Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness

Review

posted 6/30/2003 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: PS2
We should all be thankful for Core and Eidos’ Lara Croft; if it weren’t for her, the graphical revolution that we are enjoying today may have taken another 10 or 20 years to come about. For you see, the well-endowed tomb raider nearly single-handedly launched the 3D graphics card revolution and put the relatively unknown 3D-graphics chipset maker 3DFX on the map. Yes, we should all pay homage to Lara Croft for helping establish our past so that we could redefine our future.

The keyword here is past.

Former chipset giant 3DFX was knocked off by up-and-comer nVidia (who in a bit of irony has since been surpassed by up-and-comer Ati) and the Tomb Raider franchise has been pedestrian at best. Each sucessive iteration has been blasted by gamers for their increasingly bland game play and horrifically unintuitive controls. Core has been listening to the public, taking the franchise back to its roots in hopes of returning the series back to its former glory. Sure the company has been listening, but has it been taking notes? Judging by its latest entry in the franchise, Angel of Darkness, I would say that the answer to this question is a resounding no.

What makes this most painful is that this latest entry contained a lot of promise, and while most of it was lost in the numerous delays and setbacks, it seemed to be the title that would get the series back on track. Featuring a brand new engine, new game play mechanics and a second playable character, Eidos’ well-endowed heroine seemed ready to compete with the big boys; it’s just a shame that appearances can be misleading.

It’s not that the game hasn’t found its way back to its roots. Quite the contrary. In actuality the game does its best to exploit its roots but in doing so, spotlights all of the problems that have plagued the franchise. Tomb Raider Angel of Darkness feels amazingly dated as most of its features and facets are archaic, lagging light-years behind what the competition is offering.

From the start its apparent where the problems lie. What is supposed to be a training level that should get you acquainted with the control scheme becomes a highlight reel that exemplifies the game’s Achilles Heel. Instead of updating to accommodate the times, Eidos opted to go with the obsolete tile-based control scheme that doesn’t exactly cozy itself up to precision. Lara’s supposed to be agile and nimble but she’s actually lethargic and maneuvers like a boat on wheels. The game has an inept control scheme so what’s the next logical step? Adding in an abundance of jumping puzzles and areas that require tight maneuvering. Seriously, it’s like trying to drive across a 2x4 plank with a Humvee, it just ain’t gonna happen.

If doing combat with an archaic control system weren’t enough you will have to do battle with an inept camera system as well. Professional isn’t the best word to be using here, nor is steady. Basically you play the game from the vantage point of a four-year-old who was handed a handheld camcorder at the family picnic. It has problems showcasing the action both in fast and slow situations. Combat is a pain because the camera system has difficulties showing them in your point of view. Simple tasks, such as shimmying across ledges, become a chore because the camera has a tendency to swing back-and-forth, causing you to plunge to your death.
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