Copyright 2000 Extracts from

[ December 28th 2000 ]

It's been a month since the final release of Tomb Raider as we know it, with Eidos Interactives fifth instalment from their incredibly successful adventure series concluding the current direction Lara will take before next years major overhaul of character and attitude in Tomb Raider Next Generation. Tomb Raider Chronicles features four major levels, including Rome, Russia, Ireland and Von Croys' High Tech level. Each episode continues the stories from past Tomb Raider adventures, and although topping almost all console charts as expected, has received much criticism from many online media companies.

The latest opinion to drop into the criticism tank is that of IGN, who argue that had Core released Chronicles as a sequel to Tomb Raider, the original and first true 3D adventure game, then Chronicles could have been this years most highly anticipated game for the PSX, and possible for the PC and Dreamcast. However, since the introduction of Lara Croft back in 1995, Eidos have rolled out a new Tomb Raider every year, and it's this action which has concealed the vast improvements from the original game.

"It might also be conceivable that gamers would even look at this game as a suitable sequel to the first game, because if you directly compare Chronicles to Lara's first adventure, you'll find that it has improvements in many key areas, including its use of cameras, the raw number of Lara's abilities and the basic look of the game. But, that's not the way everything happened, and instead of taking some time to create a respectable sequel to what was considered the first true 3D adventure game, Eidos cranked out new Tomb Raider games on a yearly basis and have turned what could have franchises into one of the most reviled."

Tomb Raider Chronicles begins with the apparent funeral of Miss Lara Croft, feared consumed by the ruins of the Temple of Horus at the end of The Last Revelation. As Father Dunstan and friends enclose around the flickering fireplace at Croft Manor shortly after the funeral, they begin to regale their heroine, each telling a tale of previous exploits.

"The Rome level plays out like classic Tomb Raider, with your standard puzzles that have you flip switches and find specific items to progress through to the next part of the level. Some of the puzzles are somewhat illogical and frivolous, but don't get nearly as annoying as many in the previous Tomb Raider games because you're never forced to venture too far to find the key or required object. It's still pretty standard Tomb Raider stuff and it won't convince anyone that this game is something to get excited about. However, the game actually picks up a bit when Lara begins enters the submarine base in Russia. While there's still some puzzle solving and adventuring to be had here, this area focuses more on action and shooting elements than we've yet seen in any Tomb Raider game. This area also has a highly-enjoyable deep sea dive segment outside of the submarine, that's only problem is that it ends much too quickly.

After being treated with this fairly enjoyable level, the player is thrust into the worst level or area that has ever been put into a Tomb Raider game. A young and still very well endowed Lara is in a haunted house full of ghosts and goblins, and the player must get her through it without the use of any weapons. The level is completely uninteresting and having the player do nothing but run from monsters has got to be one of the worst ideas that have ever come out of Core. Things, however, get much better after this. So, those of you willing to put in the effort to make it to Lara's fourth quest in the game will be treated to one of the best Tomb Raider levels ever. As in the hi-tech office building level, Lara gets to use some really fancy equipment, wear some fancy Matrix-esque clothes and run around in some very cool environments."

IGN notes the frustration with some levels and their AI (artificial intelligence) interaction, commenting that enemies and items challenging the integrity of Lara appear from nowhere with little warning, and much has been said of High Tech level with it's constant barrage of attack with little or no placement of weapons and health packs, rendering Lara, more often than not, very dead. PC owners will benefit from a far superior environment packed with atmosphere and intrigue, depending of system performance, and the musical score which has outstood in previous adventures, although more than a little familiar by now, is pleasing to the ears and accelerates the excitement.

Clipping and draw in problems continue to present themselves, with Lara frequently appearing to walk through objects, or ledges and blocks partially consuming various body parts while an action is being performed. Greater attention to detail is clearly evident, with improved textures and ambient lighting, although everything has a familiar feel. The marketing strategy will benefit Eidos because of the scope of target audience. Die hard Tomb Raider fans will buy Chronicles to complete their series, while those picking up Lara Croft for the first time will be suitably impressed without the benefit of comparison.

Early shots of Next Generation look phenomenal, and finally it looks like Eidos and Core will reward their loyal fans with a new engine sporting environmental and mechanical improvements on a scale not previously seen between Tomb Raider versions. Chronicles is on sale now for all consoles, and Next Generation should rear it's rather different head fourth quarter 2001.

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