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The pressure is mounting. Crystal Dynamic's Jason Botta is anxious. "I'm still nervous about messing it up," he says, voice trembling slightly. We feel his pain. After all, this is the man charged with overseeing a revamp of the most beloved action-adventure titles in videogame history: the 1996-era near-instant classic, Tomb Raider.
The task before him appears almost impossible - how on God's green earth to drag a creaking, clunky, strangely angular, ridiculously popular ten-and-a-half-year-old game into the 21st century without upsetting its infamously fickle fan-base? "It's something that we're excited about," Botta adds tentatively. "But we're worried. Very anxious about how the fans interpret the game."
He has every right to be uptight. While the critical response to Crystal Dynamic's previous effort, Tomb Raider: Legend, was warm, discontent with the title among die-hard fans has hardened in recent months. Besides the obvious criticism (the game was too short), Lara zealots were disappointed with the linear levels, the over-emphasis on action at the expense of adventuring, and the distinct lack of "authentic Tomb Raider atmosphere." So it is that Tomb Raider: Anniversary sees Botta and his Crystal Dynamics team journeying back into the past - both literally and figuratively - in a voyage to return Lara Croft to her roots.
Not that Tomb Raider: Anniversary should be mistaken for a mere remake. Far from it. Instead, this is a brave "re-imagining," a conscious attempt to make an all-new game wrapped in comfortingly familiar "old" Tomb Raider packaging. Nowhere is this approach more evident than in terms of the story. The plot for the original Tomb Raider was compelling enough, but it was clumsily told via sluggish, often wordless cut-sequences, allowing moments of genuine drama and tension to escape like farts from a fat man's trouser leg. Thus, it's been updated and rebooted.
"What we've done this time," says Botta, "is that we've taken key plot points from the original. It's essentially the same thing - Lara's looking for the Lost Scion of Atlantis, going through, finding these relics in the tombs of the three Kings of Atlantis and, in the end, having to battle Natla and whatnot. What we decided to do was to rewrite all the scenes and cinematics to clarify the points that were vague in the original. As far as the progression of what happens in the game, it's the same as in Tomb Raider 1." So you see, Tomb Raider: Anniversary - it's the same, only better!
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