Tomb Raider: Anniversary is a remake of the original game that made such a splash ten years ago, meaning Lara's oldest and newest adventure is very different to the action-packed title more recent fans might be expecting. On PS2 it was tomb raiding in its purest form, but on the PSP, where poor camera control can ruin an otherwise great game, is Lara's latest still worth exploring?
Anyone who's played the original game obsessively might be wondering what this remake has to offer, but in truth this isn't simply a case of adding a bit of spit and polish. If you imagine the 1996 game as a student film, this PSP modernisation is a big budget spectacular; it stays true to its origins but everything is bigger, more beautiful and more complicated. Whereas the 32-Bit classic struggled to convey the size of the tombs, Anniversary has no such problem, with rooms so large you'll wonder where to start.
The story closely follows that of the first game, with Lara starting her adventure in Peru. Not only is this a brilliant area to start, but is also home to one of the series' most memorable moments: the T-Rex. As you can imagine, this encounter has been given a thorough makeover, with the PSP doing an admirable job of recreating the look of the PS2 version from earlier in the year. Throughout the game you'll be impressed by just what Sony's handheld console is pumping out, with many of the environments putting other PSP titles to shame.
Fans of Legend will know that enemies often took human form, with plenty of shootouts being expected in each level. Anniversary moves back to the animal kingdom for the majority of its enemies, with rats, bats, Gorillas, Crocodiles and more all putting up a fight. The classic weapons are all present, from the pistol to the shotgun, but there is a new addition to Lara's combat move set. When an enemy becomes enraged and charges at Lara, she can enter focus mode and target them with a deadly headshot. It's a nice addition and shouldn't put off hardcore veterans.
Animals aren't the biggest danger you'll face though, with the tombs themselves being the real killers. You can rarely move through a room without needing to perform a huge leap or dodge a trap. Using the same engine as Legend (bar a few small additions), leaping from platform to platform is never a chore, with the tank-like controls of the original game thankfully a thing of the past. Puzzles play a big part too, with the larger rooms taking plenty of brain power to work out.
The biggest addition to the classic original is the grappling hook. It's something that Legend players will be familiar with but purists will no doubt bemoan. They can moan as much as they like, but its inclusion makes for some thrilling environment puzzles and has allowed the designers to create rooms with an immense scale. It'll also come in handy to manipulate objects to help you advance, while your guns are also used to reach areas that seem unreachable. A simple room for room remake wouldn't have been good enough, so these additions work brilliantly.
It'll take you plenty of time to jump, shimmy and climb through the game's expansive levels, but finding each and every secret is something that'll eat up time. Even when trying to pick out secret locations on my way through, I finished with many managing to elude me. You also get Lara's mansion to explore, which is a neat location to try out all her moves.
The whole package is tied together nicely with some great presentation. I've already touched on the visuals, but they deserve another mention. The rooms in Anniversary are colossal and designed in such a way to stay true to the original. Lighting effects are often spectacular too, and all the time the game's frame rate holds steady. Keeley Hawes once again voices Lara, but thankfully the cutscenes are less frequent than in Legend. The music fits the game perfectly, and numerous sounds will bring back memories of the original adventure.
So, Tomb Raider: Anniversary is pretty much the perfect remake of a classic title then? Well, almost. Part of the Tomb Raider experience is using trial and error with puzzles, but due to the size of some of the rooms in Anniversary, you'll often find yourself having to repeat lengthy processes over and over again, only to repeatedly fail at the same point. A fairly generous checkpoint system means you'll rarely have to replay more than a single room, but on occasion you'll miss a jump and activate a checkpoint earlier on in a section.
Through no real fault of its own you'll probably also run into sections that have you completely baffled. These moments will differ for everyone, but the solutions to puzzles are often so obvious that you'll ignore it until you've exhausted every other possibility, no matter how complicated. Frequent leaps of faith will also cause a few headaches, with repeated death often the only option to figure out the correct path.
A new problem exclusive to the PSP version of the game is the camera system. While the PS2 game used the right analogue stick to give you full 360-degree camera control, on the PSP you're limited to spinning the camera left or right using the handheld's shoulder buttons. This generally isn't a big problem, but when you're exploring the larger areas the lack of a right analogue stick means you'll have to stop in order to look all around you. On occasion the camera will also go haywire as you try to lock onto approaching enemies, resulting in Lara taking a pummelling from the savage beasts.
These issues aside, Tomb Raider: Anniversary is everything a remake should be. It makes the most of modern technology to bring a classic game world up to date, throws in simple but intuitive controls and doesn't rely on constant fire-fights to bring excitement. Tomb Raider was always more of a platformer than an action game, and this is exactly what the guys at Crystal Dynamics have delivered.