By John Walker on June 23rd, 2008 at 3:40 pm.
It’s a rather lovely story, the tale of Lara’s rescue. Tomb Raider, too infamous to maintain the reputation it deserved, span out of control. People, when reflecting on the series, will recall the first couple and begrudgingly admit that they were really good. But then they’ll say things tailed off, descending into generic sequels, eventually finishing in the hideous plane-full-orphans-crashing-into-train-full-of-puppies mess that was Angel of Darkness. But they’re wrong.
Not about AoD of course – you couldn’t even walk in straight lines – but about the previous games. They were all good. Not as great as the first two, purely because of familiarity, but every one was a lovely collection of third-person platforming levels, each improving the graphics and adding in new moves and abilities for the super-posh hero. Even The Last Revelation, with it’s hopelessly stupid ending of a pyramid falling on Lara, was enormous fun. It was what happened around Tomb Raider became increasingly rubbish. There was the tabloid excitement that a new girl with long brown hair had been chosen to be the new Lara, or whatever marketing tosh that was. There were the movies. And, more than anything, there were people writing about a videogame character having big tits. It all must have become too much for Core, who when making Angel of Darkness attempted to reinvent the whole thing, but instead put out an entirely unfinished and barely playable embarrassment. And with that, despite having died two games earlier, Lara was dead.
Then three years later Eidos wanted their cash
cow lady back, and picked a new developer, Crystal Dynamics. As if everyone weren’t cynical enough, especially now everyone had decided that most of the excellent games were actually crap, this was received with heavy sighs. And what came out was great! Tomb Raider: Legend got a fine 80% from me in Gamer (and I would have marked higher if the idiots hadn’t sent me bugged code that they fixed before release). It was great because it remembered what made the first five games great: tile-based platforming. Add in a genuinely well written script, with new characters cracking wise in Lara’s earpiece (if you played the Cornwall levels, you’ll remember the best gags), and some of the first ever pixel shader 3.0 graphics, and you’ve something well worth playing.
Rather than sequelling it, and continuing the cliff-hanger story about Lara’s mum, CD then made Anniversary, a sort of modified remake of the original game, and hit the same high. And now the third is dated, and what I want from you is not, “Oh no, another Tomb Raider game, what’s this, the 93rd?” but, “Hooray! A new Tomb Raider game! Another game in a series that, apart from that one, has been consistently really good!”
The Tomb Raider website has been redecorated, rather disturbingly with a picture of Lara at the top in which she appears to have some horrible skin-wasting disease. There’s diaries and assets and all sorts of treats to play with. But more importantly, there’s a release date: November. Good. Click the pics for full size.