Tomb Raider II
|Tomb Raider II|
Tomb Raider II is an action-adventure platform game developed by Core Design and published by Eidos Interactive. It was released in 1997 for Microsoft Windows and PlayStation as part of the Tomb Raider series and the sequel to the 1996 video game Tomb Raider. It was ported to Mac OS in 1998 and an expansion pack, Tomb Raider II: Golden Mask, was released by Eidos for PC in 1999. The expansion pack includes four bonus levels.
The gameplay of Tomb Raider II builds upon the basic set up of the original game. Innovations in Tomb Raider II include new weapons, extra moves, and a set of vehicles. The crystal saving feature on the PlayStation version was eliminated, and instead the player may save at any time like in the PC version, save for a few special locations.
Lara can climb both horizontally and vertically and perform a mid-air roll used to land facing in the opposite direction. The range of weapons has been expanded to include a harpoon gun, 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 inventory includes pyrotechnic flares, which are used to light up dark corners. The two vehicles are a motorboat in Venice and a snowmobile 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 is unchanged from the previous game: each level must be finished by reaching the exit. 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.
Tomb Raider II has an expanded version of "Croft Manor", the tutorial from the first game.
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. The last battle fought with the Dagger ended when the warrior monks of Tibet removed the knife from the Emperor. The Dagger was returned to its resting place within the Great Wall.
In the present day, near the remains of the Great Wall, Lara Croft investigates the legend of the Dagger. She is attacked by a thug who claims to work for Marco Bartoli, leader of a cult called 'Fiamma Nera' who has an obsession with the ancient lore. After travelling to Venice, Lara makes her way through Bartoli's hideout and an opera house where Bartoli's men are plotting a heist. Lara follows Bartoli aboard his aeroplane, but she is knocked unconscious.
The plane lands at an oil platform. The Fiamma Nera have killed the rig's staff and are carrying out excavations on a sunken ship called the Maria Doria, a luxury ocean liner which was owned by Marco's father. When Lara regains consciousness, she retrieves her weapons and makes her way through the oil rig. She learns from an imprisoned Tibetan monk, Brother Chan, that the shipwreck carries an ancient Tibetan artefact called the Seraph. Lara dives alongside a submersible to discover the shipwreck, and searching throughout the remains she eventually retrieves the Seraph.
She heads towards the Barkhang Monastery in Tibet via aeroplane. There she is helped by monks in confronting the thugs of Marco Bartoli. She finds and uses five prayer wheels to open a room to hold the Seraph. She continues her journey inside the catacombs to find the Talion, a key used to open the door to the dagger. Exiting the caves, she takes off in a jeep. Two guards follow Lara, but she escapes, shooting the guard and causing their vehicle to crash into a tree.
Back in China, Lara opens the chamber holding the Dagger. Before she reaches the artefact Lara is plunged into the catacombs beneath the Great Wall. She makes her way back to the chamber, but Bartoli has used the dagger and is carried through a portal. Lara goes through the portal to a realm with green floating islands and warriors which come alive when triggered. She moves to the room where she witnesses Bartoli transformed into a dragon. Lara renders the creature unconscious and pulls the dagger from Bartoli's heart, killing him. The whole tomb begins to collapse, and a part of the Great Wall is destroyed. Lara escapes and is knocked unconscious upon landing outside the tomb, but she regains consciousness the next day. Lara returns home and is cleaning the dagger when an alarm goes off. The remainder of Marco Bartoli's men have tracked her down to England and are invading her mansion. She overpowers them. The final shot is of Lara, disrobing before entering the shower. She breaks the fourth wall as she turns to the player and says: "Don't you think you've seen enough?" She then blasts her shotgun at the player.
Development of Tomb Raider II was 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. Among these elements were the grenades that appeared in print ads for Tomb Raider (due to magazine deadlines, the ads were created before development on the game was finished). According to Jeremy Heath-Smith, co-founder of Core Design, development took "probably about eight months" as the team worked "long, long hours."
While two key members of the original team had left – most notably Lara's creator Toby Gard – most of them remained on board for the sequel. Graphic artist/level designer Heather Stevens recounted, "We had invested so much time and creativity into Tomb Raider that it would have been unthinkable to just walk away from it. It was action stations again for most of the team, and time to get our heads down again." Developing the original Tomb Raider had been an arduous task requiring the team to put in long hours to get the game out on time, and the sequel was assigned a much tighter deadline, less than a year for development. 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, allowed the team to meet the deadline. 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.
Lara's appearance in Tomb Raider II was given a make-over by the new designer, Stuart Atkinson, giving her a free-flowing ponytail, smoother features, and several new outfits which changed over the course of the game. Atkinson has also claimed credit for introducing vehicles to the gameplay. While in China and Venice Lara sports her signature "Tomb Raider outfit" (a tanktop and shorts), in the ocean-based levels she dons a half-body wetsuit and in Tibet she wears a bomber jacket. Lara's revolving wardrobe would become a trademark of the series going forward.
Nathan McCree was allotted much more time to score the game than he was with the original Tomb Raider, allowing him to not only write twice as many tunes, but also plan out ahead of time how his music would be used in the game and generally become more directly involved in the game's development. He spent three months working on the score for Tomb Raider II.
The original plan was with the game to end with the dragon battle, but as development neared its end the developers felt it made an unsatisfying conclusion and decided to add an epilogue. Because the deadline was now looming near, Croft Manor was reused for the epilogue. According to programmer Gavin Rummery, the shower scene "was our response to the enquiries about nude cheats!"
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. Following the cancellation announcement, Adrian Smith cited technical limitations of the console to program an adequate conversion. Core Design had been planning for a Saturn version of Tomb Raider II to use the 3D accelerator cartridge designed for the Saturn conversion of Virtua Fighter 3; this cartridge was cancelled before Tomb Raider II was completed. Some in the industry regarded the claim of the Saturn hardware being insufficient with doubt, and suggested that the real reason for the cancellation was that Sony and Core were negotiating a deal that would involve Tomb Raider II being PlayStation exclusive. In September 1997, Sony Computer Entertainment 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 and also in further cementing the PlayStation's growing reputation as the go-to system for must-have exclusive titles.
Shelley Blond was asked to reprise her role as Lara Croft from the previous game, but was unable to do so due to other commitments. Blond gave permission for Tomb Raider II to reuse the clips for Lara's grunts, cries, and monosyllables from the first game, while Judith Gibbins voiced all of Lara's speaking parts. The voices for the game were recorded using AKG Microphones at Barracuda Studios.
Versions and expansions
Tomb Raider II was released for Windows 95, Macintosh and PlayStation. There are slight differences between the three versions. 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. The PC version has no loading screens. Tomb Raider II is available for download for the PlayStation 3 via the PlayStation Network store. On 27 October 2011, it was released for Mac OS X and sold via the Mac App Store. The PC version was re-released digitally in 2012 by GOG.com.
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 four 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.
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 resurrection on the mask wearer.
Tomb Raider II received highly positive reviews from most critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating out of 100, the game received a score of 85 for the PlayStation version based on 13 reviews, which indicates "universal acclaim". The majority commented that while the differences from the original game are relatively small, Tomb Raider was a strong enough game that these differences and the consistent execution were enough to make an outstanding game. Next Generation, for example, stated that "You would imagine that fast-paced industry technology would force such a game into extinction, making any simple redressing of a past game into a bogus redux. But this doesn't happen with Tomb Raider II. True, in some ways it's close to being a clone of the first game, but there're just enough subtle additions and filling in of detail to expand on the original and make it work - and work brilliantly." Glenn Rubenstein was one of the few to disagree, writing in GameSpot, "Most of Tomb Raider II's improvements are cosmetic, and even those aren't really anything special." He opined that both installments of the series to date are uninspired games which sold largely on the stardom of Lara Croft. IGN's Adam Douglas concluded that compared to its predecessor, "The original feeling of awe may be gone, but the level of challenge is there, as well as a host of new elements. ... Is it a better game? In my humble opinion, no, but it is just as good, and makes a worthy sequel." Crispin Boyer of Electronic Gaming Monthly drew the comparison even more favorably: "Lara Croft's second outing may seem similar to the first, but TR2 actually packs a lot of subtle - and some not-so-subtle - differences that make it better than the original."
Among the changes the sequel made, the ones which received the most positive mentions were the addition of vehicles and the ability to climb walls. Many critics also compared the game's massive length favorably to that of the original Tomb Raider. Both GameSpot's Tim Soete and GamePro highly praised the timed traps, saying they induce a greater sense of panic and engagement than the traps in the original Tomb Raider. Rubenstein, despite his generally negative assessment of the game, agreed with Douglas that the greater number of human opponents in the sequel was a welcome improvement. An overwhelming majority of critics described Tomb Raider II as extremely difficult right from the beginning levels, with Next Generation stating that Core had clearly designed it with players who had completed the original Tomb Raider in mind. GamePro likewise described it as "for experts", but suggested that novices could learn the game given a good amount of patience and practice.
The graphics received more criticism than other aspects of the game; both Rubenstein and Electronic Gaming Monthly's Shawn Smith noted that the environmental graphics are rough, but added that this was both understandable and relatively unimportant given the enormous size of the levels. Soete and Next Generation also praised the huge levels, with Soete commenting that "Lara is exaggeratedly dwarfed in her surroundings, scaling the enormous walls of a gangster hideout's vestibule during one adventure, swinging from balcony to balcony in a surrealistically proportioned opera house during another." Macworld's Michael Gowan wrote, "While gunplay is involved, it's exploration and problem solving that keep you riveted for hours. The impressive graphics are even better with a 3-D accelerator installed." GamePro gave Tomb Raider II a 4.0 out of 5 for control and a perfect 5.0 for sound, fun factor, and graphics, applauding the controls, onslaught of threats, character animation, cinematic cutscenes, and intelligent use of sound effects and music, opining that "In the audio department, Tomb II masters the minimalist approach."
In August 1998, Tomb Raider II's computer and PlayStation releases each received a "Platinum" sales award from the Verband der Unterhaltungssoftware Deutschland (VUD), given to games with at least 200,000 sales across Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Sales of its computer version totaled 137,000 units in the German market between January and September 1998 alone, which made it the region's third-best-selling computer game during that period. It ultimately became the German market's fifth-best-selling computer game of 1998 as a whole. Tomb Raider II's PlayStation version sold 221,000 units and was the German market's third-biggest console title across all systems over the same timeframe. At the 1999 Milia festival in Cannes, Tomb Raider II took home a "Gold" prize for revenues above €39 million in the European Union during the previous year.
During the late 1990s, Lara was at the height of her 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 used her image during their 1997 PopMart Tour. Like its predecessor, the game was eventually made part of PlayStation's "Greatest Hits" line. A sequel, Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft, would follow in 1998.
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