Of course, the bad news is that they will finish it too quickly – I clocked Legend in about nine hours, and plenty of other folks have finished it in less. It’s a shame, because with two major exceptions I thoroughly enjoyed those nine hours and would have been delighted to have another nine without the wait for a sequel. Why, when the game works so well, and when the storyline proves surprisingly engaging, does it all have to end so soon?
Those two exceptions? Well, let’s just say that Legend has been hit hard by the curse of the modern action game: the overly intricate boss battle. I won’t give away details – trust me, you’ll know when you get there – but these encounters not only annoy with their crazy “how on Earth would you think of that?” mechanics, but expose otherwise concealed weaknesses in the controls and auto-targeting. If I’ve only got seconds to pull a lever, it would be nice to guarantee that I could target it first time. Right, Crystal Dynamics? Right?
So Tomb Raider: Legend just falls short of must-have status. Certainly, the casual audience that first made Lara such a breakout character won’t be disappointed, but neither the appearance of collectible bonuses nor the provision of a Croft Manor sub-game where you can hunt down artifacts and parade Lara around in unlocked costumes really make up for the short running time. Having said that, I loved nearly every single minute. It seems doubtful that Lara will ever match her first game for ground-breaking brilliance or impact – nor reach the dizzy heights of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – but this game reminds you why she was so special in the first place. If Crystal Dynamics can hold the quality and up the quantity next time around, there’s no reason why this franchise shouldn’t go from strength to strength.
The gaming equivalent of U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind or Star Wars: Episode III – a work that’s not quite good enough for classic status but still a fine return to form.