Tomb Raider Angel of Darkness
This is the sixth instalment from the large breasted one and with the success of the past to top can Lara's latest be as good and still give us something refreshing to get our teeth into (metaphorically speaking). It starts off promisingly as we are pushed out of the Indiana Jones style hunt for ancient artefacts, as in the previous titles, and into a plotline which sees Lara being framed for the murder of her mentor, Werner Von Croy. Uncovering what happened takes her to several locations that reveal an ancient conspiracy and all of a sudden we are back in old Lara Croft territory, which has definitely become a tad formulaic, I'm sad to report. So what else does this game claim it can bring to this distinguished franchise? Well, Eidos claim there is much more character evolution, increased character interaction, cutting edge graphics and an advanced control system, so lets have a look at each of these sections one by one.
The character evolution at first seems quite a clever thing. What Eidos means is that certain puzzles are impossible to do at first as you don't have enough upper body strength, lower body strength or "brain power". You must perform other tasks to increase these areas. This idea has, unfortunately, not fulfilled its potential. If you could go around and have a choice of puzzles which increased say brain power or upper body strength and you could use either of those to complete the next task, it would add a dimension to the game that would at least add a spot of originality. What happens, however, is that the upgrades are simply another puzzle to solve in order to progress through what is a very linear game.
The puzzles are also so obscure as to detract greatly from the sense of immersion so important in a game such as this. One involves you increasing your upper body strength by moving a chest of drawers 10 inches across the floor, so Lara can pull a chain at the top of a set of scaffolding. The point is that you have to haul yourself up this set of scaffolding and yet this has no effect on your upper body strength! This is an addition that seems to have just added an illusion of innovation. Rather than anything more substantial.
Its true that in The Angel of Darkness, Lara can speak to other characters like never before. The voice acting is superb too, but in actuality the dialogue makes practically no difference to the outcome of the game. Indeed, the dialogue section is hampered by severely limited multiple choice interactions which make this large selling point for the game almost entirely pointless.
The graphics too are far from cutting edge but they are definitely the game's biggest selling point. If you love the Tomb Raider series, then you'll certainly find the graphics to be the strongest and most impressive to date. The twelve levels look substantially better than ever before; though as the first next-gen Tomb Raider I was still far from overwhelmed by them.
This increase in graphics does present one notable problem. The loading times are immense. A few years ago people would have accepted this price but with the like of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City being able to render entire cities with barely so much as a loading screen, people be impressed by the fact that the Parisian Ghettos level has four different loading zones.
The graphics also enhance Lara's two greatest assets... you've guessed it, Lara's tits. They still seem a little rigid for my liking and with many of the Tomb Raider devotees enjoying this feature the least they could have done was make them wobble a bit. More over, the whole 'sex-appeal' sells idea seems somewhat outmoded with the arrival of more hardcore competitors like BMX XXX since Lara last graced our monitors and TVs.
The advanced control system as an abomination. The series is notorious for bad controls but this one has done away with the only good feature it ever possessed. Past entries in the series worked upon a grid system, which meant that moving forward moved you one block forward. This has been removed and Lara is free to roam wherever she wants. Sounds good so far, but the effect of the grid system was that you were able to line up extreme jumps to small platforms much more successfully and not be two degrees out and miss the platform by a centimetre.
Add to this the fact that Lara moves with the camera angle and you're set up for some very confusing encounters. This is one of the worst control systems I have encountered and the developers have taken away its only saving grace: the grid system.
By far the worst thing about it is the amount of glitches. The Angel of Darkness plays as though it is a beta version. There are many times when bullets travel through walls or the camera angle pierces through Lara's empty head. This is counter-balanced by the limitless saves, so I strongly recommend if you play this game save every five minutes as you never know when a stray bullet may pop through a wall!
Eidos have created a huge franchise over the past decade in the name of Lara. When she first appeared she was the talk of the town. This game isn't as bad as many of its kind, but for all the hype it is a bitter disappointment. With Lara you expect the best and this game falls far short of that. It seems to me that complacency has set in and it is about time Lara hung up her big boots and settled in to a well earned retirement, unless Eidos can inject some much needed life into this heavily flogged old Mare.