Tomb Raider: Underworld Review
|Release Date:||November 21st, 2008 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
Lara Croft is something of a cult sensation. When she first shimmied onto consoles and PC's back in the 90's gamers fell in love with the free-form combat, exciting story and shapely curves of gaming's greatest female icon, and, despite a couple of bad decisions along the way (Angel of Darkness) and dying a couple of times, she is still going strong.
In recent years Ms Croft has had a bit of a regeneration, with Tomb Raider: Legend and Anniversary bringing back the free-form combat and tomb raiding that makes the series great, and despite a few technical bugs, they have been well accepted. Now we come to Underworld, Lara's latest adventure, and on the whole, it's pretty good.
First off, gamers familiar with the control scheme from Legend and Anniversary will feel right at home, as the controls haven't changed. This is a two edged-sword however, as the occasionally buggy controls will have poor Lara jumping the wrong direction from time to time. However, Lara has broadened her athletic skills since her last adventure and can now pull off a whole host of new moves, such as wall jumping and balancing on beams, which makes some parts of the levels more like Prince of Persia than Tomb Raider, not that that's a bad thing- swinging and jumping in sequence can be very satisfying, especially when you are in some of the beautiful environments that the game offers up.
Graphically the game is stunning. Including such areas as the deepest jungles of Asia, the polar ice and even a sinking ship, Lara's adventure will take her all over the world, to some spectacles that make you stop and admire them, before repelling or swan diving off them, just for kicks.
The main problem with the graphics is the camera, which still retains the same problems from Legend and Anniversary- it's very unruly. Sometimes the camera won't follow the gamer's command, or it may get stuck behind or inside something, and this seems to happens a lot when Lara is trying to crawl under something. Also, the camera has a habit of jerking about, meaning that the already-awkward controls become even more irritating. Also, while several of the levels feature the use of Lara's unrealistic trail bike, the controls are a bit fiddly and unresponsive, though running over a panther as it's jumping towards you firing one-handed into its face is still awesome.
Pathfinding is also a lot less linear in most of the levels, with Lara having any one of a number of routes open for her to reach her goal and it being up to the gamer's discretion to choose a route and swing, grapple or shoot your way to the finish line.
Combat is also pretty much the same, with Lara's endless supply of pistol ammo, additional weapons such as shotguns and assault rifles and one section where she gets her hands on a very special weapon and goes a little bit nuts with the power of it.
Enemies are varied, stretching from zombies to half-dead Mayan warriors, panthers, giant spiders and even to heavily armed troopers. The enemy AI is still a bit spotty however, with the human enemies still not taking cover or trying to dodge Ms Croft's attacks. Also, it is very easy to be knocked down and mauled by bigger enemies such as a tiger, so learning to use Lara's agility is a must to avoid constant and irritating death.
Story-wise, Underworld features a plot that isn't the best, but still retains enough interest to make playing through the game worthwhile. It charts Lara's search for her mother as she chases after an ancient path to the underworld of Avalon. Though loads of familiar characters make a return, only a true Lara fan will be able to know what's going on without the helpful 'background' story video in the extra's menu.
Another helpful addition is Lara's PDA, which contains data about what's going on, environments she's visiting and the story itself. It also has a nifty 'sonar map' option, which maps the surrounding area for you. Also included is 'field assistance'- a little tips menu which tells the gamer what to do next.
All in all, Tomb Raider: Underworld is a rip-roaring adventure through stunning environments so beautiful they will make you cry with challenging levels that should offer 15 hours+ of gaming, unless you are a Tomb Raider god and have a sixth sense for what to do. Though the game is still a bit buggy, with a dodgy camera and wobbly AI, this can be easily overlooked by the overall fun of the experience. Lara has gone back to Tomb Raiding, which is where she belongs, welcome back, Ms Croft.
- Stunning environment
- A return to the Tomb Raiding of old
- Reasonable story
Not so good stuff
- Dodgy camera
- Poor enemy AI
- Easy if you use the tips option in the PDA