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Feb. 5, 2006
Tomb Raider: Legend - PSP Preview
Release Date Publisher Developer Anticipation Players Price
14/6/2006AtariCrystal Dynamics/
Buzz Monkey
1-2$79.95

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Lara's still hanging around.
How a decade changes the fortunes of a game series. The year was 1996, nine years ago now, and little known Core Design released a game that was to set new benchmarks in terms of graphics an gameplay. That game was Tomb Raider. There were numerous sequels on PSOne (four in total) but the series seemed to stagnate after the third game. Indeed much hope was placed on the extra power and graphical prowess of the Playstation 2 to deliver the next generation of Lara Croft and her adventures. Unfortunately the release of Tomb Raider: The Angel Of Darkness was a disaster with horrible reviews, and poor sales.

So bad was that games reception in the press and retail sales that publishers Eidos took the development of Tomb Raider: Legend away from series creator Core Design and handed it to American developers Crystal Dynamics. Months after the announcement of the PS2 game Atari announced a PSP version was also in development. The game, and therefore the details, of this PSP version are virtually identical to the PS2 game, with a few differences.

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This game looks great in-game.
And now we anxiously await the release of Tomb Raider: Legend. Crystal Dynamics, and PSP version developers Buzz Monkey, have had a look at the series and are taking it back to its roots - that being the adventure of treasure hunting in plenty of tombs. When you see a Star wars movie you expect to see space battles. When you go to an opera you expect people to sing. We are about to get what we expect from a Tomb Raider, plenty of tombs. In fact, the locations announced so far include ancient tombs, dangerous jungles, and snowy mountain ruins - certainly a far cry from the city based action of the previous title.

Lara comes with an arsenal of modern equipment, such as a magnetic grappling device, binoculars, frag grenades, personal lighting device and communications equipment, allows gamers to experience tomb raiding as never before.

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Another cut scene.
In terms of gameplay Crystal Dynamics are making some solid promises that look set to vastly improve this latest Tomb Raider titles. First and foremost is that the controls are changing to be more fluid. A dynamic animation system puts focus on continuous motion, giving Lara the ability to seamlessly handle any obstacle and interact dynamically with any surface. The game also seems a lot more action packed then previous games - the trailer available above shows Lara firing a mounted gun. Crystal Dynamics and Eidos were both quick to point out, however, that the game will include a big return to the puzzle solving of earlier titles. One interesting thing to note is that while the PS2 version will stream off the DVD for little to no load times we will have to see how well the PSP can perform in this area with its notoriously slow UMD drive.

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Look out for enemies.
Graphics in the previous title, Tomb Raider: The Angel Of Darkness, weren't revolutionary, and its unlikely this game will set any new benchmarks either, but it will be a big improvement. The range of animations will be improved and apparently all these animations are being created by a single person which should ensure consistency through the game. The PSP version actually looks every bit as impressive as the PS2 version which shows and hopefully the game will retain a solid frame rate throughout as well.

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Lighting is pretty impressive.
Finally Tomb Raider: Legend also features a number of exclusive game modes together with a host of Bonus Reward Content. As yet this has not been detailed, but you can expect more closer to release.

I would love nothing more then to see Lara Croft make a big impact on the game world again, whether or not Crystal Dynamics can make good on their promises remains to be see however the developer does have a very strong track record with titles such as Legacy of Kain, Project Snowblind and one of the funniest and most overlooked titles of all time, Whiplash to their credit. At this stage the game is targeted towards a late May 2006 launch, about a month after major consoles, but it looks like Eidos/SCi are giving the developers all the time they need to get this series back on track.