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Graphics : 6.5

The first thing you'll notice when you start the game is the graphics. At first, the new Tomb Raider looks gorgeous and sharp and as I've mentioned before, levels are large and designed beautifully. The settings are in Paris, Prague, tombs, and others and each are impressive. The weather effects are quite realistic...especially the rain outside the windows! Footprints are made in the snow, dust rise from shoes and shifting objects. The water could've been done more realistically, but it's not too bad. The FMVs are very much like the previous games, but good part of the story is told through the aforementioned well-directed in-game interactive cutscenes.

Character models are much more improved. Lara now has a more smoother, softer feel to her; her new model is made of 5,000 polygons, against the 500 of the previous games. Her movements are realistic, agile, and done well. Her hair now swings in the right directions and the mouth, at times, moves accordingly to the words. Secondary characters look different from one another, with the exception of a few characters for which the developers used the same model.

Simply put, the graphics might have been gorgeous if it wasn't for the too many bugs and performance issues of the new graphic engine. Despite the long development time, the graphic engine of The Angel Of Darkness seems to completely lack optimization. First of all, slowdowns occur A LOT throughout the game. This is especially annoying when you're trying to gun down an enemy and you're not sure if you've killed him or you're just wasting ammo. Whether Lara is standing looking around a room or running, you'll definitely see the faulty framerate acting up. I think the main reason for this is due to the massive environments.

The bugs/glitches that happen are a hassle and have angered me a lot. Sometimes Lara would just fall straight through a solid object and fall to her death. One thing I encountered was being stuck walking near a wall, which forced me to reset. Other things include hanging off invisible ledges, not grabbing the ledge even though I know I made it, and falling to the ground even with the "Walk" button in place. But the most annoying thing is easily the random tendency of the game to freeze. In the early part of the adventure, my game froze after loading up. I tried to enter the next room and I would never be able to proceed. It ended up I had to re-start my game from the beginning because there was no way to fix it. Another problem (quite small) is the shadow of Lara. Her entire shadow would appear on the ledge beneath the one she's standing on, which is actually impossible in real life. So, you're basically seeing 2 shadows of Lara. And instead of having a shadow directly beneath her (like climbing down a ladder), it would be projected on the wall or sometimes on thin air.

Though not a major problem, the camera can get in the way. Using the right analog-stick to control the camera, it's difficult to get the proper angle you need for that one jump or to see where you're going when a wall blocks the view. The camera can also shift quickly when you're climbing on a rope or shimmying, so you'd have to change directions on the controller to continue on your path. Like I said, not a huge issue, but is a hassle.

The graphics are visually beautiful, but all the errors and performance issues are not. They create an interruption when you're trying to inspect your surroundings or when you're trying to progress in the game. And this can be very distracting.

Sound : 8.5

The music and voice acting are surprisingly good. The voice for Lara is stern yet soft at the same time. I did wonder, however, that if she was supposed to be "darker" in this game why her voice sounds too feminine. The voices for the other characters, such as Travis and Eckhart (the Alchemist) fit them well and make them seem more believable. Even the non-supporting characters have great voices, such as the bystanders in Paris, or the reporter in Prague. There are times when voices sound muffled and a bit far from the microphone, but this is easily forgiven since the dialogue flows so well.

The music is mostly instrumental and has been orchestrated nicely and incorporated at the right parts. You can hear the tension build up when Lara is being chased, fighting enemies, or when a cutscene begins. The game then feels more like a movie and grabs the attention of the viewer. Of course, a large part of the time, there isn't much background music going on because of concentration purposes. But when those particular parts come up, you'll be alert.

Sound effects haven't improved very much from the other games. Gunshots still sound pretty realistic, but lack the impact...unlike the "Metal Gear Solid" games. Footsteps, steam, and machinery sounds are clear and don't sound bad. There are a few times where the sound of the footsteps should've changed according to material of the floor, but it's not a big problem.

The only real reason I can think of for playing the game again is to try out the different interaction choices and I believe, starting a new game with all the attributes increased. But, that would make things easier. And considering that Travis is playable in Lara's story instead of having his own, doesn't help either. Unless you absolutely didn't understand the story the first time or really enjoyed the game, then there's really not much of a point. The game features an "Extras" option where you can view the trailer of the new "Tomb Raider" film and "The Making of TR: AoD".

Overall Score ( not an average ) : 6.5

It's extremely disappointing to see a game that has been delayed for quite a while to still have some major flaws. We all thought that Eidos/Core delayed this game for the fact they were fixing these up. But for some reason, the "final" game sorely lacks optimization, balance, and features the worst controls in the series. Evidently, something went wrong in the organization of the development process - but the question is: how could this happen to one of the biggest franchises in the gaming industry?

Here's hoping that Core and Eidos will learn from their mistakes and work harder to make the next game something special. "Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness" isn't a "Must-Buy" but more worthwhile as a rental.



Page 1: Gameplay

- MerylSilverburg (16 Jul, 2003)


Scores
Gameplay
6.5
Graphics
6.5
Sound
8.5
Replay Value
6.5
Overall Score
6.5



Developer
Core Design Ltd.
Publisher
Eidos Interactive
Origin
U.K.
Genre
Adventure
Action
Players
1
Peripherals
Dual Shock 2
8MB Memory Card
Release Date
North America
June 20th, 2003
Japan
October 23rd, 2003
Europe
July 4th, 2003
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More screenshots of Tomb Raider: The Angel Of Darkness





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Jeremy Smith Developers' Diary #3 Read This
Andrew Thompson Developers' Diary #4 Read This



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