February 23, 2002
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 Overall Score: *88*ESRB Rating: Teen (T)

Tomb Raider [Sony PlayStation] 

by Eidos Interactive  Reviewed by: Mark Skorupa  


By now, I'm sure you have heard the story of Lara Croft. If you have been living on a deserted island and Gamezilla is the first place you have gone for information (which it should always be), let me set the stage.

Tomb Raider stars you as Lara Croft. You have been born into a life of wealth. On the way home from a weekend skiing trip, your chartered plane crashes deep in the heart of the Himalayas. You (Lara) are the only survivor of the wreck. You had to learn how to depend on yourself and your intelligence to stay alive in this hostile environment. Now you have gone from being fed with a silver spoon to depending on nobody but yourself to survive. After twp weeks of surviving in the mountain range, you find the village of Tokakeriby and are, in effect, rescued. After returning to your father and his rich, upper-class, British ways, you decide that this is not the life you desire. You spend the next eight years of your life training, studying and traveling to ancient civilizations across the globe. After numerous attempts to persuade you from your infatuation with this ancient history, your family finally disowns you.

With your money supply dried up, you start writing to fund your expeditions. Since you're somewhat famous for discovering several ancient sights of huge archaeological interest, you do quite well publishing travel books and journals of your travels.

You will guide Lara through her latest exploits in the jungle in search of lost civilizations. You are completely responsible for the success and failure of your journey. You have eight years of research and training standing in front of you, awaiting your every action or command. Do you think you have what it takes to make Ms. Croft's latest adventure a success?

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

Tomb Raider is a third-person action/adventure/puzzle game from Eidos Interactive. This is perhaps one of the most hyped titles of 1996. Your job is to step behind the controls of Lara and guide her safely through this expedition. Unfortunately, there are plenty of unfriendly creatures that don't want this game to have a happy ending.

The game starts out at an option selection screen. This is where you can choose to either start the game or visit Lara's home. Her home is an interactive training session on the controls of the game. I seriously suggest that first-timers go through this training course. Lara's comments will guide you through a number of moves and routines that will help you get the hang of the difficult controls of the game. Spend a lot of time getting the feel of the jumping. This will become a critical skill for survival throughout the game.

After you feel comfortable enough with the controls and movements of the game, it is time to start your adventure. When you start, Lara is armed with only a pistol for protection. Lara can run, walk, take side steps, do a forward roll, jump, grab ledges and pick up objects. Each and every one of these actions is a incredible display of detail. Take, for example, picking up an item. Most games would just have our hero walk over the object and it would magically appear in your inventory. Well, the designers at Eidos must have decided that this wasn't good enough for their heroine. Lara actually bends down and picks up the item. To some, this may be a little detail, but to me, it shows the dedication to make this game experience as real as possible.

During the game, you will control Lara's every action. Tomb Raider requires a great deal of skill and event more patience. Your job is to put both of these attributes together and reach the end of the journey. Each level of the game requires using a different area of your mind. Some levels are straightforward and only require you to blast your way through. Most levels, however, require extensive use of that thing that sits on your shoulders. The puzzles are intense, difficult and somewhat frustrating. Most of your advancement depends on your ability to trip a certain switch. Without this switch, you are stuck.

In what really seems to be a secondary aspect of the game, Lara will encounter a number of enemies in her journey. The enemies vary from a lowly bat to an enormous T-Rex. The fighting aspect of the game is not nearly as engrossing or as dominant as the puzzle-solving. Lara will collect different weapons and ammunition along the way, but most of the creatures are easily disposed of with a quick round or two from the shotgun. The one thing this does provide is the element of surprise. You will almost never walk around a blind corner without a weapon drawn and ready to shoot. Most of the time it is for naught, but you can't be too careful.

ScreenshotTomb Raider has been touted as the game of the year by a number of publications. I think that this statement is a bit too much. The controls of Tomb Raider alone keep it from being the top game on the market. The precise movements and alignment required to complete some of Lara's maneuvers are so difficult that it is almost maddening. In my opinion, there is nothing worse in a game than knowing exactly what you need to do and how to do it, but not being able to because the damn controls are difficult or touchy. I found this happening many times in Tomb Raider. I would need to get a running jump to cross a river, but every time I would fall short because I couldn't tell where the riverbed ended. Now don't get me wrong. The controls are vast and you are virtually unlimited in your movement. The problem is only with the precision and the tedious maneuvers required to position yourself in the exact location to grab a ledge or jump across a river. This could be attributed to the inherent difficulty in judging depth in a 3D environment.

Graphics & Audio

The graphics in Tomb Raider are incredible. Everything from Lara's movements to the enemies are beautifully animated. The T-Rex rivals the one from the movie Jurassic Park in believability. The coolest part of the game are the graphics when Lara is swimming. You actually feel like you have jumped in the water with her and are swimming inside her polygon body. From pulling yourself up a wall to jumping across a broken bridge, just snagging the ledge on the other side and hoisting yourself to safety, Tomb Raider goes the extra mile (or two) to make all animations look as a real person would. There were times when I was so caught up in the game that it was almost like watching a movie. It takes some real kick-ass graphics to pull me that far into a game. There is, however, a problem with break-up when you get too close to a wall. There were a number of times that the camera angle was not pointing in a helpful direction, allowing enemies to attack unopposed. Overall, the graphics are well above average.

The audio in Tomb Raider is fairly limited. Usually, the only time you will hear any background music is when an enemy is approaching. You will also hear an audible sound as switches are triggered. The sound is not bad, but I think it is lacking a little. This is a perfect atmosphere for some great background music that just wasn't developed. This doesn't really take away from the game, but with all the attention that was given to Lara and the gameplay, I figured the music would have been spectacular as well.

ScreenshotBottom Line

Tomb Raider is a challenging game that takes a lot of mental ability. It can be frustrating at times, but is always engrossing. I found that I could not wait to see what secret was lurking behind the door I'd just opened. If there was ever a video game that was destined to be a movie, this is it. The varying degrees of action are a nice touch. This keeps the game ever-changing. If you ever want to unlock all the secrets of this game, I suggest you go out and get yourself a good strategy guide. Don't look at it unless you are really stuck. After playing Tomb Raider, you will quickly realize what felt like ten minutes was actually an hour and a half. The tedious maneuvers required in some areas are quite frustrating. It really makes me mad when it takes me 10 minutes to climb up a wall, just to step off the edge at the top while trying to line Lara up to make a jump, or to jump and have her fall a fingernail short. Oh well, I guess it is worth another 10 minutes to climb the wall again, because I am dying to know what is on the other side!

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