Sunday, April 17, 2022

Tomb Raider III: Adentures of Lara Croft (PC) Review

I finished this game on Thursday, September 7, 2000, 1:30:00 PM. This review was first published on GameSpot on May 10, 2008.

The third installment in the highly successful franchise, Tomb Raider III tells the story of a meteorite crash that occurred millions of years ago in the Antarctic region. The Polynesians discovered the meteorite crash site and settled in that region until they were forced to leave due to terrible events that ensued from living in that area.

In the present day a research company, RX Tech headed by Dr. Willard, is excavating the crash site and discovers the journal of a sailor, Charles Darwin. According to the journal, a few of his group members have explored the interior of the crater. The sailors soon travelled to different parts of the world and died, each leaving behind an artifact taken from the meteor.

Oblivious to this history, Lara Croft is in India in search of one of those artifacts, the Infada artifact. She encounters the hired mercenaries of RX Tech and soon learns the reason behind their presence. After retrieving the artifact she meets Dr. Willard and sets out in search of the rest of the artifacts.

This journey takes her to different parts of the world – London, South Pacific, Nevada and finally to Antarctica where she learns the truth behind the expedition.

The gameplay is essentially the same as the previous two games. You are given huge levels filled with various puzzles which have to be solved to get to the next level and so on. However, the addition of new moves in the game adds some form of variety in the way these puzzles are implemented, but the concept does not bring anything new to the series.

For the first time, the players can choose their path of progress. The first and the last chapters of the game will remain the same, but the order in which the middle chapters are played is up to the player. This does not impact the game in anyway, but its just an interesting addition.

The puzzles have evoked mixed reaction from me. Some of them were very innovative and some are extremely frustrating. More often than not, solving a puzzle is not difficult once you figure out what to do and that is the hard part. The clues, if you chose to call them that are very obscure and very often you find yourself in a situation where you are completely stumped and a walkthrough is your only hope. Frustrating as this might be, I had a lot of fun playing through the levels and trying to figure out the puzzles on my own.

The levels are bigger than ever and they are filled with traps, enemies throughout. The combat is more prevalent in this game, and you are fighting every step of the way in a given level. The emphasis seems to have shifted more towards fighting enemies, unlike in the previous games where exploration was the key feature. I am not sure I like that shift, because Tomb Raider for me has always been about solving puzzles and exploring, with combat included to break the monotony.

Another major flaw is the locations. Tomb Raider II had its little share of urban settings, but Tomb Raider III takes that to a different height. Nevada, London and partly the Antarctic are all urban settings, which made me wonder why this game was even called the Tomb Raider. There is nothing remotely resembling a tomb in these levels. This is not just an occasional aberration in the game. Three out of the five chapters feature complete urban environments. I was not pleased with that at all.

The game doesn't flow at a steady pace like the previous versions. You find yourself getting stuck in places not knowing what to do VERY often. You find yourself struggling every step of the way. Some might find this challenging, but to me it was frustrating. As if this wasn't enough, there are a few bugs in the game, and should you activate it, then its game over. You'll have to revert back to a previous save game, or download one from the web.

However, there are some definite improvements. I thought the game started off extremely well with the India levels, which are quite creepy at times, and the puzzles in these levels are very fascinating. The South Pacific levels are very entertaining as well.

The game has a lot of enemies depending on the location. India levels have tigers and giant cobras, the south pacific levels have all sorts of different enemies like dinosaurs (including the Tyrannosaurs Rex), Polynesians. So there is a lot of fighting to be done throughout the game.

The graphics are quite good throughout the game, but the lack of bump mapping means that you get to see a lot of sharp edges on characters and objects in the environment. This is only just a minor observation, overall the game looks great.

The audio for most part is very good. Sound effects are very well done and it adds to the atmosphere, the Indian jungles have excellent background audio of rainfall and insects chirping. The game doesn't have a lot of music, but when it does, it's done right; the sudden sound effects produced when a booby trap is sprung are very startling.

One part of audio that I did have a problem with was the voice. It's not that acting isn't well done; just that the clarity of the voice during the conversation is surprisingly poor and it's quite hard to follow what's being said. I thought there might have been some problem with my CD audio, but turns out that a lot of people had this issue.

This makes following the story, which is complicated as it is, even more difficult. Also some of the accents in the game are bad and hard to understand as well. Lara's voice though, for most part is quite good. The rich English accent is well done by Judith Gibbins.

Overall, I had mixed reactions about Tomb Raider III. I tried hard to look past the level design and the often frustrating puzzles, but this is just not what I expected from a Tomb Raider game.

+ Graphics
+ Interesting puzzles at times
+ Audio
+ New moves
+ Some levels are brilliant
+ Vehicles

- Too many urban levels
- High difficulty
- Bad voice acting
- Technical issues

Verdict – Does not live up to the standards of the previous game. It manages to be mediocre with flashes of brilliance in between.

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