League of Legends Tournament Results So Far

For any fans of the action-strategy-RPG League of Legends, Day 1 of the tournament with a prize pool of $100,000 for the winning team has commenced in Sweden. Eight teams are vying for the prize and the day one recap can be viewed on own3D.tv. It is currently starting day 3, and today, matches to determine who will be in the finals will take place.

The Championship match will take place at 6 PM Eastern and all coverage, including live footage of that match, can be found on the official site for this tournament - Season One Championship for League of Legends.

League of Legends is free-to-play, so anyone interested in taking it for a test drive, check out the official site.

‘Tomb Raider: Legend’ Review (Xbox 360)

Blue LightFor several games now, Lara Croft’s adventures have been less than stellar. Graphical hiccups, gameplay that refused to change with the times, and controls that responded like trying to drive a semi around the snaking lanes of San Francisco. Does Lara’s latest journey live up to the legendary title?

I’m pretty unfamiliar with Lara’s story in general. After playing the first game, I simply didn’t feel compelled to play anymore of the games in the franchise. The idea was neat – who didn’t like the idea of an attractive woman leading Indiana Jones type adventures – but the graphics and gameplay left a lot to be desired. Given that, I went into Legend with nary an idea what to expect or what continuity would be there. And you know what? Having a clean slate doesn’t hurt the story of this game at all.

After crashing down with her mom, the two plane crash survivors head to some local ruins to check the place out. Soon after, mother and daughter are finding a sword in a stone, and after pulling it out, Lara’s mom disappears forever. However many odd years later, Lara as an adult finds herself investigating some ancient ruins, running across evil masterminds, and sword fragments (matching that of the one that took her mom) that grant mystical powers. As Lara races about gathering the fragments, will she solve the mystery, and just what does all of this have to do with her mom?

Based on Arthurian lore, Legend slowly pulled me in as I delved deeper and deeper into the story. Told through a mixture of cutscenes and radio chatter over your headset, the story of the game builds slowly but nicely. And unlike past games, the majority of your time in Legend will actually be spent exploring tombs and others exotic locations, rather than one building after the next; it makes the game feel more epic and diverse.

By the end, I was so enthralled, and the semi-cliffhanger ending had me gasping in awe and yet cursing the developers for leaving me hanging. It ends well enough for a game, but it is just a little too open ended, making you have to play an inevitable sequel to fully get a final understanding and denouement.

You can’t start out a gameplay review of Legend without referencing the fact that Lara now controls silky smooth, and it isn’t like trying to drive a tractor. No longer do you have to gradually turn Lara inch by inch, lining up a jump perfectly thanks to the archaic controls, but rather now she is completely analog, and it is much more reaction based as she acts exactly when you want her to do so. If you know you must make a series of complicated jumps and runs, there is no worry now, as the only thing that will screw you up is yourself and only yourself; you can’t blame the controls any longer.

Harkening back to the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, the majority of your time within Legend will be spent navigating around the environmental puzzles, and for that I say, “Thank you!” Though sometimes initially frustrating, given you don’t always know what you can interact with, I absolutely loved jumping onto cliffs, shimming around edges, swinging from poles, riding rock slides, and all other sorts of things. Figuring out the environmental puzzles in Prince of Persia was always the biggest blast, and the same remains still for Tomb Raider: Legend. It actually makes you feel like you are Lara exploring these locales, and they are never so difficult that you quit trying; a perfect balance of cleverness has been incorporated so trying something again and again is never tedious.

Hand StandBeyond navigating the environment, other portions of the game revolve around action and guns blazing. The guns didn’t seem all that varied, as I got by with only Lara’s dual pistols and a machine gun-esque weapon; I know there were at least shotguns too, but I never felt inclined to pick one up from a downed enemy. Legend has an easy to use lock-on function that only rarely ever messed up on me, otherwise it worked perfectly fine. Lara also has a flashy move where she bounces off an enemy and shoots at them in slowmo, but it requires you to get so close, I only ever used it on the shielded enemies, which practically scream for that move to be used. The enemies aren’t too varied, as you’ll only fight men, more men, and then the occasional wild cat like animal. The bosses are pretty fun though, as they are more puzzle based than strict run and gun tactics.

You’ll also have a few QTE (Quick Time Event) button press cinematics, which you’ll have to complete in order to ensure that Lara survives; they aren’t too hard, but I did die occasionally when I mistakenly pushed the wrong button. There are also a few motorcycle chase sequences, in which you dodge trees and rocks while shooting bad guys in jeeps and on motorcycles, and though they aren’t that hard, they are fairly boring overall.

Lara looks better than ever and more proportional than before, and the environments aren’t too shabby either. Actually, the environments are downright draw dropping and gorgeous. Cliffs, pools, abandoned ruins, ancient amusement parks, snow covered peeks, and one massively cool waterfall and are amazingly rendered well and are a true sight to see and enjoy.

The voice acting is solid (especially the woman they got to provide Lara’s voice) and the music is beautiful, but the general gun sounds and other everyday sounds are just average for the most case, but as a whole the sound work in Legend is pretty spectacular.

I’m not a huge Tomb Raider fan, but I fell in love with Legend. I’ve always loved the Indiana Jones movies, that sense of exploration, and this game made me feel like I was living those movies; add in the King Arthur mythology and solid gameplay and I’m sold. The camera hiccups a few times, the game is short, and ends with a cliffhanger of sorts, but though the game doesn’t achieve a perfect ranking, rest assured it comes highly recommended and I can’t wait till the day the next game comes out and I get to complete my adventure.

Rating: 4star
Our Scoring System

Stunning New ‘Tomb Raider: Legend’ Demo Now Available

NVIDIA has worked closely with EIDOS and Crystal Dynamics on an improved demo for Tomb Raider: Legend that now has the same stunning graphics features that can be seen in the final version of the game. The demo is now available on nZone.com.

Tomb Raider: Legend earned great ratings on the PC, scoring over 80% on Gamerankings.com. The PC version looks incredible, with real-time shadows, high resolution textures, bump mapping, improved anti-aliasing, and enhanced skin shaders that make Lara look better than ever. However, up until now gamers had to purchase the game to be able to see these features, because the earlier demo didn’t support the game in its full graphic glory.

For the best visual experience, NVIDIA recommends an NVIDIA GeForce 7800 or better graphics card. Please note that users must have 84.43 or newer drivers, which they can get from nzone.com.

‘Tomb Raider: Legend’ Preview (Xbox 360)

One of the most recognized female stars in videogame history is set to go exploring again very shortly, and this time Lara Croft is taking her journey to the next-generation Xbox 360 console as well. Does this just mean Lara will have a prettier face or will there be exciting new gameplay mechanics as well?

Tomb Raider, for the past several iterations, has been…well…pretty bad. It takes the hardest of the hardcore Tomb Raider fan to stand up and say, “Hey, that last game was great! I love my Lara Croft!” Considering the fact that Lara herself controlled almost exactly like she did in her first outing (that archaic slow turn as if you were driving a bus around a hairpin corner), Tomb Raider: Legend has rewritten the gameplay while still staying true to the franchise.

Since this is a Tomb Raider adventure, of course Lara has to be the star, and it appears as if Lara has had some work done (for the better) cause she graphically looks better than ever. Given the iconic nature of Lara Croft, it could’ve been risky to change the woman’s appearance, but that is exactly what was done. If you recall Lara throughout her earlier adventures, the one area that you probably would have noticed were her breasts – they were simply too big and disproportionate to the rest of her body. Sure, men ate it up, but it wasn’t exactly realistic. Though Lara is still quite ample in the chest region, she actually looks like a reasonable woman (her proportions are much better off in this installment). Also, her face has gone through the cosmetic car wash as well, and though the change isn’t as dramatic as the rest of her, her face is less rigid now while still keeping the “look” of the old Lara.

After the initial cutscene finishes, indicating that you’re about to go traversing through the jungle to recover a stone dais from some local ruins, you’ll notice that the biggest gripe fans have had with the series has been fixed…Lara moves like a real person! Yes, forget about having to gradually shift Lara so you can line her up perfectly for a jump, because now she moves in the direction you push her, so her movement is anything but clunky. While playing the demo, it was so easy to just run around, make a jump, and head to the next section without having to stop to shift her around so she is aligned with something.

Speaking of movement, Lara has quite the number of moves (familiar to fans of the series) at her disposal. Lara can run, jump, swim, climb ropes and vines, swing like Tarzan, hang onto cliffs, vault off poles, and several others. In a way, with the new fluid movements, Lara almost controls like the Prince of Persia (minus the wall runs and such) as it was always easy to make Lara quickly do what you wanted her to do. The only time Lara isn’t being an acrobat of the utmost grace is when she doesn’t get a good grip after a particularly daunting jump, where (based on an icon) you’ll have to press the Y-button to ensure that Lara hangs on for her dear life and doesn’t drop to her waiting death below. The Y-button is also used for several other movement based moves, as hitting the button in time with Lara on the screen shimming along an edge, will mean that Lara will move quicker, which can come in quite handy when you start running across traps.

Besides the adventuring and exploring parts of Tomb Raider, the game has also always been about the shooting, as not everything you run across through your journeys are the friendliest things around. In the demo, Lara runs across an assortment of bad guys wanting into the ruins, and so you’ll have to combat them with your pistols (never run out of ammo) or pickup one of their own weapons and use it against their friends. The lock-on ability is your friend when it comes to tackling these foes, because as you keep Lara trained on her target, you can continue to strafe around and do flips and jumps to avoid gunfire headed at you.

Though all this stuff is old hat for the series, Lara did learn some news moves from the transition from the last game to this one. For instance, Lara has some binoculars, which allows her to see great distances so she knows what is coming up for her. Not only that, but her binoculars have a secondary mode, that upon activation, will allow you to scan the environment so you can find the objects you need to interact with to complete the environmental puzzles. Besides the binoculars, Lara can also use the environment as a weapon, simply by pressing the Y-button when it appears on screen in coordination with an object you can interact with by shooting at it, such as shooting at a pile of logs to cause them to roll down a hill and crash into the enemies waiting below.

The crème de la crème, however, is the grappling hook that Lara now has at her disposal. The grappling hook serves several purposes, with the two most important ones being a rope to swing on and to yank and pull objects. In some cases you’ll run across gaping pits you simply can’t jump across, which means that generally there will be an attachment point that will allow you to deploy your hook, latch on, and then swing safely across the chasm. You’ll also use the grappling hook to pull on objects, such as giant slabs of stone that might be impeding your progress. The hook is also used for combat as well, as you can attach it to an enemy to trip them up so they’ll quit firing just long enough for you to get a few shots in.

Based on the demo, the majority of the demo seemed to focus on the actual exploring and puzzle solving elements, which is a great thing to hear to this player, as it really makes you feel like you are actually “raiding tombs” instead of just shooting up random set pieces.

Perhaps it was the original Indiana Jones movie that started it all, but traps are a fascinating invention to me, and Tomb Raider has its fair share of them. Running up a waterfall and – oops – watch out! Here comes a boulder! Or how about, once you get inside those ruins, running when all of a sudden the ground gives way underneath you and you end up dangling over a pit of spikes. Part of the fun is learning how to protect yourself from these environmental hazards. For instance, a particular room features walls that constantly close and smash together, and you must learn how to get across this trap. Now, it is easy to get past one wall, but how do you get past the second one without becoming a pancake. Well, if you look around the room, you’ll find a cage that you’ll be able to grip onto and move around, which you can then drag with you through the collapsing walls, so they’ll only close the steel cage and not your pretty little self.

The game is full of these puzzles that you’ll have to figure out in order to precede. Another room features several pressure sensitive switches, but how do you get the boxes from the bottom level up to the second level? After you do enough analyzing (and I actually found this out by accident) you’ll find a teeter-totter of sorts; pull that cage out, place it on the end, climb to the ledge above, and then jump off to cause the cage to catapult up to the next level. Sure, it’s easy to do once you figure it out, but that “Ah ha!” moment is what makes it all worthwhile.

With so many improvements over the other games in the Tomb Raider series, I can’t wait to see the final build and spend a little more quality time with the iconic Lara Croft. I’ve got a hankering to do some more exploring, and Dora’s adventures aren’t going to cut it.