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Tomb Raider 3 - 14 years later, pt.2

I continue exploring the game-design of the 14-year-old Tomb Raider 3. Part 2 of 3.

Matthias Zarzecki, Blogger

April 24, 2012

6 Min Read

Last time in this retrospective I discussed the gameplay and level-design of the by now 14-year-old Tomb Raider 3. How will it compare to "modern" games? Did it do some things brilliantly, while embarassingly failing on others?

Read on for the thrilling conclusion.

More general stuff:

  • You know, I think Lara is evil. She kills members of endangered species (tigers, dragons, octopi), steals for her personal gain, and murders hapless security guards, monks and soldiers.

  • Winston the Butler is back! He follows you around! You can lock him in the freezer! You can shoot him!

This is one of the loading-screen-collages. Bask in its glory.

  • Tomb Raider Legend (the seventh game) has the most "ordinary" boobs. They were quite pleasant compared to the anti-gravitational orbs of Tomb Raider 3-4.

  • A lot of the "new" guns are actually re-skins. The MP5 already appeared in TR2 as the M16. The Desert Eagle, new in TR3, is a revolver TR4 (because the standard guns are Desert Eagles then, presumably).

  • It just dawned on me that both TR1 and TR3 begin with a meteorite striking the earth and bringing some alien artifact with it. Aliens apparently were in this from the beginning.

  • Medpacks have a green cross on them instead of the classic red. I thought this was a nice touch.

  • Good god the German synchronization is just awful. It's full of the useless germanisms like "tja, I don't know what to do then" *shudder*

I literally have no idea who that is, and I watched the cutscene thrice. I think Lara doesn't like her.

  • I think the bad guy is inefficient because the player never confronts him at the beginning. Oh, Lara does, in a cutscene. It doesn't happen in gameplay, which would be 1000x stronger.

  • TR3 does introduce a bad guy early on, but he's a lot less memorable that Marco Bartoli from TR2. See, I even remembered his name.

  • There are vehicle-sections in this game, which require a lot of precision. The sections in TR2 were a lot more fun, what with the boat-jumping and snowmobile-machinegunning.

  • There still is this fun bug, that when you quick-load within 0.5 seconds after having quick-loaded already, all the textures are garbled. It's fun because Lara is breathing letters.

  • I think the bad guy in the first act ("Tony"?) might be a riff of Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now. The kids will love it!


Let's continue exploring. This time I go to the mythical land of "Nevada".

  • The option to chose the order of levels is a weird one. As a first-time-player, you don't know what the levels are like and probably have no preference, so it's effectively random. As a veteran of the game you've already made up your mind about the order. As a kid you probably don't even know what the symbols on the globe mean.

  • And the game drops me off in my new chosen location, again without comment. I'm in Nevada now. Lots of tombs to raid. I guess.

  • I always went for Nevada first. You lose all your weapons in that chapter, and I didn't want to be at a disadvantage later in the game in case I wouldn't get them back.

  • Oh, flying enemies. They are not at all annoying.

  • In Nevada is a huge canyon filled with water. There are items hidden and a lot of opportunities to climb around, so you usually go exploring. Then it turns out the bottom of the canyon is a giant dead end and you wasted all your quicksave-points in it.

  • At the end of the chapter you enter a spaceship in Area 51. It's bigger on the inside, which is a nice gag.

  • Next to the spaceship is my favorite "secret". There's an entrance in the wall that leads to a corridor with moving lasers, which you have to avoid. At the end is a pool with two orca-whales. For no reason whatsoever. The whales never appear anywhere else. Oh, and there's a medkit in the tank.

That is actually some of the better texture-work in this game.

  • I've lost all my guns. I love these scenarios, they force the player to think creatively and turn all rules upside down. Now how did I get out of this cell....

  • A side-effect of losing your weapons is that you can't cheat anymore, so I'll play this level for real.

  • Oh right: A guard comes in and tries to beat me up / rape me. I counter by running around like an idiot trying to lose him.

  • In my cell are security-lasers. IN the cell. I can trip them by walking around. WHY

  • I let a terrorist/murderer out of his cell, who promptly kills the guard. All is well.

  • In one of the room are 3 crates. All 3 look like the moveable crate I used before, but only one of them actually is. /Sigh

  • Pressed a button which flooded the crate-room with water. What. Why? Why would you even have such a thing? What is the purpose of flooding said useless room with massive crates, that could never fit through any of the doors?

My friends from the high-security-wing killing a dude, I mean, helping me raid tombs.

  • There are surface-to-air missiles and a F117-Stealh-Bomber in this “prison”.

  • Oh, look, a 1-pixel-wide dark red laser that insta-kills you and you'd never be able to spot the first time. How fun!

  • Giant water-room with lots of invisible currents so you arbitrarily can't go in some directions. Woo, more fun.

  • Oh, I found my stuff. It's in this easily skippable room off to the side.

The longe you play this game the more you realize it moves away from the core-formula. There are barely any tombs anymore, and instead of fighting a central antagonist Lara has to deal with multiple people. The desert-levels around Area 51 also highlight how insane the level-design has become, with less and less care for plausibility. This will turn out disastrous in Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness (pt. 6, the failed reboot).

This article was originally posted on Matthew On Game Design.

It was preceeded by Part 1, and continues in Part 3.


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