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Tomb Raider Underworld Review
publisher: Eidos Interactive
developer: Crystal Dynamics
genre: Action Adventure
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Nov 18, 08 (released)
|» All About Tomb Raider Underworld on ActionTrip|
Yes, it's another Tomb Raider game. Yes, it involves dungeons, unexplored secret chambers, ancient treasures, mystical artifacts and plenty of shimmying, jumping, shooting, hurling, twirling, pushing and pulling. Crystal Dynamics' Tomb Raider: Legend and solid Tomb Raider: Anniversary were decent enough and have convinced us that the next project might be worth the wait.
Lara Croft's latest adventure takes us on a usual trip around the globe to many exotic locations. Mere sight-seeing isn't exactly on our sexy heroine's agenda. The bewildering beginning hurls players into the crumbling and burning Croft Manor, where Lara is forced to find a way out. Why was Lara's place blown sky-high will be revealed later during the game. First, you return to the moment when the passionate female archeologist is on her way to explore ruins beneath the Mediterranean Sea. She starts collecting evidence of the existence of Thor's hammer. Normally, villains and other characters are going to show up and try to stop her.
If you can drag your thoughts away from cleavage and flawless female body curves, then let's get the show on the road.
Right, first thing's first, Lara's body (okay, I tried, but I couldn't resist, so let's talk cleavage). It never looked better and neither did any Tomb Raider game that preceded Tomb Raider Underworld. The animation of Lara's model is perfect in every way and so is each detail on her gorgeous figure (sadly, the breasts don't bounce much... if they do at all.). The designers clearly went all out to make a convincing depiction of the main character. As she explores murky and dirty jungles and dungeons, Lara gets increasingly filthier (happily she's all wet, clean and shiny after a short swim). Miss Croft's lovely appearance isn't the only visual tweak in Underworld. The environments are quite eye-catching, with some impressive indoor lighting at work and great-looking textures that make each scene come to life. Stunning exteriors such as the meticulously designed levels in Thailand and Southern Mexico make this the best-looking Tomb Raider game to date. It's wasn't just about cramming the scenery with rich and flashy textures, but really about maintaining the atmosphere. Thanks to the excellent sound effects and a fantastic soundtrack, Tomb Raider: Underworld presents its fair share of memorable moments.
Things aren't quite as rewarding gameplay wise. Don't get me wrong. Lara's new relic-seeking endeavor is extremely fun at times. There's the usual dose of traps and enemies to confront. Not to beat around the bush, Lara's adventures are a bit more physical as opposed to logical. Solving puzzles and traps never involves any exceptional brainstorming. It's more about keeping a sharp eye for the next platform or ledge to perform the next leap. The fun stops at the moment you experience your tenth attempt of grabbing a certain ledge or pillar which you couldn't see because of the often confusing camera angles. The symptom has been known to create difficulties in early TR games and by the look of this release, things haven't improved much. In fact, they are a lot worse. The game made me retrace my steps way too many times, just because the camera wouldn't allow me to see where Lara needed to be going.
Physics lack fine-tuning in this game, which is why you'll frequently see Lara falling off a cliff or suddenly grabbing the ledge of a platform when you least expect her to. As a result, a great deal of the game becomes frustrating instead of enjoyable. In certain areas, running and avoiding a series of traps automatically triggers a slow-mo camera mode, at which time you're suppose to direct Lara towards safety. Since the camera shifts whenever it bloody-well likes, the moment swiftly looses its cinematic edge it's desperately trying to convey. So, before you know it, you're liable see Lara being stabbed, cut or squashed because a near-by pillar suddenly blocked your view of the character.
Hanging out with Lara is as cool and fun as ever, beautifully crafted environments, puzzles are less linear, solid level design, great soundtrack;
Acrobatics are spoiled by weird camera (again), simplistic combat.