PC games: Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness

When Core Design went for a developmental reinvention, the world’s favourite cyberbabe returned to PlayStation 2, to mixed reviews. New camera angles and different controls made for frustrating play, and the inclusion of stealth felt like an afterthought. Despite the game’s release date being continually bumped back, there were murmurs that Angel of Darkness was rushed to hit the shelves before it was ready.

We’ve been playing the PC version of this latest incarnation. We understand that a lot has happened in gaming since Lara Croft first appeared several years ago, but we’ve had nothing but fun playing Angel of Darkness. Okay, it’s the sort of fun that derives from a punishing sadomasochism, but it’s fun nonetheless.

We have to give Core Design credit for utilising the power of the PC. Many developers releasing multiformat titles aim at the lowest common denominator -- the PS2 -- and knock out a PC version without enhancing its power. Take one look at the scalability of this game’s settings, plus support for Creative’s EAX audio environments, and you’ll see that Core Design made sure this version is the most visually and aurally accomplished Tomb Raider to date -- as long as you have a PC powerful enough to run it.

Lara starts her quest in Paris where a heated meeting with one-time mentor Werner Von Croy ends with his murder and she is implicated in his killing by the local authorities. With France’s finest on her tail, Lara spends the first few missions running, jumping and climbing the streets to avoid the constabulary. It soon becomes apparent that her every move is being shadowed.

These missions serve to acclimatise you with the controls and, given the all-new system, this is an important part of the game. We used mouse and keyboard for the job but would heartily recommend a gamepad.

That said, it doesn’t take long to get to grips with the controls, and once you’re adept you’ll be thrust into a world of full-on Tomb Raider action with secret societies and occult happenings. You’ll even cross paths with a similar adventurer called Kurtis Trent, who becomes a playable character later on in the game.

Tomb Raider games always have an element of gameplay frustration and Angel of Darkness is no exception. Miscalculated jumps still mean instant death and you’ll spend hours screaming at your monitor because you can’t find that hidden lever. The instant save feature makes play much more bearable, however.

The level designs are fantastic: each has an epic scope and some of the massive platform environments leave you in awe and wondering how on earth you’ll complete each level. But then, that’s the beauty of Tomb Raider.

Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Core Design
www.tombraider.com

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Spencer Dalziel

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