Tomb Raider: Legend Xbox 360 Review

May 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Returning to a past instalment of the Tomb Raider series after playing Legend provides you with contrasting experiences, whilst they both share the same concept, Lara’s latest is a significant improvement. Since the likes of the fluid Prince of Persia: Sands of Time arrived on the scene, the controls of past Tomb Raider games began to make controlling Lara feel like a tank opposed to an athletic female. Not so here, as Legend makes traversing the perilous environments an absolute joy.

The last Tomb Raider game was almost universally hated for varying reasons, and Core Design the UK developer of all the previous games were therefore thrown off the franchise and the more than capable hands of Crystal Dynamics were enlisted to create this seventh game. With that little bit of history out of the way, lets talk about why the American development team were largely the right folk for the job.

Doing something as simple as turning Lara around was once a laborious task, but now the controls are remarkably fluid and a million miles away from anything that came before it. Lara’s animations are a sight to behold as she leaps around with ample enthusiasm and rapid movements, our busty female adventurer has obviously been heavily inspired by the swanlike grace seen in games such as Prince of Persia. Crystal Dynamics have seemingly attempted to make the game appeal to a wider audience and Tomb Raider fans may therefore be angered by some of the almost patronising changes, which was always going to be a pitfall for the development team, given the cliché, that it’s quite simply impossible to please everyone.

Daredevil leaps is something that Lara has always risked her virtual life doing, and Legend is no exception, although it no longer requires you to take five minutes to line up a pixel perfect jump. There’s very little that can go wrong in a Legend jump, the worst that can happen is a mistimed leap, which only requires a single button press to rectify. There’s little challenge left as the jumps almost feel automated, and this is sure to break the hearts of those who enjoyed anticipating their leaps knowing that a disastrous fall was a fault of their own, whilst the rest of us will simply enjoy watching Lara’s nimble movements. Pressing a single button to detonate explosive barrels with your guns or to bring environmental objects down on top of your enemies is another rather dumb inclusion, it’s not like casual gamers are a totally unknowing bunch, as many developers seem to suggest these days.

Controlling Lara is definitely a lot more enjoyable and her sprightly movements assures that you aren’t in one place for very long at all – the new grappling hook also makes sure of this as it’s a necessity to swing across certain gaps in the game as well as for some puzzle solving. Hanging and shuffling along ledges can now be speeded up by timing button presses along with Lara’s movements for example, and this new and improved heroine is definitely better then the leisurely Lara of old. It’s just a shame that the jumps have to be so overly simple to achieve.

There’s plenty of globetrotting involved, with your travels taking you to places such as Bolivia, Peru, Japan, West Africa, Kazakhstan, England and Nepal. The different areas of the globe are distinct, but share the common Tomb Raider elements of jumping (looks great but feels near automated), swimming (Lara even looks wet now when she returns to the surface), puzzles (which are largely very simple here), vehicle portions (only a motorbike is present, and it feels a little like a bolted-on secret mini game) and combat (fun, but certainly remains a weaker element of the series). Long time fans will be gratified to find the series returning to its roots somewhat, and will therefore be reacquainting themselves with the dark trap-laden tombs of old. It all looks gorgeous as well, and the “great outdoor” level design is mostly stunning.

Tomb Raider: Legend isn’t the longest game in the world, although there’s effort to extend the lifespan, as Lara‘s mansion can be explored at anytime for example, there’s also secrets to be found (which in turn unlock new outfits for Lara) and level time trials included. The games biggest flaw is that it’s very much devoid of challenge, but in spite of this, Legend still remains a beautiful and well crafted adventure that has seen the series updated in a way in which it can now match shoulder-to-shoulder with its peers. Crystal Dynamics were definitely the correct choice for this seventh heaven instalment, and in their hands, the series can only continue to improve.