Lara: Back again, for the very first time

I’m fresh off getting a long look at Lara Croft’s new-old adventure in “Tomb Raider: Anniversary” this morning at the W in Los Angeles (worth visiting just for the big Salma Hayek picture in the entryway).

“Anniversary” is a remake of the original “Tomb Raider” that came out for PCs 10 years ago. Gaming was still very fella-centric at the time, with Duke Nukem blowing holes in everything and Mario still following his happy save-the-princess path. When “Tomb Raider” was first still being put together, they were actually considering a character that was essentially an Indiana Jones ripoff. Then they bandied about the name “Lara Cruz.” Eventually, gamers got the British archeological bombshell they know and love.

I’m usually pretty leery whenever the word “remake” creeps up, but what I got to see was pretty solid stuff. I’m not saying it’s quite on the scale of “Resident Evil” for the GameCube, but it was a pretty stark contrast to what we experienced a decade ago. I put some pics up, though they might not do the game justice.

Peru02.jpg

Peru03.jpg

Greece02.jpg

In addition to some of the redone puzzles, they also integrated the revamped, platformish control scheme used in Legend, so actions that would take a lot of time to do in the PC game would take half the time with the new control scheme. That’s something of a challenge as far as level design goes, especially since one of the big gripes about Legend was that it was too freakin’ short. We’re promised at least TWICE the playtime of Legend for Anniversary.

In terms of combat, I got a look at a new “adrenaline”-based counter system. If you dodge an attack at the right moment, the game executes bullet-time slowdown, with a pair of aiming sights zeroing in on a target. Time it right, and you get the chance for one-hit kills (insert “massive damage” joke here.) I saw this put to good use in the remodeled T-Rex battle, where you had make use of the counter-shots to blind theT-Rex and cause it to run into things. It looked a little on the easy side to do, but then again, I didn’t get any hands-on time. You’ll also see the return of the interactive cutscenes that were introduced in Legend, as well as a completely rebuilt musical score.

The game is set for PS2, PSP, Wii and PC, with the PS2 version dropping on June 6.