Published Date
01 - Jun - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Jun - 2006
After the terrifying downturn that Lara Croft's career took post-Tomb Raider 3 (some would even say 2), it hardly seemed likely that the lady would rise from the grave that developer Core Studios had been so diligently digging for her. Now in the seemingly able hands of new developers Crystal Dynamics (the guys behind the Legacy of Kain series), the Tomb Raider franchise has been revamped and reintroduced to the masses.

To Thine Own Self Be True
The heart of any Tomb Raider game lies in exploring large environments, solving puzzles, leaping wantonly from ledge to rope to who-knows-what and a little shooting up of the bad guys. And, of course, watching Lara Croft carry out aforementioned activities. Lara's latest adventure will take her from the jungles of South America to the icy corners of the Himalayas and the streets of England, among other locations, on a quest to find out the truth about King Arthur's Excalibur, an ex-colleague who didn't really die and what really caused her mother's death. She's not alone, though, and will constantly find herself in the middle of skirmishes with the enemy.

The game's environments-open spaces and dungeons alike-are mind-bogglingly large at times, and nearly always breathtaking. We often left Lara hanging on to a cliff while we took a look-see at the entire set before proceeding. You will also encounter puzzles ranging in difficulty and complexity from the simple push-this-do-that type to the insanely elaborate push-this-pull-that-shimmy-down-wall-DON'T-DIE-shoot-this-and-then-swiiiiing kind-you get the drift.

Throughout the game, you'll also be treated to some interactive cutscenes-press the arrows that the game tells you to in time. Miss a cue, and Lara will meet a very painful end.


The Goods
In addition to her signature dual pistols, Lara can also pick up weapons that enemies leave behind. She also has a new Personal Light Source (PLS), which, while a good substitute to her older flare, is quite useless given the well lit scenes-the only time I used it was when the on-screen tutorial told me to. She also has a new magnetic grapple, which adds to the Indy Jones part of her character, letting her latch on to metal objects and swing. This very entertaining addition is tragically under-used, though. Another interesting but useless addition is the PDA which gives you a gist of your mission and what's happened so far.
The controls are quite fluid and quick leaps and moves (quite essential sometimes) can be made with minimal hair-pulling-you can even execute combinations of moves with tremendous ease. They do fall flat on their face in some of the boss fights-most notably one where you have to holster the guns and whip out the grapple in quick succession.
Combat action is a little disappointing. While enemies gather round aplenty and keep you quite busy, it's still insultingly easy. It's a tad hard to digest that even fifteen bullets from a high-powered machine gun fail to deplete half of Lara's health.

Pretty as a picture
In the display settings, you will find an option called "Next Generation Content", which when turned on kicks up the levels of detail beyond the capabilities of most graphics cards. Our 6600 was reduced to a proud 3 fps thanks to the ultra high-resolution textures and water effects. On higher end cards like the GeForce 7 series, turning this on is definitely worth it-the game looks incredible.

That's not to say that the game doesn't look good without the next generation content-it's still quite impressive. Most noteworthy is the attention to detail in texturing. When Lara comes out of an encounter with water, her skin is actually shiny wet and her clothes take on a slightly darker shade. She also progressively "dries" as time goes on.
Finally, Lara. Crystal Dynamics have given her a complete makeover, basing her new avatar on British model Karima Adebibe. She's prettier, curvier and is generally a more powerful stimulant for the hormones than ever before. She's also brilliantly voice-acted by actress Keely Hawes.

For a game that generously spreads itself over 7.5 GB of hard disk space, TRL is horribly short. Even if you waste your time looking for all the secrets to unlock new concept art and costumes for Lara, you can't help finishing the game in a day. Overall though, the smooth gameplay, gorgeous settings and of course, Lara, make this game worth a go
Wipeout Pure

The PSP version of the hugely popular Wipeout series, Wipeout Pure is all about racing your hover-ship on a narrow, futuristic racetrack without blowing up. It's a lot tougher than it sounds-you will invariably find yourself bonking your ship coming out of a corner, and to make matters worse, your racing opponents are constantly firing weird and wonderful weapons at you (and vice versa).

The description doesn't sound like much, but the execution of the concept is where this game stands out. Firstly, for a game that will be played on the PSP's small screen, the game looks beautiful-no doubt the best looking of the four reviewed here. Track design is brilliant and delivers the very futuristic feel it's meant to. The hover-ships are based on two basic designs, but look good nonetheless. Controlling your craft is quite difficult initially, till you realise that the key is to use the analogue stick in conjunction with the L and R buttons.

There's also a Zone mode in the game, which puts you alone on a track, progressively increasing your speed-the goal is to last as long as possible without becoming one with the wall. Surviving long will unlock new tracks for the zone. Surprisingly, I found that the Zone mode was more exciting than the single race-especially beyond zone 20.

Wipeout Pure is a really good title to own, though nothing groundbreaking in terms of its adrenaline-pumping value. It is, no doubt, a gorgeous looking title and sounds really good even on the PSP's speakers-so you know it's going to sound excellent on a respectable pair of headphones too. The review copy we got kept crashing the PSP, but we're being optimistic and hoping that commercial copies aren't that nasty.

Rating : 7/10

World Tour Soccer

If there's any game genre that gaming console controllers are beautifully suited for, it's sports! Playing World Tour Soccer on the PSP is a treat; this from someone who couldn't really care less about sports games. World Tour Soccer offers you the option to play quick matches, exhibition matches, cup competitions and multiplayer matches. There's also the challenge mode-seven matches for you to beat and showcase some smart moves and stunts-classy steals will be rewarded, and sloppy passing will earn you negative scores. Honestly, if there were more challenge matches, the game could have stood on their shoulders alone-coupled with the amazing soundtrack, it's no doubt the most appealing part of the game.

Rating : 7/10

Controlling your players is straightforward and intuitive for the most part. Special moves and sprints are easily executed and don't really require you to read the help-the controls are exactly what they should be. Friendly AI is not as smart as you would hope for, but with you on their side they seem to survive well enough.

There are plenty of unlockables here, and as you progress through the game, you will unlock new stadiums, clubs and challenges. If you're the kind that loves unlocking bonuses, this should be heaven for you.
Persuit Force

Pursuit Force is a cheeky nod to the campy action movies of the 80s-you're a cop in Capital City and it's your job to keep the streets clean. A crazy combination of racer and action generously dabbed with some third-person-shooter elements here and there, this is one title that will keep you entertained all the time.

In your numerous pursuits of vile gangs, you will jump from vehicle to vehicle, shooting at gang members from mid-air, landing on their cars' hoods and subsequently ousting them from their vehicles. There will also be times when you will find yourself on a helicopter, armed with a trusty machine gun to blow up errant cars.

Rating : 8/10 

The game is mission based, and you will face off against one of six gangs each time. Each gang has their own special style and story-the Warlords are ex-army renegades, the Vixens are stuntwomen-turned-criminals and so on. Each mission starts racer-style on a track, with you in your cruiser and your chief barking orders at you. As you approach the bad guys, you will engage in a gun battle with them, either finishing them off from your car itself or by climbing onto theirs. This aspect of the game is the most fun-there's nothing like delivering justice when in transit from one car to another. The controls also work beautifully and though it sounds difficult, this leaping from here to there is really easy to do. The missions do get quite punishing, though-even the first novice missions aren't as easy as one would think.

The game is full of many subtle, self-mocking hilarious moments-old hostages crying "I don't want to die a virgin!" and the like. If you're the type that takes long journeys in public transport, keep this one handy

Formula 1: Grand Prix
F1 Grand Prix puts you in the official cars, on the official tracks and in the official shoes of the drivers of the Formula One Championship. The game has been made with undoubted finesse-the graphics and sound are amazing, as is the soundtrack. You can also import songs from your own music collection to play while you race! You can choose to play random quick races, an entire F1 championship, or enter the Scenario Mode where you're presented with different scenarios with varying difficulty-from something as easy as "reach 15th place by the first split" to "win the race in the rain without changing to rain tyres".

Rating : 8/10 

The cars' realistic controls can get quite frustrating at times-simulations and the PSP don't really mix well. Thankfully, you can turn on the brake assist for a more arcade-ish feel. If you're expecting a game with all-out adrenaline, you might be disappointed with this one, though. The only way to tell how fast you're going is the speedometer- beyond 100 kmph, everything just looks the same; it's just that your car suddenly seems to be a little more touchy with the steering. For a game with such a tried-and-tested formula and so stylishly made, this title doesn't really light our fire

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