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Old 14-05-19, 09:21   #151
Final Count
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How wonderful it is to log in, and find several level reviews from you, ready to read!

Again, I agree with everything you say. Perhaps I'm slightly less in love with Crash Site due to bad childhood memories (MAN, I struggled with this level back then).

Madubu Gorge is my all-time favorite Tomb Raider level, for all the reasons you pointed out. It is truly one of the most immersive gaming experiences. I feel like I'm actually there, and the route in the first 1/3 of the level, up to the kayak, is simply fantastic. The caves, waterfalls, ambience etc. The level is really challenging as well, and I completely agree with the way you describe the controls of the kayak. That's another reason why it's so immersive.

So we are in the same boat (kayak?) on this Madubu Gorge is one of the greatest video game levels ever, in my opinion. When I had my recent playthrough, I was fearing that I might enjoy it less than I usually do - but nope, still loving every second of it.
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Old 14-05-19, 14:54   #152
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Great reviews sheepman! And I love that you still love Madubu Gorge. Probably my favorite TR level of all-time. Beautiful and challenging.
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Old 15-05-19, 01:01   #153
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Originally Posted by The Great Chi View Post
I have been enjoying this review, but would like to make a comment about too much sympathy for the tribesmen, which is not that justified, as if they have weapons on them, which they do, then they are fair game to be killed, just as all baddies in Tomb Raider, like guards, they are paid to be killed, etc

If Lara had turned her back on these cannibals, she would have been on the menu, as 'roasted raider'
Hey Chi, thanks for the comments!

I understand that the tribesmen are clearly violent people, but it's still problematic to have the game dive headfirst into the "well, they're people of color on an island, better make them cannibals!" trope. As for Lara's motivations, yes, they can be explained by simply not shooting any of them, but that brings me to your next point...

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Further to this, we as players controlling Lara, do not have to kill every baddies in the game, and instead can decide to spare some or all of them by running by the area, unless that is not possible by one or two blocking the exit, or we need a specific pickup key by killing a baddie. The choice is really down to us, depending if you are blood thirsty, or like to sneak by without a kill. Lara can outrun most baddies.
Another forum-goer brought this up in the review thread. I must say that I don't buy this argument. The choice of whether or not to spare hostile enemies is hardly a choice at all in Tomb Raider III because the game innately punishes us for not attacking them. Unlike Angel of Darkness, which did have stun guns, dart guns, and stealth mechanics, there's no option to bypass any kills in TR3 unless we just tank the damage.

That's all still fine, of course, but that's not all the way the game is meant to be played. So if my choice to do the right thing is hindered by making the game less enjoyable as a result, then that's not a choice that the designers wanted us to have. If they wanted us to have a choice, they would've made the villagers peaceful at first, but hostile if you decide to attack one of them (like they do with other frenemies in TR2/3).

I hope this clears up my animosity towards the combat - I do greatly appreciate your thoughts Chi.

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Madubu Gorge is just amazing. I can’t get over how awesome the South Pacific section of TR3 as a whole, but Madubu Gorge is, without a doubt, the standout level of the set. It’s beautiful, it’s tense partly due to the kayak’s controls (which I also agree were realistic), it’s nicely segmented, and we don’t ever feel like we’re getting too much of one particular pillar of gameplay.

The only thing that is perhaps missing, is combat. There are a few encounters, but they felt really short-lived and random. However, that isn’t the biggest deal, seeing what the level offers and how much combat you find in Nevada, for example.
Couldn't agree more. The combat is perhaps lacking, but I don't think it's a detriment with the amount of other content we have here. And you're right, other areas like Nevada have far more to contribute on this facet of gameplay.

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Originally Posted by RequiredField View Post
A bit of realism I'd say. I doubt a single frag grenade would instantly deal with someone. The same when we talk about other guns. Bleeding is what kills.
Really? Interesting. I may be vastly overestimating how powerful those grenades are then. I'm still calling B.S. on needing 3 to kill it, but HP is always exaggerated in TR games so I don't care that much.

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Has it ever been confirmed that this is his name? I don't know but when I think about the whole situation, I don't think such an ancient temple has been built for someone who's been in this world for less time. Enlighten me if necessary.
No, I don't think so, but the game names the level "Temple of Puna", does not give us another individual named Puna for the game, and does not explain anything about the boss sitting in the room, so I'm left to believe that he's potentially a "god" who never ages. But I certainly don't claim that that assumption is correct at all.

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Originally Posted by Yeauxleaux View Post
The South Pacific levels confuse me geographically.

At the start of Coastal Village, we see Lara swim into a cove, this is at what we're assuming is sea level no? Except on the other side of the hills there's a massive waterfall that drops down to an area lower than that... but it's still not totally submerged in water.

Then again when Puna is described as living "up in the hills", this is immediately before Lara rafts her way downriver (including several more waterfalls) towards the temple.
Good observation Yeauxleaux - yes, they are very confusing when you lay out where Lara begins and where she ends. She presumably never goes uphill yet starts the section off at the shore, meaning that she's traveling into a deep valley, which is fine, but the mention of "up in the hills" sort of undermines that lol.

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........Just add a few pirates and you get plenty of combat action
Love it

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Originally Posted by Final Count View Post
Madubu Gorge is my all-time favorite Tomb Raider level, for all the reasons you pointed out. It is truly one of the most immersive gaming experiences. I feel like I'm actually there, and the route in the first 1/3 of the level, up to the kayak, is simply fantastic. The caves, waterfalls, ambience etc. The level is really challenging as well, and I completely agree with the way you describe the controls of the kayak. That's another reason why it's so immersive.

So we are in the same boat (kayak?) on this Madubu Gorge is one of the greatest video game levels ever, in my opinion. When I had my recent playthrough, I was fearing that I might enjoy it less than I usually do - but nope, still loving every second of it.
Awesome to see so much love for Madubu As always, I appreciate the comments Final Count.

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Originally Posted by Nemo_91 View Post
Great reviews sheepman! And I love that you still love Madubu Gorge. Probably my favorite TR level of all-time. Beautiful and challenging.
I will never change on Madubu Thanks for checking it out Nemo!

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Old 15-05-19, 09:46   #154
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Default The ultimate challenge of TR3 Madubu gorge

One of the hardest challenges of the wonderful madubu gorge level, is to be able to accend the waterfall area to the top by kayak.

I actually thought this impossible till the late rr_carroll showed the route up using photos in one of his threads, and that Patrick Shannon also discussed the thread, saying also that it was possible, so I tried the challenge, and it was very difficult but possible. So after many attempts I got it all on video.

There is one specific location near the cave entrance where you must start, and eventually the kayak does climb, and near the middle it gets swamped, ie, goes behind the waterfall, and if you get the right position, it jumps over the collision detection that holds it back and climbs further to the top

Yes, rr_carroll got to a lot of places in Tomb Raider first, and the rest of us followed, desperate to explore the inaccessible areas in the series

Note that this video of mine is condensed into a few minutes, rather than the time it really took to do the many attempts to get by each section to get up there. It is the most frustrating challenge in TR3, but worth it once you get Lara in the kayak up there.......

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Old 15-05-19, 17:33   #155
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Originally Posted by Yeauxleaux View Post
Crash Site... idk by that point I'm just like "oh look a dinosaur, yawn", because I think it was played out after the (#iconic) Lost Valley level and putting them in again as a secret find in TR2. They were also way, way too OP here. That wouldn't have been a problem, but when Nevada already took all our guns and ammo away, and we've got Antarctica coming up, we really don't wanna be pouring loads of scant resources into these here.

It's a decent enough level but nothing super memorable for me personally. Pretty much a cookie-cutter hub with branching side areas (I love that as the MO of Tomb Raider level design, but I don't think this one did it particularly well).

I don't know if that cave area with all the monkey swinging was actually supposed to be something. Maybe it was supposed to be a secret, maybe an area with another key, but it seems like they put it in and then just forgot about it because there's absolutely no need to go there. It's pretty out of the way too, I'm fairly sure the vast, vast majority of players probably didn't realise it was there on the first playthrough.
This is actually the correct way to go - the designers messed up when they made the level basically.

Ideally - your MEANT to do this cave area, and this allows Lara access to the plane's top. (Core obviously didn't playtest and realise players could get ontop of it by other means)
Think about it - why add save crystals and ammo etc, a puzzle room etc all for nothing - this was part of the intended path
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Old 16-05-19, 02:33   #156
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SOUTH PACIFIC ISLANDS
Level 15 - Temple of Puna




Temple of Puna is yet another section closing level to feature a boss battle. In the context of the story we've been following in the South Pacific, I do believe it makes sense to have a final baddie protecting the artifact; unlike India and London, however, there's hardly any background given on this guy. In fact, it's not even clear whether he's a normal tribesman or not. If this is Puna and this is indeed his temple, then he's actually a living demigod of sorts. If this isn't the case, however, then who is this guy? Why did he get to have his hands on the Ora Dagger? I think it would've been helpful to have an opening cutscene to this level that contained a confrontation with him; as it stands, the battle feels a tad bit empty.

If the battle is devoid of the context, then the gameplay of said battle is devoid of... well, creativity. Puna shoots fatal lighting bolts at Lara that don't give any indication of their lethal nature - until you get struck by one. I'm not terribly concerned with that tactic since it quickly becomes clear that you need to just be jumping at all times in order to dodge the bolts; what I am more annoyed with is the decision for Puna to spawn green lizards. I think this was an attempt to diversify what it takes to defeat him, but to be honest, these lizards feel pretty tacked-on and only serve as a disruption in the main action.

Additionally, changing gears to attack the lizards can quickly cause our heroine to flip around a little too much, and directly into the abyss underneath the platform. The addition of that pit feels like a pretty cheap hazard that, again, doesn't add anything to the battle. With Tony, the fiery floor worked because our main line of defense didn't involve completing gymnastics; it was simply running from the fire. Not the case here, and it can potentially lead to more frustration.



Puna really isn't a top-notch boss battle - of TR3 or the series as a whole. But he's a one-tricky pony, which at least means that you can figure out a formula pretty quickly instead of bashing your head wondering how you can pass him.

The far more interesting enemies in the temple are Puna's blowdart-wielding guards, who make a return from the Coastal Village. These guys are sneaky; they only appear twice in the level (once at the beginning, and once when you round your way back to the beginning), but each encounter pits you against several at once and almost always leads to poisoning by dart if Lara isn't careful. I chose to dispatch them with the DEagle on the second time around since the MP5 forced me to be stationary the first time around - and stationary isn't a good thing when you're trying to dodge darts...

With all of the stage's combat aside, the other half of Temple of Puna - which comes before the boss, so apologies for doing this review backwards - is a gauntlet of Indiana Jones style traps that test our reactions and ability to solve a puzzle or two under pressure. And while that normally would be a cause for me to dump immense praise on a level... this isn't one of those times.





By far the worst offender of this trio is the rolling blade room. After showing up several times in TR2, this is actually the first and only time that we see them in this title. The room itself contains 4 buttons along the walls that must be pressed in order to open the exit. That's the "puzzle", and the only thing that really makes this a puzzle at all is the hindrance that the rolling blades provide. We must wait for the right moment to hit each button and then quickly retreat to safety before getting sliced in half by one of the traps.

Retreating to safety, as it turns out, involves moving a grid square away and ducking on the ground. That's it. That's the secret to this room. And you get to do it three more times afterwards... zzzzzzzz...

In all fairness, I'm glad that the chamber doesn't rely on the out-of-nowhere killers that TR3 seems to love so much. But replicating one boring action at four corners of the room with a jump across in between (which is really the only fun part of this) is not good use of gameplay time, and to be honest? It's just kind of a lame trap. I would much prefer a set of hallways with rollers spread out across them. This could force the player to retreat to alcoves at the right moment, or execute sprints when the time is right.



The following Temple of Doom spike chamber is pretty much the opposite case; it's certainly not boring or elongated, but it throws the player into a room and forces them to quickly either throw three switches to stop the descending ceiling, or pull a block out to sidetrack that nonsense (the latter option is way better ). I'm super tempted to point fingers at the designers for kind of being asses once again, but I'm willing to forgive this one encounter since such assholery feels right at home in the a gauntlet-themed level. (Also, let's be honest, even TR2 pulled this stuff a lot - just think of the entirety of Temple of Xian )

The final test against the massive boulders is the best of the bunch. The danger is telegraphed before you have to complete the sprint, which builds the anticipation. What isn't as easy to predict is the second boulder around the corner, so it's definitely possible for the player to get caught off guard and be crushed. The enthralling music track enhances the danger in this moment too. It's a very well-executed sequence.

Completion of the gauntlet leads us back to the beginning, which then allows us to confront Puna. One more thing: this level's secret is honestly one of the worst ones in the game. Not only is the entrance to the secret room extremely hard to even see (especially on the poorly-lit Playstation version), but it's only opened after the return journey and there's no indication of this happening. I think it would've made more sense to have a secret switch somewhere during the series of trials to give us a visual of it opening so that we could at least be aware that something changed...



Conclusion:

Pros
+ Groups of blowdart tribesmen create dangerous combat encounters
+ Good use of traps with the spiked ceiling room and giant boulders

Cons
- A rather underwhelming and uninspired boss
- The spike roller room is tedious and not fun
- Level's only secret is hidden too obscurely

I'm pretty certain that I used to hold this level in high regard... and I'm now wondering why that was.

It's not that the Temple of Puna is all that bad. It's got a solid atmosphere and a nice trap theme. Puna isn't an outrageously frustrating boss, and while I griped a lot about the rolling spike room, it's also not on the level of, say, Lud's Gate's awful underwater maze. But with as little content as we get here, it's disappointing that the only two great moments - saving yourself from the falling spikes and outrunning the boulders - are over in about 1-2 minutes. Every other part of this level is pretty uninteresting and tedious. The Puna battle would've helped the experience if it had felt unique, but he's about as standard as you can get.

Since the trap theme was already in use here, I would've liked to have seen some additional trials before coming back to the stage's beginning; maybe they could've thrown in some flaming statues, breaking tiles with spikes underneath, or rotating wall blades from the village stage. I think the temple ultimately feels like a missed opportunity, and that's unfortunate when it comes on the heels of two of the game's greatest adventures.

Rating - 5/10


Current Rankings:
  1. Madubu Gorge (10/10)
  2. Area 51 (10/10)
  3. Crash Site (9/10)
  4. Aldwych (9/10)
  5. Nevada Desert (9/10)
  6. Temple Ruins (8/10)
  7. High Security Compound (8/10)
  8. Jungle (8/10)
  9. City (8/10)
  10. Coastal Village (7/10)
  11. Lud's Gate (6/10)
  12. The River Ganges (6/10)
  13. Thames Wharf (6/10)
  14. Temple of Puna (5/10)
  15. Caves of Kaliya (4/10)

Last edited by sheepman23; 16-05-19 at 04:25.
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Old 17-05-19, 13:16   #157
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They made me realize that gaming is so much more than solving a puzzle, fighting some baddies, or appreciating scenic graphics.
Games are modern form of art just like paintings, sculptures, music, movies, etc.
People can view games the same way they may perceive art. Just viewing is not enough. It can be a lesson of history, some contexts (when a piece of art was made and how can it affect the interpretation) and the life of the author/authors.
E.g. just fire up such an old game on old hardware which was popular back in those days and notice how the game performs - was it properly optimized? Were there any features that ended up unavailable due to modern times, like the famous True Alpha setting?

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Originally Posted by sheepman23 View Post
I think we all play and enjoy games because we can get absorbed into a world and, more importantly, an experience.
Yes but that's not all that matters for me.
I may sound boring right now so skip this section if you're not interested in what I am.
I care about differences in the same game when it comes to different versions. There might be an update which fixes some bugs, there might me a release at the other side of the world which censors some stuff. There may be a release on another platform where some eye candy had to be nerfed due to hardware incompatibilities.
I took a lot of time to prepare some spreadsheets which cover most of the differences between PS1 releases, focusing mostly on TR4. Something that takes time to research when comparing 8 versions of the same game, on the same platform.
Silly? Unnecessary? Maybe... but now I can tell what PS1 version a player has just by looking at the inventory screen.

But seriously, that is also something about history lessons. How the developers failed in some places and when (and how) they fixed them.
What about me talking about censoring anything? Well, it's noticeable mainly in German PS1 TR3 release by changing blood color from red to purple but this applies even more to other game franchises that I care about.

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I had a host of screenshots that I wanted to share for this review, but had to cap it around the 9-10 mark like I normally do, which is unfortunate since this is undoubtedly one of the most scenic stages in the entire damn series.
If you still have them saved, pack them as an archive and post it somewhere. I enjoy even something that most people would call "outdated graphics" but for me there are no problems with e.g. taking a casual walk through a level and enjoying the scenery rather than rushing to finish it ASAP.

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The reveal of entirely secret chamber underneath is cool stuff, and feels very much like a "back way" into Puna's abode. We still don't know if the unreachable temple at the level's entrance had any significance, but we found our way in, and that's what matters.
Because that's exactly what it is. Instead of lowering the drawbridge, getting inside the temple, avoiding loads of traps, we just take a back door.
Once you go down to the hall which was blocked by the giant plug, you can see something that looks like door at the other side of where the end of the level is.
The whole complex is also bigger than some people may think. In one room next to the giant plug room there's a gate which never opens and the player is not meant to see what the blocked path leads to.
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Old 18-05-19, 08:52   #158
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Temple of Puna was probably my only real disappointment, when replaying Tomb Raider III. I had sort of built it up as TRIII's The Great Wall-level - as in a fast-paced marathon of traps. But Temple of Puna is actually quite slow. The awful rolling blades room takes some time to get through, and the trap with the spike ceiling has already been done in the Temple Ruins levels (I did not know that you could pull out a block ?) The rolling boulders are awesome, however, and easily the iconic moment of the level. I though the boss was really cool as a kid, and made several drawings of him.

My favorite thing about Temple of Puna, is what the level is, when you think about it. The temple is situated in a hidden cave below a cave at the bottom of a remote gorge on a pacific island in the middle of nowhere. That's kind of cool.

I agree about the rather lacking narrative of the South Pacific levels. India, and in particular London, had narratives that were fleshed out, and in Nevada it was rather obvious what was going on, even if cutscenes didn't tell any concrete story. In the South Pacific, we definitely could've benefitted from a cutscene in-between Madubu Gorge and Temple of Puna.

Still, the South Pacific is one hell of a chapter. Madubu Gorge alone is video game perfection, and both Coastal Village and Crash Site are top notch solid action game levels.
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Old 19-05-19, 03:34   #159
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Originally Posted by RequiredField View Post
Yes but that's not all that matters for me.
I may sound boring right now so skip this section if you're not interested in what I am.
I care about differences in the same game when it comes to different versions. There might be an update which fixes some bugs, there might me a release at the other side of the world which censors some stuff. There may be a release on another platform where some eye candy had to be nerfed due to hardware incompatibilities.
I took a lot of time to prepare some spreadsheets which cover most of the differences between PS1 releases, focusing mostly on TR4. Something that takes time to research when comparing 8 versions of the same game, on the same platform.
Silly? Unnecessary? Maybe... but now I can tell what PS1 version a player has just by looking at the inventory screen.
Haha, I suppose it's a pretty... niche interest in video games, but hey, that's really cool all the same. I couldn't tell you the first thing about differences between versions, but I appreciate someone like you who can tell me everything I need to know and more.

Quote:
Because that's exactly what it is. Instead of lowering the drawbridge, getting inside the temple, avoiding loads of traps, we just take a back door.
Once you go down to the hall which was blocked by the giant plug, you can see something that looks like door at the other side of where the end of the level is.
The whole complex is also bigger than some people may think. In one room next to the giant plug room there's a gate which never opens and the player is not meant to see what the blocked path leads to.
The only thing that's a bit confusing to me about this whole temple situation is the layout of the gorge. By the time we go down the drain and into the lower chamber, we're well below the elevation of where we started the level at. So the "entrance" that we see at the beginning? Well, there's no way that leads to the same room. So I question if that extra door in the chamber really does go there - but it's certainly possible there's another entrance to Puna's temple that we can't even see.

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My favorite thing about Temple of Puna, is what the level is, when you think about it. The temple is situated in a hidden cave below a cave at the bottom of a remote gorge on a pacific island in the middle of nowhere. That's kind of cool.
Indeed - it's very intricately hidden, and it certainly feels like a huge accomplishment once you make it inside.

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Still, the South Pacific is one hell of a chapter. Madubu Gorge alone is video game perfection, and both Coastal Village and Crash Site are top notch solid action game levels.
I couldn't agree more. The South Pacific will at least go down as one of my own personal favorites of the series. I do think that Nevada surpasses it by a tiny bit just because it's pretty consistently great the whole way across. I wish that South Pacific's ending level was up to the quality of the rest, then I might be able to give it the nod.
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Old 19-05-19, 04:54   #160
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ANTARCTICA
Level 16 - Antarctica




Midway through Antarctica, the player comes across a ruined mess hall in the middle of a snowy clearing. A radio crackles with static while an open fire piques our curiosity for what's inside of this building. As we start investigating, we find that this building really has nothing all that useful inside - no pickups, no switches, no reason for needing to exist. Finally, we turn to the darkest corner in the back of the building and get the startle of our lives: a mutated RX Tech worker, still clad in a red jacket, comes to life out of nowhere and spews poison gas at Lara.

This is the best moment of Antarctica, and it's really not even close.

It's absolutely wonderful when the designers don't just tell a story through cutscenes... but through the gameplay itself. This is part of the reason why I find the TR2 and TR3 Gold packages to be so magnificent. With nothing but environments, textures, camera work, and music, the Gold team can masterfully explain their plots with zero outside dialogue. In Antarctica, the same thing happens. With the use of exactly one area inserted into the middle of the level, we can deduce a few things before our encounter with Willard at the end: something has gone horribly wrong with the RX Tech experiments, and it's probably at the hands of Willard himself. This segues us nicely into the conversation at the end since curiosity tells us that creating mutated subjects isn't just a fun pastime.





As it turns out, Willard has been using Lara's services for something pretty evil - he wants to advance the evolution of humans using the material inside of the meteorite crater. He's already created some pseudo-evolved humans, such as the one Lara met in the ruined building. Naturally, Lara is a little alarmed about this development that she didn't expect. Then again, Antarctica leaves one pretty large gaping plot hole: why the hell are Willard's employees spending the entire level attacking our heroine? Furthermore, why does Lara so casually approach Willard at the end after gunning down close to 30 of them? This has always really bothered me about the opener to the final section, especially since we spend a lot of time killing the RX Tech workers in this stage.

We also never quite understand what Willard's true goal is with this evolution crap. He doesn't give a reason on why Brundlefly-man is apparently more advanced than a regular human - unless he genuinely counts breathing poison as an advancement. Are these "naturally accelerated" humans going to do society some sort of good? I'd hate to imagine a planet filled with those damn things in RX Tech Mines... (we'll save that discussion for the next review )

Still, the dialogue with Willard at the end is a much-needed exposition dump to bring us to the Tomb Raider III endgame. Out of the classic games, TR3 is the one that spends the least time developing its main story, so the moments where it does truly focus on the overarching plot are satisfying.



The reveal of Willard's true intentions and the exposure of the RX Tech base of operations works in favor of this game's story, but Antarctica's gameplay suffers from multiple problems that bring down the entire experience of the level.

As I've already mentioned, there's a great deal of combat encounters to go around in this icy journey. This starts with a pretty large number of deaths inside of the ship that we see at the level's beginning. I'm fine with this part, although the ship looks and feels quite empty from the inside. You pretty much run around, push a few buttons and levers, run down some long hallways, and murder an RX Tech worker every now and then until you come across the release switch for the inflatable dingy. From there, it's a short ride over to the beginning of the RX Tech base...

... and with almost every new reveal of a building, there's usually an accompanying encounter - or, set of encounters - against these exact same baddies. They all have red coats and pistols; sometimes a dog might get thrown into the mix, but for the most part, Antarctica's combat is both heavy and quite boring. And I think this combination is what makes the gunfights one of the weakest parts of the level. Whereas a stage like Crash Site or Area 51 thrived off of its ability to place enemies in unique locations or, in the latter's case, to use enemies as puzzle devices for secret rooms, Antarctica uses run-of-the-mill humans and canines to give us our share of shooting.

What would have spiced this combat up? For starters, adding the flamethrowers from the following level. That would've very quickly given the danger of this compound more weight while also adding some uniqueness and variety to the enemy types.





The uninteresting nature of the stage's enemies also extends into Antarctica's overall goals and core gameplay. While I'm actually a fan of how the middle portion of the level is so open to explore, there's a ton of aimlessness in this area that only gets resolved once you stumble across a crowbar and realize that Lara actually has the ability to break down a door barrier with it. This isn't the first time TR3 has had some issues with explaining its use of items: back in Aldwych, we retrieved a Masonic Mallet that was apparently supposed to let us know that we break a lock with it... *shrug*

The rest of the level progression with the fuel supply diagram, turning on the generator, and being able to explore the building that you previously couldn't because the power was out, is all great stuff in terms of being an objective for the level. My problem lies more with how standard the actual tasks are. There's very little to be challenged with for the majority of Antarctica, and that's because it feels like checking tasks off of a list instead of deducing a way to cross a river, scale a building, or bypass genuinely tough enemies. Turning on the generator makes perfect sense, yet feels like an unnecessarily elongated task given how boring it was.

In fact, the only head-scratcher of Antarctica comes in its beginning area. We quickly realize that the water is deadly cold, and even going down to retrieve the shiny Desert Eagle clips at the beginning is a highly risky move. So the question then becomes, "How do I go down that long cave without dying?" And the reveal of the inflatable raft brings a nice solution to said puzzle. This boat area features some nice platforming as well, and it's really the only part of Antarctica to do so.



The level's appearance is quite nice, and the improvements to snow texturing are definitely visible when compared to TR2. I like how the snow mixes with the various RX Tech compound buildings; little touches like maps, computers, and drinks go a long ways to making this stage's world a reality to the gamer. It enhances moments like that encounter with the poisonous beast by grounding an unexpected sight in with a fully realized environment.

I'm also happy to report that, no, the designers do NOT insert any "pull-the-rug-out-from-under-you" moments in Antarctica. But enjoy it now, because this will be the last level of the game to do so... I'll let you decide whether that's a good or bad thing.



Conclusion:

Pros:
+ Great-looking snowy environment
+ The plot progression in both the cutscene and mutant encounter is nice
+ Turning on the generator is a serviceable puzzle
+ Good use of a vehicle (the dingy) as a puzzle item

Cons:
- Large plot discrepancies with Lara's battles against the RX Tech workers
- Too much combat with too little variety of enemies
- Strong potential for aimless exploration since the crowbar's abilities aren't well telegraphed
- Overall, very little challenge for being the beginning of the game's final section

I suppose that one could that Antarctica is supposed to be the "calm before the storm" moment of TR3's final area. The mines and Tinnos are beasts of levels (at least content-wise), so the opener is a stab at a more simplistic goal and execution of said goal. Find the compound; turn the generator on; raft your way to Willard. That's all fine, of course, but it's hard for me to feel too excited about a stage that gets its best thrill out of a completely optional run-in with one of Willard's scientists.

There are other problems here too, like the heavy combat against boring enemies and the lack of direction in the middle portion. But those two issues are mostly just being brought up because Antarctica doesn't have a strong enough task list. It's arguably the most forgettable level of TR3, actually. Not the worst at all, but just... entirely forgettable.

Rating - 6/10


Current Rankings:
  1. Madubu Gorge (10/10)
  2. Area 51 (10/10)
  3. Crash Site (9/10)
  4. Aldwych (9/10)
  5. Nevada Desert (9/10)
  6. Temple Ruins (8/10)
  7. High Security Compound (8/10)
  8. Jungle (8/10)
  9. City (8/10)
  10. Coastal Village (7/10)
  11. Lud's Gate (6/10)
  12. The River Ganges (6/10)
  13. Antarctica (6/10)
  14. Thames Wharf (6/10)
  15. Temple of Puna (5/10)
  16. Caves of Kaliya (4/10)
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