Pros: Quality graphics, non-linear gameplay
Cons: Confused story, annoying and difficult gameplay
The Tomb Raider series was flourishing...it was one of my favorite titles other than Resident Evil and Madden NFL. But no matter what series comes along...Star Trek, Batman, Tomb Raider...somewhere along the line there's going to be a dud..."TOMB RAIDER III" is definitely a "thumbs-down" game.
The story opens with a comet striking the earth in prehistoric times and then jumps ahead to the present in the Arctic at a drilling sight. Then the game begins with Lara on a steep cliff deep in the jungle with absolutely no explanation for why she is there. Although some of the FMV sequences and cut scenes within the game are interesting, impressive, or sometimes even a little gruesome...they don't tell the story very well. In fact, some of them confused me even further as to what was really going on.
The gameplay has a few new additions to Lara's moves. She can sprint and crawl which is good because you have to do BOTH quite a bit in this game. The training mode takes place at Lara's house again..and this time there's a nice training course on the grounds to work on these moves as well as the old ones. Say, "HELLO" to Geeves the butler (excuse me...where are my P.C. manners???...food-and-service-coordinator) while you're there. There's also some hidden way to find Lara's treasure room in the mansion as well as riding an ATV for practice beneath her hedge maze, but you'll need a cheat/walkthrough to get you there.
Now, the first two Tomb Raider games were about exploring and having a lot of fun doing it...there was exhilaration and anticipation at every turn and jump. "TOMB RAIDER III" is all about NOT DYING!!! And even though "TOMB RAIDER III" looks fantastic...looks aren't everything. There are so many ways to die and to miss pickups that it is UN-REAL. You can die in the first 20 seconds of the game if you aren't careful...seriously! Many times there are so many graphics on the screen (like jungle foilage for instance) that it blocks the camera's view and you can't see Lara or what's up ahead and you die. Also, you practically need an unlimited number of flares or else you'll get very few items or miss the small opening you need to crawl through in order to get to the next level...it's almost maddening.
There are a couple of neat differences in "TR3". The saving method of "TR1" and "TR2" have been combined. You find "save crystals" and then can use them whenever and wherever you want. You can find an abundance of them if you keep your eyes peeled. There are also "hazards" such as quicksand or pools with unshootable schools of pirhana in them. Previously any foe was able to be killed. There are also poisonous snakes and darts (shot by natives) which wear your health down unless you use a health-pack...very realistic. The game is also non-linear like "CRASH BANDICOOT 2". After the first area you can choose from several others in any order you like. These include the SOUTH PACIFIC, AREA 51, and LONDON...and then finally the ARCTIC. You also get the opportunity to ride an ATV and use a Kyack on two separate levels. This could have been extremely fun except that the creators made the paths that Lara has to take SOOOOO difficult that it takes the fun right out of it.
I'd have to say my favorite level was in the SOUTH PACIFIC where you get to fight the dinos (once again). In the end, however, one REALLY fun level and nice graphics don't suffice...if I just want to look at something nice, I'll look at a painting. AND you'll find yourself squinting at a cheat/walkthrough to help you make it past almost every level...that's just not worth it.
Pass on "TR3". Pass on the hours of frustration that I spent in my living room! You'll thank me!