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Hated beloved Lara

Review: Tomb Raider – The Angel Of Darkness (PC)

Lara's back ... in 5000 Polygons.

Lara's back ... in 5000 Polygons.

As an old Tomb Raider player who digged through the vaults of the Tomb Raider series from the beginning on the Playstation, I got myself to give the newly just released Tomb Raider – The Angel Of Darkness in that Lara has to solve mysteries that will brighten up why her former mentor got killed after she gave him a visit after that she got suspected and hunted for the murder.

Several years after the last part Tomb Raider Chronicles was released, the expectation for the new game became high and the big question you might ask is if Core Design managed to bring Lara back in a style that she deserved.

Honestly there are many different opinions about the game. Many love it while others hate it! Both are right as far as I can decide it. Most remarkable thing first: Eidos released an unfinished Game which seems to be still beta. This wouldn’t be too ugly if the bugs were only on the PC version but I’ve heard people complaining about bugs on the Playstation2 version as well. And that can’t easily be patched!

It’s starting with some ‘harmless’ bugs like missing textures on walls and non player models to very annoying and even unfair bugs like when shooting at an enemy, Lara always runs to the opponent and into it, making a fight a pain in the butt.

The Louvre is heavily laser-protected.

The Louvre is heavily laser-protected.

There’s also the heavily discussed controls of Lara (and later Curtis) which are very slow and delayed. When you are running and change the direction you will feel a remarkable delay. This can show up in some hefty curses when you are in a fight or a very critical situation.

I know it’s bad to start with the negative points at first but they had to be told! There are also many exciting and good points to the game like the excellent graphics and level design, the top music and sound effects and of course the catching story and the whole atmosphere that builds up during gameplay around Lara.

Lara still manages her moves with elegance.

Lara still manages her moves with elegance.

That leads to either you will get fed up with the controls and bugs very fast and throw the game into the corner or you have enough interest in trying to obtain upcoming areas to see how the story proceeds � like me.

The levels vary from one to another and mostly look very well designed. You eventually will agree with this when you entered the Bio Research facility which looks simply fantastic in an early century garden house style with plenty of colorful (and dangerous) plants.

I played TRAOD on a 1.2Ghz AMD with a Geforce2 MX400 gfx card and I still can claim that the graphics looked excellent though I couldn’t even activate many new graphical effects like fog or shadows.

The levels vary a lot. Sometimes confined space, sometimes huge areas.

The levels vary a lot. Sometimes confined space, sometimes huge areas.

The story and plot is a lot darker than on the predecessors and so many of the included areas are. Some new features are added like multiple choice dialogue with other NPC’s which should lead to slightly different ways of how to complete a level. In my opinion this was rather useless as the gameplay doesn’t vary much from it. I’d liked to see that the complete plot changes it’s way by choosing different questions/answers and you’ll possibly get different game endings like it already happened years before in Resident Evil for example. Core Design? Hello? … Did the innovations made an arc around you the last couple of years?!

There’s also Lara’s new ability system. She increases in strength on her legs or arms every now and then when she pushes boxes or jumps and climbs and she tells you so while playing with an excellent synced voiceover that counts for all characters in the game (note here: I’ve played the English version).

If you increased in strength you will be able to reach areas or do actions that you weren’t able to do before. This was a nice idea but again I think this could have been more extended. Like more ways of how to improve the strength and more ways to use it. This new feature leaves a rigid taste like it is now. The same goes for the new added sneak feature where Lara gets into a “quiet mode” and can walk along walls, lurk around corners and even break a foe’s neck. Basically this is useless as you can also shoot down all enemy’s meaning there is nothing really changing if you causing alert. They could have at least let more enemies spawn into the area when you got spotted.

That leads me to another critical point of the game: the enemy AI! The AI which isn’t! Generally the enemies are always behaving completely dumb and are no real match. A wheelchair driver is harder to defeat than these enemies!

Lara manages her habitual repertoire on various moves and actions plus some new ones which look always well animated on the new hi-res Lara model. Like there are martial arts kicks and she can now crawl military style on the ground.

The plot thickens.

The plot thickens.

The puzzles in the game are medium difficulty and don’t get too bothersome. There are only two time limited puzzle scenarios which I can remember now. This is a big relief when remembering how tedious some puzzle have been in older TR parts.

It comes for example like: you stand in front of a huge abyss with some flimsy wooden stems in it over that you have to jump (do they watched too much “The Golden Child” here? ;) … ‘I know you have an excellent floor here!’)

The Bio Research Facility is one of the most impressive levels with it's pompous building style and fantastic botany.

The Bio Research Facility is one of the most impressive levels with it's pompous building style and fantastic botany.

You will think immediately WTH? but after you jumped and maybe died for three or four times you discover that these parts are not as hard as expected. They made a big improvement on such scenes at least!

So I can only really recommend this game to people who are as addicted like me and Tomb Raider fans who want to dig into a tense and sinister raising storyline. All others should better wait until Core Design published enough patches to mangle out all the bugs for the PC version! I wonder how do they want to handle the PS2 version and what caused Core to release this game precociously!

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  1. May 14th, 2006 at 01:06 | #1

    Let’s see how many dozen games they make using this new engine. It was at Tomb Raider 3 that they all started to blur together.

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