Tomb Raider: Chronicles is the fifth installment in the hugely popular series. The story begins with the strange disappearance of heroine Lara Croft. Fearing the worst, her close friends gather at the mansion to remember her and pay tribute to her extraordinary life. As Lara's friends begin to share stories about her life, players are taken through important (though heretofore unmentioned) episodes from her past.
Tomb Raider: Chronicles will take players through four adventures, each from a different time in Lara's past. Lara has a few abilities new to this version, including tightrope walking and a hand-to-hand stealth attack. Building upon an innovation in Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, Tomb Raider: Chronicles features an advanced inventory system that gives players even more options when customizing and combining weapons and other equipment. The PC version of the game also includes a level editor to allow players to create their own adventures to challenge Lara's skill and agility.
It was a cold winter day in December of 1996 when Lara Croft leaped onto the action scene in her first swashbuckling adventure. It was an action game like never seen before on the PC and it turned more than a few heads that holiday season. It quickly spawned a myriad of third-person action spin-offs, not to mention several sequels of its own. Much like the Grinch, Lara peaks out of her tomb every holiday season, without failure, and provides thrills for residents of Gameville.
Ok, so I'm no Dr. Seuss, but the fact of the matter is that this is the fifth straight year that Lara Croft has welcomed the holiday season with a brand spanking new adventure. Tomb Raider, Tomb Raider 2, Tomb Raider 3, Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation and now Tomb Raider: Chronicles. Just like clockwork. So, without further ado, let's examine her latest exploits.
For those of you who have followed Lara through each of her adventures thus far, you'll probably recall that Lara appeared to kick the bucket at the end of Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation. Does she make a miraculous return? Well, not quite. In light of Lara's recent disappearance, those closest to her have gathered together at the Croft Estate for a memorial service in her honour. Afterwards, the attendees sit quietly in the study of the Croft Mansion and begin to recount Lara's past exploits. Wait a second, if these exploits have already occurred in the past, what's the point of going back in time to replay those adventures if you can't actually die, since doing so would change history? Oops, I'm thinking too much again. Check your brain at the door folks.
Tomb Raider: Chronicles, like it's numerous predecessors, is a third-person action title. The same dated engine is employed for Lara's latest adventures, but Core Design has thrown a surprise or two into the mix. Much like her recent excursions, Lara has added a few new moves to her repertoire. Near the beginning of the game, you'll be required to use her tightrope walking skills, which basically consist of manoeuvring Lara forward while occasionally moving to the right or left to centre her gravity. Besides steady feet, Lara also shows off her parallel bar swinging skills and, perhaps most impressively, her hand-to-hand stealth attack which helps avoid those repetitive handgun battles.
Tomb Raider: Chronicles unveils four untold adventures. To its credit, Chronicles provides a superb variety of venues for Lara's latest undertakings. You'll journey deep into the ruins of Rome, search the bowels of a German U-Boat, ponder the skyscrapers of a hi-tech city and visit some haunted Irish islands. However, unlike real estate, location isn't everything in a game. Despite the interesting locales, Chronicles suffers from the same problems that have plagued the series for the past few years. For starters, the scenarios are full of tiresome generic third-person puzzles. The usual 'find key to open door' kind, except in Chronicles it's replaced with 'find object to open door'. A spade is still a spade. Oh well, at least we don't have to search for levers that lead to more levers. Core Design has included an enhanced inventory system in Tomb Raider: Chronicles, allowing you to search through cabinets, drawers and shelves for items, but considering how finicky the Tomb Raider series is when it comes to interacting with the environment, you'll probably be pulling your hair out at times trying to position Lara just right.
Although the engine is relatively dated now, the graphics in the Tomb Raider series continues to impress. Although clipping issues, often involving Lara getting caught in the walls, continue to surface throughout the game, the textures are relatively crisp and colours are used well. If there's one thing I've always wondered about this series, it's why Lara Croft herself always look so good, yet her foes look so bland. Character detail is inconsistent to say the least. Matrix fans will be happy to hear that Lara now sports her own skin-tight rubber costume as well. Lara is equipped with an arsenal of weapons this time around including a nifty sniper rifle, a grappling hook and of course chloroform for those stealth tactics.
Perhaps the most interesting addition in Tomb Raider: Chronicles is the level editor. With it, you can now create your own missions and scenarios to pass along to your friends in the mod community, but before you get excited, it should be known that this is one complicated tool. Although it comes with samples and a tutorial, it's unlikely that the average Lara Croft fan will sit there long enough to learn the intricacies of the tools. If you're thinking the mod community for Tomb Raider is about to increase ten-fold because of the level editor, I wouldn't count on it. Still, it is available now, so knock yourself out.
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Tomb Raider 4: The Last Revelation, Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness, Tomb Raider, Tomb Raider 2, Tomb Raider 3: The Lost Artifact, Tomb Raider 3, Tomb Raider Gold, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend
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