Eidos, cut the act, we know what is going on. It is called brand recognition. As a general rule consumers will choose a product which is familiar to them. This is basic economics, I'm not trying to impress you with my grasp of consumer trends. Here is a likely scenario that Eidos is counting on taking place many times during the Holiday Season.
The scene, Electronic Boutique.
Out-of-touch/uninformed Parent: "Hmm I wonder what little Johnny would like for Christmas this year?"
Parent: "Excuse me Mr. Salesman? Yes, you with the long hair huddled over that display demo."
Overweight EB Sales Rep: "Err.. me? No.. I uhh.. don't work here."
Parent: "Well why are you wearing that name tag?"
Sales Rep: "Oh yeah.. erm, what can I help you with?"
Parent: "I am looking for a game for my son, do you have any ideas?"
Sales Rep: "A game? I uhh.. don't think we sell those."
Parent: "What the hell do you mean?! What are those things behind you?"
Sales Rep: "Uhh.."
Parent: "Oh for the love of.. Just give me that one.. with the picture of that smirking girl on the front."
Parent: "Yes, this will be fine, I have seen posters of her in my son's room."
Sales Rep: "Merry Christmas to you too.. (sucker!)"
Another satisfied customer. After two questionable sequels, Tomb Raider: Unfinished Business and Tomb Raider 2, it is obvious what is going on. Eidos is milking Lara Croft for all she's worth. (No pun intended) It is also quite clear that they have no intention of breathing any creative life into this series. It is so unfortunate to see a game that practically invented and defined the 3rd person action genre steadily decline into its current state. What follows is an evaluation of a truly uninspired and mediocre sequel, continue at your own risk.
Graphically Tomb Raider is on par with its predecessors, meaning it hasn't improved noticeably in over two years of development. In fact, it is obvious that Eidos has "toned down" some aspects to make the game more accessible to younger audiences (and unwitting parents.) Most noticeable is the pixilated hot-pink blood. The level design is virtually identical to previous TR efforts, cluttered and full of cliché rock and spike traps. Again, same as before its D3D only, no GLide support here.
With games like Indy 3d very close to release, you would think Eidos could sense the upcoming competition, and put some effort in developing Tomb Raider 3 into something that would give these new comers a run for their money. One thing I would have especially liked to see is the addition of facial animations for Lara. The fixed smirk is so "1997", take a cue from Live '99 and give your character a little life. As you can see from the screen shots, Tomb Raider accomplishes nothing in the visual improvement area. The invention and innovation that TR once stood for is gone, and all that's left is a polygon girl with a bouncy.. err.. pony tail.
The sound in TR3 is equally as bland and unoriginal as the graphics. Most of the sound effects, like ones in menu screens, are 100% reused from TR2. Much of the in game sounds, such as gun shots and underwater effects, are recycled as well. It shouldn't come as a surprise that none of the new 3d sound systems are supported.
There seems to be a trend developing here. Lets see if you, the astute reader, can spot it. Gameplay consists of Lara jumping, swimming, and running throughout various parts of the globe in search of treasure, or something. Wow! With the game's focus so vastly different than before I found it hard to jump right in. Yes, I am being sarcastic. This time Lara ends up in India, the Artic, and some other locations, which fits in perfectly with Eidos cunning "change-the-scenery-but-leave-everything-else-fundamentaly-th e-same" development strategy. If your idea of a good time is redoing the same pull lever and climb to the gate tasks that have filled three Tomb Raider titles, then by all means grab this one. The only thing that's changed is the background.
I think it is obvious that both the replay value and entertainment factor are almost nil. You have played this game before. Lara is a little rounder, and she gets some mildly arousing (I'm kidding, Phire) costume changes. But other than that its the same old, same old. The fact is TR3 is a disappointment to new comers and loyal TR fans alike. It is my opinion that the series has been decaying slowly, and Tomb Raider 3 just emphasizes this point.
Overall the only recommendation I can make for this game is a swift burial. Let the Tomb Raider series rest in piece. How much more does Eidos want to squeeze out of Ms. Lara Croft? (Pun intended) I suggest the developers at Core move on to their next "killer" game, the sequel to the almost-popular Play Station game: Ninja. I can't hardly wait.
The original Tomb Raider was an all time classic in computer and console gaming. It was one of the first games that made me stare in awe at what a 3d card could accomplish. Unfortunately, the sequel didn't impress me nearly as much and probably was guilty of presenting much less appealing graphics than its predecessor. Now here comes the third installment and I am sure a lot of people are wondering if they released it just to make some cash off of a good name or whether it has what it takes to better the previous effort.
This game has done a nice job getting back to the graphics roots of the first in the series. Everything seems to be rendered in a much more detailed fashion especially Lara herself. Even so though, the graphics just don't stand up to some of the efforts as of late. The whole game is one big blocky polygon world (and I do mean blocky) with textures mapped on. Effective nonetheless, but not the prettiest thing in the world. The water splash effect is nice when she is wading around but overall the water leaves me wishing they did more. Some of the creatures that I saw in the game were similar to the first one and probably impressed me more than the actual surrounding environment. Overall the graphics are appealing enough as to not hinder the gameplay.
Gameplay : 20/30
The gameplay itself sticks to the tired and true formula of run, climb, jump and shoot. There are, however, a few extras that I noticed such as the crouch and crawl move and the nice flare feature that lights up those dark areas. This game, however, leaves me somewhat frustrated.. The fact that you can walk Lara around a corner and have a huge rock roll on her head, is not my idea of a good time. I don't enjoy saving games every time I make a jump to the next ledge, just so I don't lose my progress. That seems to be a requirement in this sequel. Many times I made it to a lever that I had been trying to reach for a several minutes only to accidentally step off a forty-foot cliff to my death and then realize that my game was saved further back than I had remembered. If you enjoy yelling at the computer after losing the last ten minutes of progress then definitely make sure to pick up this title.
Story : 1/5
Story you ask? I thought I would include this category because of the major weakness in the storyline. There isn't much of one that I can find. Reading the manual, it tells of a meteor that is buried deep in the earth. It contains four artifacts that some sailors discovered and looted. These artifacts hold the secret to new evolutionary possibilities for all mankind. How long did it take them to think that up? So they made the game and then said "Oh wait we need a story." How bout something much more interesting like Lara's house was robbed and one of her rare Siamese cats was stolen and now she must travel the earth in search of her missing pussy. Ok, maybe I'm dreaming here, but the real story just seems to be tacked on for the sake of having a story.
Fun Factor : 10/20
For some reason I didn't really enjoy playing this. It is the exact same game as the first and second one but the idea of jumping to different platforms and pulling levers really doesn't excite me anymore. Perhaps I've been spoiled by the brilliance of Halflife or Heretic2. I encourage Eidos not release a Tomb Raider 4 without first doing a major revamp job on the game engine. Bring it up to 1998-99 standards.
Sound : 9/15
Sound is very minimal to say the least. There are some environmental effects such as water flowing or rain hitting the ground but overall it is a fairly quiet game to play. I am not counting the music because I never turn on music in a game like this. More effort could have been put forth to improve upon the sound of sliding down rocks or the tiger growl. Not great, but not too bad.
Overall Impression: 6/10
Tomb Raider 3 will come and go without the acclaims of the first one. I hope that Eidos makes a fortune off the Tomb Raider name and then puts extra money back into the fourth installment. If they don't then it will be an even bigger waste of time to release a fourth in the series. I encourage anyone that is looking for a third person shooter, to look elsewhere. This is one to skip.
Pentium2-333 w/ 196 megs of RAM
Voodoo2 12 Meg Card