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Publisher: Core Design    Genre: Action
Min OS X: 10.2.6    CPU: G4 @ 733 MHz    RAM: 256 MB    Hard Disk: 1300 MB    Graphics: 32 MB VRAM


Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness
March 23, 2004 | Richard Hallas
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Mac users often complain about the length of time they have to wait for conversions of PC games to appear on their platform of choice. Whilst the frustration can be understandable, sometimes it actually pays to wait, as the version of the game that finally appears on the Mac tends to be the most recent, with problems in the original release having been fixed.

Such is the case with Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness. As a fan of the Tomb Raider series I was interested to read about the sixth installment when it first came out, but the initial reviews were dismaying. Although perhaps flavoured by disappointment at a long-awaited game that failed to live up to its hype, the reviews were all extremely damning, generally giving Angel of Darkness scores of between four and six out of 10 and condemning many of its supposed innovations.

So when it came to reviewing the Mac conversion, I was expecting not to be very impressed. Imagine my surprise, then, to find that most of the anticipated shortcomings failed to materialize. It's true that the game has its problems, but few of them seem really serious. The many implementation and stability issues that I read about are simply not present in the Mac version. PC users may have had to endure what seemed like an early beta release, but now, half a year later, the game feels properly finished and polished on the Mac.

Game play: Back in Black
During her two-year sabbatical, Core and Eidos have tried to refresh Lara's appeal and break away from the impression of a series of spin-offs based on spin-offs. Angel of Darkness attempts to make a fresh start for the game's story and content, as well as updating the game engine and graphical quality by a considerable degree.

The changes take a number of forms. The most obvious difference, right from the start, is the greatly improved quality of the graphics, which I'll discuss later. Aside from the visual improvements, though, Lara now has a wider variety of moves and a stealth mode, and the reliance on an obviously block-based environment has been removed. Lara can explore her environment in a less linear way, hold conversations with other characters in the game, and improve her physical skills over time. On top of that, there's a new character called Kurtis Trent for the player to control (for a total of three levels), and the atmosphere of the game is now darker than before, with a story that involves murder and the occult.

The story is actually an area where I found the game disappointing. Admittedly it's very rare for story-driven games to be truly successful as pieces of fiction, but Angel of Darkness puts itself at a disadvantage by being yet another example of a game that involves biological experimentation and people with supernatural powers meddling in the occult. Mind you, Lara's athletic prowess itself borders on the supernatural, so perhaps I'm expecting too much by wanting more realism. The story does hold your interest, but it's also full of non-sequiturs, unexplained gaps, illogical progressions and things that just don't add up, so it could certainly have been planned better. Kurtis Trent's role, function and motivation, for example, are never satisfactorily explained, despite a revelation in the end-game cut-scene. But the story is at least as good as in any previous Tomb Raider game; the series is hardly noted for its memorable storylines.

Fiction aside, what of the game itself? Is it totally new, or is it recognisably Tomb Raider?



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