Eidos won't thank us for bringing it up, but let's go back to 2003, and Angel of Darkness. It's just come out - plunged from the development womb into the amniotic fluid of fiscal desperation - and someone's called up Crystal Dynamics and asked them to step in. That must have been a heck of a call to answer after half a dozen Tomb Raiders, and we only bring it up because we're trying to think of a good touchstone for our present situation, trying to come up with something good for Eurogamer's fourth preview of Tomb Raider: Underworld, due out this time next month.
After all, our first preview by award-winning Ellie has already covered Lara's new sonar (for sniffing out usable ledges), camera (for sniffing out solutions) and bum (not for sniffing), along with her smaller bag (so she has to drag bigger stuff around like a normal person), and the controversial adrenaline events, which are QTE-style scenarios, like fast-moving trap blades, navigated in slow-motion with regular controls.
Less award-winning but just as cuddly, Christian then took a couple of virtual trips to Thailand, first to contemplate the auto-lock weapons, shooting two people at once, stupid insect enemies, wall-jumping, and shooting while climbing, and then returning a few weeks later to consider the story (Croft Manor in flames! Thor's hammer! The Legend story revisited!) and, well, flying kicks. He also wrote some beautiful things about the puzzles and referenced Keeley Hawes a few times, which should keep him in work.
Fortunately, despite having to suffer the indignity of sitting in my flat for the demo because I left the PS3 debug at home, the latest Eidos Man to show us round Lara's Underworld had a new level to explore, and a whistle-stop tour of the levels we've already seen offers us a chance to present new facts. For example, you can fight dolphins, and throw sticky bombs at tigers. And using Lara's multi-use camera (photographs can be transformed into hints about how to solve the puzzle), it's also possible to insert our heroine into the pictures by setting up a timer and then jumping into frame. Given the option to upload stuff to the internet, and the inclusion of blood for the first time in a Tomb Raider game, we can't wait for all the pictures of Lara swan-diving onto spikes or toeing the kraken.
But onto more serious business. We've seen Thailand before, so instead we head out to sea for another of the game's levels, this time set aboard a ship. Lara pulls alongside in a cracking little boat with a widescreen TV in the cabin (Tipping the Velvet no doubt in the DVD player) and then we take over and climb up the anchor, emerging onto a deck full of shipping containers. We've got to get down into the bowels for reasons we'll leave out to preserve the surprise.
As with all ships in videogames ever, none of the doors open, so Lara has to climb the containers, but not before a shootout with some, it has to be said, thoroughly stupid and predictable identikit henchmen, one of whom stutters back and forth on the spot as we pop him repeatedly with one of Lara's iconic twin pistols. Grenades make for a more interesting battle, sending enemies ragdolling everywhere, and flying melee kicks and roundhouses are the perfect finisher as you race along the deck after taking chunks out of a bad-guy's segmented circular health bar.