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When you take a look at all the action games available, you will remark that despite all the differences that exist between them, they all have the same common point, the hero's gender. Since the early stages of the video games industry, the main character of action games has always been a male. From the old titles of Pitfall and Prince of Persia to the more recent games such as Fade to Black and Time Commando, you untiringly take the role of a male adventurer, and with nine out of ten players being male, it is surely not easy to bend the balance in the other direction. There is one title though that could change all this, and this game is Tomb Raider.
Indeed, Lara is a beautiful girl, but if you want to stay out of trouble, don't mess with her. The mercenaries of the Natla Corporation took too long to learn, at their expense, that she is a tough adversary and a very resourceful person. In the beginning however, nothing predicted that Lara would have to deal with the hired man of Jacqueline Natla, the very same person that had hired her to retrieve an ancient artifact called The Scion. But what Lara simply believed to be another eccentricity of the rich captain of industry, turned out only to be a piece of a puzzle in which she was a single pawn. From the moment she understood this, she decided that whatever was remaining to be uncovered, she Lara, would do the job and keep it for herself.
When Lara accepted her mission from Mrs. Natla, she ignored that she would embark into a fantastic adventure, the kind you remember your whole life. All she knew was that The Scion was hidden somewhere into the undiscovered Tomb of Qalopec, located in the Peruvian mountains. However, she was far from suspecting the danger she would face, nor to imagine what was awaiting her in the thrilling adventure she just walked into. After the heavy doors of the tomb's entrance had closed behind her back, Lara was alone, confronted to her own destiny, but determined to find The Scion.
|Ready for shooting|
Anywhere you go in Tomb Raider, you will see 3D all around, which also applies to the game's characters, made of light-sourced textured polygons. The polygonal character of Lara alone have over 2,000 frames of animation that allow many possibilities of movement for a complete freedom within the 3D real-time environment. Among the other characters of the game, you will encounter Larsen, right-hand man of Mrs. Natla, other mercenaries and a variety of animals and creatures. Each one, while having a lower number of frames than Lara, is remarkably well animated, and is endowed with a very cunning intelligence. They will, for example, try to hide from you if you shoot at them and they can't attack you directly because you are somewhere above them. But watch out because they will come back whenever they can get you. To give another example, mercenaries will shoot at you when you are in their line of sight, even though you are way upstairs and can't see them. The artificial intelligence in Tomb Raider is definitely a plus to the game. Instead of having legions of dumb opponents that you just blast out like popping balloons in a fancy fair, you will encounter realistic combatants that look very lifelike, and also demonstrate intelligence, even though we can't really speak of intelligence for animals, but rather conservation instinct. Among the variety of animals you will encounter, there are wolves, lions, bears, monkeys, bats, crocodiles, rats, pumas, dinosaurs; the list is quite exhaustive.
|Lara as seen|
in the game
The range of movements that Lara can execute is quite impressive in Tomb Raider. Not only she can jump forward, backward, to the left and right side, and upwards, but also swim and dive. If you add that you can make standing and running jumps, you can just imagine all the combinations. And if you were wondering about having to jump several times in a row to advance in the game, yes you will be confronted to this genre of difficulty! It is wise to save often during the game, especially when you are ready to make a long jump over a deep gap. You might finish your course gruesomely impaled on stakes, or completely disjointed after your fall. Some moves will sometimes require precision and exact timing, such as those where you finish hanging over the edge with just the force of your fingers like a good climber would do. Other times, you will have to jump from one column to another within a certain time before flames are back again and burn you alive. In the water, your movements will be limited to swim forward, backward, and dive. As in reality, you won't be able to stay underwater forever and a gauge on the screen will indicate you how much time you have left before you drown.
If the game is action-oriented, it is also an adventure game where you must solve problems. Most of the time, you will need to locate levers that open doors, move or push blocks to make your way out, but also find items such as keys and mechanical cog wheels. In fact, locating the exit will be in itself a true puzzle, and staying alive a real challenge. Fortunately, you will find medical kits throughout the levels that partially or fully restore your health depending their size. Various ammunition can be collected as well as weapons, but don't expect to find too many of them in Tomb Raider scattered on the ground, as they will be more likely hidden in places that are not always easy to access!
Like a growing number of games, Tomb Raider features a CD audio track which effectively sets the mood of the game. Here, the soundtrack is more like a recording of the ambient sounds than real music, which is certain to intensify the dramatic atmosphere of the game. The other sound effects include animal squeals, underwater sounds, your footsteps on the ground, waterfall noises, and much more to discover.
With Tomb Raid, Core Design has entered the arena of the best developers, and we can only pray that they continue what they started, so that they will keep surprising us in the future.
Written by Frederick Claude
Click here for screen shots.
Click here for the demo.
IBM-PC Pentium-60 or higher,
Min 8Mb memory,
Windows 95 or Dos 5.0 or higher,
Hard drive required with at least 20Mb free,
Double speed CD-ROM drive faster,
SVGA VESA local bus video graphic card.
All major soundcards supported.
Keyboard, most gamepads and joysticks supported.
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