summing up Tomb Raider: Legends has ticked all the boxes in my book and Lara certainly is back at her best. Slight camera controls mar the experience and can leave you falling to your death because you had got the jump wrong, the motorbike levels could have been left out and the swimming could have been done better – but all in all putting the niggles to one side; Legends is an amazing game to play and you really do need to see it to believe it. So get your best tight shorts on and grab ya torch, because you have a tomb to raid peeps…and one you are going to love exploring. Tomb Raider and Lara Croft are back, and back with a bang!

    Score: 8/10

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