Sunday, July 29, 2007

Tomb Raider Chronicles

Note: This review was originally posted on Myspace. I am reposting it here for archival purposes. It has been backdated to the date of its original posting.

"Lara Croft
Once And Future Adventurer"

My issues with this game are: a) it has the same downfalls as The Last Revelation (particularly in forced perspectives and cinematic reveals); b) the level-loading times are patience-testingly long; c) which is compounded by the fact that for some reason when you die, it automatically loads the title screen instead of assuming you want to load a game, so that when you die, you have to go through two painful loading screens instead of just one; and d) the final level has way too many annoying bugs...

If you can get past all of that, it's actually a pretty fun game. Clearly a lot shorter, and not quite so epic as LastRev, since the different episodes are unrelated, but fun. Plus, you get back that location variety as well as alternate outfits that were missing from LastRev. Winter Camo for the Russian levels, Young Lara for the Halloween episode, and a shiny Catsuit for the industrial levels (and, of course, the classic outfit for the Roman levels).

The setup of the plot is actually pretty neat. Lara is missing and presumed dead after the raid of LastRev, and some of her closest friends gather together after the dedication of her memorial in order to tell stories of some of her more secretive past adventures. First you get to run through the streets of Rome, and eventually the Colloseum, searching for the Philosopher's Stone. Then you get to infiltrate a Russian submarine to recover the Spear of Destiny from some undersea wreckage. Then you have a rather unique Halloween episode, where young Lara follows a priest onto a haunted island. Finally, you get to sneak into Von Croy Industries, Mission:Impossible style, to steal the Iris back from some androids (that's right).

Overall, the levels and locations felt sort of like an amalgam of previous tomb raiding memories and experiences, doing justice to the 'Chronicles' title, as well as adding some new features and experiences. New moves include tight-rope walking, parallel bar swinging, and limited hand-to-hand combat techniques. I'll say a few words about the individual locations (this section may contain some spoilers):

Rome (The Streets of Rome/Trajan Markets/The Colloseum)

These levels kind of felt like a dry Venice (TR2), with a little bit of the original greco-roman levels from the first game thrown in. The Colloseum was pretty cool. This time around, you got to fight gladiators as well as lions. You didn't get to explore the Colloseum proper, though, so it's not like you can even compare it to the first game's Coliseum. It was definitely interesting to see Pierre and Larson (from the first game) back, and as funny and stereotypical as ever. Larson being the dumb cowboy, and Pierre being the snooty Frenchman. Nothing too serious, but a generally good time. Pierre's downfall was pretty ruthless, though, but very clever (with a few puns of its own), and true to Lara's original badass image (as opposed to CD's modern 'delicate' Lara). Helmet Head was freaking annoying to kill.

Pierre: You were kicked in the head by a horse, oui? So the brain doesn't work correctly?
Larson: How'd you know about that?

Pierre: Come, let us get off this roof, and I will buy you a milkshake.

Russia (The Base/The Submarine/Deepsea Dive/Sinking Submarine)

Imagine TR2's Offshore Rig set in TR3's Antarctica, with a tiny bit of TR2's Maria Doria levels thrown in on the side, and that's what the Russian levels are like. The Russian Admiral actually turns out to be a pretty sympathizable character. Exploring the submarine was pretty fun. The Deepsea Dive portion was disappointingly short, though. The Sinking Submarine was also fun to explore.

Black Isle (Gallows Tree/Labyrinth/Old Mill)

This little episode was surprisingly original, and interesting. First of all, it's the first set of full levels with young Lara, unlike the Training levels in LastRev. Second, because Lara is young, you have no weapons, so you have to think of other ways to avoid enemies. Third, the whole thing was like a Halloween theme park, with all kinds of classic baddies haunting around, from werewolves to will o' the wisps to skeletons to deranged forest spirits to a [literally] heartless talking hanged man to an apparition of death to a seahag to a headed horseman/perturbed demon... Really neat levels.

Von Croy Industries (13th Floor/Escape with the Iris/Red Alert!)

Beside the annoying bugs in the final level, these levels are mostly fun. Some stealth stuff, partly reminiscent of TR3's Nevada levels, as well as a setting reminiscent of the City portion of TR3's London levels. Crawling through vents and sneaking around is fun, though this isn't quite Metal Gear Solid, and the stealth tactics aren't quite as reliable. The guy talkin' to Lara on the headset, telling her about the layout of the building and et cetera, is extremely annoying though. He tries to be all hip and cool and everything, and he just comes off as being obnoxiously annoying. And you can even tell in the tone of Lara's voice that she thinks the same way. Eventually, you start wishing he would just shut up and let you figure things out for yourself, for what it's worth.


As for the "tombiness" of Tomb Raider Chronicles - very low. But by this point, you kind of start taking for granted that Lara rarely raids tombs these days, and just accept it for what it is. For that reason, this game could never compare to the original, and it doesn't quite have the legendary levels that two and three boast. Still, for a light-hearted (despite the gloomy nature of the storyline - mourning Lara's death) adventure through some vaguely familiar, and some newer, areas, this game delivers an enjoyable distraction from your own boring life (at least until the bugs get you).

Endgame Stats:

Time Taken - 7:27:43
Distance Travelled - 34646m
Ammo Used - 2683
Health Packs Used - 42
Secrets Found - 28/36
Saves - 330

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