Tomb Raider: Underworld
Tomb Raider fans who happen to have glanced down at the score will know that Lara's latest outing is a decent game, one that will more than satisfy their chasmdefying action desires. Crystal Dynamics has succeeded in improving upon its template for the 'new breed' of Tomb Raider games, although all but the most ardent Lara worshippers will notice there are still things that could turn off the casual observer.
By casual, of course, I mean somebody who has perhaps dabbled in the series before, rather than someone expecting Lara to take a break midadventure in order to work her way through a bumper book of Sudoku.
Anyway, what we have here is your typical Tomb Raider romp, with our heroine clinging to precarious ledges, sliding up and down poles and falling gracefully to her death on numerous occasions. Her adventures span the globe once more, with the jungles of Thailand and Mexico balanced with trips into a submerged temple and the crypts of Croft Manor itself.
Lara and her environs are at their most gorgeous in Underworld, especially with all the twiddly graphical effects ramped to the max. There are also some pleasing little touches here and there that add to the experience, such as Lara getting muddier the more she rolls about. Incidentally, as a passing Xbox owner reliably informs me, the PC version is significantly more impressive in the visuals department than its console counterparts, with underwater sections in particular being much easier to navigate. However, as with all Tomb Raider games, it does sometimes feel like you would be better off ditching the trusty mouse and keys in favour of an Xbox 360 controller.
Still, those who worked their way through the other Crystal Dynamics Lara games without a pad won't find anything to make them tear their hair out There will, as with most platform games, be times where you are stumped as to where to go or jump next but never will you feel completely at a loss, especially with a 3D wireframe map being handy.
If we're being honest the plot is pretty ludicrous. Norse artifacts hidden under a Buddhist temple in Thailand? No problem. Some more in Mexico? Sure, why not? It doesn't really matter, as you aren't coming to a Tomb Raider' game for Proustian complexity, but a little more logic would have been nice. Importantly, purists won't feel it is out of keeping with the series as a whole.
What you do come to the game for is the action and Underworld rarely disappoints, though the niggles of pretty much every 3D platformer are present and correct Sometimes you'll find Lara hurling herself into space in the opposite direction to the one you indicated and the whole thing doesn't feel as seamless as the Prince of Persia trilogy.
Combat is also pretty drab, with auto-aim being the order of the day. Granted, this does help with annoyingly small opponents like bats and spiders, but humans and larger animals require very little skill to defeat Pretty much the only way you will perish in these bouts is if you get cornered by a couple of tigers or if you get stuck on the scenery.
This leads me onto the area that will probably draw the most criticism - the camera. Unfortunately, there are times when your efforts will be thwarted by it leading to a good many hopeful leaps into space. While this is less of a problem than in the past it still gives moments of exasperation. Similarly, it can also be relatively disorienting when Lara moves close to certain walls and objects, jerking around like an epileptic breakdancer. Nevertheless, you won't come away from Tomb Raider.
Underworld with any real sense of dissatisfaction. This sounds silly, considering how much I seem to have criticized the game, but Crystal Dynamics has laboured to make this, at the very least potentially, the best Tomb Raider title of its generation, although sadly the flaws that were forgivable in previous years are less so this time round.
Download Tomb Raider: Underworld
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Eidos Probably Fold their amis defiantly and look hurt if you say it, but featuring an almost constantly saturated Lara Croft in the latest Tomb Raider game is less technological innovation, and more perverted titillation. As such, we should all feel a constant throb of shame as we guide Lara along her most adventurous quest yet, through damp dungeons, rainy ruins and inclement Incan temples. By the look of these screens we'll also be feeling immense joy though, with more open level design, less signposting, and the ability to send animals to sleep rather than murder them. Underworld is certainly set to please.
Turns out these guys are happily living at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, blocking entrances to ruins which Lara hopes will lead to the Norse underworld of the game's title.
Underworld will see Lara visit not only the Mediterranean, but rainy Thailand, the jungles of Mexico, and the Arctic Sea. She'll also zip about on a variety of vehicles. Like usual.
Wet surfaces make it difficult for poor Lara to get a firm grip, meaning she might slip and smash her face off some rocks and drown in two inches of water.
To keep her from harm's way, Lara's got a sonar map that reveals hidden passages, and a (presumably waterproof) PDA that offers helpful hints on demand.
Below The Sea
Lara can now fire RSPCA-pleasing tranquiliser darts at the hapless animals she encounters, rather than mercilessly executing them. This shark will be just fine.
With a claimed 1,700 moves (hrmm), Lara's more acrobatic than ever before. Adrenaline Moments slow time for increased precision, allowing her to deftly navigate tricky jumps.
Underworld gives you more freedom to carve your own path through the level, with open-ended puzzles and less clearly signposted grapple points and ledges.