*Looking for a guide or walkthrough for Tomb Raider Legend? Try [here][walkthrough] for text-based or here for video-based*
This weekend, I have been playing [Tomb Raider Legend]. It all began on Saturday morning, on the way to the pub for a hearty traditional English breakfast in a pub. I was weighing up the options, trying to decide whether I wanted to spend Â£30 of my hard-earned cash on this game, when Karen came up with the frankly rather splendid idea of seeing if Blockbuster had it available for rental.
[tomb raider legend]: http://amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0009RWHPK/
So after breakfast we took a little walk, Karen going into the wool shop, and me continuing on to Blockbuster. I was pleased to discover that they had plenty of copies available, and I was also pleased to discover that the late fee for this particular rental was equivalent to the daily rental rate, so if necessary I could continue to “renew” the item with a minimal amount of effort.
As soon as I got home I cranked the old PlayStation 2 into life and sat down cross-legged in front of the screen. Total playtime was 7 or 8 hours on Saturday and 3 or 4 today – the in-game counter claimed about 8 hours at the end. ((On easy mode, admittedly – as a casual gamer, I’m more interested in witnessing the story and the vistas than being challenged and repeatedly killed.))
As is customary, a few new moves have been introduced. The grappling hook is a new item, and is frequently used. Perhaps a little too much. There were five major “boss fights” during the game, three of which require the use of the grappling hook to actually do any lasting damage whatsoever. While we’re on the subject of boss fights, the final encounter was depressingly unchallenging, especially compared to the two before it which were fiendishly tricky – I never would have figured them out without the use of a [walkthrough]. Ironically, the puzzles throughout the rest of the game were much simpler than those of previous Tomb Raider games.
Another new move is the ability to speed up previously-slothlike actions, such as shimmying and climbing, by hitting the triangle key (varies as appropriate to your platform and configuration) in rhythm with Lara’s motion, and watch her spring into life like a cat or monkey.
Combat is unchanged, though the number of non-human enemies is in single figures. You can only carry three medkits at one time, and similarly you have limited ammo space for weapons (with the exception of the infinite-ammo pistols which are obligatory to all Tomb Raider games). This is probably a good thing – I remember accumulating an absurd stockpile of medkits and ammo by the end of TR2.
There are a couple of sequences where you ride on a motorbike which are underwhelming. The handling is sluggish and unresponsive, and generally all that you are required to do is maintain a good speed, try not to bump into things, and keep the “shoot” button held down while the auto-aim does away with your foes. Yawn.
There’s also these really annoying cinematic sequences where you have to DDR it. Something dangerous will happen, a little icon will flash up on screen representing the button that you have to hit, and if you don’t hit it in a short period of time, Lara will die. Each such sequence will consist of three or four of these requests strung together. There were two problems with this arrangement – the first being that you are so busy watching for the icon that you aren’t really paying the stunning visuals the attention that they deserve, and the second is that the icons are a little unfamiliar at first – these buttons spend most of their lives under my thumb, so I mentally file them by location rather than the enscribed symbol. As a result, my initial reactions were “Circle? Circle? Which one is circle? Oh shit, my head has been cut off.”
I noticed within a few hours of play that a lot of aspects of the Tomb Raider film franchise had been deftly adapted for the game, which pleased me. Croft Manor (Lara’s home) has been vastly improved from earlier iterations – the pokey little dump in the countryside has been replaced with an impressive mansion which bears striking resemblances to the building used in the movies.
The game consists of 7 levels, set in Bolivia, Peru, Japan ((where you start by walking into a party, Lara spilling out the top of her little black dress, without the ability to run, jump, roll, draw your weapons etc – reminded me of Fear Effect 2)), Ghana, Kazahkstan, Cornwall and Nepal, with a final encounter back in Bolivia. With the exception of Kazahkstan, each level contained at least one “wow, would you look at that” moment, where you just have to stand still and pan the camera round, looking at the superb environments.
Save points are offered reasonably frequently, so though you will occasionally find yourself getting slightly irate at having to keep retracing your steps, it’s nowhere near as bad as the original Tomb Raider game, and game balance is better than in some of the sequels where you could save absolutely everywhere.
Replayability, if you are interested, seems to come in the form of the ability to go back and retry individual levels, with a view to finding more of the secret items. You will be rewarded with outfits ((Wow, it’s like Barbie: The Game!)), character models ((which you can rotate! Exciting!)), biographies and mysterious pistol upgrades of which I managed to acquire none, so I can’t tell you anything about them *(see update)*.
Anyway, it has to be back at the shop tomorrow evening, and I think I’ve had plenty of it. And saved myself Â£26.04 in the process – yay Karen!
**UPDATE:** One peculiarity which I neglected to mention earlier. When in combat, you have a maximum range for your weapon. When you lock on to an enemy who is within this range, you see a red crosshair, and when they are out of this range you see a grey one. The peculiarity is that you can shoot at in-range enemies with perfect accuracy, but as soon as they go out of range, your bullets spray about all over the place with comic inaccuracy, some of them thudding into the floor and the walls just a few metres ahead of you. Try as I might, I can’t think of a logical explanation for this behaviour that doesn’t involve the use of a peacock feather or arthritis.
**ANOTHER UPDATE:** Thanks to this page I’ve discovered that the three pistol upgrades are magazine capacity, accuracy and damage. They are obtained by finding the bronze and silver rewards scattered through the game – at 25%, 50% and 75% respectively.
[tomb raider chronicles]: http://amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000050YQT/