Saturday, December 10, 2011

THEPLAYGAMER3: Tomb Raider 2








Tomb Raider II is an action-adventure video game in the Tomb Raider series and is the sequel to the 1996 video game Tomb Raider. Developed by Core Design and published by Eidos Interactive, the game was originally released for PlayStation, Windows 95 in November 1997, Macintosh in 1998 and on the PlayStation Network in 2009 for the US and in 2011 for Europe.


An astounding commercial success, the game sold over 8 million copies worldwide, and is considered one of the best selling games of all time.

Plot

The story of Tomb Raider II surrounds the mythical Dagger of Xian, a weapon which was used by an Emperor of China to command his army. By plunging the weapon into its owner's heart, the weapon has the power to turn its bearer into a dragon. A flashback reveals that the last battle which was fought with the Dagger ended in defeat when the warrior monks of Tibet succeeded in removing the knife from the Emperor's heart. The Dagger was then returned to its resting place within the Great Wall.

The game sets in the present day near the remains of the Great Wall, where Lara Croft investigates the legend of the Dagger. Upon reaching the door which leads to the dagger, she is attacked by a thug who claims to work for Marco Bartoli, a Venetian Mafia leader who has an obsession with the ancient lore of the Dagger. After making her way through Bartoli's hideout and an abandoned opera house in Venice, Lara follows Bartoli aboard his airplane, but is knocked unconscious before she can confront Bartoli.

The plane is headed toward an oil rig. At the site, the cult killed all the rigs staff and is carrying out excavations on a sunken ship called the Maria Doria, a luxury ocean liner which was owned by Marco's Father that sank two years ago. When Lara gains consciousness, she learns that the crew has taken her weapons and equipment. She retrieves her weapons and makes her way through the oil rig. She later learns from an imprisoned Tibetan monk, Brother Chan, that the shipwreck carries an ancient Tibetan artifact called the Seraph. Lara dives and grips a submarine and arrives at the shipwreck. There she successfully retrieves the Seraph. She later obtains an airplane and begins to fly toward her target.
As Lara heads to the Tibetan monastery the plane suffers engine failure and crash lands. As the plane is skidding along the ground she manages to escape using a parachute and arrives at the Barkhang Monastery in Tibet. There she is helped by monks in confronting the thugs of Marco Bartoli. With the help of the monks, she finds and uses five prayer wheels to open a door that leads to a room to hold the Seraph. She continues her journey inside the catacombs to find the Talion, a key used to open the door which leads to the dagger. After confronting several yetis, she recovers the Talion. The FMV cutscene shows Lara exiting the caves. She takes off in a jeep while a guard is patrolling outside. Another jeep with two guards follows Lara, but she manages to escape.

Back in China, Lara opens the door to the chamber holding the Dagger. Before she reaches the artifact, however, Lara is plunged into thecatacombs beneath the Great Wall. After climbing a staircase with blades, she makes her way to a place with green floating islands and warriors which come alive when triggered. She finally moves to the room where she witnesses Bartoli drive the dagger into his heart, transforming himself into a dragon. In the final scene, Lara manages to temporarily render the creature unconscious and pulls the dagger from Bartoli's heart. Soon after this, the whole tomb begins to collapse, and a part of Great Wall is destroyed. In the epilogue, Lara returns home and is shown cleaning the dagger when she hears an alarm going off. She discovers the remainder of Marco Bartoli's men have tracked her down to England and are planning to invade her mansion. Luckily she overpowers them. The final shot is of Lara, disrobing before entering the shower. She turns to the camera and says: "Don't you think you've seen enough?" She then blasts her shotgun at the camera.

Gameplay

The gameplay of Tomb Raider II builds upon the basic set up of the original game. For a detailed discussion of its features, see the gameplay section of Tomb Raider. Innovations in Tomb Raider II include, new weapons, extra moves, a small set of vehicles, larger levels, many more enemies, mostly human enemies and dynamic lighting (in the original gun fire did not briefly light up the immediate area and flares did not exist). As well as these new features, the player may now save wherever and whenever they choose, save for a few special locations, as opposed to its predecessor's crystal saving feature.

In terms of movement, Lara can now climb ladders and perform a mid-air roll used to land in the opposite direction of which the player was facing. The range of weapons has been expanded to include a harpoon gun (though more correctly termed a speargun), a grenade launcher, an M16 rifle, which requires Lara to assume an aiming stance to fire, and automatic pistols, which replace the magnums from Tomb Raider. The item inventory now includes pyrotechnic flares, which are used to light up dark corners and take advantage of the improved lighting system implemented by the developers. The two vehicles in the game are a motorboat (in Venice) and a snow scooter (in Tibet). Both are used to travel long distances across the map and can speed up on ramps or run over enemies.

The object of the game remains unchanged from the previous game: each level must be finished by solving various puzzles, collecting key items, and performing difficult jumps. However, this time there is an emphasis on gun fights and the killing of human opponents as well. Secrets no longer immediately reward the player with weapons or medipacks. Instead, each secret is marked by a coloured dragon ornament: silver (or stone), jade, and gold, according to the difficulty of their location. Only when Lara collects the last of all three dragons in a level will she receive a bonus, which usually consists of medipacks and ammunition, and infrequently a new weapon.

One major new addition to Tomb Raider II is the ability to explore "Croft Manor", Lara's mansion. Designed as a gameplay tutorial, players can wander through the massive building, most notably her personal gymnasium with a variety of platforms, objects, and traps set up for Lara to maneuver through. This let players acclimate themselves to the game's controls and Lara's large arsenal of moves at their own pace in a relaxed, controlled environment. As a bit of comic relief, Lara's old butler slowly follows Lara around the house, with the sound of rattling tea cups on his tray accompanying him (and by proxy, the player) along the way. If the player makes Lara bump him, he grunts or groans and will even occasionally break wind. Versions of Lara's mansion would return in Tomb Raider III and then later in Tomb Raider: Legend.

Development history

Development of Tomb Raider II was already in its conceptual stages before the first game was released. As Core Design came to the home stretch of Tomb Raider's development, additional ideas and suggestions for the game had piled up, some of which were still able to be incorporated in the first game, and others which would form foundation for the sequel.

While two key members of the original team had left – most notably Lara's creator Toby Gard, who was replaced by Stuart Atkinson – the design team for Tomb Raider II was expanded to more than double its original size. A decision was made early on to keep the engine from the first Tomb Raider, adopting a tweak-and-improve approach, rather than starting over from scratch. This, combined with the larger development team, led to a shorter development time than that of the original game. Minor camera issues and polygon glitches were fixed, while new features were added, such as dynamic lighting and a more flexible control system. With the improvements to the graphics engine, a larger number of polygons could be rendered on screen, allowing large outdoors areas and more atmospheric effects.

Lara's appearance in Tomb Raider II was given a make-over by the new designer, Stuart Atkinson, giving her a free-flowing pony tail, smoother features, and several new outfits which changed over the course of the game. While in China and Venice she sported her signature "Tomb Raider outfit" (a tanktop and shorts), in the ocean-based levels she donned a half-body wetsuit and in Tibet she wore a flight jacket. Lara's revolving wardrobe would become a trademark of the series going forward.

Core Design used a custom built level editor that made it possible to explore each stage as it was being created, allowing levels to be play tested on the fly and eliminating glitches. A team of six playtesters continually tested the game up until the final hours before it was sent to Sony for final approval.

While the original Tomb Raider was released on both the PlayStation and Sega Saturn game consoles, Tomb Raider II was no longer designed for the Sega Saturn despite having been confirmed as a target platform for the game in the first place. Following the cancellation announcement, Adrian Smith cited technical limitations of the console to program an adequate conversion. In September 1997, Sony Computer Entertainment America signed a deal with Eidos to make console releases for the Tomb Raider franchise exclusive to the PlayStation, preventing the Sega Saturn or the Nintendo 64 from having any Tomb Raider game released for it until 2000, a deal that would prove very beneficial to Sony both in terms of revenue dollars and also in further cementing the PlayStation's growing reputation as the go-to system for must-have exclusive titles.
Shelley Blond did not reprise her role as Lara Croft from the previous game. Instead, Judith Gibbins voiced Lara in Tomb Raider II.

Legacy

At the time of Tomb Raider II's release, Lara was arguably at the height of her cyber fame. Talks for a screen adaptation of the series were in progress, Lara Croft was featured prominently in several SEAT and Lucozade commercials, and U2 famously used her image during their 1997 PopMart Tour. Like its predecessor, the game was eventually made part of PlayStation's "Greatest Hits" line. The follow up, Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft, would follow in 1998, marking the third Tomb Raider release in as many years.

Versions and expansions

Tomb Raider II was released for Windows 95, Macintosh and PlayStation. There are only slight differences between the three versions and they have nothing to do with the game itself. The PlayStation version has a loading screen with a picture of the current country when loading levels. The Mac version has a loading bar in the same style font as the rest of the game text. However the PC version has no loading screens. Tomb Raider II has now been available for download for the PlayStation 3 via the PlayStation Network store. On October 27, 2011, it was released for Mac OS X and sold via the Mac App Store.

Tomb Raider II: Golden Mask

In 1999, Tomb Raider II was re-released for PC as Tomb Raider II Gold in North America and Tomb Raider II: Golden Mask elsewhere. The game comprises the scenarios of the original Tomb Raider II and 5 new bonus levels in a separate mini-adventure entitled "The Golden Mask". Unlike the other two Gold games, however, The Golden Mask contains no story ties to its corresponding game from the main Tomb Raider series. Its plot is completely unique.

The story involves Lara Croft coming across some clues referring to a small island in the Bering Sea: a faded photograph showing an Inuit whale hunter holding what looks like an ancient Golden Mask, an old newspaper from 1945 referring to a conflict over an Alaskan gold discovery, and a secret kind of fortified military mine base. Lara is primarily interested in finding the Mask, as it is rumoured to be the famed Golden Mask of Tornarsuk, a greater spirit said to bestow powers of re-animation on the mask wearer.




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