It's hard to believe that the original Tomb Raider came out 10 years ago...until you actually go back and play it. There's still a great game there, but it's hard to play and not wish for better control, improved graphics, or an updated arsenal of moves. Apparently Eidos agrees, which is why it has commissioned Crystal Dynamics, the developer behind Tomb Raider: Legend to remake the original Tomb Raider. Actually, Tomb Raider: Anniversary is just as much a reimagining of the original as it is a remake. The story is the same, and you'll still recognize many of the game's memorable locations. However, many of the puzzles and obstacles are all new, and Lara's got a host of fresh moves with which to tackle them.
When we last saw Lara Croft, she was in Peru and had just secured a piece of the scion. Once it's in her possession, she learns that a man named Pierre Dupont has located another piece, claiming that it's below St. Francis Folly. Lara immediately sets off for Greece and quickly finds herself face to face with a couple of hungry lions, which are quickly dispatched with the shotgun that she picked up at the end of the Peru level. From there, we set off to open a locked iron gate so that we could descend below ground. This gave us our first chance to use Lara's new wall run. Not only can Lara use her new grappling hook to swing across large pits, she can also traverse shorter distances by attaching the grappling hook to another hook and then run along the wall. Many of the other puzzles we encountered were similar to what you'd find in the original, or for that matter, any Tomb Raider game. There were switches to pull, keys to find, and blocks to move.
As we descended below St. Francis Folly, we were afforded ample opportunity to use Lara's new climbing abilities and even go for a swim. The level is filled with perilous jumps and narrow ledges where one wrong move will cause Lara to plunge to her death. Thankfully, the new analog controls make it much easier to deftly maneuver Lara from ledge to ledge. There are also numerous checkpoints, so you're not forced to replay large portions of the game if you happen to die, which may happen when you find yourself in the coliseum facing angry lions...and block-tossing gorillas.
Visually, Tomb Raider: Anniversary is shaping up quite nicely. Lara has a host of new animations, and she can seamlessly transition from one to another. Every single nook and cranny of every level has been totally redone to take advantage of the system's power. The improved graphics and draw distance also give each area a tremendous sense of scale--especially when you're several hundred feet in the air balancing perilously on the tip of a column.
PS2, PSP, and PC owners will get their chance to experience Lara's first adventure on June 5. From what we've played so far, Tomb Raider: Anniversary seems poised to please both fans of the original game as well as people whose first experience raiding tombs came at the hands of last year's Tomb Raider: Legend. And for more information on this new area of the game, be sure to tune in for tomorrow's episode of our weekly live show, On the Spot.