In terms of Lara herself, she's an open-and-shut hybrid of her Tomb Raider 1 incarnation and her Tomb Raider: Legend equivalent. So we see the return of the grappling hook and auto-grab from Legend (hooray), while the newer, stupider, crappier hair has been replaced by the original braid from Tomb Raider 1 (double hooray). There's only one new move of note - the ability to leap from pole to pole in the manner of a certain Persia-based prince - and while it seems unlikely to have a major impact on the nuts and bolts of the gameplay, it represents at least a token gesture to keep the dedicated Croft-watcher interested. Or so we think.
But the key to New Lara isn't what the Crystal Dynamics team has added, it's what they've taken away. Namely, Lara's headset, the in-ear device that enabled her mumbling, half-brained colleagues in Tomb Raider: Legend to dribble a constant stream of verbal slurry into her ear while she tried to concentrate on the important business of not dying. For Botta, removing this was a vital in restoring the Tomb Raider atmosphere: "The sense of isolation was one of the key components that we wanted to keep from the original game. So there's none of that chatter we had in Tomb Raider: Legend. There's nobody talking to Lara. She says the odd comment to herself, but other than that it's just her and these big environments."
And make no mistake, these are big environments, comfortably the most expansive, most intricate, most open in the series so far. Better still, each level provides great scope because the game has been deliberately designed to encourage exploration and experimentation. Where Tomb Raider: Legend held you firmly by the hand and frog-marched you through a given level, reducing what was supposed to be a perilous, heart-rattling adventure into an oddly staid guided tour, Tomb Raider: Anniversary dumps you in the middle of nowhere and leaves you alone to make your own way through the series of vast, beautifully designed playgrounds.
"We really wanted to give the player the feeling that they could and should explore the environment," says Botta. "We have multiple paths through a space, and lots of nooks and paths that go into little secret areas… You might come to a space and come through it at different heights in the room, or different paths that you didn't take the first time. It's something that they did a pretty good job of in the original Tomb Raider game."
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