The Tomb Raider franchise is back. A few years ago we thought that the series would end up in its own tomb after the abysmal Angel of Darkness was released on the PlayStation 2. Yet last year the franchise was surprisingly rekindled by Crystal Dynamics with the stellar Tomb Raider: Legend. This brings us to Tomb Raider: Anniversary which was released earlier this year on the PlayStation 2 to critical praise. Only a few months later the game has been ported to the Xbox 360 but do we still want to step into Lara's pants... sorry shoes?
Tomb Raider: Anniversary isn't a new adventure in Lara's chronicles but a remake of the very first Tomb Raider game, which was released in 1996. Before Lara became a virtual pin-up girl, the one thing that catapulted the Tomb Raider games to critical and commercial acclaim was the incredible action-adventure gameplay. While Crystal Dynamics have made a few simple changes to the game, purists have little cause for concern; you will still start off in Peru and travel through the same locations, but a few elements of the story have been tweaked. These are really minor changes and it's very unlikely that anybody would be disappointed with the changes that have been made.
Eidos is trying something a little bit different with the marketing for Tomb Raider: Anniversary. The game is available right now on store shelves, but in a few weeks the game will be available on the Xbox Live Marketplace as downloadable content. The downloadable content will be split into several separate blocks which will contain different levels so players can pay and download each set of levels individually. This means that if you never pass the first level you won't be forking out a lot of money for a game that you don't want to play further. There are restrictions though; only those who own Tomb Raider: Legend on the Xbox 360 will be able to download the content off the marketplace. If you just want a bit of fun the Croft Manor will be available for free. It is worth noting there should be no differences between the retail version and the downloaded version of the game.
The biggest change between Tomb Raider: Anniversary and the very first game is Lara herself. Thankfully, the awkward days of checkerboard movements are gone and Lara's moves are a lot more fluid and graceful. She can still roll, grapple and grab at objects, but now instead of worrying about controlling Lara players only need to worry about what the game throws at you.
A bit of spit and polish has done wonders with Lara and it's incredible that all these years later the gameplay is still so solid. Even though you'll be shooting at animals and trying to defeat whatever you may come across, Tomb Raider: Anniversary also presents players with quite a few puzzles. The puzzles start off relatively simple but will soon have some players scratching their heads wondering exactly how to progress. Those who think they have memorised the puzzles from the first game will be in for a bit of a shock as well, as the puzzles have been reworked.
Tomb Raider: Anniversary is actually quite different in comparison to what will endanger players. It is often the environment that is your biggest threat, rather than man or beast. Players will come across all manner of enemies such as rats, bats, tigers, raptors and wolves. You can use Lara's trusty pistols to shoot these animals down - lock on with the L2 button, switch between targets with the left stick and pull the trigger with R2. New to Anniversary is the adrenaline dodge. The adrenaline dodge lets Lara dodge an enemy in slow motion. When time slows a target approaches your enemy and if players fire their weapon at the right time then they will instantly kill their enemy. It's a very cool addition, with most enemies dying just metres before they can attack you. The interactive cut scenes as made "famous" in titles like Shenmue and God of War also feature in Tomb Raider: Anniversary.
All is not peachy with Lara's latest adventure, though. The frame rate sometimes drops a little - we advise stopping when you pass a checkpoint for a breather. Unfortunately, the camera is less than perfect - it sometimes gets in the way and players will have to manually adjust it for a better viewpoint. Sometimes the camera will move itself to try and give players a better viewpoint for a puzzle, but will actually get stuck behind objects, which is extremely frustrating.
One element of Tomb Raider: Anniversary that is a little disappointing is the graphics; it is made abundantly clear that the game has been ported from the PC version. While the graphical quality is sufficient, the game doesn't look all that different when compared to last year's Tomb Raider: Legend. Environments are quite large (though a little blocky), and it is easy to tell a lot of detail has gone into making Lara look the part. The soundtrack in Anniversary is a treat and the voice acting is surprisingly solid. In terms of the lifespan, the game is a lot longer than Tomb: Raider Legend and to get the full 1000 achievement points, you're going to have to go above and beyond just completing the game's story.
Tomb Raider: Anniversary for the Xbox 360 is a solid port of a quality game. There have been two Tomb Raider games released for the console now, but we're keen for a new Lara game that isn't just a port. However, Tomb Raider: Anniversary is a still an incredibly enjoyable game - despite a few minor niggles, it is clear that the Tomb Raider franchise is well and truly back on track. If you're a Tomb Raider fan or just looking a solid action game then Tomb: Raider Anniversary comes highly recommended.