Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
07 June 2007
Tomb Raider Anniversary (Demo): All Wet

I have to admit it. I wasn't too impressed with my first few minutes in the TRA demo for Windows. It looks great, no doubt about it. The waterfall, pool, and environment effects (ie, "Lara getting wet and drying off) are pretty cool. To me, however, it fails to capture the feel of the original and make it interesting in a new way. I haven't finished many games all the way through, even in group-play, but Tomb Raider is one of them. I liked it. I don't so much like this. All told, I'd rather she missed our anniversary.

The AI and Controls Stink. (stink.)

I can sum my critique of my experience with the demo into main two categories: AI and Controls. The AI of the first two wolves that pop up on the scene seems to have been copied, verbatim, from the original. The wolves sit at the bottom of some crumbling stairs, snapping at, well, snapping at where Lara would be if the world were two-dimensional. Insult to injury, Lara's gun sights won't let me target them like wolves in a barrel, as for some reason Lara's arm can only move downwards at about thirty-degrees once you move to first-person target mode. Brilliant! When I could sight them, I had to pick off their fannies, since the heads were blocked by the stairs that Lara couldn't see over for some reason. Great fun. Great programming. Fearsome enemies, with all the AI of the tanks in one-player Atari 2600 Combat.

The painful controls continue for no good reason. Honestly, I'd much rather the standard cubits (fourth paragraph) and stilted controls I can, after hours of training, use fairly proficiently (and she does still do the hand-stand "flip" when climbing, if you want) than this free-move crap.

It's not that free movement can't be done. Bloodrayne 2 does it beautifully. The poor, unintuitive swinging from bar to bar on the cogs in the first [major] room of TRA highlighted for me that TRA neither has the fluid, natural mental model of Bloodrayne nor has it intelligently taken the way out a remake so obviously allows, reusing the TR cubit. As is, it's a lost-lost [sic].

Cutting off the Hand that P(l)ays

Matt's also complained that he thought the WinPC version was supposed to be a recompile of the PS2 version. That's obviously not the case. As we all know, looking sharp is worth half a point, but the improvements of the Windows version over the PS2 from the videos that I've seen isn't all good news. Though the fuzzy (what, is the camera's lens stopped down to f1.4?) waterfall at the far end of the first major "room" is pretty, it reduces my computer to the famous Unreal Slideshow, picking back up to a very playable rate if the waterfall leaves the area of view.

Why put so much work into making the PC version prettier if it cuts out a decent portion of your potential market? If I can't play this quickly, nobody with the all too common Intel 950 is going to hack it either, which takes out more than a few laptops and low-end consumer boxes, even relatively new ones. Tomb Raider has traditionally been a popular casual gamer's game. TRA continues a strong move away from the casual gamer, all but conceding the loss of that appeal in the most recent games' construction.

Remove Nostalgia and Whaddya Got?

Ultimately, it's kind of like Civ for me. The game is very good in the original. The gameplay was impressive for its time and, within the same context, continues to be fun to play again. Nostalgia recreates enjoyment within a certain framework (Demons to Dimonds on Atari remake paddles, for instance, though the game stinks) and at times the games weather time and remain great if kept exactly the same (Kaboom!, Pitfall, Tetris give or take). It was fun when Wolfenstein and Doom simply threw wave after wave of mindless adversaries your way, and occasionally I like to replay them. That no longer cut the mustard with the one-player versions of Quake 3 or Doom 3. The AI-less wolves and friends don't cut it here, either.

Whitewashing games, here providing additional eye candy and messing with the traditional controls, doesn't necessarily make them more fun -- or fun again. Why play Civ IV if it's essentially Civilization I, now with Dino Buddy? I'll pass.

For now, the whitewash makes the original Tomb Raider seem washed up. Perhaps Matt will enjoy the PS2 version, but for me, TRA is all wet.
--ruffin at 11:00
Comment [ 6 ]

Comments on this post:

I'll get to a closer reading of this post later today. For now, let me chime in with the impressions I quickly scribbled last night after my first hour+ with the game on the PS2.

By Blogger jvm, at 07 June, 2007 11:22  

Ruffian is complaining that they've improved the graphics and in doing so alienated people?

That is a pretty poor argument. Since TR:Legend the graphics were actually enhanced to look nice. If you want a shitty looking version make a petitiononline petition for a wii version + pc port. I surely might enjoy this version on windows even if you don't.

It sounds like you're complaining just because your rig sux 2 much 2 ply, noob ;-)

By Blogger Zachary, at 07 June, 2007 12:35  

This comment has been removed by the author.

By Blogger Jeremy, at 07 June, 2007 13:13  

I was pretty skeptical at first considering some of the changes in Legend, but I think overall I slightly prefer AE to the original.

After you reach Greece the puzzles REALLY pick up and actually improve on the original ones (although ironically Greece manages to harbor some of the biggest missed opportunities too). Despite the game being much bigger TRA probably doesn't even have half the combat Legend does (it even has less than the original), so it never overtakes the gameplay much.

The most disappointing level overall for me is Coliseum, which takes out just about everything interesting from the original level and seems like little more than a short transition level. The change at the end of City of Vilcabamba that jvm's impressions mention is also a big "wtf?" moment (the fact it's been replaced by some utterly forgettable jumping area is the final kick in the face). Other than that I didn't have too many big issues with it. Tomb of Tihocan has also been cut (despite what the level names say, "Tomb of Tihocan" is actually The Cistern), although I can't say I miss it much.

There's some changes I don't like such as the T-Rex being introduced in a cutscene, a shorter Atlantis and a simpler Palace Midas layout but I can at least see the logic behind those changes, or they manage to make up for it in other ways (unlike the ones above). Of course, I can't help feeling how truly amazing it could have been if every level had got a redo as great as St Francis Folly and Sanctuary of Scion (my favorite levels in this).

By Blogger Shaun, at 07 June, 2007 13:34  

FWIW, I can't imagine playing this with the keyboard. But if you have a 360 controller it works with that using the same control scheme that Legend used on the 360, and it works really well.

So far I've only played through the first level, so I can't really comment on the game much, but I've seen no framerate issues yet with a midlevel graphics card, on a 2.8ghz box with 4g of memory.

By Blogger Skip, at 08 June, 2007 10:52  

Ha, even IGN's "Bot" couldn't tell them apart. From here:

[Question from review readers:] Why did the link take us to the PC review when it was previously taking us to the PS2 review???...and why was the review gone from IGNPS2 for awhile???

[answer from author of reviews:]It's because of Bot-IGN. I don't know if you've noticed, but IGN has launched a new comment feature. A story goes up, and Bot-IGN creates a thread on the appropriate board for comments that show up on the board as well as the review. Today, the PS2 story went live and a few hours later the PC story went. Bot-IGN saw them as the same thing and replaced the first link thinking it was broken.

Yes, that's right, if you believe them, a bot erased a link to the PS2 version and linked it up to the PC version. Can't say I blame it.

Comments for one show up on both reviews as well. Nice.

By Blogger rufbo, at 08 June, 2007 16:10  

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