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September 8, 2003
Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
11/7/2003EidosCore Design1MA15+Medium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
100KBDolby Pro Logic IIYesNoNoneNo

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Damn, laser grid.
It's absolutely incredible to think that the Tomb Raider franchise was first introduced to gamers way back in 1996, almost seven years ago now. From the first incredible game the series has stagnated somewhat. Yes, the graphics improved, and Lara learned a few new moves, but compared to other platform/adventure games it improved little. Still, with 6 million sales the series certainly has a following. After numerous delays Tomb Raider: The Angel Of Darkness finally hit the shelves worldwide in mid 2003.

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Gallons of blood...
The storyline is certainly engaging enough. A series of grisly murders brings Lara into conflict with a sinister Alchemist from the past, and a secret alliance of powerful individuals shrouded in mystery. At the center of these mysteries are the Obscura Paintings - five 14th century pieces of art that the Alchemist is desperate to repossess. Accused of the murder of her one time mentor, Werner Von Croy, Lara becomes a fugitive on the run. Pursued by the police, she follows the Alchemist into a dark world of blood, betrayal and vengeance where it is up to her to defeat this unholy alliance, and stop them from unleashing their incredible powers on the world.

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Just hanging around.
It's all pretty good up to this point. (Hang on, which point - the review is just starting!) Well, thats my point. There are no good points. OK, the intro is pretty cool, as are most cut scenes, but the actual gameplay is a major problem. The controls are absolutely horrendous. Lara feels so awkward to move and perform actions such as jumping, climbing and attacking. Yes, the game is context sensitive. That is, if you see a ladder you only have to push towards it to climb it. But what if you just want to stand at the base of it? Climbing thruogh windows, sneaking along walls and other basic moves are also clumsily implemented. Hand to hand combat is so awkward it hardly seems worthwhile and the auto-targeting of the guns is the same as in past games. Puzzles are in the game, but are so awkward you'll be pulling your hair out.

The enemy AI also lacks any sort of, well, AI. The enemies fail to duck for cover, worry about bullet hits and fail to think up any strategy for stopping Lara. Is there any good? Well, if you liked the original games, and that is a lot of people, then you can pretty much put this down as more of the same with prettier graphics. This game certainly isn't an evolution and when you look at other games such as UbiSoft's Splinter Cell, Konami's Metal Gear Solid: Sons of Liberty and the puzzle based brilliance of Sony's much underrated ICO this game looks very, very dated.

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Is that Solid Snake... ermm, no.
Graphically, Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness is also a mixed bag. On a positive note the texturing is quite impressive, and Lara's 5,000 polygons are certainly put to good use (this compared to 500 on the old PSOne games). But for all these good looks the effect is spoiled by the horrific camera angles mentioned above as well as a frame rate that struggles at times, even without numerous enemies on screen. The dark and gritty feel that the developers were aiming for seems to have been achieved. The cut-scenes are quite impressive as are the visual effects in the game such as lights and water, although there is better in other games on the market.

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Some very nice lighting effects.
Sound is easily the highlight of the game. Recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra the soundtrack is worthy of a major motion picture. Very atmospheric and very exciting. The Dolby Pro Logic II adds even more to the atmosphere of the game. The same can be said of the voice acting which, given that the game is set in Europe is filled with European accents and wonderful voice acting. Many other games could learn from Core Design in that regard. Sound effects are somewhat average with Lara making a few too many grunting noises for my liking.

Perhaps it's some indication of the disappointment surrounding this title that Eidos have removed the development rights for the next Tomb Raider from the series creator Core Design and given them to Crystal Dynamics in the United States (The next game is due out before mid 2005). Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness is such a disappointment it isn't funny.

Review By: David Warner

GRAPHICSLooks nice with great texturing but the frame rate could be better.
SOUNDThe orchestra score is very impressive, sound effects are adequate.
GAMEPLAYAs a PSOne game this would be passable, but it's so 1990's.
VALUEAbout 12 hours gameplay, with no replay value at all.
OVERALLWhat a disappointment. After so many promises Core Design have delivered a game that seems rushed (although they certainly took their time) and one which has gameplay mechanics that ended years ago. This game should have been so much more. A rent for fans of the series.

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