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Tomb Raider was once famous for more than just Lara Croft. The original was a masterwork, packed with an epic atmosphere of adventure. A decade later, Tomb Raider: Legend is looking to recapture that quality. But, post Angel of Darkness, can Lara rekindle our interest?
Legend is a different kind of Tomb Raider. Lara moves freely over the terrain, released from the grid-based levels that restricted her movement in previous games. Now, you can ease gently on the left stick and Lara creeps silently up the slope from our start point. Push all the way and she breaks into a run.
The analogue control mechanism means there's no walk button, but Lara's survival instincts are sharp enough to grab a cliff edge should you push her too far. There's no inventory screen; instead the D-pad selects your items, from guns and health packs to a pair of binoculars.
The fluid level design has also informed Lara's climbing: launch her at ledges from almost any angle and she'll grasp the edge. There's an emphasis on creating a combo-like feel to climbing. Right from the start, we were able to leap from vines, shimmy along ledges to jump backwards and clutch at ropes before swirling from tree branches into graceful dismounts worthy of a gymnastic gold-medallist.
There's been a real effort to turn these clambering bits into organic features that fit seamlessly into the environment, so it's actually difficult to pick out the next ledge as its rugged appearance blends into the rock face. Fortunately, Lara's an observant girl, and will turn her head and look towards where you should be heading.
But it's clear that Lara has been bred for combat. L1 is a lock-on button, and R1 draws and fires your weapons, which suggests that Legend marks a move away from the cautious violence of early games towards a more care-free blast fest. Troupes of character-less mercenaries mooch around the pre-historic ruins, bullet-fodder for Lara's twin pistols. But combat isn't as responsive - or enjoyable - as the gymnastic climbing, though at least Lara has some evasive ducks and dives that keep the action pacey.