Finally we reach "How much is riding on this game?"
Well to be frank, this game possibly has the futures of Eidos, SCi and the British games publishing industry resting on its well proportioned shoulders.
SCi recently won the MCV Industry Excellence Award of Unsung Hero, recognition for keeping Eidos, and by extension Lara herself, in British hands.
These awards are voted for exclusively by members of the UK games industry and represent the feelings of developers, publishers, marketeers, distributors and retailers. Lara is loved within the industry, and well she should be, it was Lara who got gaming the recognition it deserves in the UK mainstream press and beyond. SCi expects to hit its profit target for the year, but it is relying on sales of Legend and the upcoming Hitman: Blood Money to reach that target. If Eidos drops the ball as badly as it did with Lara's last adventure then, this time next year, the UK games industry may be lamenting the loss of its Unsung Hero.
So, does the game stack up to the challenge? Has the move to developers Crystal Dynamics proved to be a good decision? Has Toby Gard managed to give Lara back some of her original appeal? Has the Angel of Darkness finally been laid to rest?
The short answer to all of those questions is yes... yes indeed!
Legend is such a better game than Angel, it hardly bears comparison.
Whereas Angel was a confused, half-completed game that lost its way and tried to remove the focus from Lara, Legend is a confident, well-planned game with a coherent, and interesting, storyline that can easily re-invigorate the series if you, the games-playing public, give it a chance. Crystal Dynamics has delivered a game that plays as well and as fluidly as a Tomb Raider game should. The graphics are fantastic, the sounds are great and the whole thing makes use of physics and lighting to deliver a rewarding experience that will keep you coming back for more.
Despite the gripes and niggles we have outlined above, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend is a return to form for the series. If not a return to the cerebral joy of the first game, then at least to the mix of action and adventuring that the second brought us. We are definitely seeing an end to the slump that the previous game exemplified. The decision within Eidos to give Crystal Dynamics not only the development responsibilities for this game, but the time to complete them (this game could so easily have been rushed out for the recent Christmas silly season) has born the sort of wonderful fruit that a new set of brains can bring to a game series.
Think of Legend as the Tomb Raider version of Batman Begins, the series has been re-started by whittling it back to its fundamentals and adding in only what needs to be there.
Lara Croft will return.
SPOnG Rating: A
Despite capitulating with Hollywood to make Lara who la-la-land thinks she should be, Eidos has produced a true successor to the adventures that captured our imaginations on the Playstation just in time to see Lara take her place in the games roster of the Playstation 3.