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Dear Lara,

A break-up on a bitter Anniversary
By MITCH KRPATA  |  July 3, 2007
1.5 1.5 Stars

VIDEO: The trailer for Tomb Raider Anniversary

Dear Lara,

It’s over between us. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but this has been a long time coming. You keep saying you’ve changed — everyone keeps saying you’ve changed — but after playing Tomb Raider Anniversary, I know you’re lying. You’re still the same capricious bitch you’ve always been.

Anniversary was supposed to be a fresh start, a remake of your original adventure with graphics and controls updated for the 21st century. Instead, it shines a bright light on everything that was wrong with you in the first place. Take the controls: though the analog commands are responsive enough, the margin of error when leaping from one place to another is still so thin, it’s non-existent. This game requires a stop-and-go approach — your acrobatic moves would be so much better suited to a fast-paced adventure.

I’m not sure why I should stick with you when there are so many better options out there. I never told you this, but back in 2003 I spent a few unforgettable nights with a certain prince of Persia. I was merely curious at first, but he treated me with such care. Such tenderness!

In truth, though, I knew something was wrong between us even before I met that wonderful prince. I loaded up the original Tomb Raider to see how it compared with Anniversary and was amazed to find that what was mediocre then is unplayable now. It plays even worse than it looks, and it looks as if someone were applying sandpaper directly to my corneas. To read what the critics were saying about you then — showering you with “Game of the Year 1996” accolades — is to revisit an era in which the sun revolved around the earth.

Of course I appreciate your latest makeover: long draw distances, organic textures, and even progressive scan support for HDTVs. But does that make up for what’s wrong with you on the inside? Not to mention that a little bloom lighting goes a long way, honey. Sometimes when you’re standing in sunlight, it looks as if somebody had smeared Vaseline all over my TV.

I could live with that, and I could live with your repetitive, uninteresting combat techniques, if our time together didn’t keep grinding to a halt just when things were getting interesting. You shinny up a post, leap to a ledge, and fire your grappling hook to swing across a gaping chasm and I start to think we’re getting somewhere. Next thing I know, we’re pushing a bunch of boxes around for 10 minutes. How come the structures of these ancient civilizations are crumbling all around you but their old packing crates are in mint condition? I don’t get it.

I also question your decision-making skills. On our very first date, high atop a snowy Peruvian mountain, you wore a tanktop and booty shorts. You were at least 13,000 feet above sea level. It was snowing. How you didn’t keel over and die within minutes I’ll never know.

Look, maybe it’s not you. Maybe it’s me. I don’t enjoy stepping lightly in an action game. I don’t enjoy frequent, instant deaths and poorly implemented puzzles. Yes, Anniversary is an improvement over past Tomb Raider games, but only because the rising technological tide is lifting all boats. Of course it looks and plays better than the original. We’ll see how it comes off in another 10 years.

Lara, I hope you won’t take this too hard. After all, we had some good times, didn’t we?

Oh, right. We didn’t.

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