Tomb Raider: Legend Review

Title: Tomb Raider: Legend
Developer: Eidos Interactive
Game Type: PlayStation Portable
Download: 1.4 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download, PS3 Transfer Required
EU Availability: Digital Download, Direct Download

You would never normally think of the Vita as a Tomb Raider console.  All of the Tomb Raider craze of late has been on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and next-gens.  The Tomb Raider reboot has just been announced for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.  Even before, the Vita has never seen a Tomb Raider game, right?  Not natively, of course.

Tomb Raider is not silent on the handheld console, though.  There are currently several Tomb Raider games available on it, from PlayStation Classics to the two games that released on the PlayStation Portable, Legend and Anniversary.  You don’t hear much about those two games, though.  Even during the PSP generation, I rarely heard any sort of feedback on the two PSP games.  It’s time to fix that problem.

Tomb Raider: Legend was the first Tomb Raider to grace the PSP and, now, the PlayStation Vita.  It was an attempt on Eidos’ part at porting the complete game onto a handheld, after releasing it on the DS as a watered-down side-scroller.  There is much debate on whether the game is even playable on the PSP.  Unbearable framerate issues supposedly haunt this title.  Is this different now that it’s available on the Vita, a much more powerful console?  Let’s find out.  Here is our official review for Tomb Raider: Legend.


At the time Tomb Raider: Legend was released, the series was up and down.  After its excellent reception from the days of the PlayStation, Eidos Interactive’s iconic tomb-raiding Lara Croft had lost a bit of her luster.  Games like Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness had released with little response from fans of the series.  They sought a more in-depth experience.  That’s when Legend hit shelves and rebooted the franchise and sparked new life into the series.  It released on several platforms, from PC to PlayStation 2 to PlayStation Portable.

Story

TRA

The plot of Tomb Raider: Legend follows Lara Croft as she searches around the world for clues as to the whereabouts of her mother, whom she had lost to a strange, powerful artifact when she was but a small girl.  Only with notes as her guide, she travels the world to raid tombs, uncover secret ruins, and discover several mysteries surrounding the Knights of the Round Table and King Arthur mythology.

The plotline of this game is thrown at you almost constantly, which is one thing that makes the game so much fun.  You not only get dialogue in scenes, but there is constant radio chatter between Lara and her allies back at home via her radio and PDA.  It helps to have this to flesh out a lot of details and backstory to everything that is going on.  This will also keep you constantly entertained as you will get dialogue and conversation every few minutes, assuming you don’t get lost.

The dialogue also helps to keep you entertained by giving you some very humorous conversing between Lara and her allies.  One minute, Lara can be climbing a mountain with her buddies freaking out over a giant boulder falling inches from her and they can all be fascinated with a new discovery just two minutes later.

While the story is not perfect or clear of plot holes, it is enough to keep you laughing and interested, from beginning to end.

Gameplay

TRL

Tomb Raider is a platformer with guns, in short.  The goal of each level and stage is to traverse dangerous heights to get to where you need to go, solving puzzles to open doors and gates and tombs, and shooting your way past enemies that block your path.  This has been the main premise behind the gameplay of the series ever since the beginning.  If you’re new to the Tomb Raider series, imagine it like Uncharted.  That series and Tomb Raider share many gameplay elements.

Most of the platforming involves climbing.  In each area you’re in, you will have a goal you need to reach, whether it is shown to you from the start or is discovered as you explore.  What you do is you find the path available to you and find crevices to climb and traverse.  These crevices could be part of walls or pillars, hanging strings of rope, or even huge billboards in the middle of the city.  You can jump to grab onto these ledges, climb up and down them, and jump from one to another.

These ledges really give the game a sense of adventure and suspense.  This is due to the fact that most of the time when you’re climbing, you are at some unprecedented height, and can barely make the jumps you have to make.  Some jumps Lara can only grab with one hand, and requires you to help her grab on and steady herself.

While doing this, you also need to be able to gun down enemies with what you have at your disposal.  You start out with Lara’s trademark Dual Pistols, the weakest weapons in the gun, but by far, the most useful.  They’re the most useful because they have Infinite Ammunition.  You will never run out of bullets for these weapons, but you will for almost every other weapon you acquire throughout the game.

When you equip a weapon, you have to aim it, move the aim where the object or enemy you’re trying to shoot at is, and fire.  There are a few ways that you’re able to do this.  By default, the game can lock onto nearby targets and you can just shoot at them.  However, if you need to shoot at a distance target, you will need to use the aiming mode, which brings the camera closer to Lara and prevents you from walking and running while shooting, giving you a better, steady aim.

Past all of this are the puzzles, and for puzzles, you need tools.  Lara can switch between tools that she has with her that are needed to traverse certain areas and clear obstacles.  Some puzzles require you to use a grappling hook to remove large stone objects that are blocking your path, while others require you to turn on your flashlight and traverse a pitch-black hall.  You will use every tool available to you by the time the game is over.

If this weren’t enough, there are also optional collectables you can obtain in each level.  These are known as Artifacts and Relics.  There are a set number of relics and artifacts in each level, and they’re all hidden well.  You have got to be on your toes to find them.  Some are easy to find, but some are tough, requiring you to go back to an area after you’re nearly finished with a level, to find.  If you don’t use a guide, you will have to look very hard.

Controls

Controls in Tomb Raider: Legend aren’t simple, but they’re also not hard.  If you have played a Tomb Raider game or Uncharted game, the style of controlling will be somewhat familiar to you.  However, if you’re used to playing Vita-native games, the camera controls, in particular, will be something you’ll have to get used to.  Since the PSP didn’t have a second Analog Stick, there are some differences with that.

Moving Lara is done with the Left Analog Stick, which was done on the PSP’s Analog Nub.  This could be done either for walking or sneaking, which is very slow walking to stay stealthy in the game.  You push the Analog Stick all the way in one direction will make Lara walk/run, and just lightly moving it will allow her to sneak.  This is something you’ll be using a lot of, as some situations require sneaking, rather than just running and shooting.

Jumping to jump or to grab onto a ledge is done by use of the X Button.  If you wish to grab something in front of you, you will need to jump while you are running to do a forward jump or, if you’re already hanging, point Lara in the direction you wish do jump until she partially moves and looks in that direction.  Interacting with objects is done with the Square Button.  This lets you grab onto movable objects, push switches, and any other interaction that needs to be done.  This can also be combined with swimming to move faster.

The Circle Button lets you crouch and drop from ledges.  Some ledges in the game require you to let go to drop down to one below and grab onto it.  The Triangle Button lets you climb across ledges faster.  This will be needed as some pieces of ledge will start to break and fall as soon as you touch it and you need to get off of it quickly.

The camera is one thing that most Vita players will not be used to.  Normally, on a Vita title, the camera is controlled with the Right Analog Stick.  If the PSP used the D-Pad for this, it would be easy to map that to that Analog Stick.  But, it doesn’t.  You can center the camera in this game by tapping the L Button.  The R Button is used to fire weapons.  Lara will automatically and get out her equipped weapon and start firing as soon as the button is pressed or held down.

The start button pauses the game, and the Select Button opens her PDA, which has mission information, background story, and more.  The D-Pad handles equipped items.  You can cycle through your tools and use those tools with these buttons.

The controls may take some getting used to, but it shouldn’t take long for you to get accustomed to them, other than the fact that the camera is controlled with L and not the Right Analog Stick.

Presentation

This is the part of the game where most gamers make their decision as to whether or not this game is actually playable.  According to the community, this game is plagued with awful frame rate issues that make the game unbearable to look at.  But let’s see just how the game looks, sounds, and plays.

Visually, the game looks good.  This was an early PSP title and, for the first 3D Tomb Raider, it looks okay.  The 3D models look well done in scenes, and, while there are a lot of jagged edges, it looks good, for a PSP title.  It doesn’t look anywhere near the caliber of a Vita title or other PSP games like Dissidia 012 or Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, but it is manageable.

The game sounds the same way it does on the other consoles it came out on.  There is voice-work that mostly sounds well-done throughout the game.  Sometimes, people will sound a little over-emotional or take things a bit too far.  But, it’s nothing like a dub of a Japanese Godzilla movie.  It’s good, but not great.

Now, how does the game play?  I will admit that when this was on the PSP, it had a huge frame rate problem.  When you picked it up and played, it did not run smooth at all.  The lag flowed with your movements at an equal pace, but it was very choppy.   To give a fair comparison, it is kind of like watching a YouTube video when your connection isn’t quite fast enough to watch it well.  The only problem was that every so often, it lagged out a lot.  The game was playable, but it wasn’t pretty to watch.

The Vita changed this.  Whatever Sony did with PSP emulation, they vastly improved Tomb Raider: Legend’s frame rate speed.   The games run a lot smoother now.  While it is nowhere near the smooth flow of a 30fps or 60fps game, it flows without too much error and is much more enjoyable to play.  Again, it’s not perfect, but it’s more along the lines of what it could have been on the PSP.

Overall

Tomb Raider: Legend is one of the most memorable games in the franchise, and it’s what gave the series life after it had lost it.  If you’re a fan of this type of game, you should definitely check this out.  The game doesn’t have a perfect frame rate, but it is vastly improved over how it played on the PSP.  If you want it portable, this is definitely worlds above the DS version, but nowhere near a perfect port.

The PlayStation Vita Review Network rates Tomb Raider: Legend a 7/10.

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