It's been a long time since Lara has been good in anything. After an amazing debut in 1996, subsequent Tomb Raider sequels set her on a downward spiral that put her at rock bottom with the appalling Angel of Darkness. Even Hollywood couldn't bring her out of the doldrums, with the fi lm franchise only being notable for its mediocrity, despite the best efforts of the pneumatic Angelina Jolie.
It seems that snatching the license from Core Design and handing it to Crystal Dynamics was the best move for the series, as from the moment Tomb Raider: Legend begins, it's clearly the best instalment in the series in a decade. This may be due to the return of Toby Gard - widely regarded as the creator of Lara Croft - who joined Crystal Dynamics after a ten-year break from the series.
Lara and the world around her look better than ever, with nice lighting effects and atmospheric levels that range from dank, waterfall-soaked ruins, to sand-swept desert towns and high-tech cities. Lara herself has been altered; with developer Crystal Dynamics reducing her bust size (gasp!) and bringing her model closer to the dimensions of a real woman. Even so, fanboys are unlikely to be disappointed.
She now handles better, too. Banishing the memory of Angel of Darkness' atrocious controls, TR:L's interface is easy to pick up and play from the fi rst level. It's still not perfect, with occasional camera foul-ups, but a massive improvement, nonetheless.
The gameplay is also something of a return to form for the series. Lara has actually gone back to her main occupations - raiding tombs. The puzzles that you'll need to solve to access the deepest areas of each level do still involve a lot of crate pushing and switch pressing, but for the most part actually manage to challenge your wits.
Rival tomb raiders and other nasties infest every level, and Lara has to dispose of them with her signature twin pistols and an arsenal of other weapons. She also has a variety of gadgets including a magnetic grappling wire, which she can attach to any polished metal surface. Pulling this will dislodge the object, or you can use it to swing across chasms or even use it in combat to destructive effect.
Between levels, Lara will even trade foot power for horsepower, using a couple of authentically-reproduced Ducati motorcycles (the Monster S2R and 999). Although these bike sections do feel a little underdone, they add enough variety to keep the game fun.
Essentially, this is Tomb Raider as we always knew it should be done. It takes the best elements of the 1996 original, discards the worst elements of the following fi ve sequels, and adds in a few new ideas to keep you interested far longer than Angel of Darkness could in its finest moment.
Verdict: A few moments of dodgy camera control and some half-baked sections don't ruin what is easily the best sequel in the Tomb Raider series in years. Lara's back. And we're happy to see her.
Score: 4 1/2 out of 5
Price: $79.95 (PC) $99-$119 (console)