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Lara returns for a second adventure on Xbox 360, this time at retail and digital download via Xbox Live...
- Bargain price via Xbox Live Marketplace.
- Clever puzzle design.
- Continues to show 'Legend' engine well.
- Requires 'Legend' to download from XL.
- Adrenaline/Headshots feel tacked on.
- Camera requires too much direct control.
Having already celebrated on PlayStation 2 earlier in the year, Eidos has brought the party to Xbox 360 with the release of Tomb Raider: Anniversary at both retail and, a first for Xbox Live, via digital download. Revisiting overhauled old haunts from ten years ago including Greece and the jungle temples of Peru, Crystal Dynamics' second attempt at the quintessentially British brand managed to provide a solid update to the original - complete with empty tombs (bar the occasional bat and dinosaur) and puzzles within puzzles. Despite being built with the Tomb Raider: Legend engine, which freed gamers from the archaic grid-system that had stuck with the franchise for far too long (courtesy of Core Design), Anniversary's appearance on PS2 failed to rise to the standards set by Legend - likely a legacy of the ten year old game.
But that was a few months ago, and with Crystal Dynamics splitting the game into two for Xbox Live Marketplace, perhaps the US team has spent a little time polishing up some of the more irritating parts...we hope...
Reigniting an old quest as she tries to uncover the lost city of Atlantis via Peru, Greece, and Egypt, all the while going head-to-head with adversary Jacqueline Natla, Anniversary is naturally 'classic' Tomb Raider. In other words, a massive emphasis on puzzles within puzzles within puzzles, broken up with end-of-level boss encounters and minor showdowns with bears, bats, and the occasional raptor. A decade on, and of course the environments ooze much more atmosphere than they could have ever hoped for on the original PlayStation and SEGA Saturn, and if nothing else, Anniversary is a minor testament to the visual strides made in the last ten years. Of course, there's the smattering of visual polish that befits a PS2-to-Xbox 360 port; the lighting and use of a soft focus effect, not to mention a very wet looking Lara post-swim, and High-Res textures, all feature heavily throughout the adventure, but the game doesn't push the console to the limits, somewhat like its predecessor. Instead, gamers will have to rely on the 'romance' of playing through a re-imagining of one of the key videogames in the last twenty years.
As with the PlayStation 2 edition, the Lara of Anniversary is stripped of her gadgets and her remote back up, leaving the adventurer with her twin pistols and grappling hook...oh, and her journal. This is 1996 after all, and as such, briefcase-sized satellite phones to Croft Manor aren't exactly practical when dangling at the bottom of a rope over a bottomless chasm. All this ensures that Anniversary never feels as fully developed or as advanced as Legend, and it wouldn't be surprising to discover gamers who first encountered the franchise with the 2006 title find this second outing on Xbox 360 a little disappointing. For instance, 'classic' bits of Tomb Raider gameplay remain in place (and firmly in the '90s) such as the occasional leap of faith, however this is something that we could have done without. And though some will no doubt find the largely manual camera a strain, at least it means that gamers for the most part will see many of the ledges Lara has to make.
Elements of the Legend do make it into the game however, with the interactive cut-scenes thrown in at different times, together with former Spooks actress Keeley Hawes voicing Lady Croft. As with it's past-gen release, Anniversary on Xbox 360 features the Headshot and Adrenaline rush dynamics, triggered automatically when enemies fly into a rage, allowing Lara (in Matrix-style slow-mo) to dive out of the way and take down adversaries with a bullet right between the eyes. Like the PlayStation 2 version, these last two additions don't really feel truly integrated into the gameplay as a whole however, but hopefully Crystal Dynamics will continue to work on the feature during the development of Tomb Raider 8.
At 2400 Microsoft Points (£20.40), downloading Anniversary via Xbox Live Marketplace is certainly more economic (if you already own Legend) than buying it neatly boxed from your local retailer - bringing in for less than the price of an Xbox 360 Classics title.