Tomb Raider: Anniversary






Genre:   Action

Developer:   Crystal Dynamics

Publisher:    Eidos Interactive

Released:  June 2007

PC Requirements:   See review.







by gremlin


What is it?

The Tomb Raider brand is now one of the most widely recognised names across the world, fronted by an attractive, charismatic, powerful woman, Lara Croft. This level of recognition can make it hard to write a review of a new Tomb Raider game that actually says something new, as almost everything has already been said about Lara and her adventures. Now, to add to the we’ve-seen-it-all-before problem: we have a Tomb Raider game that is a remake!

However, this ain’t no ord’nary ‘re-cast and re-film’ it job. Tomb Raider: Anniversary is a serious upgrade from the 1996 original, which is, I suppose, hardly surprising considering how computer games in general have evolved over the intervening years.

As you no doubt realise, there have been seven primary games in the Tomb Raider brand thus far, with various Gold expansion packs. Not to put too fine a point on it -- I’ve played the lot. There's also a variety of fan-built levels since the release of the Tomb Raider Level Editor alongside Chronicles.

Is there a plot?

Just in case there are still people who haven't seen or played a Tomb Raider game before, the basic premise of all of them is simple: there's some treasure out there buried in a lost tomb (or similar hiding place) somewhere in the wilderness. Our heroine, Lara Croft, is on a mission as a supposed archaeologist to recover said treasure. But Lara is more like an athletic version of Harrison Ford (in his Indiana Jones incarnations, that is) than any modern archaeologist I know. The games are about as far from point-n-click adventures as it is possible to get without doing away with the mouse and keyboard altogether. Of course, in the console versions, you do that anyway.

In the case of Tomb Raider: Anniversary the treasure in question is the Atlantean Scion. A mystical disc in three parts. The parts of the Scion have been scattered over the globe, and in the past Lara and her father, Lord Croft, were searching for it. The current game starts with the escape of 'something' from a nuclear explosion in the New Mexico desert, and then moves to Lara being invited by Jacqueline Natla to search for the Scion in the tomb of Qualopec in Peru. The story later moves on to Greece, Egypt and an unnamed Mediterranean island. Due to technical restrictions on the original game, most people are under the impression that the entire story takes place underground; however this is not the case. The remake demonstrates this repeatedly, and quite beautifully in many places, with stunning outdoor environments and excellent lighting effects inside buildings.

The story is played out in a variety of environments: caves, South American tombs and mountain valleys, Greek-style tombs, Egyptian burial complexes (yet more tombs!), and finally back into mines and other subterranean structures. And yes, I am being deliberately vague about the later parts.

How do you play?

Despite the 'action/adventure' label given to the Tomb Raider games, there really is a good chunk of pure 'adventure' about the series. Most of the time your task is to explore elaborate environments, overcoming obstacles and traps through the extra-human (as opposed to super-human) agility of Lara. Sometimes the solution involves guns. But if I were to try and put a percentage on it, I would say that combat makes up less than 20% of the games, though that 20% is very definitely high speed and good reflexes are critical. I really do enjoy this balance – the exploration, the 'how on earth do I get up there' effect is crucial to the Tomb Raider experience. But the adrenaline rush of the sudden combat situations is also great fun.

The game progresses through four levels: Peru, Greece, Egypt, and the Lost Island. Each of these is broken down into three or four sections. Within the sections, there are reasonably frequent checkpoints. You can save your game at any time, but you will always return to the most recent checkpoint before your save – it's not a ‘save anywhere’ system, unfortunately.

The controls of the original PC version of Tomb Raider were reasonably simple: cursor keys for movement, space bar to draw the current weapon, End to do a forward reversing tumble (I'll come back to this move later), Ctrl for actions, Alt to jump, and Shift to walk, plus Delete and Page Down to side step left and right, and finally, Num Pad 0 to look around from Lara's point of view. These controls form the basis of the gameplay throughout the early Tomb Raider games; TR 6: Angel of Darkness was the first to really revise the controls. Badly.

Tomb Raider: Legend and Anniversary return to a control scheme that's similar to the original, but not the same. The key difference being that the camera is controlled independently of Lara herself, which forces (for a right-handed mouser) the movement keys to move from the right side of the keyboard to the left. I must say that I would have preferred Anniversary at least to have gone back completely to the original scheme, and then they could have added a few extras as required for the grappling hook that was added in this game.

A move I particularly miss is the 'forward reversing tumble' I mention above. The effect of this looks initially like a forward roll, but ends up with Lara facing back the way she came. In Anniversary you have to twist the mouse (controlling the camera) and turn Lara with the direction keys (which are W, A, S, and D, by the way) at the same time. In comparison with the original single key 'End,' this becomes pretty annoying! You can get closer to the original feel of the game by taking your hand off the mouse and allowing the camera to follow Lara in its own sweet time -- but the Anniversary camera is just a little too lazy for this to work properly. The original camera position was much more closely tied to Lara's shoulder blades.

Notable Features

By far the most remarkable feature of Anniversary is, of course, the accuracy with which the original game has been rebuilt. In almost every location I could recognise significant aspects of the original. There are, of course, rooms that have gone, been moved, been modified, and added to reflect the changes in pacing and in Lara's abilities. The environments are obviously much more pleasing to look at, being much more realistically modelled and textured. At the same time, the designers haven't been lazy – the levels aren't simple copies of the originals, they're as challenging and varied, detailed and beautiful as anything in other modern games.

In my opinion, the nearest to the Tomb Raider games are the Prince of Persia and God of War games. These games are darker and more violent (much more violent in the case of God of War), but have a reasonably similar balance between combat and exploration. The level of design work in Anniversary compares very favourably with even the most recent of the Prince games, The Two Thrones, or God of War II.

Any other novelties?

There was one feature of this remake that really made me sit up and pay attention: the commentaries. This is something I've never seen before in a game, and I really enjoyed it. Just like DVD movies, there are commentaries on various parts of the game triggered from blue crystals displayed at strategic points in the levels. However, these crystals are only displayed once you've completed each of the four major levels. If you don't want to know what the theme of the commentaries is, then skip to the next section. The commentaries take the form of conversations between the designer of the original Tomb Raider, Toby Gard, and Anniversary’s game director Jason Botta from Crystal Dynamics, as they talk about all sorts of aspects of the original game and the remake.


It is most unfortunate that I have to report two oddities with this otherwise brilliant game. Firstly I found that starting the game was hit and miss: sometimes it would start from the autorun, sometimes it wouldn't. Sometimes it would start from the Start menu item, sometimes it wouldn't. There appeared to be no predictable pattern to this. Sometimes the error message asked for the original DVD (I have no other!), sometimes it would claim there was no DVD at all. The best I can say is that the errors were all connected with the SecuROM™ DVD protection, and not the game. But following the advice on the SecuROM website seemed to have no effect whatsoever.

The other problem I had with Anniversary falls fair and square on the hands of the developers. Occasionally (about three times during a complete play-through across several days), the game will complain of having a corrupt profile on start-up. At which point, there is a work-around on Eidos' support website, but it only allows you to keep your save games, not your unlocked features, like costumes, commentaries and other bonuses. This was a very disappointing bug.


Anniversary has been described by some as a ‘re-imagining’ of the original game. In cooperation with Toby Gard (designer of Tomb Raider), Eidos and Crystal Dynamics (the developers who also made Tomb Raider Legend) have taken the story, the settings, and the types of puzzles from the original. They then rebuilt them from scratch using the experience and technologies of Tomb Raider Legend. I think they’ve achieved the almost impossible -- delivering what is probably the most popular of all the Lara Croft adventures as the ultimate in “Director’s Cuts,” with the style and panache that Lara deserves.

If it weren’t for the disappointing technical failures of the SecuROM™ DVD protection and the profile corruption issue, this would definitely score a full-blooded A grade.

Grade: A-


What do you need to play it?

Minimum Requirements:

  • Microsoft Windows 2000, XP, Vista
  • Pentium 3 1.4Ghz or Athlon XP 1500+
  • 256MB RAM (for Windows 2000/XP), 512MB RAM (for Windows Vista)
  • 100% DirectX 9.0c compatible 64 MB 3D Accelerated Card with TnL (GeForce 3Ti / Radeon 9 series)
  • Microsoft Windows 2000/XP/Vista compatible sound card (100% DirectX 9.0c -compatible)
  • Quad-speed (4x) DVD-ROM drive
  • 4GB free disk space
  • 100% Windows 2000/XP/Vista compatible mouse and keyboard

Recommended Requirements:

  • Microsoft Windows XP, Vista
  • Pentium 4 3.0Ghz or Athlon 64 3000+
  • 1GB RAM
  • 100% DirectX 9.0c compatible 64 MB 3D Accelerated Card with Vertex Shader 2.0 and Pixel Shader 2.0 (GeForce 6000 series / Radeon X series)
  • Microsoft Windows XP/Vista compatible sound card (100% DirectX 9.0c -compatible)
  • 100% Windows XP/Vista compatible mouse and keyboard / Xbox 360 Controller for Windows

(I used a custom built Win XP Pro SP2, AMD Athlon 64 3500+, 2048 MB RAM, and ATI Radeon X1950 Pro 512MB video card)


July 2007

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