Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
26 July 2006
Tomb Raider: Legend (PSP) review
For almost everyone, Tomb Raider: Legend on the PSP is not worth the money or time. Only dedicated fans who demand a portable version should consider it.

By now, reviews have documented the sticky controls, which I can confirm. After Angel of Darkness, how does one make the same mistake? Most people considering this version should stop right there: you will go crazy finishing several action sequences throughout the PSP version.

The problem on the PSP, however, goes deeper than that. Tomb Raider is about spectacular, dramatic locales, and a number of beautiful environments in Tomb Raider: Legend demonstrate some understanding of this concept. The PlayStation 2 (and Xbox) controls, through a second joystick, allow dynamic manipulation of the camera, making a better view of the world accessible. On the PSP, you really have to work to see anything beautiful. Changing the camera angle requires bringing Lara to a full stop, pressing the square button, and simultaneously moving the analog nub. Most of the time, the automatic camera just shows you the ground for 10 meters in front of Lara, leaving all the fine detail work off-camera.

Worse still, several levels are a simple sequence of corridors that might as well be out of a first-person shooter. The original Tomb Raider was a sequence of very large areas tied together with a handful of small hallways; Tomb Raider: Legend is a long sequence of corridors broken by very few large areas. The large areas of the original game weren't completely accessible immediately, hinting at places that you could reach only after much effort. Legend forsakes that design, leaning too heavily on the linear hall-crawling of the newer Prince of Persia games.

Legend outdoes all its predecessors (that I've played) in characterization and story. Through investigation into her family's past, Lara discovers evidence that Arthurian legends are present in cultures throughout history because actual magic-sword-in-stone artifacts were placed by someone -- or something -- around the globe sometime before recorded history. As Lara goes from site to site, we get to see different sides of Lara's character, culminating with a convincingly ruthless portrayal near the game's conclusion. When Lara sneers "Every breath you take is a gift from me", you believe it.

Ultimately, the game ends with a cliffhanger, leaving open issues that must be resolved in a future game. Some players may be disappointed, but the story development makes me optimistic that they'll continue with a good show the next time 'round. Unless controls and camera improve on the PSP -- something we may well find out when Tomb Raider: 10th Anniversary Edition arrives later this year -- I will probably play the sequel on a PlayStation 2 or 3.

(List of random gripes here.)
--Matt Matthews at 23:05
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