Lots of new stuff but there are a few niggles...But this isn’t just a rehash of games of old, there’s plenty of new stuff in here. Lara now has a grappling hook which you can deploy mid-jump to hook onto certain points and then swing about. She can shimmy up and down pillars or even balance precariously on top of handy poles as she hops from one to the other. Her climbing and mantling skills have had a boost too, so Lara can now hang from a ledge, shimmy along it and either fling herself to the next one, scramble up to one above or jump backwards from a ledge across a gap to another ledge or pole or platform.
And all of these new abilities have been sensibly integrated into the game, making getting around the map equally, if not more, of a brain trial than the puzzles themselves. The sense of satisfaction when you finally figure out how to access a ledge you can see way up above you is immense and I guarantee that you’ll spend ages wandering around an area trying to figure out how to progress before spotting a ledge or a pole you hadn’t noticed before… and then you’re off again into a whole new massive area that you never knew was even there.
But this wonderful gameplay isn’t without its problems and there are a couple of niggles. The biggest pain is the loading times after you die which, especially if you’re trying a tricky jump or just happen to mis-time a leap, can rapidly become tedious. Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Anniversary automatically saves your progress at checkpoints and it’ll be here you restart… which can be a pain if you spent five minutes carefully climbing down from a high ledge to have a look around a lower area… one slip and it’s a minute or two wait before you can have another go. You can save your progress manually but this only comes into play should you exit the game… and exiting and restarting takes even longer than just letting the checkpoint reload… so that’s out.
Another niggles is the camera which, whilst being pretty damn good most of the time, can be an utter pain just when you need it to be good. Most of the time it’ll trail along behind Lara but, this being a jumpy leaping game, you really need to see where her feet are to time a jump. So it doesn’t help when the camera, set behind Lara in the tunnel she’s just come from, only show her from the waist up… So you have to stop playing and jigger around with the camera in the free look mode to get an angle where you can see what you’re doing… not helpful.
And sadly, you will find yourself occasionally fighting with the controls too. Ok, it’s not that often but that analogue stick can cause you problems sending Lara off at just the wrong angle to make her miss that ledge or clip the edge of the rocks as she dives… which then means you’ve got to wait for the whole thing to reload and start off again back at the last checkpoint…
Gun battles can get tricky at times too, you’re supposed to hold down the L and R shoulder buttons to lock onto a target but this proves physically unwieldy when you want to shoot, run and roll or leap out of the way… you need to have pianists hands to be able to reach everything and mash the buttons at the right time. Thankfully, locking on isn’t essential, hit the fire button and Lara will whip out her guns and auto-lock onto the closest baddie…
A new addition here is the action-mode, which might occur mid-battle or be part of a scripted cut-scene sequence. There’ll be occasions when the action will slow down in a John Woo stylee, and you have to hit a certain button, indicated on the screen, at the right time to make Lara dodge out of danger. Or something major will happen, such as the appearance of a T-Rex (yes, he’s back!) and you’ll have to dodge fleeing Velociraptors as well as the T-Rex’s attacks… These small sections remind me of those Don Bluth laserdisc games, Dragon’s Lair or Space Ace etc, as you have to hit the right action at the right time or you die.
Oh, and in addition to the main adventure you can go off and hone your skills around the Croft mansion. Unlike previous games where the mansion was really just a big playset to leap around, Croft Manor in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Anniversary has a few tasks for you complete but gives you helpful pointers along the way even if it is devilishly tricky in places.