Lara Croft, star of the Tomb Raider series, is one of the most recognizable gaming icons. However, thanks to some stale games, many players have been getting bored with Ms. Croft --- her equivalent of a mid-life crisis. Therefore, the recently released Tomb Raider: Legend needed to be a transformation for Lara on a scale that extreme makeover TV shows could only dream of.
Where Legend's precursor, The Angel of Darkness, practically ruined the series, Legend not only revives it, but pushes it to the next level. Gone are the deviations from previous sequels, with Lara taking on cults and corporations. Here she's back to actually raiding tombs.
The graphics have been updated to stand up to today's standards, and the gameplay has improved --- instead of handling like a milk truck like in previous games, the controls are more simple and refined, like the new Prince of Persia games. Players can now leap between poles and scale cliffs like a pro. When you're not scaling the walls of ruins, dastardly villains await in those tombs you're raiding, so gunplay abounds on both foot and dirt bike, with plenty of moves to make survival easier. To add to the excitement, certain cutscenes are even interactive, as seen in Resident Evil 4, albeit of the simplistic "press these buttons in time or die" variety.
As derivative as these changes are, the end result is a fun experience. These elements work together to present to the player with brain-bending puzzles, furious gunfights, and tense chases. The game ends too soon, and the difficulty can be inconsistent, but Legend still offers quite the thrill ride.
Tomb Raider: Legend is available for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Xbox 360. The three versions play almost identically, though the Xbox 360 version boasts the best graphics.
--- Phillip Miner