Tomb Raider: Legend Preview

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Besides Lara in her newest form, there is a great deal to look forward to in this package. Not only a graphical update, the physics, control and camera systems are all getting fixed up. Lara Croft is also returning to her natural habitat: the underground. Out with the barren cityscapes and high-tech office complexes, and in with the caves and tombs. The Lara we all once loved, who bounced to and fro dual wielding pistols and recovering great artifacts is set to return in glorious splendor to the PC, PS2, Xbox and possibly Xbox 360.

In-Depth Preview

With a different set of developers at the reigns, the Tomb Raider series is getting a much-needed revamp. Crystal Dynamics, the team behind the Soul Reaver games, has the opportunity to save this all-but-lost franchise. From the looks of things, they're taking it.

Gone are the days of Lara Croft running the hallways of cubicle-plastered office buildings, using all sorts of weaponry that she suddenly gains knowledge and proficiency in. CD is bringing back everyone's favorite Lara, the one we all loved and thought gone forever. She's returned to using her dual pistols, but much more importantly, she's given up the cityscape for more familiar territory.

In Legend, Lara returns to the wilderness, caves, and ruins which she is so famous for exploring. They won't be the same caves and ruins she once traversed, however. CD has tossed the old templates out the window and rebuilt the world from the underground up. The new textures are brilliant, and the water effects are on par with anything seen from recent development cycles. Lara herself has been shaped up, so to speak, with an entirely new form. Her measurements have changed a bit, stopping her ever-expanding bust size from further "enhancements".

With her new semi-realistic proportions, Lara also promises to be much easier to control. Possibly due to her recently relieved spine, or possibly due to the able craftsmen at Crystal Dynamics, Lara promises to be much more responsive to the touch, and a great deal more flexible with her acrobatics. The animation and control have also been revamped to allow seamless continuity between actions. This way, the instant Lara climbs the ledge she can begin doing the cartwheels and back flips she's so famous for. This has some serious combat implications, as well.

With Lara's new freedom of movement, she can perform even better in combat. Returning are her dual-wield pistols of yesteryear and her unbreakable resolve. Lara can fire from any position during any move. Thus, if a mercenary hired to take her out springs around the corner while she's busy doing a summersault, she can fire several shots from mid-jump (though they will be a tad less accurate since she's a little distracted).

There is very little known of the plot for this adventure. Crystal Dynamics is keeping pretty secretive, but there are a few details known for sure. Lara will be recovering a mysterious and great artifact, as is to be expected. She'll be traveling through jungles, over snowy mountains, and into many caves, plus a few environments yet to be discovered. And, most importantly, she'll be facing an old enemy that was long thought dead. While this is very little information, it is at least a hint. It also assures us that CD really is headed back towards the old Lara Croft, the woman gamers have thought missing or dead for years.

This game will require thought. The puzzles are not necessarily looking for a red key in the fireplace type mysteries. With the new physics, water, and fire systems in place, CD will have a great deal of flexibility in what they can put Lara up against. Puzzles may involve much more experimenting, and have as many solutions as there are players.

So what's in store for fans of Tomb Raider? A return to when being a Tomb Raider fan was ok. The old style of play, with the wild locations, the flipping acrobatics, the occasional, heated gunplay, and the recovery of a great artifact is back. Complete with a huge increase in graphical and physical engines, Lara Croft is returning in style. Gamers old school and new can rejoice with the return of Lara in Tomb Raider: Legend, due to stores in Spring.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.