Tomb Raider: Anniversary Exclusive Hands-On - Egypt

This retelling of Lara Croft's original adventure features beautiful graphics and a whole lot of new, challenging gameplay.

It's hard to believe that Tomb Raider is more than a decade old. Tomb Raider not only introduced the world to video game icon Lara Croft, but it also featured excellent third-person gameplay as you guided the acrobatic, nimble protagonist through ancient ruins and devious puzzles. Tomb Raider was one of the very first PC games that was worth buying an expensive 3D accelerator for, and in many ways it helped to usher in the 3D graphics revolution. Now Eidos and developer Crystal Dynamics, which has basically inherited the series from now-shuttered original creator Core Design, are working on a retelling of Lara's very first adventure.

Tomb Raider: Anniversary isn't merely the original game with an overhauled graphics engine. Much like a Hollywood remake of a classic movie, Crystal Dynamics has instead "reimagined" the original game, expanding on the themes, settings, and story while adding new puzzles and elements to the game. So even if you played Tomb Raider repeatedly, there's going to be something new here for you, too.

Video game vixen Lara Croft is back in this remake of her original adventure.

Like the original Tomb Raider, Anniversary starts off with Lara being commissioned to recover ancient artifacts from around the world, including Peru, Greece, and the chapter that we got to play in a work-in-progress version of the game, Egypt. What is different from the original is that there's a larger emphasis on story and narrative.

Since it's the third (and largest) chapter in the game, the puzzles in the Egypt level are particularly challenging. There's a timing element in many of the puzzles that requires you to execute tasks perfectly. For instance, as soon as you land on certain platforms they begin to recede into the wall, giving you only a few seconds to cross. Or, pulling a switch extends platforms temporarily so you can cross, but as you do so, they begin to recede from whence they came. Then there are insanely huge chasms that you somehow have to cross, as well as almost vertical levels that you must ascend. Using the grapple hook to swing across chasms or to wall-walk is important, but you will also use your grapple to manipulate the environment. Doors can be hooked and lowered, or giant pillars pulled down with a little help from the grapple.

The enemies in this level range from animal to supernatural. There are panthers and crocodiles, as well as lightning-quick mummies that can cast spells at you. As always, Lara is armed with her trusty pistols. Though underpowered, they do have the luxury of having almost unlimited ammunition. To put down some of the tougher enemies, you can rely on .50 caliber pistols or a shotgun, though those have finite amounts of ammo. Thankfully, like in most action games, ammo is inexplicably distributed throughout a level, as are health packs, which can patch up any damage to the plucky heroine.

You will die a lot; it's just the nature of the game. Like the PlayStation 2 version, Anniversary uses a checkpoint save system, so when you do die, you revert to the previous checkpoint. These checkpoints are spaced out pretty regularly and usually come before each big puzzle or navigational hazard, so it's not too frustrating. And while you can save the whole game, you basically just have to save the last checkpoint.

The controls are fairly intuitive, involving just the mouse and keyboard. The mouse controls the camera as it rotates around Lara, while the keyboard is used for moving, jumping, grapple throwing, and more. Combat is easy; the left mouse button fires, while holding down the right mouse button locks onto a target. If you jump around while locked onto an enemy, Lara can execute a dodge move to leap out of the way of a charging opponent. Of course, you could always plug in a regular PC gamepad and that should work fine, too, but the game felt pretty natural with the keyboard and mouse.

Egypt is full of incredibly challenging levels.

If you played the original Tomb Raider with a 3dfx Voodoo card a decade ago, you were most likely blown away by how good and smooth it looked, though obviously it looks primitive today. Well, Anniversary looks quite good--more like a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 game--though the only other versions of Anniversary are for the PlayStation 2 and the Wii. In fact, Anniversary looks as sharp as last year's Tomb Raider: Legend. The animations that power Lara are smooth and fluid, and it's almost believable as you watch her navigate over almost impassable terrain by leaping across chasms and clutching onto the narrowest of ledges. At the same time, there's almost a retro feel to the game, thanks to Lara's original outfit.

Playing through the Anniversary reminds us of why Tomb Raider became such a successful franchise. The gameplay is challenging but never frustrating, and Lara makes death-defying leaps and acrobatic moves look easy. More important, there's a rewarding feeling to having navigated through almost impassable environments. Tomb Raider: Anniversary will ship next month.

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Discussion

45 comments
theKSMM
theKSMM

I'm so looking forward to this game. I loved the original Tomb Raider. The gameplay, the graphics, the story, the atmosphere--so naturally I can't wait to play through this re-envisioned version of that classic.

beckoflight
beckoflight

The game is superb belive me i'm in egypt now ... in my country it allready appeared :D!!!

wytefang
wytefang

Gameplay is 'challenging but never frustrating'?? Gimme a break - it's insanely difficult, even on normal mode. Whoever at Crystal Dynamics thought that this was tweaked for difficult to be 'just right' ought to be flogged. It's a very good game, quality-wise, all around but just way too difficult - and that's coming from someone who's beaten Psychonauts, God of War 1 and 2, to name a few of the platformers that I've completed. Just a terribly high difficultly level. Buy the hint guide, when it comes out or you're screwed.

enrico2000
enrico2000

Looks like the good old Lara is finally back in a new outfit. Do Agree with red-orc, they should have released it on the PS3.

rmj
rmj

I just got the GAME ! I find it much better then Legend ! It is much more like the original LARA we all love! the Boss,es Are really tough to kill ! and it seems allmost impossible! The graffics ROCK at 1600x1200 ! so glad it,s on pc!

red-orc
red-orc

I think it's a big mistake to launch this game on the dying PS2 and cheap-gaming PC before the next gen-consoles ...

DoGCyN
DoGCyN

I just hope its harder than Legends....Legends was sooo easy :P

thartist
thartist

Crystal Dynamics are brilliant developers of the 3rd person action genre, as proven by the Legacy of Kain saga. They can make the swiftest games of the kind, with both great gameplay & story plus graphics. Of course the game will be a trillion times better than the first game, which featured squared moves and horribly clunky gameplay. If you have played Legend for example or better the aforementioned saga, you will know what my words mean. Plus, Legend had amazing graphics, but surely you don't know sh*t about settings or you haven't got the patches that improved lighting and shadowing. Watch the gameplay movies, they are cool, even if one can see that it's not more than a light hearted game. I wish so bad that it includes comparative pictures and videos of the first and remade levels and scenarios... kids, go home.

Ramanode
Ramanode

this is the best tomb raider yet and its beter den the original.

dryden555
dryden555

Using the grapple with the keyboard is awkward at best. The game was optimized for a console's controller.

termadoyle
termadoyle

In fact, Anniversary looks as sharp as last year's Tomb Raider: Legend. Meh... Legend didn't look as "Sharp" as I hoped anyway.

Turbopowered007
Turbopowered007

It was a good idea to bring tomb radar back to its roots( the PC)

inbarreto
inbarreto

Will this game come out for 360? Or it will only be out for PC? ! Great game by the way!!

wytefang
wytefang

Yeah, it's out for those of us reviewing it. :P

bugsdaffy69
bugsdaffy69

they may ship it next month but it is already out now...mmuuhuahahahaha....welcome to the dark side

Zuoitsy
Zuoitsy

They will never get a game so good as the original...

Lambelho
Lambelho

This game will be fantastic

Ashours
Ashours

i think the game will be wonderful so thanks for every body work on this game

Seobazz
Seobazz

Awesome Hot Lara Croft definitely better than ATI Ruby ! Anyone agree?

shariq166
shariq166

I came late into gaming. Have never played original TR. I think this one is for me.

jazzycmk
jazzycmk

I'm pretty jazzed about this game. Legend brought the series back from the brink after the disastrous Angel of Darkness. I haven't played the original TR in a long time (and I never could get the movies to work correctly on it, so I missed a lot of the story the first time around), but if they can capture the spirit of that game with its expansive environments while wrapping it around the great visuals from Legend, it could be really good.

kyrieee
kyrieee

If this turns out good, I hope they do a remake of TR:2 too, because that was the best game in the series.

epking
epking

this looks great. i played the original and 2 on a 3dfx voodoo3, can't wait to give this a go. I liked TR Legend quite a bit, the graphics were beautiful, it felt as if you were in an animation movie. I'll get this for pc, but I also wish it was coming for x360. not sure why they aren't releasing for x360 also. seems like it should be an easy enough port from the pc.

chunkybloodfart
chunkybloodfart

Part of me was bummed that this wasn't the 2nd TR. But it's been a long time since I played the first one. It will be nice to go back ... and have that "aw yeah, I remember" feeling. This game was amazing when it first came out. I'm looking forward to it.

brannigancarter
brannigancarter

plz...i want a 360 version...Acheivement for killing the T-Rex...hehe

hutapamo
hutapamo

I really hope that this game is going to be a success and that many people shall like and check it out of course.

kappareign
kappareign

i really hope this game does well and people check it out. younger gamers today might see the series as a has been, but the original really was a very solid game

adilis01
adilis01

SMGrawks E -cup? wth man that is extreme!!

Neil_Claimer
Neil_Claimer

Guys in a Czech videogame magazine got a full PC version and they gave it 9 out of 10. They say though it has some camera trouble (but less than in TR Legend), it has amazing gameplay, it's enough long and finally returns Lara to the class.

Glordit
Glordit

never was a TR fan :P

Jerian
Jerian

What a waist of talent. CD should be working on some kick ass original property...not a has been from the 90's :-(

lysluk
lysluk

Dang, I just want them to fix and optimize the next-gen options this time. Legends never was fully stable running next-gen on PC. Even if your system exceeded the req. Thats all I care about, Get the game right, get Lara right, only add to what works, and improve on what is already beautiful. .....who said E cup?

rogermao
rogermao

i never tried, i might try it

never-named
never-named

E-cup huh, nice one! I hope the PC version includes last year's Legend's next-gen graphical options.

SMGrawks
SMGrawks

As long as she's an E-cup, I'm in.

Slagar
Slagar

I have mixed feelings about this. I loved the original Tomb Raider. I also really enjoyed Tomb Raider Legend. ... But they're two very different games. It just feels like Legend reduced the scope/linearised Tomb Raider somewhat, and it wasn't all that difficult (in other words, they turned it into a LoK game lol). I seem to remember the original Tomb Raider as being pretty open and hard. Perhaps it is just my perception? Anyway, I love what they did with the voice acting and storytelling in Legend. I'm just not so sure I'll enjoy this "reimagining"...

beckoflight
beckoflight

This game is mine ... i'v played the first game of the series & i have seen the power that grew inside 1one of the 1st 3rd person action adventure in history .. anyway Crystal Dynamics has a thing for creating good stoorylines & voice acting ..superb gameplay & amazing grapics especially based on fluid animations & puzzles ! Crystal Dynamics is 1one of my favorite developers because of Legacy of Kain & TR legend !!! go CD , GO LARA !!!

Rob_101
Rob_101

I'll get it cause I haven't played the original :P

thunder350
thunder350

Was expecting the textures to be better. :(

Cerza
Cerza

I have really mixed feelings about this...

jakeboudville
jakeboudville

I'll get it since it doesn't have silly camera angles like the original:P