In fact, you'd be forgiven if you thought that Anniversary
is nothing more than a graphically made-over version of the original Tomb Raider
. The first levels in particular seem almost identical to how we remember them, right down to the annoying bats which awaken at certain points and swarm around Lara's head as they try to re-style her hair-do.
Venture a little further in though, and the differences become a bit more noticeable - especially when in the larger cavern areas. Details have been tweaked and puzzles restructured to take advantage of the new gameplay elements which have been carried over from Legend
Not all of the gameplay mechanics have been carried over from Legend
though, and there are some definite omissions and additions. Some are good, some not so much.
On the good side, Lara has a few new moves up her sleeve to help her navigate her surroundings and fend off the occasional wild beast. Balancing on top of beams and using the grappling hook to run along walls are the main additions to the platforming elements and both help Lara feel more athletic and energetic than ever. It's never as free-form as Prince of Persia
, but it's certainly just as much fun despite being tied to a linear path that won't allow moves to be used elsewhere.
On the bad side, some of the cuts end up making parts of the game either plain laughable or slightly annoying. Gone, for example, are the supporting characters of Zip and Alistair who provided hints and narration for the action in Legend
. Unfortunately, in order to maintain the same hint-giving mechanic without having to feature the two co-stars, Anniversary
uses a journal in Lara's inventory to give players hints if they become stuck.
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It's a nice idea in theory but it's ruined by the unremarkable and useless response given, which generally range in their insightfulness from "Hmm, interesting."
to "There must be a key to this door."
The journal does prove useful in tricky boss situations though, giving hints as to the weak points of the monsters and encouraging the player to try new tactics. However, for the large part of the game it's little more than an utterly useless item in the inventory which does naught but take up space.
Also missing from the game is the PLS, Lara's kinetically charged torch, which one would have thought would be an essential tool for exploring underground tombs. Some areas of the game are a little too dark to bear without it, though the tombs are inexplicably well-lit for the most part.
These minor setbacks don't really damage the gameplay in the end though, and the vast majority of the game is spent joyfully hopping around inside the beautifully designed levels which are full of loot. (After all, you have to raid something, right? - Ed.)
The tombs are now dotted with two different types of collectibles; Artifacts and Relics. Collection of these trinkets unlocks different rewards such as costumes, cheats and some very insightful developer commentaries. Some of the relics can even be put on display in Croft Manor, which returns again as part-distraction and part-training course.
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Wolves at the door
Combat in Anniversary
is noteworthy mainly because it succumbs to the gaming trend of giving the player a kind of 'focus mode', though in Lara's world it's re-labeled as the 'Adrenaline Effect' and brilliantly affects both monsters and players.
On the player side, adrenaline is used when dodging creatures to pull off accurate headshots that take a monster down in a single hit. Using it slows the game down a bit, ala Max Payne
, and gives the player chance to use the required shoulder buttons – which is a good thing, as we fumbled through the button presses the first few times.
On the monster side adrenaline is re-dubbed as 'Rage Effect' and occasionally powers bears and wolves up so that they can unleash a particularly deathly charge at the player, which can be countered using Lara's own adrenaline effect. The effect isn't only for fair play, though - it can be used as a tool for Lara. For bosses such as the T-Rex, the rage effect is key to defeating them as players can force them to charge forwards into traps.
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It would have been easy for the developers to make a hash of this new combat system, but thankfully the really cool moves are used just sporadically enough that they don't overpower either enemies or players and the game makes excellent use of their inclusions. We did find the controls on the PS2 were a little clunky and we suspect that a mouse and keyboard setup would make the whole thing a lot easier, but expert analog-wielders won't have a problem laying waste to all types of living creatures once they get to grips with the system.
It's also worth mentioning that players won't be going up against the usual cardboard cut-out bad guys as the enemies in Anniversary
stay very close to those seen in the original game. Atlantean mutants, wolves, bats and bears are the monsters of choice in Anniversary
, with only one human baddie appearing in the entire game. It's a good thing too, as MP5 wielding terrorists in boiler suits would seem a bit out of place in The Lost Valley, though extinct dinosaurs are right at home. Obviously.