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NrthnStar5
22nd Jun 2003, 19:04
I read this good user review who gave the game 8.5 out of 10. it was well written, and informative, and gives the game a very positive view, unlike the many others we have read.

1996 saw the release of the original Tomb Raider on the PlayStation along with the PC and Sega Saturn. For its time, the game managed to create a compelling three dimensional environment that managed to break free of many of the typical constraints found within early 3D games. Over the past several years, Eidos has seen fit to release one new game in the series in an almost annual fashion. It wasn't until part 5 was completed that the series finally went into the shadows. After 5 installments of the series, with each one closely following with the previous title, you can imagine that more than a few folks have grown tired of the games and everything to do with them. It has been a long road for the folks at Core, but after several delays and a mysterious, press-free release, the game has reached retail shelves. The end result, however, is an impressive action/adventure that truly attempts to pull the series in a completely different direction while retaining elements that made the original games so compelling.

As in the previous titles, you play the role of Lara Croft for the majority of the time. However, as noted in previews, a second playable character by the name of Kurtis comes into play during the game. Unlike the original games, The Angel of Darkness plays out in a very story oriented fashion. Rarely will you encounter levels that simply instruct you to "find the exit". The experience has certainly become a much more cinematic and streamlined affair that mixes in bits from many other games. I felt influences ranging from survival horror games such as Resident Evil to Metal Gear Solid all the way to Shadow of Memories. Despite the introduction of various new gameplay elements and heavily modified scenario progression, AoD manages to retain much of the staples that have always been present in the Tomb Raider series.


The story begins with an argument between Lara and Werner Von Croy when he is suddenly shot dead. The last thing he handed to her was a note regarding the location of a certain person that you need to contact (regarding what he wish for her to do). With Von Croys corpse lying there on the carpet, Lara slowly comes to realize what exactly has just happened and makes a run for it only to meet a slew of police officers and their dogs. Just as she escapes the first wave, the game places you in control. The initial segment is designed as a tutorial to ease you into the game. However, it will not even begin to "ease" you into the complex controls and the nuances that accompany them. When you first begin the game, you WILL be frustrated. The controls often feel a bit unresponsive and the grid system of the original games has been replaced completely with a new camera relative control scheme (think Mario 64, rather than Resident Evil). After putting in a good amount of time, however, things slowly begin to click. Now I find it painless to navigate the various environments presented to you. As noted, the controls no longer bear resemblance to the tank-like interface of the original games. When you finally grasp the control scheme, you will find this interface to be such a large improvement that going back will not be easy. You can toggle a walking mode (or simply press lightly on the analog stick) which will prevent you from walking off of high ledges if used properly. You also have limited air control now as well as a more freeform ability in regards to how well you must be aligned in the game world. As I noted earlier, the original games were based on a grid system of sorts and deviating from that would often cause your death. The much more complex environments and design of AoD completely shed this idea and increases the angles at which a problem can be approached.


While playing AoD, you will surely note the afformentioned similarities to other games. After surviving the initial night, you will find yourself in a decent sized city environment with a variety of folks to chat with and extract information. You are given a notebook to keep track of events or goals as well as listing much of the research as written by Von Croy. Much of this comes in handy at a later date. Moving forward a bit more, you will find yourself searching through various cupboards and drawers looking for items of use. Beyond that, you will eventually find yourself sneaking through an atmospheric museum, dodging laser trip wires and avoid detection. The stealth aspect isn't particularly robust, for example, you can only grab your enemies from behind when they are standing still. However, the general atmosphere and flow of the level itself is incredible solid. You will continue to make your way through a large variety of diverse locations, including some classic tombs. All of this is tied very well to the story, for the most part.


Combat hasn't played a very large role in the game, but what there is actually plays fairly well. It employs a lock-on system not unlike Zelda (though obviously focused more on firearms). Once you engage an enemy, you can move around them however you please. The X button will fire your weapon and the triangle button cycles between targets. Aside from the large variety of weapons (which include tranq guns and tazers), you can now fight with hand to hand combat. It is fairly simple, but it manages to achieve its goal. The X button is the only button used to employ these attacks. A quick tap unleashes a single punch, while a repeated tap will let loose with a number of quick punches to follow that up. Pressing the button a bit longer will result in a slew of kicks. It is a good way to save ammo, but you can take quite a bit of damage if you are not careful. Unlike the original games, no weapons hold infinite ammo...so this does come in handy sometimes.


In a similar fashion to the recent game Primal (which I also enjoyed), Tomb Raider AoD seems to be focused on the complete "experience". Listing the individual components can give you a rough idea as to what the game will play like, but it relies so heavily on the "entire package" that simple text isn't enough.


From a visual standpoint, I can safely say that Tomb Raider stands among the finest PlayStation2 games currently released. The actual world and objects are made up of a staggering amount of geometry and are complimented by solid use of textures, lighting, and effects. The animation of all characters and objects is extremely smooth and far excceds anything the series has seen. To go along with that, the game actually runs at 60 fps. You have probably heard reports of slowdown, and that is true, however the occurance of such slowdown is fairly rare and most of it has been located in the first hour of the game. I believe the slowdown has recieved attention only due to the way it manifests itself...which is similar to the XBOX version of Metal Gear Solid 2, where the game actually runs in slow motion. Aside from the impressive technical aspects, the game features some incredible artistic environments. I was left in awe upon arriving at many scenes in the game. The design is just incredibly well done.


The audio aspect of AoD is certainly one of the most impressive assets. The sound is used to much greater effects in this installment than any other previous game. The game makes great use of surround and creates a very full soundstage with incredibly high quality samples throughout. The music score is nothing short of breathtaking...and it is put to incredible use. Unlike the original games, music plays a much larger role. A good deal of the game has had music to compliment the action...and what a job it does.


On a side note, the game has been accused of being a rather buggy production. There was one instance where I entered a small room only to find that I was unable to open the door I had come through, but this had been noted by several others within their impressions. Aside from that instance, I have yet to encounter any crashes or other major issues. Also, while it is not really a bug, the save system is a very manual affair. It will NEVER autosave the game...so failing to save after a long session only to find yourself dead will always set you back to the last time you clicked "save" in the menu. However, you CAN at least save anywhere you wish.


Tomb Raider - The Angel of Darkness is a solid adventure game that feels more like an original production borrowing from the first 5 games than it does an actual sequel. The excellent use of story, scenario design, and gameplay comes together to create an incredible experience. The game is not made for those without patience, as it is difficult at times, but the experience is well worth it. I would recommend throwing aside your pre-conceptions regarding this game and give it an objective shot. The Angel of Darkness strives to provide everything that has been demanded over the last few years in an original, compelling experience but it manages to fall short in a few areas.

Frugo_PL
22nd Jun 2003, 19:51
Just as I have expected- it's a great game with a few minor bugs, but the overall experience is great. So put your shoes on and march to the store, soldier! :D

Piega
22nd Jun 2003, 19:57
That's what I like to read :)
Bump this post!!! :D

midroth
22nd Jun 2003, 20:32
Good job, NrthnStar5!

Ethereal
22nd Jun 2003, 20:34
What is the sorce of this review?
I strongly have the feeling it's written by a Core or Eidos guy.
It's just TO positive. Almost the opposite from all other reviews. But if it's true :D :D :D

NrthnStar5
22nd Jun 2003, 20:35
yes, i was happy to read that. The people who go on about some glitches go on because they are impatient, and expected literally a perfect game. This week i get mine for the PC!!! can't wait :-D wah ha ha