Monday, December 25, 2023

Tomb Raider (1996)

Name:Tomb Raider
Developer:Core Design
Genre:Third-Person Shooter/Platformer
Time:14 hours
Won:Yes (81W/64L)

The game that put third-person shooters on the map, despite not being very good at being as third-person shooter. The game that also put sex appeal in games on the maps despite games doing that long before this. The first 3D cinematic platformer. In retrospect, it's not really hard to see why history has felt the need to condemn the game since cinematic platformers were only ever really popular thanks to the spectacle of them. All of the concepts used in Tomb Raider have since fallen out of favor, it doesn't matter how good the game is in the end, that lack of fashionability is always going to triumph over fun factor.

So, let's get the most controversial aspects out of the way first. Lara Croft herself. The aristocrat turned self-made woman. There's a lot of talk about her character ranging from a feminist fantasy to the opposite. Usually both statements are from people who would not make the argument for anything else. People who are anti-feminist arguing up Lara's feminist aspects, people who are feminists basically calling her a whore. There's a vitriol around this character that I only ever see otherwise said about female politicians. I don't feel like repeating them. The former is arguably just the usual political grifting, the latter feel like they're genuinely slighted by the existence of a fictional character. A character who isn't that important in the grand scheme of things beyond being a danger junkie going into this not because she's a hero, but because she gets a kick out of it.

I'm alluding to it, but Lara's not a complex character, yet somehow this amount of character has eluded most people. The manual talks about how Lara used to be a member of the nobility til she decided to leave it, becoming a world traveller, that's her actual job, not raiding tombs. Even the in-game story sets her up differently than you would expect, she's not in this for money, she says as much, she's an adrenaline junkie. Sort of the purest representation of a player's desires, to fight bizarre creatures and explore strange locations. Well, the average player's desires, anyway.

Thinking about it, it's not so much an unimportance placed on her character that makes her the target as much as being a right-wing ideal. A woman who pulled herself up by her bootstraps, while also being an old money aristocrat beforehand, really likes guns, has no qualms about killing animals or locals. If we throw in points from later games, a Christian who, despite the great power of artifacts from other religions, ultimately prove powerless against the might of a single believer, as well as taking down ancient conspiracies who secretly control the world. Absurd, of course, but I don't think it's the most absurd statement ever made about Lara's character.

For a character who has produced so much analysis and critique, so much of it is shallow. Men referring to her as a sex doll, which I feel like reveals a whole lot about the mental state of the speaker rather than the character. The kind of men who make assumptions about women who have certain kinds of bodies. Women referring to her as competition, which sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Are you really that unpleasant a person to think of a fictional character as possibly being better than you, even counting that the character is fiction?

I just don't see the hype beyond, oooh, hot chick. This isn't a movie, you don't really stop to oogle the protagonist unless you don't actually want to play the game. As a general rule you're not looking at the protagonist as much as around the protagonist. You have to concentrate on actually playing the game as opposed to staring at polygon butt and legs. This feels like something that only happens if you never play the game and instead watch other people play the game.

Wall textures are very pixelated, sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't.

Then there's the other controversy, about this game's controls, I guess I should address that. A lot of people say tank controls, clunky or just outdated in a way that feels superficial. In a sense it is the latter, but unlike say, Bubsy 3D this is less like a technical limitation and more a conscious choice. Tomb Raider was never really in-date, it was trying to take the controls of a game like Prince of Persia and put it in a 3D environment, and at this it succeeds beautifully in a way that people criticizing it don't really get.

It's hard getting good jumping pictures because the keys for these actions happen to correspond to unpleasant ones for taking screenshots.

What I mean is, the game's very precise, Lara does precisely what you tell her to, no more, no less, as a real person would, if she were an olympic level athlete. The expected actions, run, jump and shoot. Weird actions, like pressing back causing a short back jump are in service to this. Lara can grab onto the edge of any tile that's level enough. While this game doesn't represent insanity in the service of realism like, say, Splat'ers, it is trying to make something more realistic than a Mario game where you're given an extreme amount of leeway in platforming. A balance of fun and realism.

Let's take, for instance, walking. Pressing walk causes Lara to walk, you do this so Lara doesn't fall off a ledge. She goes like any other platformer if she just runs. In practical terms, this represents her paying attention about where she's going in the former and not paying any attention to where she's going when running. You don't run off a ledge. In gameplay terms, the former is necessary because Lara should be facing flat towards her target, an angle and she might miss. Or you might need to look around from that ledge. If you wanted to go off a ledge, you could run off, probably die from fall damage, or turn around, back jump off the ledge and grab it. Or press the roll button and fall off weird.

But if Lara needs to jump over something, she can then do so, grabbing it if necessary. Keeping in mind that there is a difference in her jumping capabilities grabbing a ledge or not grabbing a ledge. If need be, she can do that short back jump again, which is precisely one tile in length, the length needed to do a running jump. Lara always takes at least two steps before doing one, if she's in the middle of a run and you press it, she'll do it at her next step. This is often criticized, but like everything else, Lara always does it in a certain way, one you can do on the dot every time.

Only rarely are areas so big you cannot see one end from another.

While the tiles are not the most aesthetically pleasing graphics around, they look like that for a reason. Soon enough in any given area you should be able to see where Lara can go. Lara can jump across two tiles level, meaning she can jump over any one tile gap and grab the next ledge if she is so ordered. With a running grab jump, she can reach across three tiles. She can even jump up one tile if you do it right.

I feel like this is one of the few platformers which actually gives the player a character that actually feels like they're jumping. A lot of platformers give players so much leeway it doesn't really feel like they're jumping, you're basically a bouncy ball. There's a sense of weight and movement that arguably hasn't ever been achieved in a 3D game since. You're either jumping when one pixel of your foot is still on the platform or the game practically plays itself. Tomb Raider actually tries to make the platforming feel like platforming and get unfairly crapped on for it.

The pillar to the left is one such object, and isn't a problem because you are exceedingly unlikely to run into it.
The only time the game actually fought me as opposed to it being my fault was with 3D objects, that is, objects that are not the walls that exist in 3D space as opposed to being items or enemies. These things always screw around with collision for some reason. If you're lucky, Lara just won't go there, if you aren't, Lara will jump around to a place you don't want her to. This happened to me twice that I can remember. The first level with ropes on the bridge, which is partially my fault because nobody playing the game is just going to try to climb up the bridge. In Egypt with one of the Sphinxes, with its nose thing being one such object.
Look ma, it's a first person shooter. (vomits after doing a jump)
The camera isn't great, of course, but it generally works unless Lara's back is against a wall. Which does happen a lot, but not cripplingly so. It's usually behind Lara's head, meaning usually directly behind her or focusing on whichever enemy you're shooting. If you need to look around, you can always press the look button, very useful for seeing what's below. For a game designed at this point in time, the camera works remarkably well.
Rarely are there traps underwater.
Swimming is simple. You can't fight down here, so you're a sitting duck in or getting out of water. Some levels take advantage of this. Otherwise Lara takes to water beautifully, she feels faster down there than in land. She has an air supply, which, while not absurdly generous, does allow you significant leeway. Lara slowly runs out of health whenever her air is gone, which you can stop with medikits if you really need to.

Combat is interesting with this system, because the controls are made for platforming, not shooting. Lara pulls out her guns whenever you press the activate weapon button or switch weapons. Lara automatically shoots whenever you hold down the ctrl or action key. She shoots in front of her, or at an enemy if one crosses her sight, even if that enemy is dead. Which sounds like a problem but the game is so generous with ammo that it really isn't. Even discounting how Lara has infinite ammo for her regular pistol.

Most enemies are faster than Lara, so you have to use positioning to avoid getting hurt. Kind of like a more modern game. You can jump around, but I didn't because of system problems, so instead I had to figure out how else to defeat the enemies. Rather than just standing on some pillar or just tanking hits. Enemies have tank controls too, and they can't turn very well. Most enemies can't, anyway, so simply running around them in a circle prevents them from ever hitting you. Unless they can shoot back. By the time you fight enemies this doesn't work on though, you usually have the method to survive anyway.

All three of Lara's better weapons are here, but some are harder to see than others.

There are four weapons, three of which you have to find multiple times throughout the game. The first three are basically the same, Lara shoots both in tandem, and if an enemy goes too far to her left or right she just shoots one, not shooting at all in an area around her back. She'll return when you turn back. Keeping the action pressed ensures Lara can go back to shooting it when she sees it again, rather than just shooting at the air. The pistols just shoot, the magnums do more damage while the Uzis have a higher firing rate.

The shotgun is the exception to this rule. Lara fires, pumps the shotgun and takes aim again. It has the highest damage per second of any weapon, but it takes a moment between shots. Lara also has a different firing arc with it and can't shoot it while jumping. There are also much less ammo for it compared to the other two, which at some point you could practically just use it without ever running out.

Combat isn't really great, but it's helped by how satisfying it feels. The sounds, and the animations just feel so impactful. The pound of a shotgun and the death growl of some strange animal. The snapping that ensues when something very bad happens to Lara. Considering the whole mainstream appeal of the series was Lara, it isn't surprising they made the combat animations just as interesting. This is ultimately an illusion though, as the combat itself is mostly just breaking up the sections between exploring.

Now that we have the requisite complaints out of the way, let's talk about the very good parts of the game. Level design. It's great. Given what I said about the game's controls, you would think the game couldn't do much that was exciting. You would be wrong. For a game that seemingly has such a limited skillset, there's a lot that it does and yet still leaves possible. I estimate that what I saw here is about a third of what can be done, half if you count Unfinished Business.

There are five distinct levelsets to the game, Croft Manor, Peru, Greece, Egypt and Atlantis. Croft Manor is a separate option from the others, it's a tutorial. It explains the movement a bit more simply than I did, but it is interactive. It introduces most non-combat moves, except the roll, in a rather open environment and swimming, which you'll otherwise only find out about when it first pops up...

Peru is the first real levelset, and goes over quite a wide area. From caves to an ancient city to a green valley to finally a bizarre ancient tomb, this has the most variety to it. While later levels certainly do have variety, this one is such that each level has a distinct visual flair to it not seen in the other levels. We begin in The Caves, a fairly typical intro level, doing a good job of introducing you to it, everything is gradually introduced. It's everything an intro level should be.

It does introduce a few key elements in the design itself rather than things like collapsible floors. Exploration is rewarded. While you will never get put in an unwinnable situation, you can make things harder for yourself by doing things the wrong way. Here it's relatively painless. Relatively.

You know, I never saw those skulls again either.

This is followed by City of Vilcabamba. It's here that you first start collecting ammo, you're going to be doing that for a while, even if it's usually just in secrets. This level also introduces moveable blocks, something you could very easily get confused by if you're one of those people who didn't have the manual. This one introduces actually deadly elements in it's traps and enemies, though before you could maybe see some if you failed a jump or two. It's starting here that you're liable to actually die as opposed to just needing a medikit.

Two more key elements of the design are introduced here, but in subtle ways. A lot of levels have these big central hubs you gradually go around until you find the way out. This has what I assume are individual buildings that you solve then find a jump in-between. The second are big secrets, not quite as big as say, Blake Stone, but big enough you could assume it was part of the actual level. This is another game where if you play things casually and don't look for stuff you're going to have a hard time later, and unlike games where that makes ammo conservation an issue, this just makes it less fun.

Where this takes place is quite confusing, it's supposed to be a hidden valley, yet because of then engine limitations, you get black ceiling. Remakes make it blue, but since this is supposed to be in an area next to a snowstorm, this doesn't quite make sense.
So you enter some strange valley. Corpses abound, and while you have seen a few before, perhaps even got a shotgun off one, not in this volume. Then out comes a raptor. This, it has to be said, is a very effective moment. Until now, for all the player knows, this is just Indiana Jones with hot female protagonist, very mundane and normal. These guys pop out, and the tone changes significantly, for the better. Now, anything can happen. This tone shift also marks the point where the player can no longer sleepwalk through the game, these guys can take a bite out of Lara. Though it can be easily avoided once one figures out that most enemies can't really deal with Lara running around them in a circle.
Even with extended viewing distance, this works really well.
Then a T-Rex pops out. The game's first boss. This is about the only boss the game does well, you aren't necessarily expecting him, and you can mostly deal with him mundanely. Mostly, he has a one-hit kill attack which is incredibly cheap. Then some more raptors and you have the valley to yourself. This is one of those sections where Tomb Raider shines, big open places with a half dozen secrets that make the player feel like he could go anywhere he wanted in the game.

Tomb of Qualopec is where the game begins showing it's true nature in being a difficult platformer rather than a nice, fun romp. Up until this point, the most difficult jump you were required to do was in The Lost Valley, which required you to understand that there was a difference in jump length between Lara just jumping and Lara jump grabbing and getting the most length possible out of it. It's not that big a deal if you were doing all the secrets until now though, since by now you've probably seen one of the worst ones. Because now you have to do diagonal jumping.

I use this term for jumping diagonally across a tile, as opposed to the usual jumping straight along a line as you should be doing. See, this is where that tile based design came in. Lara walks to the edge of a tile, does a small back jump, then runs off. This is what the game trained you to do. Then this level pulls the rug out from under you and gives you places to jump to that are not directly across from where you are. It's a bit tricky to get used to, which is why the game puts spikes under your first encounter with them.

"Oh, no, I am going to get rolled over."

There are three important introductions in this level. The first, most obvious and least important is the rolling boulder. Why wouldn't you have one of these in a game about exploring tombs? Boulders fall down whenever the designer decided they should fall down, usually by Lara stepping 2 tiles away, and go in a single, usually obvious, direction. There are basically three methods to dodging these, getting out of the way, not knowing you activated one to begin with, and hanging from a ledge. The second one is where being savvy about these things results in the player getting killed, if you jump thinking it'll hit you, you'll jump into it. Boulders aren't instant deaths, but they do hurt if you jump past one. The third the game introduces later on, where you hang from the ledge where the boulder is about to roll over, not on the ledge where the boulder is rolling to, that will kill you.

Surprisingly, you aren't about to get hit in the back...

The second important thing is that there are nasty creatures here. These are Atlantians, who you only find out about gradually as the game wears on. Here, you can shoot one, but it doesn't shoot back. Don't worry, by the end of the game you'll be sick of them. Each area corresponds to a tomb of one of the three Atlantian kings, Qualopec is here. They're connected to the item that Lara was hired to find, the Scion, which was divided among the three kings. least not that guy.

The third is that the person who hired Lara, Natla, doesn't really trust Lara, and sent another guy called Larson after her, introducing ranged enemies to the mix. Later ranged enemies have some minor strategy to them, Larson does not. Larson just acts like Lara but with a Texan accent, his shooting deals damage effective over time whenever you're within his range. Unlike Lara he doesn't dodge. If you kept shells for that nice shotgun you found off that corpse, you can take Larson out with it.

Story-wise this is the kick the story needed. Until now, this has been the story of a self-made woman going on what amounts to another adventure. A game like this doesn't really need a story, but it helps. Now that we're wondering why Natla tried to kill Lara for what is seemingly no reason. Lara breaks into Natla's HQ to find information on the next piece.

St. Francis' Folly [sic] set in Greece. This is where the design of Tomb Raider becomes complete. Before now, you were generally on solid ground, and while this always has solid ground, now there's a hell of a lot more platforming. You're platforming a lot between very high up pillars, ledges and whatever. Fall damage isn't some unhappy accident, it's a guarantee if you mess something up. Slopes, that is, tiles with so sharp an angle that Lara slides down it, become less part of the scenery and part of navigation.
Now, Greece in general has it's own design language. Each level has a way out you need to find a bunch of items to reach, and you need to get those items from little mini-areas. These are always so fun because they make something oh, so, clever in each. Of these, St. Francis' Folly is my favorite, with it's great downward shaft, containing four mythological challenges.
New enemies here are lions and gorillas. They're basically the same as the wolves, both are stronger, but lions are faster. I shot so many gorillas that I made a joke that Lara hated Jane Goodall. You also get litterbug and fellow adventurer Pierre DuPont taking potshots at you a half dozen times each level. In the original game he would flee when his health went down to half and disappear in the fog. Here he just sort of disappears into thin air. There's not really much to fighting him.
The real new challenge here are the crocodiles. On land, they're really fast, but they can swim. They don't move between land and water, rather they stay in one unless you adjust the water level elsewhere. Larson took potshots at you while you were in the water, but the crocs represent the first time the game has put you into a situation where the water isn't safe. (there are also rats, but they're not really worth talking about)
The Colosseum is a big colosseum. You pretty much get what you were expecting. Big area, more platforming like you'd expect, some nice lever puzzles in an area under the arena. Not really an area with much to talk about, but it was fun at the time. Kind of violates the general design that this area is going for, since you're not trying to collect a bunch of items to reach the way out.

Palace Midas is another level with one of those iconic moments, in this case, a hand of a statue of King Midas, which turns Lara into a gold statue if you land on it. It's a relatively pointless death in a game that delights in trying to kill you. What I feel is more shocking is a section where you enter a room with a large pillar, do the usual journey down to find a lever, and then hear a loud noise. When you return, the pillar has been destroyed and sand has filled part of the room. Level changes on such a vast scale are something that didn't really happen before...or since.

Up until this point I've had almost zero complaints about the level design, outside of some things being a bit too hidden. This level makes that a problem, it's almost too good. What I mean is that I don't know what's the way forward, what's a secret and what's just an optional extra. Things I wouldn't think are secrets are secrets, and things I would think are secrets are the way forward. I daresay the game would get a perfect score from me except for...

Cistern. That's not to say I dislike this level in it's totality, I like the big hub you spend most of the level moving around, it's another awesome level. You have to fill it up and drain it multiple times in order to reach each door, since you need to find a bunch of keys. I like the end, where you fight on a chess board, with some of the tiles being collapsible ones. What I dislike is that this level seems to expect you to do some considerable backtracking, while that isn't entirely unusual, you're basically taking a short trip over an area you've already been in, this is quite noticeable. While most of the level is fine, the last chunk involving the main room overstays it's welcome. Doesn't help this level has a rat squeaking in the backing track throughout the entire level.
Tomb of Tihocan is the one level I think could use some significant cutting. While all levels have been connected to the next, this one really just feels like the last level going on for longer than it should. That said, it still has what I think is the best fight in the entire game. Except now considerably more linear. There's a statue that you haven't the slightest indication of anything being wrong, and when you open the door next to it, out pops a centaur that shoots exploding plasma orbs. This is a classic example of old games working wonderfully, one moment you aren't suspecting anything could be wrong, the next you're fighting some cursed creature. Oh, and you finally kill Pierre afterwards, and if you haven't already, you get the magnums.
I can't forget that there are like four sphinxes in this level because why wouldn't there be?
This leads to Egypt and the City of Khamoon. While all levels have generally flowed into one another, this levelset is the one that feels the most like one big level. There's an area here that you see at the beginning of City of Khamoon, and then in the next one you return to it to reach the final level. Egypt is where some people cite fatigue with the game, I even had it here whenever I played the game before, but this time I didn't really feel that way. Perhaps it was because I'm used to playing awful games that I savored this, perhaps it's because I was trying to minimize my number of saves. Egypt feels like a natural thing to place as the second-to-last levelset since Egypt is the stereotypical place for a game like this.
To get all the secrets on this level, you jump from that left pillar, to the central pillar, then one obscured on the other side.
Egypt has the last "find four items and bring them to a door" set of puzzles in the game. This time made a lot more obvious by both the items and the place you put them in being obelisks with one on each side. And a stuff on top. It's sort of a reverse St. Francis's Folly, instead of going down then up then down, you go up, down then up. It's another fine set of areas which has been expanding what kind of platforming it expects of you, here it can get very tricky going through even the right way.
Both player and enemy are guilty of shooting at corpses.
There are also a lot of Atlantians now, mummified vaguely humanoid creatures with exposed muscle and bone. By now you should be able to just shoot them with the magnums instead of Lara's default pistols. I hope so, because these guys are tedious to kill. They move fast in a circle, so you can't really use previous methods to dodge them. They move fast, so unless you know where they are ahead of time, you can't escape to a ledge. Even if you can, sometimes they shoot energy bolts at you. You can dodge those, but they are a pain to kill. Some fly, but these are usually less annoying to kill. Sadly from here on out you'll have to kill a lot of them. There are also panthers, but they're just reskinned lions, so they're not really new.

You end Egypt by killing Larson again, or maybe Lara somehow didn't kill him the first time, it doesn't really matter. Then we get a cutscene where Natla and her goons take the Scion off Lara as well as her weapons, but before Lara can be killed, she escapes. Then Lara sneaks onto Natla's boat and reaches the final levelset, Atlantis.

Natla's Mines is an interesting level. You start off without any weapons and gradually pick them up again over the course of the level, with her pistols being what the opening puzzles are all about. You're not really worrying about enemies, there are only three and only one is one you're likely to fight without working towards it. Here paying attention to everything is not really the way to find secrets as much as the only way to advance through the level, secrets instead are becoming quite difficult to find, almost impossible even. For instance, one of the puzzles you have to solve involves you reaching a hole before a boulder can, Lara isn't hurt by immobile boulders but they block her movement.
This guy is weird, from being on a skateboard in a weird skateboard park to talking like Robert De Niro for some reason.
The three goons aren't terribly interesting as enemies, mostly they're a second source of weapons, possibly even the first time you can see some of them. They're like Larson and Pierre, except they run around a lot more. More interesting is a secret where you have to find places you can land on a big series of slopes.
Atlantis is where the game turns really dark. Now you're in some bizarre fleshy structure, like the inside of someone or Doom's hell levels. There are a lot of Atlantians around, but more importantly this is where the platforming really expects a lot out of you. Hope you've been paying attention, even to some of those secret areas, or you won't get very far here. Even though I find the Atlantians somewhat tedious to fight, it's a fine level, the constant background heartbeat and the environment really sell it.
In-between deadly traps and jumps, there's a sort of boss in a weird doppelganger. This is a puzzle boss, you can't shoot it because it shoots at you. Instead you have to get it to fall into a pit of lava. It's slightly clever, but as far as doppelgangers you can't fight and have to resort to trickery to defeat, this isn't that clever.
At the end, you find the Scion again, in a big cutscene you get a bunch of revelations. Natla is the third ruler of Atlantis, and they buried her because she misused the power of the Scion. To say she's psychotic is putting it mildly. She gives the usual manic speech to Lara before she tries to destroy the Scion, bringing us to...
The Great Pyramid. There are not one, but two bosses here. First you get a giant Atlantian. It's a damage sponge, keep shooting at it, hopefully with either the Uzis or the shotgun and eventually it'll die. It is very slow, and it has no ranged attack, so you're not really in any danger. Then more of that hard platforming Atlantis loves putting in front of you. Hope you like figuring out how to dodge a boulder with basically no spare space!
That's not very interesting, so take a look at this unusual platforming exercise. There's something on the other side of the collapsible tile, but it takes a jump from there to reach.
Natla, meanwhile, is the final boss...and she's not really that impressive. She flies and she shoots at you, but by this point I had a ton of ammo and plenty of medikits and who cares about something shooting at you? Enemies running into you are worse. And that completes Tomb Raider. There's a lot more platforming I glossed over, but there's only so many times you can gush over that.

Graphically, this is carried by art direction rather than quality. It's very nice looking, but has a lot of problems. Animal models are goofy, and human models are...okay. The artists' talents clearly lie in making humans, both animations and the look of humans are far better than the animals. The animals sometimes even have human characteristics instead of animal ones. They can't even really do fur well. Lara could stand some refinement, but her animations are flawless.

Something that hasn't come up a lot here yet is texture alignment. That is, making it so one texture connects properly to the next. It's a very important job in 3D and even 2D games, but until now I haven't had much cause to complain. This is the first game I've blogged about that screws this up in a noticeable way. Worse still is how the game does textures quite badly regardless of whether they're properly aligned or not, textures shrink and expand in a way so noticeable that I haven't seen a professional game before or since.

I kind of dislike the CGI cutscenes. They don't really look any better than the in-game stuff and the animation quality takes a large nosedive here, feeling incredibly amateurish. How these two aspects are so vastly different, I'll never know.

The game really sells itself as an adventure where Lara is going through ancient tombs, because it really works. A subject like this needs a minimum of combat, especially with human enemies, as you're supposed to be going through places humans haven't tread in ages. By the time the game turns into a fight against ancient beings that really doesn't matter anymore, because it's made a smooth transition. Even those places still feel like some sort of ancient tomb, just with the original inhabitants being a bunch of psychotics with a hatred of the intruder, playing into the usual mummy curses.

While the story isn't impressive, I do think that it works really well with what it's supposed to be doing. Woman gets hired to find artifact, gets betrayed by employer, finds out employer was convicted for crimes against creation, kills employer twice. It doesn't overstay it's welcome and fits quite well in the Indiana Jones knock-off the story was going for. Also, gotta love the strong accents of the Americans and Brits, yet thte Frenchman sounds like he's phoning it in. Is this truly the nation that gave us 'Allo 'Allo?

Sound-wise, the music is nice, but often spoils combat by switching to a combat track long before you could expect to see an enemy. It works best when you have subtle background sounds, or the music becomes grand when you see some nice new room. The sounds themselves, despite being low-bit, are very satisfying, from guns feeling better than they are to shoot and the sounds of someone getting killed, be it Lara or something else, sounding sufficently crunchy. And that's all I have to say except for the summary.

There's not a lot to combat, but these weapons do feel satisfying to use. 3/10

There's some nice variety, but because combat isn't the most interesting, it feels somewhat wasted. 5/10


Nearly flawless, possibly even too good in most places. I do think some cutting could be done at the end of Greece. 9/10

Player Agency:
Lara basically has two flaws, a lack of turning speed and a slightly awkward camera. 9/10

While there isn't that much going on environmentally, what is going on is very well done. This game exploited the heck out of it's tools to the best of it's abilities. 6/10

I have never seen another game do abandoned tombs and cities so well. 10/10

Good art direction and animations, at least outside of the CGI cutscenes. A lot of texture issues though. 4/10

Simple but effective. 4/10

A few awkward triggers, but otherwise perfectly fitting everything. Noticeably low-bit rate though. 8/10

That's 58, or third/fourth highest rated game here. It's the same score I gave Doom 2, which will probably go a bit lower when I next reach it.

Reviews, a lot of positive stuff here. Frankly, so many just echo my sentiments it's hardly worth pointing out. Outliers are either reviewing the iOS version, which is not a fair comparison, or Famitsu, which I don't seem to find the full version of, and considering what I've heard about Famitsu, isn't going to be insightful anyway. Modern criticisms are mostly regulated to controls and graphics which I don't think we really need to go over again. There's also the realism argument, but in regards to this series, I can't help but think of this video.

On a more serious level, there's a point at which a game loses the fun it gains from making the game more interesting in the realism department, and making Tomb Raider any more realistic would go in that direction. Making combat more like ARMA would not make the game more fun. Making fall damage more realistic would be annoying, be it decreasing the height or making the damage worse. All the little things that makes real life differ from fiction, like insects, minor cuts and scratches, removing brush or dealing with the aftermath of wounds only work if you balance a game around it, and even so people don't generally like survival games outside of that niche. Games where you just eat don't count, and considering Tomb Raider that would be more busywork.

I decided to make some changes to what was being played. Firstly, I decided the way I was playing Star Fighter 3000 was going to produce an unbearably long entry and I was unwilling to restart it at this point, so out it went. It will be a regular game whenever I get to 1994. Regular selection of games will pop out in the new year. Until I fire up Elm Knight, we'll be seeing Commander Keen games. As someone pointed out to me that it might be a good idea to play Anniversary sequentially, which happened to line up with the game being discounted on Steam. Has some real "you know what I love after a workout? another workout." energy to it, but I would probably never get to it otherwise, so why not. I'm putting something between this and that though.

Anyway, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my readers.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Tomb Raider: Unfinished Business (1998)

Name:Tomb Raider: Unfinished Business
Levelset for:Tomb Raider
Developer:Core Design
Genre:Third-Person Shooter/Platformer
Time:5 hours 10 minutes

Tomb Raider doesn't really have expansions like most games, despite the popularity they once had. Instead they got bonus levels only available on PC. (Hacks exist for console versions) These came standalone on disc, via download or like me, with the gold version. The Gold version has a bunch of stuff that comes with it, including a screensaver, an interactive demo of Tomb Raider 2 and a few demos for other Eidos games, and patches for various graphics cards I do not have. The book also serves as a weird sort of developer commentary from the level's designer, Philip Campbell, who I believe would work on the sequels. Two people worked on the game, Campbell and an artist, while a dozen did other work.
To get these working in TR1X, the version of TR1 Main I've been using, well, you just use the commandline. Ugh, really?

Firstly, we have The Shadow of the Cat. Lara returns to the city of Khamoon in Egypt to discover the secret of a cat statue. I don't remember that. This starts inside a cat's head statue. I don't really remember this, was it a secret? No choice but to go down.
Wait, here? Really? This is just Egypt. I apparently never played these levels, considering I don't remember this at all. There are three crocodiles here, two behind me in a small room, and one in front of me. Lara starts off with no fancy items, but the game drops ammo and medikits like usual, that is, just behind Lara are some shells, magnum mags and a small medikit. There's just so much to explore, I got 4 sets from this room alone, and on top of the pillar, which opens a secret.

This is that series of niches room that you had to go through originally. This time a secret, two shell pickups and a small medikit. I think, this one puts you under pressure because there's a croc here and no way to get to land, I didn't stick around to search all the niches thoroughly.

The actual path forward is to here, that big room with the cavern above. Still doesn't look like you can reach that greenery. Take out two crocs, one of which may be the one that followed me. What a cavern, I wonder what secrets it holds now. There's no pool down, and when I get to the cat statue...ah, the cat statue, now I get it, the way down is also blocked, though there is a lever there. The secret I thought was blatantly obvious isn't there either, and the only item I could find was a pack of shells in the water. There's a door that wasn't there before, very interesting.
Hey, wait a minute, what's this? Panthers above Lara? This explains how the level has 41 enemies. You know, that would be pretty sneaky if I didn't have my guns out. Left of Lara is a new room, one I remember being different, it has two panthers you can't easily snipe from safety. But running around in a circle always works. Also, shotgun and another pack of shells. My total after getting the shotgun is 14. That outta be good for when I end up having to fight the Atlantians in the next set.
I caught this one right at the instant Lara got hit by a panther, how goofy.
After opening the door with a lever in there, I reach here after a few rooms. The manual played up how you should follow or not follow the cat paws, since they may lead to something good, or to death. Makes my job annoying. There are spikes in each of those central pieces, but on the opposite side of this room are some areas Lara can safely land on. I just need to jump over the pillars. I'm not really sure why they didn't do this in the original game, despite the jankiness of 3D objects, maybe they thought it would be too janky? (said by a team who make the face of one Sphinx a 3D object, if so) I go to the area on the left, since I spotted an exit there.
Holy crap, someone put in a sky. It's a Christmas miracle, well, Christmas 1998, anyway. You know, I wonder if someone hacked one into the original game sometime. This is just a nice pleasant area to walk around, but that makes this really nice.
Even this weird stuff here doesn't affect my opinion. Hard getting a screenshot of everything. To the right is a cat statue, the manual talks up something about cats role in these levels and the number 9. Wait, I made that Mercyful Fate joke in the base game and I had no idea that another album could be referenced here. One that wasn't yet released...much like the first one. If you go there, you can't climb up and the statue turns into a panther. It runs out before I can kill it though. Middle are spikes, Lara can walk through these to get some shells, assuming she can kill the panther that comes after her though. And then there's a little cave there, with a boulder that pops out that I wasn't expecting. Because it falls down one space away from the spot it activates.
But wait, there's more, it's not a little cave, it's more of the place. It links back to the section where the cat statue came alive, but that isn't important, because there's a path to the area on top of it, which has some shotgun shells. Then I spot a ledge Lara can reach that Aw, yeah. To get over there, you have to do a running jump to the left, which lands you on a stable ledge, then, do a running jump from there to the shells, there are places you can relatively safely land from there. That's a secret, by the way, and the best one since the dino valley. Back to the movable blocks.

Move the first block back and the second one forward and you reach here. Of course there are more panthers here, you expected otherwise? There's one in that hole on the left and another one spawns when you jump next to the key, thankfully he can't reach the key. Also, a croc spawns in the water when you reach a certain section, and another when you reach somewhere else. All for some measly magnum magazines. Or not, I didn't see anything else and there's a movable block down there that I just know means the water is getting drained later. With this area searched I have two ways out, one left where the panther was and one right, up the bridge. I go right.

I go up a pillar, netting myself a big medikit. I find two paths from here, a chute down and a regular looking cave. I chose the chute first, saving, of course.

Hey, I think I found where all the enemies are. I wasn't expecting this particular Temple of Doom reference, but it is appreciated. I don't think Lara can get out of here, though the crocodiles can. So I go through the other path, only to find a room quite similar to this one, and a croc pops out, but it isn't the same. Rather, after shimmeying across a random ledge, Lara can pick up some shotgun shells and then jump over to a cat statue where a door that needs a key is. I take this opportunity to check the other path, and just find a small medikit.
Entering the room causes three boulders to start rolling towards Lara. There's nothing in front of them, they're going to go into the area I just came from. None of them block access to any items, unless those items were so small I didn't notice them. This is a fairly big area, between those ramps is a drop down to a very big sandy area. More panthers down there, because of course there are. They're not really a problem, you get plenty of places you can shoot at them safely. Instead, the problem is that there are more boulders from that side of the room, how very generous the game is. A lot of items, shells, magnum mags and medikits, all throughout the convoluted hallways that make up the lower area.
Those boulders could give you a very nasty scare if you reach them after opening the door out, since the easy way through is here, where there's another panther, and despite the game's generosity, I'm not really feeling a lot of health here. To the right is where Lara came from, jumping over bridges. Jumping over bridges make me nervous, you know the game is going to play a nice little trick on you. Still, there are a lot of items here, and outside I can see a mummy. Since there's that and a cat statue looking outside, it looks like I am going out there after all. Impressive. There's a tricky underwater passage out, it has two crocodiles but you don't get a chance to shoot them until after you find the way out, and it required me to do a lot of swimming back to the entrance because I just couldn't find the lever opening the door out.
There's something to be said for games meant to create indoor levels doing outdoor levels well. Those fences aren't meant to prevent you from going out of bounds, they just divide up sections. And any sections you might, say, jump into from another section unintended has a pit with a spike trap. More panthers, they can go past the fences. Many, many more items. I haven't been conservative with my shotgun use and I still have more shells than when I entered here. When I finally got around to the section you see here the statues turned into Atlantians. That, I wasn't expecting. As I approach the standing Atlantian, ready for anything...he drops down and the level ends. Wait, what? I reload, surely this isn't the end of the level. Perhaps I can reach those other areas? I'm missing 10 enemies and 10 pickups, as well as a secret. Surely there must be some way out there? Well, if there is, I won't figure it out.

Temple of the Cat starts you in a slightly different hole with no Atlantian to be seen. You can tell because Lara isn't dead and there's a cat statue above. After pulling a lever and going down, Lara seems to be back in that boulder area. 44 enemies, 63 pickups, two of which are near the start and 4 secrets. I see I'll be returning to this starting area later, there's three doors I can't open. Also, a different fence texture which Lara can't shoot through for some reason.

...And we're just back up. It's a different area, of course. While plinking away at two more Atlantians, I spot those boulders in the distance. Wow, there are like 6 of them. From my position just on a pyramid, I see four distinct areas. A pool left of Lara, the boulder section, a little upper niche I can't reach, and behind Lara a rising series of levels. More panthers up this way, I get the commitment to the cat bit, but why the Atlantians? Hinting at the next two levels?
From climbing up, I see two more options, there's a roof Lara can't reach, probably somewhere I go later by the looks of things, and a drop down hidden by pushable blocks. Now, those boulders, well, they don't activate like other ones, often they activate after you pick up an item. Two of the shotgun pickups here can be gotten without incident, the third, not so much. Though in retrospect, I see I did the boulders the wrong way. I also notice two more shotgun pickups hidden away in a different area before I notice there's a block that can be moved towards that upper niche I couldn't reach. A long way away. It's not even secret, it has a key to a door, meaning it was necessary.
The pool. Suspiciously clear. There's the door out, I need another key. Worryingly, I see an area Lara should be able to get the right. You can't see it from here, but there's a door in that water and a lever. Unsurprisingly, a crocodile pops out of the door after you open it. It's timed too. This is the other key. Okay, what about that drop down I mentioned? It leads back to the upper niche. Okay, what about those doors I couldn't open at the start? No idea about one, but another is another one of the game's new traps, an Atlantian and two small medikits, which are revealed after you pull a lever. Get the two medikits, and the Atlantian awakens.
Right, to the locked door. This opens a very Doom-esque section of the map, one of the bad levels. It's very dark, so I press forward, taking out a panther until I eventually find a accident, and then the way forward. First though, I go to the other corridor I ignored, and find out that it turns the lights on. It's also connected to a door closing the secret. Very annoying. Down is more Doom-esque design. I was liking this levelset. Another set of timed switches and then another underwater passage with crocodiles.
Then, this. You can't see it in a static image, but those cats are moving. The music is triumphant here, as well it should be. I get a key, kill some panthers. Then I find another two keys. Huh. Then I spot on one of the walls five slots for keys. I find another key after searching until I can find nothing else. At this point I realize I should check the water and find the final key. This opens one of two doors here, what opens the other is probably a secret.
I somehow managed to land precisely in the spot here that allows Lara to live, something I will never ever be able to repeat. This section is weird. The designer is settling into a comfortable pattern of having items in little niches over spike pits. To advance, you jump into an area that slides down behind where you entered, pull a lever which allows Lara to enter a door just above this section, where I entered.
I didn't realize this was a crocodile eating a cat back when playing.
The next area is a big underwater section, find the lever that opens the next door. Stopping you is the general layout, a lot of fences and it's generally designed to be confusing, and a crocodile of course. You can't shoot him, you just don't get a chance. I find two sets of Uzi magazines here, nice. Wish I could find some more guns.
This leads to here, two more Atlantians. Huh, they don't explode anymore. It takes me a moment, but to advance there are two levers on one side that look like a door. One moves a boulder so you can go to the next room, which has a crocodile for some reason, and the other opens the door out. Which leads back to that central room and the other door.
...and there are Uzis. What's in those niches? Atlantians? Uh-oh. Well, the Uzis themselves don't wake up my new friends. Nor do the Uzi magazines. What are you planning? Well, the trap is going to be activated later, seeing as there's a door to Lara's left. Three, three activate. One after you reach the end, two after you pull a lever there. That was underwhelming.
That door leads to here, this eye-searing place. Turns out there's a reason for this. At the entrance, you're presented with a stairs up, which at the end activates another Atlantian, and two chutes down. If you go down, when Lara lands she dies. Not because of fall damage but because it's hot. So, you have to platform across carefully. Those Uzi magazines aren't really optional, they're the path forward. Reaching the end opens up a magical gold path back, which you'll need because pulling the lever here opens a door back there.
Suddenly all turns to green!
This area's weird, it's mostly a break from what you've been doing, nice greenery, some crocs on land, easy one shot kills, a dip in a pool and then up some more. That's a weird room where you step on a particular tile to open the way down. Tomb Raider usually doesn't do that.
Four doors and six levers. No trap doors to my eyes, which means they're well hidden or the game is going to kill me some other way. Right lever causes the camera to look funny, I'm going to regret that. I suppose I should recognize that this section is making the left more noticeable than the right, all the cats eyes textures have the glowing eye on it's right, my left. I enter, an Atlantian pops down from above, no doubt because of me picking the wrong lever. Right, well, what's behind... All roads lead to Rome, or in this case two roads lead to Rome and the other is a mystery. This is a big area, and despite what I thought at first, these are not moveable blocks, they just the level geometry. More Atlantians, because the game hasn't been feeding me more shotgun ammo I'm running low. This is a really big area. You go into the central statue, climb up, do a full running jump to a ledge on the second floor. Shoot some more Atlantians and find another pair of Uzi magazines.

And you're still not done. I go around and around. Up and up. This is really trying to reach the edge of Lara's capabilities in a way I'm not quite sure would work until I try it. There's one bit where you have to grab a pillar, but it seems to be right next to the ceiling, meaning Lara shouldn't get up, which would be true if there wasn't a hole there. Eventually I jump onto a spot with a cat statue, then do a running jump onto the top of the sphinx. Take out another Atlantian, pull a switch, then drop down into the mouth. Make one final jump over a sneaky pit, open one last door and see another cat statue, and the level ends there. If I had a second complaint, beyond the part where I had a reason to push a block halfway across the map, it's that these level endings feel too soon.

That brings us back to Atlantis and to the second level set here, the Unfinished Business of the title. Lara is here to kill some "aliens" in a ruined segment of the city, guarding an alien hatchery. Actually looking at the manual again, I see something about Seth's room in the last section, no idea, but apparently it was tough. This one is intended for the expert player, facing a horde of "alien creatures" but was also intended to be played before The Shadow of the Cat or at least with a pistol start. I'm supposed to be alert, since transparency allows me to see the sense of place and future confrontations.

The start of this one's weird. You slide down a chute and then get two choices. A jump over lava and a drop down. I go to the jump first and am greeted by two packs of shells and the secret sound. That was a secret? Down is one-way, naturally, and leads to a boulder trap that isn't even really a boulder trap, since when it activates you're not even in it's path.

The transparency. The regular Atlantis had these tiles, but just for floors. That's a good sign. That's what, 8 or so? Plus the centaur. Right of me is a small niche that you have to do some bizarre jump over lava to reach, not happening, so I walk behind me, which is a big open area. I take out a regular Atlantian and find my way... More flying Atlantians, but you get the picture. There are a lot of shotgun shells here. A lot. I've been keeping to using the Uzis, since that's safer against the flying ones, but it's racking up. This section is very open and has a lot of enemies. When I eventually made it down, I had to dodge quite a few unexpected boulders. Eventually, I get stuck, there's a Stargate in one corner, but it's just a wall texture and this isn't Stargate. Two closed doors, no levers or anything. I spotted some stuff on a high ledge earlier, but I see no way up there unless the game pulled a sneaky one on me. The way out is a very tricky hole you have to enter, you have to do a very precise jump, more precise than I've ever done. You slide down into it from a slope above, but to get there you need to make the jump from a slope going down one tile back and to the right.
This is a very deep hole. Deep enough that it triggers Lara's falling scream twice. I don't spot anything on the way down.
Now comes the question of getting back up. More of the game's transparency stuff, I see more Atlantians. Only way out is a door with a lever and...the level ends. What? That was really short. Something's wrong, unless this level had about 30 enemies just there for flavor I must have accidentally skipped over some stuff. But how, what could I have possibly missed? It's not a way to the stuff on the way down or that stuff I couldn't reach before. The ones on a very high level have a hole there you're clearly supposed to go through. I find it eventually, it was another hole I was supposed to go down, one I missed completely.
Oh, this is worse than it was before. The only way down that looks safe is on the other side of these 3D objects, at least there are medikits. I try to get around it somehow, but it's impossible. So I look down. Maybe it's just safe enough for Lara to fall, they did give me two small medikits. Wow, it works.
The eggs have a strange green hue I associate with tennis balls. This area has more shells thankfully, and another small medikit. The two eggs here naturally open up as you get close, but a third Atlantian pops up when you pick up one of the shell pickups, landing in an area that leaves him little more than a turret. Shells are just keeping pace with enemies, until they don't anymore. Good thing I still have the Uzis.
This area is less tricky than it looks. I look around and see the blow gun and an area behind it. Assuming that's a secret, I explore the rest of the area first, oddly, and only succeed in activating a bunch of Atlantians. Not now, later, because they're behind glass. That's good. I can figure that out later.
That leads to here, an area with a lot of levers, and the Atlantians I spotted earlier. Throwing caution to the wind, I pull each lever in turn, making sure to check for any alert Atlantians. I take them out as they become alert, but a centaur spawns in the area where the level exit is and the camera switches to the last area with eggs. The Atlantians have ammo hidden where they were asleep, so I'm mostly keeping just above no shotgun ammo.
The central room now has another area, but first I check out this area opened up by a door. Two more Atlantians, and since I get a perch from which to shoot from, Lara can do so safely but boringly. A lot of items here, but still no magnums. I am getting Uzi magazines now though. This seems to be the section I just saw past the glass a moment ago, and while there's more to it, there's none I can seemingly reach.
Going to that new area in the central room, it's a hallway up, lava on the sides with an Atlantian running around. Naturally he takes me out once, then I reach here. I don't understand why the developer thought this would be a good idea, the level geometry breaks visually as I try to get my eyes around the area. Seemingly, there's no way down, but as I turn to leave I spot a way up.
Wow, I would have expected this to hurt Lara. I mean it does, those lava orbs deal minor damage to Lara, but I meant the ground itself. This is a simple but interesting room, you have two ledges which form a hill pattern, items on the ends where you didn't come in and an Atlantian. The way out is a simple jump over one section of one ledge into a hole on the same side, you can't go directly to it because there's a slope in front of it.

That leads to a hall with more dart guns, Atlantian dart guns. They're getting a lot of mileage out of that recolored dart texture. Too much mileage if you ask me, because that hasn't just been a mildly annoying hazard once. That time it was an annoying hazard, shimmeying past them. With Lara's speed you can't really do that more than once.

This really opens up. There are a lot of little areas here, and I do mean a lot. It's a convoluted tangle of levers, doors, Atlantians and items. A lot of swimming too, between two areas that aren't connected. By the end of it, I'm not really up any items, but I've opened the two doors in that big central area from earlier.

After taking out another Atlantian, I'm left with this. To get to a large medikit on Lara's left, I need to jump over to the right, then do a running jump over the lower side of the slope, landing on it sends Lara straight down. I'm not sure if that's a one-way trip or not. Because down has a lever that opens the door you can see in that screenshot., but it also has a big underwater area and no way up. Two levers down there open timed doors, one of which is a big underwater passage. A lot more items, including magnum magazines I still can't use.
So I continue underwater. I get more items and make it past a timed door to this. It makes a sound like a secret, but it is not a secret. On a jutting area up on Lara's right is a medikit, and to the left of that slope is a lever. Which opens another timed door in the underwater section. I think it's very tight to walk there and then swim, probably why the game gives you a small medikit in front of the lever, but it's worth it, it contains the magnums. So much for problems with enemies on this level. But it's back up. Turns out to be very easy.
Ah, that presents problems. This seems to be another item finding section, jump over peril, get more shells. Except I've found that the shotgun really isn't effective against the Atlantians, so that's not a very good carrot. I do like this section. Especially one part where you have to jump over raised lava tiles, illogical but fun.
That brings us to the part I thought was a secret, right above the big room that began this area. You know, this level has really liked that 0 and + design on the ceiling and floor for some reason. Almost as much as it loves putting Stargates everywhere. Two more flying Atlantians show up, I make quick work of them. Now to jump there. This feels just as tricky to get right as the wrong way. I can't help but think if you're designing your level to function at the very edge of what's possible and then don't check that someone can't break that, you're kind of screwing yourself over. The "wrong" way is easier because you aren't jumping down a dangerous height and if you miss you aren't falling into lava or dying.

The Hive, this one starts off very generously, magnum mags, two sets of Uzi mags and a small medikit. Even that the two Uzi mags are in front of Atlantians does nothing to worry me. I do take them cautiously, however, these guys are activating later. To the left and right on the screenshot are holes down, directly over lava but there's rock next to it, I could do so easily if that wasn't a one-way trip. Two doors, closed, and while there's a lever behind Lara, what it does is beyond me. Forward, at which point a boulder falls down and I realize the entire ceiling is boulders. This is very tricky, because for obvious reasons, you never know which tiles are going to activate a boulder, or not.

It's a very complex sequence designed to trip you up, but the end is relatively subdued. Two levers, each of which opens one door and activates one Atlantian. I thought a boulder might cause an unwinnable situation, but fortunately, it is not designed that way. It turns out you can't go down those holes, too far down, and despite some boulders falling down there, they disappear when you try to land. Possibly something that always happened, I never really ran over one before.

The two doors open two areas, one with magnum mags and one forward. Both have traps. The way forward is this, shown after getting past it. You have to jump over a series of slopes, until you reach just next to flat ground, only Lara is stuck doing jumps between slopes. You have to take advantage of Lara's air control to land on the flat enough ground. Interesting, but that has the potential to get really annoying if it pops up again. There are three enemies here, which each pop up gradually as you explore the area.

Behind Lara on the left is the place below the entrance. Left are two doors, gotta find those levers. The middle is a very tricky path down, precise jumping over lava again. Right is a glass wall showing something, and Uzi magazines. So I climb over there, only to discover that the doors are activated by pressure pads, timed, of course. One of these things has to be a secret. I go right.

That leads to here, a very tight area that's one whole slope jumping puzzle. Left returns you to the previous area, while right continues on. Those eggs explode whenever you're on solid ground, and they seemed to want to exchange fire with Lara rather than throwing her into a lava pit. This leads into a hallway with a centaur who only activates whenever you get close, how nice. I didn't get him thanks to him knocking me into a hole. Hope I didn't miss anything.
There's a slide down to here. A lot of area of which I'm not quite sure where I'm actually supposed to go. There are enemies on all platforms except the central one, but that's okay. They like shooting more than chasing after you and there are five sets of Uzi magazines here, Lara is fine ammo-wise. There's a door at the top of the central structure, but the only doors I could open were one in one of the corners.
Despite looking like this, the circle track really doesn't help you that much.
That leads to this section, with two centaurs. Great. That's not annoying at all! Almost as an apology, the game gives you three sets of Uzi magazines. At this point, ammo is no concern, but health might be. They're guarding a room with four levers, and there are two doors on the side you didn't enter. Expecting a trap, I pull one, finding it opened the door. That brings me to an Atlantian, but not as a trap. The other three just open doors. Including two which open the doors at the top of that central platform. not a secret but it makes a noise. It is quite a lot of items. A lot of shotgun shells on the way here, then two doors, and the one to here opened. They're not alert, the shells around them don't awaken them, the ones on the altar do. Taking one causes half the activate, but you have enough time to run out to the corridor, at which point I can quite leisurely take them out with the Uzis. Another activates the rest and the other two are free pickings. I didn't even want shotgun shells.

It's quite the sight seeing these guys barreling down a hallway only to hit the ceiling and stop. I'm sure this would be an absolute nightmare in an open space. There's another egg room, this time with a timed door connected to two levers. You could get past this one without ever fighting the Atlantians.

That leads to here, the place I saw all the way at the beginning of this set...and after all that it's not that interesting. Another centaur. Those eggs? They just explode, no Atlantians inside. There's another room with a timed door after that. That one at least has some Atlantians inside, but it's the final room.
You slide down another slide, see some exploding eggs, and then swim through a tunnel. The end. A disappointing ending to a pretty good levelset. This did what it set out to be, a hard levelset for Tomb Raider. I have minor complaints related to how it's obtuseness doesn't quite work without checking that it's the only way and how awkward the level transitions are, but otherwise it's pretty good. 8/10