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 Xbox 360 where games have been getting increasingly pretty of late, is this relatively bare bones port still worth exploring?
Anyone who's played the original game obsessively might be wondering what a 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 Xbox 360 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, although differences to the PS2 version are minimal at best. Tomb Raider: Anniversary on Xbox 360 has been released at a budget price (£30), not because it's a poor game, but because it's not really a next-gen version of the game.
The whole package is tied together nicely with some great presentation - for a PS2 game. The rooms in Anniversary are colossal and designed in such a way to stay true to the original, but while the lighting effects looked great on the PS2, they are merely so-so on the 360. The game simply doesn't match up to Legend on the Xbox 360, with true next-gen graphical effects being almost completely absent. This is effectively a port of the PC game, but seems to be missing a few of that game's more advanced graphical effects. Sadly the game's frame rate is also a little sluggish at points, bringing back memories of Legend's less than stellar performance. It's by no means shocking, but a little disappointing given the relatively simple visuals.
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 nothing more than a distant memory. 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. The introduction of Achievements adds more reasons to replay levels, although don't expect points to be handed out easily - Anniversary on the 360 is one of the hardest to get the full 1000 points out of. You also get Lara's mansion to explore, which is a neat location to try out all her moves.
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.
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.
These issues aside, Tomb Raider: Anniversary is everything a remake should be. It brings 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. Just don't expect a proper next-gen Tomb Raider; it's more a PS2 game on steroids.