Better Than Angelina Jolie!

If you think about the legendary female characters in TV and in the movies, you think the bright, witty Emma Peel from The Avengers, even the quiet power of the Bionic Woman or the steadfast nature of Lt. Uhura on Star Trek. You can even look at Julia Robert's Erin Brockovich as a kind of hero. You don't think of Lara Croft as a well-rounded character, really, not in movies, or in games. That's because Lara Croft is more Wonder Woman meets Indiana Jones than a thoughtful heroine. Lara Croft has been a comic book-inspired action heroine from the get-go. So when the cliché Angel of Darkness showed up as an abominable iteration in 2003, I'd had it with Tomb Raider games.

About two months ago, the good people at Eidos came over to the house to demonstrate their biggest game in years, TOMB RAIDER: LEGEND. I have to say I had my doubts, especially since the series has had its ups and downs, especially with Angel of Darkness. And, franky, the movie versions of Lara starring Angelina Jolie were good, though not life-changing experiences. But the moment the demo came on the screen, I could see how much care had been put into creating the latest Lara. And you know what? This Lara character is pretty darn deep.

Immediately within the game, the graphics shined. There was Lara in all her glory, stealthily making her way in around a raging waterfall in one of the early levels. The beautiful Lara seemed almost human, and the waterfall was stunning to behold. I don't want to dwell on the environments and graphics for too long, but when they're this stellar, you really want to delve deeply into a game. When I took the PS2 controls and moved Lara around, negotiating the falls was easy, and the controller reacted properly, just like the most recent Prince Of Persia games. She moves smoothly and seamlessly. Also, I saw very few camera angle issues, which boded well for the future release.

Going deep in Tomb Raider: Legend
photo: Courtesy of Eidos
Going deep in Tomb Raider: Legend

Details

Tomb Raider: Legend
Publisher: Eidos
Developer: Crystal Dynamis
For: PC, Xbox, Xbox 360, PS2

  • Check out reviews of all the latest and greatest games (updated every week), along with past faves in NYC Guide.
  • When the games finally came, even the blurbs on the boxes were compellingly written, if not grammatically correct: "In a race against time, Lara must travel across the globe to unearth history's greatest weapons. A legendary artifact of such immense power it could threaten humanity's very existence." Once I played finished copies of "Legend" in all formats, one thing became clear. Not only is Lara back, she's better than ever.

    Once you finish an early level, you can explore Croft Manor, which holds secrets and information on game play. But be careful of one thing: games are not automatically saved, so save your progress often. And you'll want to use the "Safety Grab" feature which prevents Lara from falling off ledges.

    Along the way, you'll be driving a sleek motorcycle for missions that are fun, if a little too simple to complete. And you'll use Lara's powers for varied melee attacks, including a slide attack, which knocks enemies off balance, an aerial attack, in which she lands on an enemy, and a power kick, which gives enemies the boot. You'll also have a PLS, Personal Light Source, for the dark catacombs you must courageously explore. The one thing I don't like is Lara's PDA, from which she gets her latest missions. The PDA has been around since video games came on CDROMs back in the early 90s. There should be something a bit higher tech than a PDA and a headset to herald Lara's return to gaming.

    As Lara travels around the world, the lands she visits are lavish and lush or cold and foreboding. It's also fun to make Lara swim underwater. But I liked the level which features an old English amusement park the best. The feeling you get is creepy and scary, like there's some monster about to jump out at you from inside an eerie haunted house. Finally, developers Crystal Dynamics have created some terrific puzzles. Some of them just tease your brain, while others attempt to turn your gray matter to mush.

    Ultimately, Legend creatively revives a series that some said was in its death throes. But Lara proves she has more lives than a cat. She just might be around fighting baddies when we're old and gray.

  • Check out reviews of all the latest and greatest games (updated every week), along with past faves in NYC Guide.
  • Kingdom Hearts II
    Publisher: Square Enix/BVG
    Developer: Square Enix

    In a last great orgasm before an E3-enforced detumescence, a plethora of games have been released that are like powerful little super-sperm. Play these suckers and you'll be screaming in ecstasy. So turn up the volume: you don't want the neighbors to hear your rapture. Truth be told, I can't recall a late March/early April period in which so many good and occasionally great games were foisted upon the market. This week, a trio of good-to-great games jump the bones.

    The long-awaited and long-delayed Kingdom Hearts III has finally landed. With synchronicity that often isn't seen between Hollywood and game makers, Disney has teamed up with the RPG magicians Square-Enix, the people who make the Final Fantasy series. They've lent everyone from Mickey Mouse to Johnny Depp as crusty Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean to unleash a really thoughtful and deep adventure story. It makes the delay completely worth the wait.

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