Tonights episode: Tomb Raider, special guest star reviewer: Simon.

Game starts off with typical FMV intro, quite a good story.

From the main menu you can choose from load/new game and a training type scenario. The training is really good, you take control of Lara in her house and as you move around she talks to you, explaining how to pull of all her moves. Jumps, running, walking, grabbing, swimming etc. It's a really good idea and saves you from the frustration of learning by dying in the game. For all "sad" males out there, including me, what she says at the end is really neat. I won't spoil it.

The game proper. It starts you off outside with another little intro. There is very little action on this level but it gives you a really good idea of what to expect.

You have full freedom of movement, basically it's like doom or similar games but instead you can see your character in full. When the cameras is at it's normal distance the animation of her moves and the way she is constructed look very realistic. She looks very real, until at some points in the game where the camera gets too close, in tight spaces etc. and then she does look very basic. It doesn't detract from the game.

Fighting is really good. You can make her draw her weapons or leave them in their holsters, when she draws them she holds them to the side of her head, one either side and as soon as an enemy appears she points them in that direction and then you let go with the trigger. Ammo isn't limited, on the pistol anyway. The shot gun is and I haven't found any other weapons yet. She can fire while shes running and she can fire to her side with one gun only. The best move is the roll, in which you're firing at a wolf coming towards you and just as it's about to bite, you roll forward and you automatically turn the oppiste direction so you are now behind the wolf, guns still blazing. Excellent. All dead enemies don't disappear, the dead body will be there permanently and once dead it won't come back to life. That's how it's supposed to be.

The levels that I have seen so far are typical of what you would expect. Caves, corridors, tunnels etc. In the caves there's no flat floor, it's all contoured and quite often you have to climb up and down cliff faces. The texture mapping close up is quite pixelated but there are wall paintings, statues etc. Also, I don't know wether it's running at a reduced frame rate but you get a slight quvier to the graphics. I'm not a tech' person so I don't know. Slow and jerky though, it isn't. Underwater sections feel good, especially her animation but I expect the transparency argument will be raised. It just doesn't matter, the water surface looks fine.

On first viewing of the graphics I wasn't stunned, but in no way was I disappointed. The graphics easily met my expectations, they aren't Resident Evil graphics but then they aren't fixed view point, it's all moving in real time.

Sound, what sound? Obvioulsly her movements and weapons have SFX, and the enemies bark, flap etc. but where's the atmospheric music? Occasionally it will click in for about 30 seconds but then stops. It's a real let down.

The puzzles so far haven't been taxing, it's all easily sovleable at the moment. You have the switches, jumps, items to collect etc.

To conclude, I'm not stunned, I'm impressed though. The combat feels good, your characters moves are real and very believable. The levels feel correct and again real and believable. It looks really good, the only let down I feel is the sound. It's a definate purchase and providing there's enough levels in there, a really ace game.


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