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Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness (PlayStation 2) artwork

Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness (PlayStation 2) review

"If you're a fan of the Tomb Raider franchise at all, then I have no doubt you've at least heard of this title. As Lara Croft's first outing on the Playstation 2 console, you're probably expecting this game to make an impression. "

If you're a fan of the Tomb Raider franchise at all, then I have no doubt you've at least heard of this title. As Lara Croft's first outing on the Playstation 2 console, you're probably expecting this game to make an impression.

It certainly does that, but I still can't decide if it's a good one or a bad one. The game certainly doesn't suck by any means, but there are quite a few flaws to take into account.

First of all, and this is probably the most annoying and problematic of these flaws, the game is downright glitchy as hell. Most of these glitches don't get in your way too badly but there are some that are certainly going to piss you off as you try to make your way through the game. Off the top of my head I can tell you that if you use a health item immediately before saving, the game won't register it. Also, I've come across weapons that don't seem to work--I can empty five clips into a guard with a Mag Vega I picked up in one of the later levels and the game refuses to acknowledge the fact I've just filled the guard in question with a hundred and twenty rounds. Additionally, I now can't put the thing DOWN. No matter which weapon is equipped, Lara is holding the Mag Vega whenever I holster whatever WORKING weapon I'm using. She's not holding it in a ready position, mind you--it just looks as though the gun is glued to her hand. I've also heard that saving in part of a specific level causes an error that corrupts the savegame file, making it unusable and forcing you to start over from the beginning. There are quite a few more bugs, but fortunately nothing quite so severe as these I've listed--though some of you may remember other games where your character can fall through the floor to their death. If you're not put off yet, keep reading.

Another thing is that the game has some pretty bad slowdown problems. When I say 'pretty bad,' I mean that they manifest in just about every level where there's a lot of detail (even in cutscenes sometimes), and the game slows down enough that it takes about three seconds for the PS2 to register a button press. Come on, guys, how long have you been working on this game?

One major selling point of this game was that you get to play as a second character, Kurtis Trent. Allow me to clarify this--you get to play as Kurtis for two levels, plus a boss fight. That's two levels out of the near-two dozen in the game. Also kind of irritating is that the gameplay mechanics don't change at all for Kurtis. He's got this bad-ass throwing blade weapon straight out of Predator, but he only uses it in the cutscenes. Otherwise, you're still plugging the weak enemies Kurtis fights with a beefed-up handgun, making you feel kinda like Lara with testosterone.

The game's controls often times aren't the definition of fluid, either. Though I will admit it's easier to move Lara around with the analog stick instead of the d-pad, it still feels kind of clunky to me. The combat controls for instance, could use some work. Lara automatically targets and strafes her opponent when you have a weapon drawn, but moving around quickly becomes a chore if you're not in a huge, wide-open space. Her movements are particularly jerky and she feels downright sluggish. I've also noticed that on rare occasions, if you try to target an enemy from an elevated area, Lara will sometimes face the wrong direction or just get stuck in a stationary position, forcing you to holster and redraw your weapon. Another problem is with jumping. Forward is now a direction relative to the camera, much like any action/platformer game nowadays, but the threshold between 'forward' and 'left' or 'right' is practically non-existant. To jump straight forward, you pretty much have to have yourself lined up perfectly, with the camera DIRECTLY behind you, a task not easilly achieved in many situations. Add to this the fact that actually lining Lara up with the platform you're trying to jump to can be a pain in the ass sometimes, and you've got yourself the beginnings of a pretty significant hinderance. If the camera is just slightly out of line and you push forward on the stick when you jump, there's about a forty percent chance that Lara's going to jump to the side instead, something that may cause you to die frequently. Fortunately enough, you usually have enough room to position the camera freely before you attempt a jump.

Enemy AI is... well, lacking. Most of the enemies you'll fight still just do nothing but stand there like mannequins and shoot at you. This can get tedious and boring, but at the very least they don't automatically know you're there like just about every other TR game.

Now, onto less 'sucky' things.

Aside from the obvious slowdown problems, the visuals in this game are actually quite good. Lara's a lot more realistic looking this time around than any previous Tomb Raider game, thanks largely to the PS2's increased polygon-pushing ability. Her animations are fluid and she's got an extremely detailed character model--to the point where her chest actually bounces when she moves around. That should please you Lara fanboys and fangirls out there. Enemies and other characters are equally as detailed, and when applicable, the environments have at least that much care applied to their appearance. A good example of this is Lara leaving walls pockmarked with bullet holes after a gunfight.

And the game certainly has plenty of gunfights. In fact, one entire level is nothing but a long, drawn-out gun battle--though you've got to scrounge around for a weapon and ammo all the while, since Lara is disarmed at the end of the level prior. Let's face it, you start out the game without any kind of weapons whatsoever--Lara doesn't even have her trademark dual pistols anymore. This can suck badly, but it does lead to one important added aspect.

Lara can now enter Stealth mode and sneak around ala Solid Snake, and while you can't draw your weapons in Stealth mode, you CAN sneak up behind people and break their necks, which is always enjoyable. The good thing about this particular aspect of the game is that with the exception of the first couple of levels, if you blow it and get yourself spotted, you always have the option of just pulling a gun out and mowing down your opposition without fear of punishment or reprisal, aside from however many chocolate bars you have to use to get your health back up to a reasonable level.

Though, we all know Tomb Raider was never really about combat. It's about solving puzzles and running away from rolling boulders in dark, dank tombs, right? You'll be happy to know there's plenty of that on top of all the other crap Lara has to go through, like breaking into the Louvre. The game has a little of everything, though honestly it pulls off some aspects better than others.

What's the story behind all this, you ask? Allow me to explain. We start out in the apartment of a mister Werner Von Croy. Von Croy--out of fear for his life--has contacted Lara and asked for her help in dealing with a client that hired him to track down something called an Obscura Painting. Lara doesn't know exactly what he's afraid of, nor does she care, as she icilly informs him. Seems she's still rather upset about him leaving her for dead in Egypt at the end of Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation. Before they can work out their issues though, Von Croy pulls out a gun and yells frantically at Lara before everything goes black. The next thing you know, Lara's on the run from the cops with Von Croy's blood on her hands. Knowing only that she didn't kill her friend--no matter how angry at him she may have been--she sets out to clear her name and find out what really happened in that apartment. In the course of doing so she gets entangled in a series of twisted events that could lead up to the destruction of mankind--nothing Lara hasn't dealt with before, clearly.

It's the story that's really going to drive you in this game, unfortunately. The gameplay, once you get past all the running from the police, is pretty standard Tomb Raider fare--shoot at everything that moves and solve some puzzles. It has its moments, sure, and while I admit I've found it entertaining to a point, the combination of the bugs and the tired gameplay makes this a pretty average title. Buy it if you're a big Lara fan, but otherwise you're gonna want to rent it first.

kieran's avatar
Community review by kieran (July 21, 2003)

Kieran Greyloch is an automotive technology student who enjoys wasting every moment of his spare time playing videogames and tabletop RPGs.

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