Pros: Creative stage designs with unique atmosphere in each chapter
Cons: Horrendous controls, buggy gameplay
Digging into the Tomb Raider games of the past, I'm kind of frustrated by the poor controls in the oldest outings. This one in particular. Tomb Raider Chronicles has horrible control schemes that destroy what is otherwise a pretty amazing game. Granted, it's buggy, glitchy and the camera is awful, but that was common in the PSX era.
This is an action adventure game and Lara Croft's fifth of about eleven main game outings. You move, you jump, you shoot, you solve puzzles with items, climb things and progress the story.
The game does its own take on the Tomb Raider plot by generating a storyline where Lara Croft is 'dead'. As a bunch of people sit around discussing her various exploits, they go into four different storylines with their own plot threads and conclusions. The first is a city with a tomb beneath it. The second is a weird submarine mission that seems to rip graphics from Goldeneye. The third involves a haunted part of Ireland complete with skeletons, demons and even an underwater witch. The last part is a broken, buggy mess that involves infiltrating a building for a relic.
This is the sixth Tomb Raider game I've played all the way through, and it's definitely one with problems. It's a shame because the game would otherwise be pretty amazing. Lara can run, jump, grab ledges, climb up them and perform a variety of acrobatics that are very hard to pull off. Starting with the running, every movement moves Lara forward about two body lengths. This makes it very easy to walk off ledges. In fact, it's necessary to hold the "walk" button to pick up items, and you have to be facing them as well. This is extremely frustrating when you need to pick up an item quickly while being shot at. There are certain parts where Lara can jump on a slope and jump again. These are the most broken parts of the game and they're virtually unplayable. There's often a nonsensical trick to them, like you need to land on the right corner of an even slope but not the left for no apparent reason. Even with a visual guide handy, this game is almost impossible.
It helps that you can save anywhere. You can even save when you're about to die, completely ruining your saved game. I had about ten saves by the time I finished this game because if you save in certain areas you break the game. You also have to wait about thirty seconds from death to respawn due to lengthy load times. It's frustrating. Especially since most games may have a couple hard parts, whereas in Chronicles every part seems to be a hard part. Not hard in the sense that there's a challenge, but hard in the sense that every few steps is another cheap and frustrating one hit kill due to falling, fire, spikes, enemies that do one hit kills and a lot more. The final segment of this game is a serious joke and I wonder how many players of the most recent 2013 Tomb Raider could get past the first stage in this game.
This first section of the game is based more around puzzles. You need to pick up crests and keys, use a scope to shoot a bell to unlock a door, etc. The storylines of each of these sections dwindle more and more as the game progresses until there's really no story at all. The puzzles aren't challenging. Some of them make no sense whatsoever. At one point you need to combine a rake and another item to make a catapault and use it on some boards because evidently with no clues given there was something behind the boards that could be shot to break the boards.
The shooting mechanics on the guns are at least nice. The first world hits the player with three bosses, then there are no bosses for the rest of the game until the final stage. There are a great deal of soldiers and dogs to be shot at, but the stages without soldiers have no enemies at all. The entire Ireland segment doesn't involve using guns at all. Granted, Lara is suppose to be 16, but whatever. Without a guide, this game probably took kids months to finish. With a guide, it probably still took a long time. I've been playing it a few days and it feels like a month because it's really like four completely different games pasted together. The final segment gives you a different gun with a scope that you can shoot in the first person. This is very cool, but the gunplay is still more annoying than fun. You can either pull off insta headshot kills or just run around like a headless chicken in the hopes of killing something.
The final few parts of this game are the worst of all. You need to activate a button, run past an android, jump over several raised platforms while a helicopter is shooting you, avoid fire, sprint down a hallway and around a corner and pull a lever at an exact moment with the hopes of trapping the android that may or may not be following you. I thought that this bit was broken at first, but it isn't. I was following a guide and closed the door at the wrong point. I feel very stupid for doing so. This part is the most challenging in the game, but it's very doable.
There are so many weird design choices in the controls that are counterintuitive to most action games. You have the tank style controls from Resident Evil combined in an action game that involves running and jumping. Just think about that in your head if you're familiar with both of these franchises. Also consider the fact that if you want to sprint, you need to be moving. If you press sprint while standing still, Lara's feet lock to the ground. If you want to jump a certain distance, you need to press forward slightly after pressing jump. The running jump must be done after exactly about three steps or she will stand still. These are some of the most demanding controls I've ever seen in a video game. I realize why you can save everywhere is because the game would be literally unplayable if you couldn't save every three feet. Of course you don't want to save at certain parts because you'll break the game. If I wasn't playing this on a PS3, I'd need an entire seperate memory card just for the saves that this game requires to be finished (Granted, a couple old PS1 games required TEN blocks of save space on a fifteen block card)
The graphics are pretty good for the Playstation. As I said, each section looks like a completely different game. The first world looks like a typical Tomb Raider game combined with a Resident Evil sort of feel. The second world feels like Goldeneye. The third world looks the best because it's got eerie atmosphere going for it. It feels like Medieval for the PS1 or Shadowman for the N64. The music is good throughout, as are the sound effects and voicework. The atmosphere is great. There are also a lot of creative puzzles in this game that require examining the environments for clues (Though also some stupid puzzles so it evens out) . The game just really messes up in the control department to the extent that it ruins an otherwise fun experience. It's strange to compare this game to the 2013 Tomb Raider. That game was too easy, but the fluidity of it made it fun to playthrough. This game is too hard, and it feels like it's going to break every few minutes (And it frequently does). I think in retrospect Legends and Underworld were the Tomb Raider games that balanced challenge with playability. This one should only be played by purists or masochists.