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Tomb Raider: Anniversary (Xbox 360)

Rated: 12.

Story: Lara Croft shoots to fame in Tomb Raider, a haunting, atmospheric adventure that finally allows people to live out their Indiana Jones fantasies (and, let's face it, gives teenage boys certain other fantasies). Big budget sequels follow but they never quite recapture the magic - too much shooting, daft difficulty levels, often forgettable locations and little evolution in terms of controls or gameplay. The wheels start to come off. Hollywood churns out a couple of exhilarating but nonsensical movies. Then Angel of Darkness is released.

It's awful. Ms Croft's career hits the rocks (with a trademark scream and splat).

Years pass. After a stint in rehab, Lara returns under new management, looking better than ever. Legend still has too much shooting and some generic locations but at least the controls aren't too bad. Maybe the Tomb Raider franchise isn't dead after all.

Someone has the bright idea of remaking the original.

Gameplay: Watch Lara's backside as you make her leap, climb, swing, run and swim around ancient tombs in search of artifacts. There's some shooting when creatures leap out at you and a handful of boss battles but the main emphasis is on finding routes round the vast environments, often climbing to dizzying heights.

There are health packs and ammo clips littered about but many are in hard to reach places. Each level also has a few treasures to recover. Collecting them is optional but unlocks bonus material. Most are well hidden and hard to get to. The rest are incredibly well hidden and surrounded by instant death.

Save System: Regular checkpoints. The last checkpoint reached can be saved manually at any time. Annoyingly, it's sometimes possible to fall off a high ledge, make a miraculous landing and find yourself back at a previous checkpoint.

Comments: Finally, seven sequels later, they've managed to come up with a Tomb Raider that's as good as the first one. Oh, hang on, it is the first one...

Fortunately, it's more than just the original with tarted up graphics. Many environments have been opened out to be bigger, better and more imposing, while remaining eerily familiar. Others have been re-imagined to take advantage of all the extra skills Lara has learnt over the last decade, from climbing to swinging from a grappling hook. Everything feels less confined than in the last game, Legend.

Meanwhile, some of the more frustrating aspects of the original have been removed. The tedious block moving puzzles are gone, along with the worst of the time-limited tasks and the stupidly difficult sections near the end.

Even better, the control system allows for both precision and fluid motion which always seemed like an impossibility in the Tomb Raider of old. Jumping straight after a wall run often goes badly - 'No, Lara! The other way. The other way!' - but, apart from that, a long downward plummet is usually the result of player error rather than poor design.

Now they've got the mechanics and graphics nailed down, let's hope the developers can learn from this remake and create a new adventure with the same atmosphere and sense of scale.

Conclusion: It's the best Tomb Raider since, well, the first one... Worth playing even if you finished the original.

Graphics: Lovely apart from the squint-inducing haze effect in the limited number of locations featuring bright sunlight. The game also slows down in large open areas.

Length: Medium (but unlocking everything could take a very long time indeed).

Rating: 4/5.

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