Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness
Ever dreamed of being the head of a huge business or megacorporation? In Syndicate, you get to do just that. There's only one problem: This is the future, and in the future big business means takeovers! Not just on the corporate level either, I'm talking complete worldwide domination! With the latest technology on your side, set out on a mission to over-rule the other syndicates by equipping special half-human half-android agents with modifications and high-power weaponry to take care of your dirty work while you sit back and collect all the revenue.
Being a big fan of the original smash hit on the PC, I was really excited to fire this baby up on the Super NES! Most of the features have been ported over pretty well, but I found myself spending more time figuring out the controls than actually playing.
Syndicate is one of those games that is impossible to put down. A 10 on the addiction meter!
If you're new to the game, you won't be missing a thing! On the other hand, the only drawback in the game is the graphics. Not the quality, but the size. The characters are almost three times the size of their predecessors and look very cartoony.
WILL YOU UKE IT?
It's very difficult to give an opinion of a game when it stands in the shadows of a cross-platform big brother, but Syndicate for the Super NES succeeds when it comes to being a great game.
- MANUFACTURER - Bullfrog
- DIFFICULTY - MODERATE
- THEME - Action/Simulator
- NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1 or 2
Download Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness
What's this then, the eighth, ninth Tomb Raider? They all started to blur into one after about number three, when the gameplay got a bit thin and the gimmicks started to fly. We've now had young Lara, dead Lara, resurrected Lara, not to forget of course nude Lara, and now we have bad angry Lara. If you cast your mind back, Angel Of Darkness was the game that was going to breathe new life into the series - a new beginning, a new, more mature Ms Croft and an expanded set of gameplay possibilities. Has it delivered? Ummmmm... no. Lara is certainly tougher than she once was, with a bit more Angelina Jolie style attitude, but this latest adventure is no great change of pace for the plucky Tomb Raider. It's business as usual, but with a slightly more gritty setting and a hint of sexual tension. Oh well, so much for the revolution.
The question is now: is this nonetheless an enjoyable entry in Lara's everexpanding annals? Before we answer that question, it's worth mentioning one thing. The game's been on sale for some weeks now, and chances are you've already heard some of the trash talk doing the rounds in the gaming community. Probably you've heard that it's complete rubbish, with more bugs than hot Texas roadkill and a control system straight out of Satan's arse-crack. In some ways this is not far from the truth - there are some heinous problems, but the backlash is way out of proportion with the true situation.
In fact, I'm going to go on record right now and say it: Angel Of Darkness is not a disaster. Despite its many flaws, this is a frequently enjoyable game, with some superb platform/puzzle-based sequences, a compelling storyline and more than passable graphical standards.
I So if you haven't played the game yet, forget everything you've been told. It's not as bad as you might have been led to believe.
One Night In Paris
For a start, let me just remind you what we're dealing with here. This is Lara Croft, Tomb Raider. This is no flash in the pan marsupial action hero, we're talking about the world's most recognised gaming character (well, one of the top ten anyway). That means big budget, big production values and big expectations. And from the moment you start up the game, you can see where a lot of the money has gone - the cinematics are lavish, the voiceacting superior, the soundtrack equal to any Hollywood blockbuster. The graphics are not mind-blowing perhaps, but the architecture is well put together and everything animates smoothly.
The storyline too is better than most. The game opens with Lara on the run from the cops in the back streets of Paris, accused of killing her former mentor and not so sure she didn't actually do it. A search for the truth soon evolves into a hunt for some mysterious paintings, taking Lara through the Paris sewers, the Louvre, an ancient underground temple, Prague and eventually to the sprawling lair of a powerful underground sect. The plot bounces along nicely and there's a few twists and turns in there, though it inevitably resorts to the same old adventure-game cliches, trotting out the Knights Templar, the bible and at least one alchemic doomsday device.
However, posh production values do not a game make, and within seconds of the actual gameplay commencing it's apparent something is horribly amiss. Lara is standing a bit funny. She's so stiff and stilted, with her feet too far apart, surely they've accidentally left the Lara from Tomb Raider 2 in the game..,? Alas no, this is the 'new' Lara - she still walks like a cowboy and crawls like she's auditioning for Butt Pirates 6.
A few minutes later, however, after a bit of bog-standard climbing, jumping and searching through cupboards, and it's clear this is no laughing matter. Lara doesn't just look awkward, she handles like a boat. It's a sluggish, unresponsive control system and one that seems incredibly dated, especially after the likes of Splinter Cell has raised the bar for third-person action on the PC. When I reviewed that game, I recall describing a sequence of moves to try and convey how fluid and intuitive the game was, something along the lines of: "sneak a little, shoot out the lights, shimmy, shimmy, zipline, rappel..." With Lara it's more like "rotate left, rotate right, shuffle forwards, rotate left, bounce off wall. Back up a step, hit action button - Oh My God I managed to pick up a chocolate bar!" Luckily, you're somewhat eased into the pain of the interface by the game's learning curve. Whether by accident or design, the opening portion of the game has a more adventure-weighted feel than anything Lara has done before, with a lot more talking to the denizens of Paris and traipsing backwards and forwards than pushing blocks or shooting bears.
Once the game gets into full swing, however, it's classic Tomb Raider action. Running, swinging, climbing, swimming, exploring - and dying over and over again trying to time a tricky jump (though luckily there's no limits on saving). While you're forced to wrestle with the interface throughout (and dying because of it more often than not), there are good sequences as well as bad. The Louvre level in particular is great fun -jumping over and shimmying under a network of laser tripwires before getting trigger happy on a bunch of innocent night watchmen, while the diabolical series of puzzles in the Chamber of Seasons is classic precision-platforming fare.
In between these occasional high points however, are some of the most tiresome sequences ever seen in a Tomb Raider game. A boss battle about halfway through the game must rank as one of the worst ever conceived, while the Prague levels are so banal they were obviously thrown in halffinished. Quality Assurance was clearly not foremost on the publishers' minds.
The new additions to Lara's repertoire are also of questionable value. Take the supposed stealth elements. Lara can now creep along walls like Solid Snake and move quietly while in 'stealth mode'. Unfortunately, the non-existent enemy Al makes such behaviour almost completely pointless, and the only real stealth moments involve edging past the occasional security camera. Likewise, the mooted RPG-style character development. One minute you can't move a block because it's too heavy, the next minute you can because you pushed the block next to it and made Lara stronger - it's completely scripted and adds little to the experience.
The second playable character, Kurtis Trent, is also a bit of a non-event. You don't get to play as him until the game is practically over, when he turns up to replace Lara for three levels. He also — plays virtually identically to Lara, so any potential novelty is purely cosmetic. Clearly, The Angel Of Darkness has its fair share of problems. It's unfinished, unpolished and unadventurous. Chances are it'll be remembered chiefly as one of the buggiest games ever released. (See also Embarrassment Of Glitches panel.) However, it is still Tomb Raider, with all the sporadic charm, frustration and classic 3D action that entails. There are some excellent moments in the game, if you can wade through the shit required to get to them, and while the interface is very dated, Lara enthusiasts will be more than happy to fumble awkwardly with her one more time. Especially once the new nude patch comes along.
More Bugs Than An Mi6 Swapmeet
There's no two ways about it: Angel Of Darkness is not a finished game, and has so many bugs and glitches you'll give up counting after a while. Some of our particular favourites include the invisible shotgun - it's there on your back, but not in your hands! (sadly this was fixed in a recent patch), the invisible door - it's got a handle, it's got a window, but where's the door? The sudden instant death room - where you drop dead for no apparent reason, and the maddening mouse reversal mystery - which arbitrarily inverts the X-axis on your mouse (as if the interface wasn't enough of a struggle).
Then there's the bits that can't really be classed as bugs, but where Core has desperately painted over the cracks in the rush to get the game on shelves. One of our favourites is a level in which some moody music from an early sewer level has been reused, complete with spooky lapping water sounds - despite the fact that you're in a very dry second floor apartment. Needless to say, the patches are coming thick and fast, but we fear the damage has already been done.
Unless You've been lurking under a bush somewhere in deepest Norrath for the past month or so, chances are you've already heard there's a new Lara game on the way. What's more, your Mum probably has too. Not because it's the biggest game on the calendar or even the most exciting, just because the mainstream media has decided it's still newsworthy, especially if you can tie it in with a few buffed up shots of the latest real-life Ms Croft.
So, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Angel Of Darkness, eh? A suitably non-numerical and Hollywood-friendly mouthful to underline Lara's next-gen superstar status. And it is the next step really, the one we've been waiting for, when Lara finally stops spiralling into sequel hell and gives back some of the loving her fans have lavished on her through countless cross-platform iterations and one distinctly forgettable film.
Luckily, Core seems to be taking its responsibility seriously this time, rethinking both the gameplay and atmosphere of its flagship franchise at a fairly fundamental level, as well as restyling Lara herself. The results, while a tad predictable, are undeniably appealing.
First of all, the new Lara. Back from a scrape with death, feeling bitter and betrayed, this is a darker and more complex Ms Croft. No longer the blithe young adventuress with a plum in her mouth and a broomstick up her arse, the New Dark Lara (NDL) has no truck with green spandex, block puzzles or even tomb raiding. She's on the run from the law for a murder she didn't commit, and from an ancient and mysterious evil force just for being so goddamn nosy.
While NDL promises all the agility of old (and probably more), new directions in gameplay promise to give you a degree of control over her mind as well as her body. That is, you'll be able to guide her through conversations with NPCs, choosing a temperament from three possibilities along the lines of friendly, cool or dismissive. A number of highly evolved characters are promised for Lara to interact with, and decisions made in dealing with them - often involving tough moral choices -will genuinely affect the direction of the game.
While currently being played down in order to keep all eyes on Lara, the other major new feature is the introduction of a second playable characer, hardened adventurer Kurtis Trent. How the character switching will work remains unclear, but the possibility of a two-player co-operative mode is all too apparent.
What we do know is that together they will pursue sinister art collector Eckhardt through the back streets and subterranean realms of three massive cities, including Paris and Prague. In the process they will run into all sorts of trouble with mystic secrets and ancient conspiracies, and no doubt end up shagging. Either that or Kurtis will get his own spin-off series and Lara will do a karting game. Expect a full preview soon.
Successfully changing an established formula takes time, and, as Development Director Adrian Smith told us back in late January, this ain't the same old Tomb Raider. "Angel of Darkness offers significantly different gameplay from the other games in the series. We are simply making sure all of the bits work well together. At this point in the development process, we are not working on design or adding any new game mechanics, but rather polishing the game."
Prognosis: Shrouded in darkness
It's entirely possible that the new Raider will make its April release date and be in stores by the time you read this. But two things make us wonder: 1) We didn't receive a review copy in time for this issue, as we usually would have for an April release. This could mean publisher Eidos isn't confident enough to want reviews out before the game itself hits shelves, or it could mean another delay (rumors of yet another delay are afoot as we speak); and 2) Eidos refused to comment for this story.
You can glimpse Angel of Darkness' potential before even starting the adventure. Just flip to the Extras portion of the Main Menu and watch the game's making-of movie, in which moody Core Design designers crow about what they achieved with this much-delayed PlayStation 2 installment in the blockbuster Tomb Raider series. They ramble about revamped controls, darker characters, and questions that'll be answered in later episodes of this planned trilogy. OK, now just eject the game disc and play it nevermore, lest you risk disappointment with yet another average Tomb Raider installment that-- like the last few churned-out PS1 sequels before it--fails to deliver on Core's promises. Darkness is full of half-realized ideas, including strength power-ups (see the Body sidebar below), a multiple-choice conversation system that barely affects the intriguing but muddled story, and a new tippy-toed stealth pose that I never felt the need to hunker into. But of all the big ideas that fall flat, only the revamped controls damage the gameplay. Core's goal was to finally make moving Lara an accessible experience. Instead, Darkness' scheme is more ponderous than ever and feels like it was designed by 10 people who didn't get along. Tapping the Walk button does one thing. Holding it does another. It takes two buttons to perform a small hop. Lara's jitters made me miss many crucial jumps--to the point where I'd save after every successful leap. Even if Darkness' new controls had worked, much of the game is still missing that sense of exploration--that feeling of "Whoa! Lookit the size of this place! Now how do I get up there?"--that made the first two Tomb Raider titles so compelling. Out of the catacombs, Lara now wanders through realistic stark environments (Paris, for instance, teems with one whole person) filled with the usual switch-throwing and block-shoving puzzles. Ironically enough, the game hits its high notes in the few levels actually spent raiding tombs. Maybe Lady Lara should stick to what she knows best.
Crispin and Greg must have been blinded by the way this new Ange/jiggles when she wiggles. Her game's an inexcusable mess. Despite a three-year development cycle, The Angel of Darkness is packed with graphical, aural, and gameplay glitches. Slowdown occurs with jarring frequency. Sound effects drop in and out. There are misspellings in the dialogue text. And the game logic is nonexistent--why is it that I can kill a guard dog with a couple of kicks, but sixty bullets won't bring it down? New moves, like stealth kills and melee punches, are a total joke. They're awkward, clumsy, and unnecessary. You don't need to worry about making noise or leaving bodies when enemies can't hear anything happening from more than three feet away, and thug corpses simply evaporate into thin air. The old moves are as robotic and frustrating as ever (particularly Lara's jumps--you're guaranteed to accidentally hurl yourself off hundreds of cliffs before the game is through). Fanboys--like Greg Sewart--will insist that this is the best Tomb Raider since TR2, and I wouldn't disagree. But that doesn't mean Angel of Darkness is good--it just means the whole series has been crap since 1997. Clearly, a lot of real development time was poured into the game; its story is deep and involving, and the visuals are gorgeous. But who cares about pretty graphics and cool characters in a game that's absolutely no fun to play?
I bet Ethan wouldn't be half as tough on this game if it starred one of his idols, like Indiana Jones or Britney Spears. Yes, this series has sucked for a long time now. And yes, Angel of Darkness is a bit rough around the edges. But that's no reason to be so hard on it. I think the biggest problem is that the developers are trying to do too much here, and none of it comes together quite as well as it could. It's as if the game could have used a few more months' refinement. That said, at its most basic level, this is a return to the original Tomb Raider formula that j worked so well so many years ago. The levels 1 are well designed and inventive, and Lara j| actually raids a tomb or two. There's very / little fighting, and the puzzles are engaging and intelligent enough to keep me interest-ed in the game. And the controls--despite Ethan and Crispin's whining--work great once you get used to them. Overall, it's simply a solid addition to the Tomb Raider legacy. Glitches? OK, I noticed a few, but not nearly the number that Ethan's talking about, and certainly not enough to keep me from playing.
Body by Tomb Raider
A puny girlie-girl at the game's outset, Lara can bulk up her upper- and lower-body brawn by shoving blocks and performing long-distance leaps--strength-blasting moves that increase her hang time from ledges and let her kick in doors. Core Design refers to this on-the-job fitness training as Angel of Darkness' role-playing infusion. But in reality, Lara's strength power-ups are just a thinly veiled twist on the old fetch-the-item puzzles. Stumble on a stubborn door, for instance, and chances are you just need to mosey around until you find a nearby crate, shove it two feet, and voila--you instantly get the necessary boost in strength. At least Core deserves credit for evolving the ubiquitous crates from a bland puzzle piece into fitness equipment. Could a workout video be far behind?
Do we dare to imagine jumping across the game's deadly fissures without dying dozens of times? We dare. Here are 10 ways to avoid Angers frustrations.
10. Turn with the Camera
Turning with the left analog stick is a pain, but there's a better way: Press forward on the left stick and maneuver the camera (and Lara) with the right. This way, you have much more control.
9. Jump and Hit Walls
Leap at a wall, hit it, and slide down onto a ledge. This technique will save you hours of maddening trial-and-error jumping, especially when guiding Lara over gaps of indeterminate distance.
8. Close in for the Kill
Don't be shy. Boldly sprint into close quarters and fire. You will save on ammo, spend less time fighting, and generally feel better about yourself.
7. Confuse Your Foe
Your enemies have restricted vision and don't cope well if you circle them. Use this to your advantage.
6. Record Cabal Codes
Every number puzzle in the game has a five-digit solution. Whenever you see a five-digit number, jot it down--you'll be using it soon.
5. Talk to Everyone
Talk to anyone who isn't trying to kill you and always save your game before you do in case the conversation goes awry. For example, Margot Carvier gives you a notebook if you answer a few questions, but she's easily insulted.
4. Doors to Nowhere
Most of the doors in Paris and Prague don't lead anywhere. If a door is jammed, sealed, or doesn't display the hand icon, ignore it. Make a note of doors that Lara cannot yet kick open and return to them later when she's stronger. Locked doors require keys, which are usually nearby.
3. Puzzle Proximity
When a puzzle requires a specific item, the object in question is probably close, usually within two or three rooms of the puzzle. Search the immediate vicinity.
2. Have Gun, Will Travel
Carry your weapons out of their holsters. If foes appear, Lara autotargets them before you spot them (even if they're offscreen because of the uncooperative camera).
1. Save, Save, Save!
Remember to save your progress before you enter an ominous room, prior to engaging an enemy, and most of all, just before a jump of unknown distance. And once you've done a thing right, save it so you won't have to reprise the feat after Lara's next death.
Eidos November 2002--Since we last spoke of Lara and her new PS2 adventure, the game has found itself an official title, which seems to reflect its more mature style. New background details have been unearthed, such as developer Core Design's rather bold choice to separate the game into three distinct gameplay styles. The first will feature Lara without weapons, relying on stealth and character interaction to progress through an almost RPG-like scenario. The second will be more akin to the past Tomb Raider titles (though Lara will sport several new moves, such as a chokehold straight out of Metal Gear Solid). And the third, featuring the new playable character Curtis Trent, will be much more action-oriented and heavy on shooting. Honestly, we're just happy to finally see some screenshots that make this game look like something other than a high-res Tomb Raider. Our concern is that people might start referring to Lara as "Snake." But hey, what better game to imitate?
Despite an outstanding plot, fantastic graphics and the always-stunning Lara Croft, The Angel of Darkness is plagued by a bevy of small but annoying glitches and faults.
The Angle of Darkness starts with Lara Croft meeting with a former mentor. Moments later the man is dead and Croft becomes the only suspect. As Croft tries to unravel the mystery of her mentor's death she must avoid the police and the mysterious and deadly Monstrum while trying to locate the five Obscura paintings.
Although all of the Tomb Raider games have relied on plot to a point, Angel of Darkness is certainly the first to successfully make the leap from a plot driven game to an almost interactive movie. This latest Tomb Raider also sports a number of new features; unfortunately many of them are mere window dressing. The most exciting change is the in-game evolution of Croft. They way it's supposed to work is that Croft becomes better at what she does as you use her talents to complete the game. At first blush this sounds like a great idea, unfortunately it isn't carried out very well. For instance there are numerous times in the game when Croft won't be able to force open a door or make a leap because she isn't strong enough. So you have to wander around until you come to some feat that she is able to accomplish and that also happens to pump up her muscles. It all seems a little too pre-planned to come off as any sort of true character development. The game also features more interactive dialogue, where Croft has a choice of ways to try and talk people out of information. Reactions depend on the choice of words.
Finally, the game boasts new 'advanced controls'? apparently what this means is that although Croft has all of the looks of a sleek nubile athlete, she is in fact an over-laden garbage truck with all of the grace and finesse of a fullback. Moving Croft around the many precarious drops featured in the game often break down into minutes of frustration as she spins willy-nilly and balks like a frightened mule. Most frustrating is her jump delay that has her running over cliff edge after cliff edge. Certainly I exaggerate a bit'her moves aren't all too horrible and adept players will get used to them, but why should they have to? After all this is supposed to be a game at the top of its form.
Croft does come with a whole slew of new moves, like hand-to-hand combat, stealth and crawling on hands and knees. These new moves give Croft more cerebral options, something beyond the running away or shooting that she has relied on in previous games.
The graphics in Angel are so good and so lifelike that they are often distracting, with the latest game engine featuring ten times the amount of polygons of previous versions of the game. The new Croft is also toned down a bit to make her less Barbie like and more proportionately appropriate, but don't worry she's still a babe, just not a vapid one. The game still features a well-orchestrated soundtrack that lends the right level of suspense to the game without being distracting. And of course there's still Croft's lovely British accent to help you through the difficult parts of the game.
What brings this otherwise masterful game down most are the handful of surprising glitches found throughout the levels. From unactionable actions, to floating shadows, Angel sometimes looks a bit like a beta, which is both saddening and surprising when coming from a company like Eidos. Despite my ill-tempered review, Angel is a fun game to play with a handful of new features and the best plot yet in the always enchanting and creative Tomb Raider franchise. You may be a bit disappointed at times, but you'll still want to play The Angel of Darkness all the way through if only to see how it ends.
Snapshots and Media
Playstation 2 Screenshots
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