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Tomb Raider Legend

Tomb Raider Legend is the seventh full Tomb Raider game, developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Eidos in 2006. In this game, Lara Croft, a british explorer, shoots and searches her ways through various ruins, trying to find various magical artifacts. After five games that were all the same and a sixth one which was very different and a huge flop, this is the first one by a new developer. While it had a very positive reaction by critics and mainstream gaming, and sold better than any Tomb Raider game before, long time fans were, on average, not too pleased with it, preferring the older games instead.

The game has a single train, but this one is among the most horrible I’ve ever seen.

The Train

During the game, you will visit a secret lab in Kazakhstan, but before you do that, you will actually visit a secret military base right there, which is connected via a railroad line to the lab. Your job will be to get to the lab. Since you are a little late, you won’t use the train, but rather follow it with a motorcycle.

First Station

The first thing that’s wrong about the train will hit you right when you enter the military base and see it’s train station.

It's a very short single track leading right to a tunnel, with platforms on both sides.

Ah, where to begin. The whole thing is too short. Two wagons is the absolute maximum that I’d expect to stay there. Do not even think about devices to let a locomotive run around the train.

The bumper that ends the track has a wide beam, even though Kazakhstan, being a former soviet country, uses a center buffer coupling, so that a very narrow bumper would have done the job just as well, if not better. What’s more, the beam sits about the height of Lara’s head, so it won’t actually stop the buffer/coupling (as it should), but rather hit the car right in it’s walls, making sure it gets damaged as much as possible without adding spikes to the bumper.

Both platforms are odd, in that they appear to be too far away from the track to be actually useful. After all, the purpose of a platform is to allow you to move things into a railroad car easily, but here, you have to throw them.

Once you stopped wondering about all of this, it’s off through the tunnel and to the actual bike chase.

The Bike Chase Sequence

The railroad track is absolutely straight, and so is your route alongside it. It is also without a well defined length. Pieces of terrain will keep repeating until you killed all enemies, so there is no real point in trying to outrun them. All the time, the train is to the left of you, making it painfully clear just how crappy it is.

You will also encounter some graphic bugs on your way.

Let’s start with the cars. If you know anything about containers then you might have already noticed that they are about as wide as high. The guys over at Crystal Dynamics, apparently, have never heard about this. You will go past many of these containers, in theory endless, until you do some daring jumps, land on the train itself and come to…

The Locomotive

It’s not easy to say what is really wrong, because everything is. And not just small details. Sure, small details are wrong too. As an example, locomotives in former soviet countries tend to have some red at the ends, while this one is all-green. No, this locomotive is all wrong.

Look at that thing. It's green, it's wide, it's long, it's flat, it's wrong.

First of all, look at the proportions. It’s extremely wide and long, but not very high at all. That’s wrong. Like many american locomotives and some russian ones, it has open walkways (not wrong), but normally, the cab is the full width of the locomotive. Here, the walkways go around the cab as well. That’s wrong, too. This locomotive is also a low-hood type, meaning that the area in front of the cab is lower than the area behind. In this particular case, the low hood is angled like you see on some kinds of vans. That’s wrong as well.

In fact, it’s hard to point out any single thing that’s right about the locomotive, so I don’t.

Train Wreck

Lara will fight atop this locomotive with the engineer, who happens to be yet another mindless goon. Things are looking, well, no way in particular when suddenly there is a gas tank right on the rails.

The gas tank is right on the rails, exactly orthogonal to them.

What a nice way to fit a gas tank on some rails. It sits exactly orthogonal, right in the middle. This is not some piece of scrap that happened to fall down, no, this was mounted there intenionally. Scream if you see anything stupid with that.

The tank will explode, as gas tanks are wont to do when hit with heavy diesel engines. This will kill the engineer, going in the infamous deadly-fast-train mode, and right into another tunnel that is way too high for the train. This is just great for people who happen to be on top of the train, of course. Near the end, however, someone forgot to raise a gate that would let the train through, so it’ll derail and start to burn.

After a horrible interactive cutscene, things are actually looking rather peaceful.

Is there some poetic justice in the fact that the train, which was a metaphoric train wreck, becomes an actual train wreck in the end? Has the burning of the horrible engine avenged train fans all over the world?

No, it hasn’t. I still hate it.

Other Transportation

All cars you will ever see are Jeeps, because there is an advertisement deal with them. For a similar reason, all motorcycles are Ducati, which happen to be conveniently placed wherever you need them. You get to ride the motorcycles during two long, boring and repetitive and a single, extremely short session. Controls are nothing out of the ordinary, although it’s a lot of fun to do jumps and drive over suspended bridges during the train chase.

One thing I really don't understand is why people think it is a good idea to put flammable barrels next to armories. It doesn't take much skill to figure out this is a bad idea, does it?

There’s crates. Lots of them, and all are empty. This would deserve a huge WTF, if not all other games did the same thing. I’ve written a longer article about why crates are bad, but chances are you’re already annoyed by them anyway. There are also burning barrels, for those who need them.

The Game

Notice: This section does not figure in the rating.

Most parts of the game don’t have trains, which is actually a good thing, seeing how trainkind was hurt with the single one in there.

Story

Lara Croft is looking for odd artifacts, which is nothing out of the ordinary. This time, however, she does so to find out what happened to her mother. Of course, this resulted in outcries by fans, arguing that Lara should not have a reason to go hunting, if you please.

There are some, though not very many talking scenes. The problem is that none of the characters are truly interesting.

It’s nothing extraordinary in any direction. Most of the persons you meet during your adventure are either boring or annoying, with some of them managing to do both.

Technology and Graphics

It looks nice enough, though there's a certain comic style

The game looks rather good, although there is a comic style about it, similar to Sims 2, for example. Unlike other games, it manages to do so without slowing my computer down significantly. You’d agree that this is a remarkable feat if you knew my computer. The less said about it, the better.

Another very positive aspect is that there are very few loading screens (before and after the bike sequences, and when changing the country) and they are gone rather fast. This makes the game much more enjoyable.

Playing

It is a much less difficult game than the older Tomb Raider games. You can like or dislike it, I think it’s great that I don’t get lost and need a walkthrough all the time.

Besides shooting enemies, your job is mainly to jump around between various ledges. There is no need or possibility to get really creative with the ways to go where you want to, and you are quite stuck on the path you are meant to take. This can get boring after a while, however, Legend is too short for that.

As mentioned several times, there are two longer bike sequences in there, none of which are fun. They repeat each other until you kill all the enemies that appear on other bikes. There are practically no turns or other interesting things, just a few chances to jump.

The game controls just plain suck. I know, people these days think that third person games should have controls that are relative to the camera and like a first person shooter, but they are really, really wrong, and Legend is a very good example. To add insult to injury, a few times the game gives me anything but control in so called interactive cutscenes. During these things, Lara moves all on her own, except in some points, I have to press a key that appears on screen. There is nothing in all of video gaming I hate more. If the game really thinks this key deserves to be pressed, then it should freakin’ press it itself. I’m not some kind of game babysitter, after all.

Result

The trains in Legend just plain suck. There is nothing even remotely correct about them. Frankly, the only thing that is interesting here is the fact that the developers thought they could get away with this. Well, let me tell you, they can’t!

For this reason, the game gets a “bad” rating. If you like trains, then the one in Tomb Raider Legend will just plain make you mad.


All trademarks, patents and property related to Tomb Raider Legend belong to Eidos. Jeep is a brand of Chrysler LLC. Ducati is © Ducati Motor Holding S.p.A.. Other trademarks belong to their respective owners.