Tomb Raider: Anniversary PS2
Here is a great statement to start this review with. I hate Tomb Raider! In fact that statement is already a bit out of date and right now a much more accurate version would be: I hated Tomb Raider. You see, back in 1996 I just could not see what everyone loved about the game. To me it was more of a chore to play than anything else. I felt the game controlled badly and most off all was just not any fun to play. Even the fact that Lara looked like she had a jumbo Toblerone box shoved up under her lovely green outfit did not help little 12 year old me to find the game any more appealing. My disdain for the series grew as the sequels went by and reached a peak when the catastrof**k that was Angel of Darkness got released. Then last year things changed! With the release of Legend I gained a new found love for the series. The design changes and little extras it brought to the table was enough to totally wipe the past 10 years of loathing from my mind and I thoroughly enjoyed playing through the game. In fact I enjoyed it so much I was genuinely excited at the chance to play TR: Anniversary and anticipated its release right from the day it was first announced. Thankfully I have not been disappointed!
While not initially noticeable, TR: Anniversary is not an exact remake of the 1996 game. In fact other than the basic premise of the story and a few key story moments, quite a lot has changed. Firstly, many of the tombs in the game have been given a complete revamp with brand new puzzles. Because of this even if you played the original to death there is still a reason to come back for more. Lara also has a huge selection of new moves available that she could not even dream about performing 10 years ago. In fact the gameplay in Anniversary is not only a huge step up from what was on show in the 1996 original but it also offers quite a few changes from those seen in Legend. Two brand new moves are available which were not seen in Legend with Lara now having the ability perch that helps her manoeuvre through the environment, balance on small platforms and not lose her balance. There is also a pole-hopping move where Lara can balance on narrow surfaces. A big change from Legend is that the game contains very little human opponents, instead you’ll be taking down a long list of animals, mutants and monsters with the weapons available. A nice plus is the AI has been upgraded meaning you will need your wits about you to take them down, especially when they attack in packs.
Speaking of weapons, this area of the game also boasts a few tweaks with Lara’s armoury, equipment and inventory getting a few upgrades. Firstly Zip and Alister who were very talkative through Lara’s headset in Legend are now missing as is the PDA, PLS, and Binoculars. The grapple however has stayed and thanks to some changes in the environments from the original comes in very useful. Dual Uzis and a shotgun along with some other hardware are available to take down all the enemies on show. Another new addition to the game is the adrenaline dodge where Lara can dive out of the way of an attack and if she does so at the right time (when a flash of red is above their head) the game will slow down and give you the opportunity to unleash a deadly shot to take down a good chunk of the attacker’s health bar. Finally some Quick Time Events (like those seen in God of War, Shenmue and more recently Spiderman 3) where you have to press a button quickly during a cutscene are added to the game. Thankfully these are pulled off well and rarely come off as being overly annoying such as in some other games.
For a PS2 game, Anniversary looks quite spectacular and shows that even after all these years, Sony’s billion selling wonder is still able to pull some splendid graphics from under its hood when needed. At first I was wary about picking up the game on the PS2, as I has played through Legend on the 360 and feared a jarring step down in graphical oomph, but after a few hours play I can honestly say those fears were unfounded. Crystal Dynamics also boast that many of Lara’s Legend animations have been redone to make them look more realistic… I have to say that this is not immediately noticeable but there are certain sections in the game when you will notice the work put in. Also her model is now made up of 7000 polygons, which is supposedly a lot more than ever before.
Thanks to some quality voice acting, particularly from Keeley Hawes who voices Lara for her second time, the audio portion of the game is also quite respectable. The soundtrack is top quality, with Legend composer Troels B. Folmann returning to knock together a few tunes that all add to the epic feel of the game. If you’re interested you can check out a few samples on the official site. Finally the sound effects all have some nice bass to them with the individual traps all having a unique sound to let you know what’s coming.
In this day and age for any game series to remain relatively successful after 10 long years (and 11 games across both consoles and handhelds) is quite the achievement. For fans of the series that were around from the start there is a lot to love here. For series newcomers, like me, who only started to see what the fuss was about after Legend, things are even better as you can enjoy the story as well as the fantastic gameplay on show. When all is said and done, Tomb Raider Anniversary is a very entertaining game to play and as you advance though the 14 levels, there always seems to be something new to catch your eye and keep you wanting to play more until the 15 hours are up and you reach the closing credits.
All in all, one of Lara’s best adventures yet!