Tomb Raider: Angel Of Darkness Reader Review
Now, I dunno about everyone else, but after the first Tomb Raider, everyone seemed to think it was a game I liked. And every year, without fail, my friends clubbed together to buy me the latest Tomb Raider... I lost interest in the second game and after Chronicles I just didn't care any more. On the plus side, at least it wasn't my money being wasted on the games. (And yes, I always asked for the receipt.)
And Lara is popular. Selling everything from Nike to Lucozade. She is sporty, feisty, and a 21st century gal. There was a point where you couldn't go anywhere without seeing Lara sell something. Thankfully, those days are gone...
Angel of Darkness peaked my interest for many reasons. I think, firstly, it was the time gap. We hadn't had a Tomb Raider game for ages. The second reason was the actually-not-that-bad first Tomb Raider film, where all the boys went for one reason only (I freely admit, I wanted to see Angelina in those shorts). And the third reason? We wanted it so badly to be a good game. We wanted to be proved wrong. Was Lara going to have the comeback of all comebacks? Umm... no.
Lara had some new and dare I say long overdue abilities: a last ditch grab to save her falling to a certain pizza-esque doom; a small hop, ideal for jumps you know would be suicidal to do; the army-crawl was also a good addition; as was being able to climb most bits of scenery; and stealthy action is always good for a laugh, right?
The shame was: the controls were dire. When you wanted Lara to run, she'd merely walk. When you wanted her to turn, she'd walk forwards and usually off a ledge, plummeting like a lemming to her doom. Especially on some of the puzzles that rely on pits, this really does start playing like that. The pits. In practice, stealth was clunky and tedious thanks to the controls.
Graphics were not terrible, but after an absence of nearly three years, we seriously expected more. Lara's new look was better, but not quite enough. Characters seemed a bit cheesy and stereotypical, and the settings - while believable and in scale - weren't inventive enough.
Much trumped up was the attributes system - no, not Lara's chest size (although the bounce is definitely more Jello than Silicon), the attributes system increases Lara's strength, speed and jumping ability. It lets Lara push and pull things she couldn't before. Lets her kick down doors that she couldn't, and perform jumps she wouldn't usually be able too. Now, this sounds great in theory, but in reality it's a bit lame. If there's a door to kick down, you'd better believe that a few seconds walk away is something Lara can do to raise her stats. It would have been nice to see this system put to better use - if you had the stats, short cut, if not, you go the long way around. But it speaks volumes for the map design that there really isn't a lot of exploration to do...
Talking might be a welcome addition in Tomb Raider, but again, in practice it just doesn't work, and is merely multiple choces which are either nice or nasty. Take Mdm. Carvier, for example. Speak nicely to her, and she'll give you a notebook. If you're not so tactful, she'll lock herself in her bedroom - leaving you to go and get it out of the drawer yourself... Am I the only one who feels that this is entirely pointless?
Of course, can't talk about AOD without mentioning Curtis - probably the one character who saved the game despite his all-too-brief portion of the game. Curtis has some supernatural powers (woo!) and is surprisingly good fun. Shooting mad people and using your spirit-walking to retrieve passcodes is rather sound in practice, but it's over all too quickly. Which is a shame, because Curtis really managed to pull back some ground lost through the rest of the game. The game scores two points purely because Curtis almost gave us hope that the end of the game would be worth it!
Finally, the ever present and probably, to most, the most annoying thing about Tomb Raider: the camera. While it's so much better in this game, it still has a tendency to stick and fix at times and it's usually at those points you really don't want it too.
For all its advancements and failings, if you're a Tomb Raider fan (and you have my pity), then you'll probably start flaming me saying I know nothing. If you're not a TR fan, then this game is only going to further remind you why it is you dislike the game. And, if you're just playing it to finish it and move on, it'll take about a week and then you can move on to something better.
The problem is, despite the effort and the gloss and the botox and the silicon and everything else, Tomb Raider still suffers from the same problem it did ages ago. The core gameplay hasn't changed one bit - and in this case familiarity is breeding contempt. We didn't want same-old game with nicer edges. Tomb Raider has been doing the same-old thing over and over again... We wanted something fresh. It didn't arrive. As the old saying goes: Polish it up and dress it all you want - ugly is ugly is ugly. And in no way could anything have saved this game from a commercial demise.
2 / 10