Lara Croft first bounced her way onto games consoles in 1996 in her first game, Tomb Raider. Since then she’s starred in nine games, with a new title, Tomb Raider, due out at the end of this year. Good to see there’s been progression over the years. She’s getting a new look for the latest outing, less… top-heavy (click here to read how that came about), but in the game I’m reviewing here she’s still sporting a gravity-defying bust and rather blocky features.
Released in 2003 for Playstation 2 and Windows, the action follows Lara on a frankly mental journey from the streets and sewers of Paris where she starts, to find out who murdered her mentor Werner Von Croy, into an archaeological dig beneath the Louvre to fetch one of five Obscura paintings, then back up to the surface where it is promptly stolen from her. Then it’s over to Prague where the fifth and final painting can be found beneath the city, but there’s another after these paintings, a killer nicknamed ‘The Monstrum’, who wants all five to revive the remains of a Cubiciulum Nephili, an ‘Angel of Darkness’, thought to be an angel / human hybrid from ancient Turkey.
You then have to sneak into the evil guy’s fortress which has genetically modified things trying to get you, as well as cells with people in wearing straight jackets who also run around after you flapping their straps. Clearly some odd experiments have been taking place and a monsterous ‘Proto-Nephilium’ is also on the loose. Another hunter turns up called Kurtis, and he and Lara join forces to have a final showdown with the Monstrum.
And that was a heavily abbreviated version. There are all sorts of Periapt Shards, demon swordsmen, mutated humans, vaults, halls of seasons and spinning sharp things that will take your legs off across 31 levels of play. It’s pretty big, and quite a slog I found once you’re in the fortress of mutants at the end.
It’s more or less a game of three bits. The first third is in Paris, which I was largely indifferent to as a landscape as it was dark and grimey, and pretty boring and repetitious once you’re in the sewers and you have to swim around turning wheels to open and close doors. The middle third is in the archaeological dig beneath the Louvre and this was the best bit of the game I found, far more interesting surroundings and monsters to kill, and the final third is in the fortress where you have to work your way through the experiment facilities and the casualties of this research to get to the main guy. I actually gave up around where you take over for a short while as Kurtis, which now reading up on the plot seems a bit daft as I was relatively near the end, but I lost interest and frankly gave up caring about what was going on.
I was playing the PC version, which came free with my new laptop, which may or may not tell you something about its popularity seen as they had to give it away. I think it worked well to a certain point as a game, there were glitches, such as when you’re walking up a ladder and end up somehow inside of Lara staring up through the inside of her head, but when I was given a playstation and the first three games to play the differences between them over a range of six years is impressive. I find the first games impossible to play, just trying to get her round a corner can be a challenge in itself, whereas the gameplay with this one at least didn’t make me want to run her off a cliff just to hear her scream to her death.
I think the plot was too complicated myself, for a full description read its entry on Wikipedia, and a lot of it just felt like they were making you go back and forth, like in the sewers, for the sake of it. Turning wheels in pipes is boring, why are you making me do this? So, should you buy it? I’d say no myself as I expect there are far better Lara Croft games out there and the new one is coming up soon, and there are loads of better games in general even if she is a classic.
Gamespot UK gave it 6.5, saying that it has an engaging storyline and impressive locations, but problems with moves means that Lara ‘controls like a cement truck’. IGN gave it 5.3, saying that it was ‘better looking and more diverse’ than previous Tomb Raider titles, but that ‘game fails in nearly all of the gameplay areas’.
So, average all round.