In this year, militaristic tensions increased. The president of Iran announced that Iran had successfully produced small amounts of low-grade enriched uranium, leading to fears from Iran’s enemies that the country will be able to create weapons-grade uranium. North Korea claimed to have conducted it’s first nuclear test. East Timor requested military assistance from nearby countries, Ethiopia admitted to sending troops into neighbouring Somalia and the Mexican military was used to combat drug cartels and related violence, initiating the Mexican Drug War. Israel launched military offences in Gaza and Lebanon to combat militants. Diplomatic tensions between Britain and Russia increased following the poisoning of an ex-FSB officer in a London hotel. Military coups occurred in Thailand and Fiji. Terrorist bombs detonated in India, Spain and Iraq. A gang stole £53,000,000.00 from a cash storage warehouse after kidnapping a member of staff and using another employee’s inside knowledge in the largest heist in British history. Space craft were launched to reach Pluto and enter the orbits of Mars and Venus. A space craft retrieved dust from a comet and another discovered geysers of liquid on Enceladus (one of Saturn’s moons), which suggested the presence of water on the moon. Montenegro declared independence. The Winter Olympics were held in Turin, Italy. Twitter was launched. Films released this year included thrillers with detailed plots (Inside Man, The Departed, The Da Vinci Code, etc.), films based on past events (Hollywoodland, The Black Dahlia, The Queen, etc.), animated films (Open Season, Cars, Hoodwinked!, etc.), re-makes of old horror films (Black Christmas, The Wicker Man, The Omen, etc.), gory horror films (Hostel, Saw III, etc.), films based around the events of the 11th September 2001 (United 93, World Trade Center, etc.), epic films with a fantastical element (The Fountain, Pan’s Labyrinth, Tristan and Isolde, etc.), films set within dystopian societies (Ultraviolet, V for Vendetta, Children of Men, etc.), gentle comedies (RV, Just my Luck, Click, etc.), superhero films (X-Men: The Last Stand, Superman Returns, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, etc.), films about dance (Step Up, Take the Lead, Happy Feet, etc.) and murder mysteries involving magicians (The Prestige and The Illusionist). James Bond returned to his beginning in a film that updated the first novel to feature the character into the post-cold war world (Casino Royale). Music released this year included, cheerful music with misleading and ironic titles (Lily Allen, James Morrison, Scissor Sisters, etc.), songs about seduction by women (Beyoncé featuring Slim Thug and Bun B, Nelly Furtado, Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean), songs with women’s names as titles (Mika, Kaiser Chiefs, The Zutons, etc.), songs about mental health (Gnarls Barkley and Amy Winehouse) and a song to encourage girls to become intellectual (Pink). Into this mix entered Tomb Raider: Legend.
Dark clouds gather around the Himalayan Mountains. A small plane flies through the night as streaks of lightening brighten the menacing clouds. As the two pilots, in tidy uniforms, try to navigate the plane, an older woman and young girl sit in the comfortable, grey seating area. As the woman gently strokes her daughter, the girl states “Just because no one’s ever caught one doesn’t mean they’re not real.”
“That is very true, but perhaps they do not wish to be found” the mother tells her daughter in a soothing voice, “I’ve heard they are rather fierce.” She removes a glowing green broach from her dark blue suit.
The little girl studies the picture in her hands. “Yeti only look fierce”, she replies. The picture is a child’s drawing, with bright colours and shapes without detail, showing three yeti terrorising a small mountain village and love hearts floating in the air. “They probably don’t like to be cold all the time. I shouldn’t like it either.” the little girl reasoned.
“You never have to be cold, my Lara, if you don’t want to be.” the mother tells her before leaning in to lightly kiss her hair.
Lara sees flames through the window. “Look!” she alerts her mother before the plane makes a sudden lurch up and down.
“Henry! What happened?” the mother asks, rising to her feet in the aisle.
“Lady Croft! Please stay seated!” the pilot tells her “Mayday, mayday…” The pilot commands into his radio. “…this is Bravo Tango Two Two niner…” one of the plane’s engines burns fiercely. “…we’ve lost our portside engine…”
The plane rolls from side to side in the air as Lady Croft seizes her daughter’s arm and forces her into a chair.
“…trying to get crossfeeds open…”
Lady Croft buckles the seatbelt to keep Lara in the chair. “Are we going to crash?” the frightened daughter asks her mother.
“…starboard engine non-responsive…”
A sudden jolt knocks Lady Croft off her feet and into a nearby chair. “Not unless it’s absolutely necessary.” Lady Croft replies, sitting up.
The plane shakes violently as a bag of luggage flies down the length of the plane and almost hits the well-dressed woman.
“…stabilizer jammed…” the pilot continue his urgent commentary as Lara watches him with terrified eyes. “…kicking rudder, losing altitude…” the pilot desperately struggles with the controls “we’re going full nose down…”
The plane dives towards the ground as violent jolts shake the girl in her seat. Lady Croft lowers her head before raising it to look Lara in the eyes. “Close your eyes, darling.” She tells her child.
Lara looks up and holds her mother’s gaze, “I don’t want to close my eyes.” Lara replies with a slight shake of her head.
The pilot looks up into the night before the front windscreen smashes and a load of snow enters the plane. The outside of the plane whitens as a bright light ends the reminisces.
Flat mountain peaks rise out of a layer of cloud. Lara Croft, now an adult, climbs across narrow ledge above an endless drop.
“You know, I think you forgot your climbing gear on purpose.” a deep voice told her in her ear.
“What would give you that idea?” Lara asks, working out a way to reach a ledge situated on an opposite wall of rock. She leaps upwards, grabs a higher ledge, turns, leaps across a narrow gap and grabs a small outcrop. She feels the rock shift in place before becoming dislodged from the cliff. Lara falls a short distance before grabbing a small crack in the rock.
She strengthens her grip. “Really, Zip, it’s like going up a set of stairs, only far less boring.” she says, studying the distant mountains and vast drop beneath her.
“Yeah, well, I want to throw up every time you look down…” Zip responds while Lara continues along the cliff face. “Hey, Alister’s back. Grab a headset.” Lara leaps upwards to reach another ledge. “Back so soon… from Florence, wasn’t it?” the unseen Zip asks another unseen character.
“Decided on Genoa at the last minute.” Lara looks at a nearby plateau while Alister discusses his travel. “My dissertation will never see daylight at this rate, but never mind that. What are you doing in Bolivia?” Lara prepares herself before throwing herself over the gap. She dives towards the smooth rock next to a waterfall. She graps the edge of the rock and hangs high above the ground, her legs swinging.
“Ascending.” she tells her colleagues as she shifts her body upwards from the uncomfortable position to form an elegant handstand at the edge of the rocky platform. She cartwheels her body into an upright position. “Alister, meet Tiwanaku. She’s a lovely pre-Incan civilisation, currently in ruins.” She says while using a device held in her palm.
“Delighted.” Alister replies in response to the rocky terrain, large gorge and small waterfalls.
Lara reveals she decided to travel to Bolivia after a friend (called Anaya) had contacted her from La Paz after hearing a rumour that an ancient temple had been discovered there. Lara, searching for an ornate stone dais, decided to examine the discovery.
Lara explores the temple, encountering strange, armed mercenaries. She reaches a plateau, ringed by a deep chasm and accessible by rope bridge, with a stone dais on top. Using binoculars, Lara focusses on a small stone stand situated in the middle of the ring of large stone monoliths. She remembers her childhood. After surviving the plane crash and exploring an ancient structure, she found a similar ring of boulders circling a stone stand, with a mysterious green light marking the larger stones. She found a strange sword wedged into the stone stand and, after touching it, it sank into the stone. A large circle rose from the floor and a green light formed in the middle of the circle. Lara’s mother, finding her daughter and pulling her out of the circle, walked forward to stand in front of the glowing circle. Lara watched while her mother had a conversation with an unseen person in the glowing circle, before suddenly pulling the sword free of the stand and disappearing in blast of light. Lara draws mysterious symbols present at the site into a book and leaves behind her picture of yeti.
Adult Lara breaks out of her flashback by armed men. A man, dressed in a red shirt and jeans and looks as if he is about to visit a night club, talks to her, while a young woman watches seated in a helicopter. Showing her a piece of stone, Lara remembers the sword she found as a child as the man asks what she knows about it. He works out she does not know what the stone is and mentions the names Amanda and Paraiso. After saying Amanda is dead, Lara asks the man what he knows about Paraiso as he walks away. While inspecting the stone stand, Lara mentions her father believed there was more than one of the stone stands.
At Croft Manor, Lara meets Zip. Zip tells her the clubber is an American called James Rutland, son of a senator. Lara reveals the stone dais in Bolivia was similar to the one she found as a child, but configured differently, and Rutland’s artefact is a fragment of a sword. She leaves to visit Anaya in Paraiso, Peru.
Lara meets Anaya in a small town and, after evading a large number of gunmen, travel to reach an old archaeological dig site in the mountains. Lara states that she does not believe Amanda died when the archaeological site was active.
Lara reminisces to when she was younger and was examining the site. Lara became trapped underground with the rest of her team, including a cheerful young woman called Amanda. A strange creature attacked members of the group and chased Lara. Lara found Amanda trying to remove a stone from a huge door. The creature attacked Lara, but turned to smoke after Amanda removed the stone. The roof of the area with the two friends started to collapse and they started to escape. Falling rubble trapped Amanda, followed by large rocks falling on her and rising water. The water forced Lara to flee and abandon Amanda.
In the present, Lara enters the site, believing the ancient location is linked to her mother’s final moments. She finds Amanda’s shoe with the laces untied, wondering if she escaped. Lara also finds an inscription describing the story of the last queen of Tiwanaku. The queen was lost by her father, the king, and raised by a warrior. A shaman (sharing the name as the culture’s god of creation) discovered her royal heritage and took her to a lake, which was where the god of creation was rumoured to originally live. The queen borrowed the shaman’s powerful staff and led her people into a time of peace. She ruled wisely and justly until she died following a power struggle. Exploring further into the ancient structure, Lara finds the tomb of the queen, along with the tip of the sword and an inscription suggesting the shaman’s staff should be set into a dais. Lara realises she has seen another piece of the sword in Waseda University in Japan, before it was stolen by Shogo Takamoto, a member of the Yakuza. Lara returns to the surface and shows Anaya evidence Amanda had escaped. Zip tells Lara that Takamoto wants to meet her at some offices opposite his penthouse apartment, unaware Lara is friends with the owner of the offices. Lara travels to Japan for the meeting.
Lara reveals she had previously demonstrated some artefacts Takamoto owned were forgeries as she enters a corporate party. After visiting her friend (an oddly proportioned man who dresses like the 1920’s never ended), Lara finds the party members replaced by Takamoto and some members of his gang. After accusing him of stealing the artefact, which he denies, she threatens him and gets into a fight with his gunmen. Lara manages to cross from the roof of the offices to Takamoto’s apartment building and climb to the top floor. She meets Takamoto, who reveals that the artefact belonged to an English crusader (rumoured to be one of King Arthur’s knights) and is older than the eleventh century. He demonstrates the artefact has a strange power, before being killed by Lara. Lara takes the artefact and is rescued by her friend in a helicopter. She is informed Rutland has been found in Ghana and travels to follow him.
While exploring the jungle, Lara is told her father explored the same site before she was born. She finds a hidden temple and Rutland. Investigating the structure, she finds a gift from her father to her mother (Lara’s father hid it in the last place his wife would look). She finds Rutland, who discusses the Ghalali Key, a device used to rebuild the sword, which, according to Amanda, should be in the temple. Rutland proves his sword fragment has special powers before being defeated by Lara, who realises the fragments of the sword were designed to be able to separate and reattach. Rutland revels Amanda is at Croft Manor. Her allies revel they were attacked by a woman with a creature like smoke and she had decided to got to Kazakhstan after she found a photograph of another piece of the sword. Lara travels to Kazakhstan.
When Lara arrives a military base, Alister reveals a secret Soviet project, called Carbonek, began in the 1950’s to examine an ancient sword fragment. A mysterious disaster occurred during the research, which led to intervention of the KGB, who removed every trace (except what Alister found). Lara finds members of the Kazakh military engaged in a fire fight with gunmen linked to Amanda and Rutland. Lara finds the laboratory and Amanda. Lara apologises to Amanda and tells her she would have helped her, but Amanda was more upset they did not dig there and does not like Lara’s memorial idea. Amanda, contacting Lara through her headset, reveals Carbonek is also the name of the castle Lancelot sought the Holy Grail and the Soviet scientists activated a power in the artefact that harmed them (it is suggested that the scientists discovered the artefact converted Tesla voltage into a wave of concussive force that killed some of them). The KGB wanted further experiments, but the scientists refused and were trapped within the freezing the building. She finds an ancient shield (from the tenth or eleventh century), with Lancelot’s crest on the front and a map carved into the back. Lara finds Amanda again and begs to work with her, Amanda refuses and demonstrates she is the master of the strange creature found in Peru. Lara retrieves another sword fragment and escapes the abandoned facility. Alister informs her the map leads to Cornwall, England.
Following the map, Lara finds it leads to a decrepit theme park. Exploring the abandoned structure, the old attractions recite the legend of King Arthur: his tutelage under the wizard Merlin, his removal of the sword from the stone, the returning of the sword (Excalibur) to the lake and Arthur going to Avalon. The player finds an ancient tomb hidden in the theme park and discovers an ornate church underground. Inside the church, Lara finds the tombs of the knights of Camelot and suggests someone places swords in dais around the world before kings and wise men remove them and ruled, before going to Avalon. The player retrieves the piece of Excalibur left to help King Arthur when he returned and escapes (after defeating a sudden pair of sea monsters and armed men who took her friends hostage).
Back at Lara’s home, Lara states that the broken sword is the same object called Excalibur and was made a millennia before Arthur found it. Realising the Ghalali Key is the pendant her mother was wearing when the plane crashed (a gift from Lord Croft, which basically means had forgotten his wife’s birthday and found an object he thought was worthless), Lara decides to travel to the Himalayas. She also claims her mother’s death and her father’s determination to find out the truth destroyed his reputation and she hopes to salvage something else from the mountains.
Exploring the Himalayan mountainside, Lara finds the Ghalali Key inside the plane wreckage and travels to the Buddhist monastery where she found the stone dais. She finds the stone dais (using a route that seems impossible for a young girl to follow) and puts the pieces of the sword together. She uses the Ghalali Key, which causes a green light to fill the pieces and the sword becomes whole. She thrusts the sword into the middle stone, which smashes into pieces. The sword becomes powerful and can release a green wave. Lara decides to return to Bolivia.
Returning to the stone dais in Bolivia, Lara finds Rutland and Amanda waiting for her. She uses the sword to throw Amanda, Rutland and their guards out of her way, but Rutland orders his men to attack. James Rutland dies in front of a pleading Amanda, who tries to prevent Lara activating the centre stone as she wants to use the sword herself (the stone only works once). Using the stone she found in Peru, Amanda transforms into a large smoke like creature. Lara defeats the monster, which turns into an unconscious Amanda. Lara steals Amanda’s stone before returning to the centre stone. She stabs the sword into the stone and, using her book from childhood, touches the glowing surrounding stones in sequence. She touches the sword, which penetrates further into the stone base and the stone ring rises from the floor. The centre of the ring starts glowing and Lara sees her mother. She speaks to her parent, before realising her mother is in the past and she is the unseen person she saw talking to her mother when she was a child. While Lara tries to warn her mother not to touch the sword, Amanda regains consciousness and orders Lady Croft to remove the sword. After the sword is removed in the past, the stone explodes, destroying the ring and causing the sword to land near Lara. Lara finds Amanda upset, complaining that Lara had ruined her opportunity. Believing Amanda was responsible for her mother’s death, Lara draws a pistol and points at Amanda’s head. Amanda tells her Lady Croft did not die, but was transported somewhere. Her frustration growing, Lara fires shots at Amanda and demands answers with a snarl. Amanda reveals she has been taken to Avalon. Lara takes her arm back before swinging it to hit Amanda’s head with the gun and rendering her unconscious. Lara sadly realises her father was right about Lady Croft surviving and leaves, suggesting she is going to finish her father’s mission.
The previous game in the series (Angel of Darkness) was very different to the other games, with gothic environments and darker mood. This game, however, seems to resemble the early Tomb Raider games, while incorporating some aspects of the Angel of Darkness game.
The story itself seems to be similar to the stories of the first and third games, Lara travelling the world searching for pieces of an object, which has a complex backstory. In this game, the object is the sword, which was once Excalibur and a staff owned by the last queen of Tiwanaku. I, personally, liked the way the story progressed and how the different parts of the artefact were hidden across the world. There is an unexplained aspect of the story. Towards the beginning of the game, it was suggested that myths about stone dais and swords and staffs were spread around the world and these myths were all related. During the game, it seems as though the only legends about the artefact were the last queen of Tiwanaku and Excalibur, with the only stone dais being the stone associated with Excalibur and the ones found in Bolivia and the Himalayan mountains. It could be explained that only two swords existed, the one held by the queen and Excalibur, with the stone dais built in the Himalayas and Bolivia to accommodate the two objects. While Excalibur was split between the knights of Camelot, the queen’s staff was placed intact in the Himalayas and was then activated by Lady Croft. Unfortunately, this does not explain why the queen’s staff was placed in the Himalayas and not Bolivia (which is near Tiwanaku). I feel it would improve the story if it was explained where the swords originated from, the artefacts appear to contain power and it is suggested that mysterious characters created them and built the stone dais for unknown reasons.
According to the website of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, Tiwanaku (the site used in the levels set in Bolivia) was an actual city. The capital city of the Tiwanaku Empire, it was situated near a lake (as suggested in the game) and predates the Incan culture. It was also a highly religious area of the Tiwanaku culture, but I was unable to find any suggestion that there was a last queen of Tiwanaku with a mythical background story. According to the Crystalinks website, some stories suggest Excalibur was the sword removed from the stone to proves King Arthur’s right to lead, other myths claim Excalibur was presented to King Arthur by a woman known as the Lady in the Lake. According to the story, after King Arthur died, Excalibur was thrown into the lake, where it was grabbed by the Lady in the Lake and taken underneath the waves, while King Arthur leaves on a death barge to travel to Avalon with the three queens.
Another important aspect of the story is the Croft family backstory. This game describes how the recovery of artefacts are related to the strange disappearance of Lara’s mother and her father’s desperate attempts to understand what happened. I enjoy this aspect and feel it adds to the character of Lara and allows the game to increase the drama of the story. Strangely, the character of the father has changed from earlier games. In the fourth game, Lord Croft seemed to resemble an aristocrat who, concerned that his daughter seems to be uninterested in developing her education, reluctantly agrees to donate a large sum of money to Professor von Croy’s expedition so that he would agree to allow Lara to accompany him. Story for the first game describes how Lara’s family disowned her for wanting to be an archaeologist, instead of marrying a wealthy man. Strangely, it still uses the story of Lara developing her desire to be an adventurer after a plane crash in the Himalayan Mountains, except she is 21 (not a child) and it was following a skiing trip. In this game, Lord Croft seems to be a practical archaeologist, used to examining ruins and is widely respected for his theories. This actually reflects the character of Lara’s father in the first Tomb Raider film.
Lara’s relationship with Amanda also forms part of the story. Amanda was a colleague of Lara’s when they were both younger, she was trapped when a strange creature attacked the group and Lara left her, believing she had died. She reappears later, controlling the powerful creature and determined to use the sword for her own purpose. The progression of the character, and relationship with Lara, closely resembles Professor von Croy, the villain in the fourth game. Both encountered Lara when they were younger, they became trapped within ruins and abandoned by Lara, both returned later, both developed strange powers (Amanda controlled the monster and Professor von Croy was possessed by Seth) and both competed with Lara to retrieve the artefact and use it for their own reasons. One difference was that Amanda and Lara were more friendly towards each other when they were younger and Amanda does not change her mind at the end of the game. Even though this story seems reused, I feel it was shown better in this game. Lara seems to be sorry for leaving Amanda and she seems desperate to find out what happened to her friend and to make amends.
The character of Lara also seems to have changed in this game. Previously, Lara seemed to be a cold and humourless figure. In this game, Lara seems to have become more friendly and emotional. She has more friends in this game and her early relationship with Amanda seems to be more genuine than the early relationship with Professor von Croy. In the fifth game, some of the levels introduced the character of Zip, an ally of Lara who provides commentary during the game through a headset. This concept was expanded in this game so that the commentary continues throughout the game and another character was introduced, called Alister, who provided background information about the historical ideas. I can understand how these characters may not be liked by some players, they do stop the character of Lara being a lone adventurer and do make the game less frightening than previous games. I, personally, feel they add to the game, in some levels, particularly the one set in Cornwall, their commentary adds humour to the game and their relationship with Lara does make her seem a warmer character. She is also voiced by the actress Keeley Hawes (from The Bank Job and British TV series Ashes to Ashes and Tipping the Velvet).
The levels themselves resemble levels from the earlier games. Like the third and fifth games, each of the levels has a unique feel and backstory, but are linked to the main story. The first level, Bolivia, functions as the introductory level (with explanations of the controls and the start of the main story) and resembles traditional Tomb Raider levels, with Lara searching a rugged landscape to find ancient ruins. The second level, set in Peru, begins as a shootout in a small town (like a modern Western) before Lara travels to an old dig site, where she remembers the past. The part of the level set in the past deals with an archaeological dig Lara participated in with Amanda and seems like a horror film, with glimpses of an unseen monster killing her colleagues, frightened voices and the events shown in a ghostly light to resemble old memories. The past exploration (and present search) also resemble the old Tomb Raider levels with an exploration of ancient structures and the story focusses on Lara’s regret at abandoning her friend. The third part of the game, set in Japan, shows Lara recovering a piece of Excalibur from a gangster and features urban exploration, with Lara climbing a building, but, unlike levels set in cities in previous games, the action focusses on scaling a building, rather than searching city streets. The level set in Ghana also involves the player exploring an ancient temple, featuring a dive from a high cliff and the player being chased by a boulder, while the story describes Lord Croft’s work at the same site. The fifth level, set in Kazakhstan, resembles the highly technical environments from the second, third, fifth and sixth games. The level takes place within an abandoned Soviet scientific facility, with bare walls and electrical equipment, and also forms a sense of horror, with broken machinery, a freezing cold environment and the presence of dead bodies. The story focusses on Amanda’s rejection of Lara’s apology with a backstory that involves a deadly scientific experiment (described on pieces of paper written by scientists as they froze to death). I have also wondered if this level was inspired by the disaster at the Chernobyl power plant. The level set in Cornwall forms an unusual level. The level begins as a search of a decrepit theme park and the player can activate speakers to listen to a narrative of King Arthur’s story as they progress through the structure (followed by witticisms made by Zip and Alister in response to incorrect historical details). The player then enters a dark, stone tomb before discovering an ornate church. The seventh level, set in Nepal, begins as a climb through a mountainside, followed an exploration of caves to reach the monastery. It ends with Lara activating the sword and the player demonstrating it’s powers. The final level forms a final battle, with the player defeating an army of gunmen and a strange creature using the powerful sword before completing the story.
This game also uses the Croft Manor level. In the first, second and third games, the player can practice playing as Lara Croft by selecting the Home option on the main menu, which opens up the Home level, a level that resembles Lara’s home and is independent to the main game. This game revives this concept, allowing the player to explore the rooms of Croft Manor (a luxurious mansion) and practice Lara’s actions in a number of specialised rooms.
The game also uses intended costume changes that were used in the second and third games. Lara wears a brown version of her usual clothes to explore Bolivia, Peru and Ghana. As a young woman, Lara wears the green vest and brown shorts she is associated with. She dresses in a ripped, black evening dress in Japan. She uses a coat and trousers to search Kazakhstan and Nepal. She wears her English uniform of leather jacket and trousers in Cornwall.
The game also uses the idea of characters forming bosses after being in contact with broken pieces of the artefact, like in the third game. The gangster Takamoto and Rutland both use the power of the pieces of the sword to fight Lara. Amanda transforms into a creature to attack Lara in the final level. In Kazakhstan, Amanda’s pet attacks the player, but, rather than fight it, the player has to perform a series of actions while avoiding the creature. In Cornwall, the player is attacked by a giant sea serpent, with no explanation of what it is and a suggestion more exist.
The graphics have continued to improve in this game. The game also seems to include some moments and designs intended to inspire awe in the player. There have been moments that seemed to be included to amaze the player in previous games, such as when the camera retreats to show the huge sphinx in the first game, the extravagant structures decorating the Temple of Xian in the second game, etc. The later games did not use this effect, with the sixth game using understated and scientific background environments and reserving the reveals for monstrous bosses. This game uses more interesting designs. The design of the temple in Bolivia is interesting (with Incan designs made of stone) and the areas outside use spectacular views (such as a ledge that gives a view of the entrance of the temple, along with the armed guards). The tomb in Peru is similar to the Bolivian temple, with a trio of huge statues that are designed to be climbed. While climbing the building in Japan, it is possible to have detailed views of surrounding buildings and the streets (while gives an interesting background) and it is possible to see the intended destination from the lower heights (which is a detail I have always enjoyed in levels that include climbing). The interior of the building is also interesting, showing a luxurious living area (with reflective wooden floors) and a comfortable office. The temple in Ghana is also made of stone, but decorated in a different style and lit with a warm glow, a particularly memorable part is the reveal of an intricately designed temple hidden behind a large waterfall and climbing the outside of the temple. The facility in Kazakhstan is filled with scientific machinery and frost, with bright lights and dark shadows creating a sinister aesthetic. The Cornwall level uses a damaged theme park (derelict rooms filled with statues, low quality decorations and machines with jerky movements) and a dark tomb decorated with stone in a medieval style. A highlight is the hidden church, which has an ornate exterior and is brightly lit inside. The mountain in Nepal has amazing views of the surrounding peaks and ravines far below, with the sun reflecting off the snow creating a dreamlike quality in the level. A highlight of the level is reaching the mountainside that allows the player to see the wreckage of the plane below and the monastery rising out of a distant valley. After travelling through dark caves (with ice creating a cold effect), the player reaches the monastery and a huge room intricately carved in wood, containing a large statue of the Buddha. The endless drop that forms the ground throughout this level (including the mountain climbing, cave exploring and monastery) adds a sense of danger to the level. I also find the way the level designs use light is also effective in this game. Much of the game is brighter and lighter than previous games (particularly the sixth game), but there are a number of interesting light effects. Some of the levels use shafts of light to add atmosphere and the disturbing level in Kazakhstan uses darkness very well. A particular highlight for me was swimming through the dark lake to reach the hidden church in the Cornwall level, the water was black which added to the sense of horror, particularly knowing a monster was hiding beneath the waves.
The controls for this game have also expanded. In previous games, Lara’s movements were graceful yet stilted, so she was able to perform acrobatic movements, but shimmying and fighting seemed to consist of repetitive actions. This game introduces more fluidity to Lara’s movements. A lot of the game consists of Lara clinging to ledges, however, the player is able to change the speed Lara moves along ledges and she is able to climb by jumping from ledge to ledge in all directions (up, down, left, right and she can jump between ledges opposite to each other across a gap). Lara can grab horizontal poles and swing in circles before letting go to jump across a gap. She can grab vertical cylinders, climb up and down and jump off them. She can leap onto pointed objects and balance, before jumping off. Sometimes, Lara will jump onto an object or grab a ledge wrongly and she will start to fall, unless the player pushes a button that will consolidate the grab. She can push and pull objects in a range of directions and her movements seem more natural. Repetitively pushing one of the buttons (or combining it in a sequence with the jump button) causes Lara to perform a sequence of gymnastic manoeuvres, including rolls and cartwheels, I am not really sure what this is used for, but it looks impressive.
There are also a number of times the way the game is played changes. During the levels set in Peru and Kazakhstan, Lara uses a motorcycle. Unlike the vehicles used in previous games, the motorcycle is not used to explore locations that are also accessible by foot, instead it is used to follow a course through the landscape to reach a specific destination in a part of the game separate to the rest of the level. Before beginning, the game displays the controls used while using the motorcycle. The gameplay mostly consists of travelling through the terrain at high speed, engaging in gun fights with enemies and driving up ramps to perform jumps. These parts are enjoyable, with a racing feel and some challenging aspects, but the motorcycle ride in Kazakhstan does seem quite repetitive. There are also parts of the game which use a different view. In Bolivia and Peru, parts of the game change the view from an angle that closely follows Lara to the viewpoint of something that chases Lara. This means, while the controls for Lara are the same, the player’s viewpoint is more distant and does not show what is in front of the character, making these sequences more difficult. This occurs twice in the game, during Bolivia, when Lara is evading a rolling boulder, and Peru, where the player controls Lara while having the viewpoint of the monster that is chasing her. This aspect can be quite difficult, as it impairs the player’s ability to see obstacles ahead and impairs the player judgement while jumping, however, it can make the game more interesting to play and adds a strange sense of fear as the player is aware they need Lara to evade them to escape the creature.
One of the changes to the controls concerns animations. In previous games, the animations were passive parts of the game, the player did not need to control Lara and could watch the animated sequence. In this game, animated sequences of Lara moving are interrupted by a sudden representation of one of the button’s of the controller. The player needs to press this button to allow Lara to perform a manoeuvre that would allow the action to continue, if the player does not press the correct button in time, Lara is shown to be unable to perform the necessary action, which leads to her death. I like this aspect, it allows the player to become more involved in animated sequences that include Lara performing complex and acrobatic movements (in previous games, Lara always seemed to be able to fight and perform stunts when she wasn’t controlled by the player). This addition does have some drawbacks, many players would get annoyed that they could not relax during the animated sequences as they had to be prepared to suddenly press buttons, rather than enjoy watching the action. It can also be annoying to keep watching sequences, which may have been exciting at first, because the player presses the wrong button at some point during the animation. It can also release the player’s sadistic side of their personality as they deliberately make mistakes to see Lara fail, such as seeing Lara leap over the head of a sea serpent and, before pressing the correct button, deciding to wait to see if Lara would get eaten by the monster.
One of the most noticeable changes to the controls is how Lara combats her enemies. In previous games, Lara is only able to fire her guns at enemies and dodge attacks by running around (in strange directions) and jumping in different directions. The sixth game added an unarmed combat option, where Lara performs a sequence of punches and kicks to defeat combatants. This game introduces a more active method of fighting. Lara is able to use a kick to attack enemies and can roll in different directions to evade attacks. She can perform a powerful slide kick that knocks attackers backwards a few feet and give the player a chance to defeat them while they recover. Lara can also jump onto an enemy and jump upwards into a high, acrobatic manoeuvre that slows down the game and is useful to defeat multiple enemies. Lara can also throw grenades and uses a small amount of guns (mainly pistols and a rapid-fire gun), including the pistols with unlimited ammunition. A button is also used to allow the player to change guns quickly (rather than pausing the game and selecting from the menu). The player is also able to aim the guns using a receptacle. The receptacle also changes colour depending on if the object is in range, is the target is destructible or if the player needs to use the grappling hook. Re-gaining health is also highly simplified, so that the player can only use one type of health pack that restores the same amount of health each time.
This game has also changed the way the player saves the game. In previous games, the player is allowed to save whenever they liked, limited only by the amount of available save game slots. This game saves the player’s progress after each level (unless the player deactivates the auto-save feature). Each location forms one level (so that, instead of previous games where each location comprised of a number of levels, each level is called Japan or Bolivia and includes all the game that occurs in that location). Throughout each level are Checkpoints, certain points in the game that the player will return to if they die. While it is annoying to replay parts of the game to get to the point where the player actually has difficulty, I, personally, feel that this adds tension to the game. Instead of being able to save before attempting a difficult part, trying until the player succeeds and then saving afterwards so the player does not have to pass the same point, this system adds more reason for the player to be careful (as they do not want to waste time and energy completing tasks they have already finished), therefore, the player becomes more determined to be successful. The checkpoints usually occur before and after difficult parts of the game, so the player is not too badly affected.
Lara’s inventory of equipment has expanded. She carries a grappling hook that the player can launch at metallic objects and pull to cause a range of effects. The player can also launch the device while mid-air to hook onto an overhead object and remain suspended. The player can then swing back and forth to reach new areas. Lara has also equipped herself with binoculars. The player can use these to look at different areas and use a RAD function to analyse parts of the landscape, to determine if they are explosive, destructible, machinery, etc. Lara also has a PDA. Selecting this machine allows the player to read the objectives of level, find out information about Lara’s equipment and read information about what has been completed and collected in the level. Lara also carries a small light that the player can use to lighten dark areas temporarily.
This game also seems to focus on replaying levels. The game gives the option to allow the player to replay specific levels, rather than only allowing the player to return to saved games they had recorded. Completing each level also unlocks a time trial option. The player is also able to change the difficulty of the game (selecting from easy, medium or hard). While this is a common feature of many games, earlier Tomb Raider games do not use different difficulties.
The game also incorporates additional contents. In the second game, three dragon statues were hidden in each level (made of stone, jade and gold) and the items were hidden depending on their material (with stone dragons being easiest to find and gold ones the hardest). In this game, this simple idea has been expanded. Hidden in each level (including the Croft Manor level) are a number of bronze, silver and gold artefacts. Like the three dragon statues, each type of artefact is hidden according to difficulty. Unlike the dragons, more than one of each artefact is hidden each level (except the gold artefacts) and the amount concealed in the location changes between levels. The design of the artefacts also changes depending on the level (such as the artefacts being crosses in Cornwall, staffs in Nepal, etc.) Collecting these items unlocks additional material that can be viewed through the Extras option at the game’s main menu. The extra content includes costume changes, background information to the characters and designs from the game (including concept designs for the locations and models used in the game).
In conclusion, I found this game to be very enjoyable. The change in controls are enjoyable to use and make the game smoother. The movements also look more impressive and less stilted. I liked the storyline and found it made Lara seem a more human character. The level designs were good, with high quality graphics and an intention to use more ancient locations. While some parts could be irritating (the use of checkpoints, addition of sidekicks and controlling Lara during animations) I thought the game was very good overall, with an enjoyable gameplay and an attractive aesthetic. Interestingly, this is the second attempt to make a trilogy of Tomb Raider games that continue one storyline (after Angel of Darkness), but this attempt was more successful.