Pros: This is the last time well see Lara Croft on the mighty PSOne
Cons: Insane lack of innovation, boring and repetitive gameplay, horrific graphics, shoddy controls, no replay value
Well, here we go again. Another year, another Tomb Raider game. I remember how the idea of another adventure for Lara Croft used to excite me. Then Tomb Raider III came out. A series that was once a certified classic is now nothing more than a rehashed, overdone travesty that serves as nothing more than a vacuum for gamers? wallets everywhere. Before I get into the debacle that is Tomb Raider Chronicles, let me take a look at the history of this series, game by game:
Tomb Raider: A classic in the gaming world, the original TR totally reinvented the adventure genre. Solving almost every problem inherent within the genre, this game was a benchmark in terms of gameplay and graphical presentation. About as perfect a mix of innovation with style if ever there was one.
Tomb Raider II: Unlike the original, TRII took Lara out of the tombs and into more open environments. Graphics were upgraded just slightly and the gameplay innovations were minor at best, but TRII was still a solid, quality gaming experience. Good for TR fans, or anyone who missed out the original (shame on you).
Tomb Raider III: OK, now I got worried. TRIII was not only a virtual carbon copy of TR and TRII, but the game was frustrating as Hell. Even I, a TR veteran, had trouble getting past the first level. This is not the game for you to introduce yourself to the TR universe. Only hardcore TR fans need to bother with this one.
Tomb Raider: the Last Revelation: Eidos is just in this for the money now, no question. The game engine, which was revolutionary when it was introduced in TR, remains unchanged in TR: TLR. Graphical upgrades are minor (and only apply to Lara), and if you?ve played any of the first three TR games, you?ve basically played TR: TLR. Something needs to be done; otherwise this series is doomed. Can anyone say Mortal Kombat?
Which brings me to TR Chronicles. This game picks up where Last Revelation left off, with Lara presumed dead (finally!). A bunch of friends are gathered at her mansion, where they begin sharing stories of some of her earlier adventures. This is where the gamer comes in, as you play these adventures. An interesting idea, but little variety is offered, as the levels are played in a pretty linear, uniform fashion. And I know I?ve said this before, but I?ll say it again: if you?ve played any other TR game, you?ve played Chronicles. There is absolutely, positively NO innovation to speak of in this game, which in an industry that keeps moving forward by the day is simply inexcusable. Chronicles? game engine is the same as the one in the original TR. It may have been a revolution and a benchmark then, but today it?s nothing more than rehashed junk. Listen to me, Core and Eidos: You need to do something. Rehashing the same game over and over but with new backgrounds does not a good game make. You?re lucky you have all those fanboys out there; otherwise this series would be dead. Now either do as you promised with Tomb RaiderPS2 and revamp the whole game, or let Lara rest in peace.
As if that weren?t enough, there are other things wrong with the gameplay. Controls are shoddy at best, and it is virtually impossible to get Lara to make a turn without stopping to redirect her. The lag time that is experienced when action gets pretty intense also affects the game?s controls, as the response time slows down immensely. Action is pretty rare, and you?ll spend the majority of this game just running around, pulling levers and switches, and finding level exits. Not only is this highly unoriginal, but it gets insanely boring after the first half hour or so. The replay value presented by Chronicles is the lowest of any adventure title I?ve played in quite some time. The overly repetitive and uninspired gameplay, coupled with frustrating game mechanics, make Tomb Raider Chronicles more of a chore than a game.
Don?t expect any graphical benchmarks here either. In fact, Chronicles easily sports the worst graphics in the series. First off, the textures are simply ugly, too repetitive and bland for their own good. Now, I know that the PSOne is five years old and can only do so much, but the system is capable of better-looking textures; for proof, just look at Final Fantasy IX or Metal Gear Solid. Animation is solid enough, but it can get choppy at times when there?s a lot going on on-screen. And Lara, please! This is the ugliest she?s ever looked, and if you ask me, she never looked that great to begin with. The fact that this game is so ugly is kind of sad, considering that the machine the game runs on is capable of so much more. Yet another sign of the developer?s lack of ambition regarding this project.
Let me finish this review with a plea to the developers at Core Design and the publishers at Eidos: this has gone on far too long, guys. The Tomb Raider series is no longer the venerable symbol of quality it once was; instead it is now nothing more than a prime example of what lack of innovation does to a series. Considering how great the original was, the fact that you are giving us gamers nothing more than a simple rehash year after year is not only disheartening, it?s downright offensive. Us hardcore gamers are smarter than that, guys. We know that for a series to hold our interest for years to come, significant changes and advances need to be made. And quite frankly, you guys aren?t doing it with this series. If you ever want us to enjoy your prized franchise ever again, I humbly suggest that you do as you promised and revamp the entire thing for PlayStation2. The story in this game states that Lara is presumed dead, and if this is how you guys are going to treat this series from now on, I sincerely hope that she is dead, because I (as well as many other gamers) will not stand for rehash after senseless rehash. I simply cannot recommend this game to anyone, even the most hardcore of Tomb Raider fans.