Tomb Raider III: The Adventures of Lara Croft © Eidos

Tomb Raider set a standard in both the global gaming community and the technological capabilities of the industry we know today. The intricate use of 3D modeling and environments was a first, which inspired countless game designs to take after it. I still remember installing and loading up "Tomb Raider", the game I had heard so much about, and at first I was quite astonished. Unfortunately, the third-person genre has been quite overused in the gaming industry and it seems to have lost that flare it had starting off. We are now in the third installment of the game that inspired so many others. Although not many improvements have been made regarding the technology side, the gameplay can still serve as a meaningful entertainment base, and that is what TR3 proves.

It doesn't seem like it's been that long since the first game Lara Croft took us through, but we are now into a trilogy of puzzles and action combined. I think they tried to uneven the balance a bit more in this one, adding more to the puzzle weight than the action. The gameplay requires more choices and decisions to be made, and is a lot less linear than the first two. Lara has learned some new moves, her graphics have been improved, her levels are larger, her puzzles are harder and her breasts are bigger. Well, that last note is a bit off-topic but I seriously think the image of Lara Croft is what makes her games sell so well. She is world-renown and a very recognized figure in the gaming industry; perhaps her legacy will be equivalent to the impact Mario has had (one day...).

As I mentioned before, the actual technology of the third-person genre has not been improved greatly. There is still the occasional polygon clipping, some textures look odd or can't be penetrated, but the gameplay has been improved a lot... content-wise. Miss Croft starts off her adventure in the depths of India, cutting her way through the jungles and encountering the animals that inhabit the land. The next campaigns, the South Pacific, London, and the Nevada Desert can all is played in whichever order you choose. This is what sets the non-linear play of Tomb Raider III, because in her two previous games the levels had to be played out in a specific order. Now we finally have a choice. But don't worry, the fun doesn't stop there. Throughout the puzzle filled levels, there are also non-linear elements to discover. In a lot levels you have the option of choosing a certain path or passage to complete the level. Not only does this add to the replayability of the game, but the fun factor as well! I had a great time completing a level and then going back choosing another path to take, it's double the value. The fun doesn't end there, a new concept has been added to this edition of the series. This seems to be a re-incarnated feature to games these days, but after every level there is a beautifully animated cutscene starring Lara. Although these cutscenes don't seem to add much to the story line, they raise questions that you find the answers to in future levels. It sort of gives you something more to play towards, rather than reminding you of one single goal.

The controls in the game are almost identical to the predecessors, with a few minor exceptions. One big one actually, is the use of the new analog gamepads (commonly known as dual-shock). If you remember first playing Mario 64 and thinking to yourself, how easy it was to control a little 3d man with a small joystick, you'll understand what I am talking about. With the analog sticks you can turn corners smoother and tiptoe to the edge of a platform without falling off and having to re-do the entire level (ugh!). Other than that, the only improvement I saw was timing on executing Lara's various moves was much easier.

Graphic wise, I'd say this is a great improvement from Tomb Raider. Unfortunately I thought it looked exactly like Tomb Raider 2 with a few minor improvements. They smoothed out Lara's movement and textures, and made better use of color, but that's about it. The engine itself always runs a smooth framerate even with lots of characters on the screen, and I enjoyed some of the special effects it had to offer. The quicksand and new water graphics look quite good for a Playstation, and they have a much more natural, fluid motion to them. The cutscenes were astounding, as always, with high quality models and great special effects. I don't think the graphics as a whole were a step up for the industry, but definitely an improvement in the Tomb Raider series.

The sound effects were both impressive and suitable for the game, but like the graphics they weren't a breakthrough. Tomb Raider always has had great sound quality and voice acting, and I don't think they were concerned with this factor of the game too much. The music was quite effective for just about every level, and set the mood off perfectly. In a nutshell, the sound effects, music and speech were equally excellent.

In conclusion, Tomb Raider III is a great game. I enjoyed figuring out all the puzzles, guiding Lara through the various parts of the world and fighting the different characters/animals. It doesn't solve the problems that it's predecessors had, but fans of the series will be pleased with what TR3 has to offer.








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Quick Summary:
Same great Tomb Raider, but it still doesn't add much to the series




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