Tomb Raider done right.
When Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness was announced for Playstation 2, I "knew" it was going to be great. After the Tomb Raider's 3, 4, and 5 having no innovation it was Core's chance to really revitalize the game. I preordered it and picked it up right when the store opened. Within two hours of playing the game, I was horrified. The controls were horrible, the story was sub-par, and there were glitches everywhere. My view on Tomb Raider as a game series was seriously tainted... until Tomb Raider Legend was announced.
Tomb Raider Legend is the most recent in a long line of cookie-cutter style games. This time however, with the game creation going to Crystal Dynamics, the cookie-cutter was shattered. I was still skeptical of what Lara still had in her as far as keeping me wanting to play the game through to completion, and then they released the demo. I played the demo probably a dozen times through and knew that the game was fun.
Just like with TR: AOD, I picked it up on day one and ran back to my apartment to try it out. The story opened up and the gameplay was incredible. I ended up finishing the game in just under seven hours, just like Gamespot predicted.
Gamespot, as well as many other magazines and online sites stated that Tomb Raider Legend was too short. Given that my first time through on the medium difficulty setting was just under seven hours, I'd say thats about average length for today's games. Back in the PSOne days, most games like Resident Evil, Dino Crisis, and many other action/adventure games could be completed in under two hours. That was the average then, and it was acceptable because the gameplay and story were great. I believe that seven hours is about average on today's games and that the only reason the game seems short is because everything was so well put together, that it leaves you wanting more.
Lets start with how the game feels. The game controls are spot on. Lara moves like she should. There is no "grid" feel to it. Infact after about half an hour of just running around in her mansion, I was jumping around from ledge to ledge with such speed and accuracy, that it almost looked like I had been playing the game for years.
Now on to the levels. Lara's mansion is incredible. Large rooms to jump around in, puzzles to figure out, hidden items to find, and even a gym to climb around in. My only complaint in her mansion is that you can't go outside. Now when you start story mode and are running through the levels, there is so much detail going on that sometimes you have to stop and just pan the camera around to get it all in. At the beginning of the Africa stage, I sat there for probably five minutes just taking everything in before jumping off into the water 300 feet below. Most of the levels in this game are great. with the exception of a couple that meet just above mediocrity and the best part is that there is little back-tracking. There were even a couple times when the levels felt like extensions of levels found in Tomb Raider 2.
The story is another great aspect of this game. The voice acting was done very well. The villians as well as Lara were all believable. I wont go into the plot with much more than King Arthur's legend is intertwined nicely into the story.
After going through the game, my one complaint would be the bosses. It didn't seem to me that there was a lot put into them. Especially the first two bosses which were human. With the two human bosses you simply dodge what they throw at you while shooting and thats how you beat them. The hydra on the other hand was the most imaginative of the bosses. You still have to dodge what it throws at you but you have to figure out how to beat it instead of just shooting at it.
All in all I'd say that this is now my new favorite Tomb Raider in the series. I congratulate Crystal Dynamics on revitalizing the game in all the right areas. For those that are disappointed on the game only running for seven hours, you have to remember that this is Crystal Dynamics first run with a Tomb Raider game, and I'm sure that if they make another, that they will make it longer. If you're one of those that play a game once and dont care about unlocking all the extras, then rent it over the weekend. If, however you're one to unlock the extras and master the game, then this will be a great addition to your game collection.