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TOMB RAIDER ANNIVERSARY PREVIEW
Copyright 2007 www.tombraiderchronicles.com

[ February 21st 2007 ]

Brighton awoke this morning with a steady yawn, smothered by low-floating, ominous grey clouds and the imminent threat of rain, a menace realised en route to Wimbledon, London, home of Eidos plc and newly acquired publisher of video-game entertainment by one SCi Entertainment Plc, a buoyant and motley crew helmed by Jane Cavanagh.

The order of business was to demo Tomb Raider Anniversary Edition, a special celebratory video-game commemorating ten years of British archaeologist Lara Croft, from her inception as a genre establishing, gun-totting heroine through her rise to fame and arrival as a modern-day cyber-star of popular culture.

Eidos Interactive

Eidos Interactive stands proud in Wimbledon, London, and one is immediately reminded of the brands that have helped the publisher achieve global success in the video-game market. Hitman and Lara Croft greet the visitor in reception, and a collection of magazine covers celebrating some of the best games Eidos has to offer can be found proudly hanging in the corridors.

Keir Edmonds is Eidos’ newest star; although we learn he’s been with the publisher for almost seven years. Previously Q&A on games like Championship Manager and The Angel of Darkness, Keir is now charged with liaising with the online community on all future Eidos plc titles. A personable fellow, Keir met yours truly and we both embarked on a tour of the facility before heading to Eidos’ mini-theatre to demo Tomb Raider Anniversary Edition.

Emily Britt is probably Eidos’ busiest employee. She has the behemoth task of orchestrating Eidos’ European public relations in conjunction with Gareth Ramsey, who – along with Chris Glover – manages national PR. Emily is also a master of linguistics, fluent in both Spanish and French, the latter reducing newly acquired community liaison manager Keir Edmonds to borderline-hysterics whenever he hears her on the phone. Keir had a warm glow and a twinkle in his eye while introductions were being made. Bless.

Tomb Raider Anniversary Edition is being produced by Sarah Van Rompaey, whose booby-trapped desk sits in an office on the second floor. Sarah is responsible for the production of Tomb Raider Anniversary Edition, aided by a solid crew of smiling faces and cordial handshakes.

Like all institutions, Eidos hides most of its talent in the basement. An open plan, subterranean floor surrenders a steely team of Q&A, divided into brand teams. Tucked away in the far corner is international web-cam duo Jason Walker, head of mastering, and his partner in crime, Ray Mullen. Both are charged with ensuring that master copies of game code are produced and dispatched for mass production. Members of Tomb Raider Forums can be assured that Jason’s online persona marries perfectly with his real life one.

En route to Eidos’ mini-theatre, we stopped off at Webmaster HQ, helmed by German magi Olaf Siebert. Olaf is a code-junkie, and one can clearly see the passion he invests into his work as he showcased the brand new Anniversary Edition web site. The web site – to be officially unveiled soon – is dripping with character and that stalwart favourite of mine, polygons, and offers fans a comprehensive look at both the forthcoming adventure and the legacy series, reflecting on the winding path Lara Croft has taken.

Tomb Raider Anniversary Edition

Tomb Raider Anniversary Edition is more than just a trip down memory lane. It is a re-imagining on a grand scale, sporting the same insatiable goodness that captured fans the globe over almost ten years ago, but with so much more to offer. The game is looking as solid as ever, and with good reason. The engine has matriculated from Soul Reaver: Legacy Of Kain, through Tomb Raider Legend and now Anniversary Edition, and on the Playstation 2 is looking quite fabulous.

Toby Gard is back, infusing his own ideals and vision into a vehicle first realised in 1995 when a small team at Core Design fashioned an Indiana Jones-style adventure around a concept essentially conceived by the slip of a mouse. Gard’s mark is present once again.

Gareth Ramsey – master of PR at Eidos plc – brokered some musings while toiling Lara Croft through The Lost Valley on an early build of Anniversary Edition. As the Legend-style checkpoint system chimed to indicate a save, special edition missives sailed across the mini-theatre, essentially revealing that Anniversary Edition is more than just a regular re-working. Think DVD Special Edition, all those intrinsic beauties that are arduously excavated from the movie are now present in video-game form. Tomb Raider Anniversary Edition is a regular Easter Bunny.

As we ventured forth into The Lost Valley, the raptors – three or four making a brief appearance - took their leave (some quite involuntarily as their carcasses were tossed aside) and the Jurassic T-Rex entered stage right.

Pause

This reptile is just obscene, truly obscene, and you have to lean back and just marvel as history unfolds before your eyes, yet this time with the volume of polygons you could have only wished for in 1996. The connection is now impermeable. The T-Rex amalgamates past with present and die-hard fans of Tomb Raider - those old enough to remember the original - will positively delight with glee as the foray unfolds before them. The cinematic unveiling of the T-Rex was a marvel to revel in.

Continue

Lara Croft herself is looking fantastic. Her frame is dressed in around 7,000 polygons, and this time round she sports some new moves which will aid her progress through her adventure. One of those is a new balancing feature, which enables Lara to hop from platform or post, land, and then – with player interaction – find her centre of balance before proceeding. The much-loved handstand pull-up is still present, but the side-summersault is absent this time round.

Anniversary Edition appears to be anchored honestly to the past, with a sense of isolation that is positively omnipresent throughout the cavernous regions we tramped through. The main protagonist is still the ‘Rex’ and the inhospitable environments, but this time on a truly monster scale. The game is littered with secret areas found only by exploration, and the maze of different routes Lara Croft can choose to take makes it anything but linear.

Tomb Raider Anniversary Edition on the Sony Playstation 2 has been fashioned using the same purge-redundancy feature as Tomb Raider Legend on Xbox. Only the immediate region is loaded into memory, which means Crystal Dynamics can maximise the polygon count to positively dripping on a video-game platform gasping its final breaths before making the long and arduous trip to console heaven.

Crystal Dynamics are beating the proverbial hell out of the PS2 platform, and if Sony’s number 2 gave up the ghost tomorrow, then it leaves our dearly departed at the top of its game. I **** you not, it looks that good. One can only imagine what delight the Windows PC version holds in store.

Going for a song

Troels Folmann – without any shadow of a doubt – knows how to play with his toys. The Tomb Raider score is almost overwhelming at times, and ambient audio fuses transparently into the cavernous environments Lara Croft peruses as she tracks down the fabled Scion. The sound effects, down to minute repercussions through caves, the jingle of her equipment attached to her belt, and the gentle breathing of the region creates a locale dripping with inhospitable atmosphere.

Conclusion

Buoyed by the success of Tomb Raider Legend, Lara Croft’s rejuvenation marches on without any sign of previous stagnations. Anniversary Edition, although anchored to the past, brings with it freshness and potency only realised on today’s modern video-game consoles. There is no argument that Core Design left an indelible mark on the video-games industry, but Crystal Dynamics – upon receipt of the baton - have so far met their challenge admirably and infused new life into the Tomb Raider brand.

Lara Croft is back, and by the looks of things, she’s not going anywhere for a while yet.

Copyright (c) 2000 - 2019 Tomb Raider Chronicles
Copyright (c) 1996 - 2019 Square Enix Ltd.
Lara Croft and Tomb Raider are trademarks of Square Enix Ltd.
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