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Tomb Raider Underworld review

AT A GLANCE
  • Epic scope
  • Great level design
  • Beautiful environments
  • A bit on the short side
  • Weak story
  • Not the best combat

Crystal Dynamics deserve acclaim, not just for having created their best Tomb Raider game so far, but for something even more remarkable: listening to criticism. They’ve taken on board the fact that their strength lies in epic puzzles and astonishing level architecture, and that their great weakness has been boss fights. Of the latter, Underworld contains an admirable none. The former constitutes the whole of the game. Crystal Dynamics’ first Lara outing was Legend, in which Lara’s backstory and motivations were explored, ending with the discovery that her mother might still be alive, trapped in Avalon. Along the way we learned of her feud with another tomb raider, Amanda. The cliffhanger ending of 2006 is where Underworld picks up.

Yet between the two games was Anniversary, the remake of the original Tomb Raider. Threads from that story are woven in too, such as winged Jacqueline Natla, former guard of Atlantis. This time around, Lara is seeking her mother via the eschatological myths of Hindu and Norse religions, and the recovery of Thor’s hammer. But if Underworld goes wrong anywhere, it’s in crapping this story out in such a mess that the convoluted history is as disposable as its muddled conclusion. Underworld is all about the jumping. Fortunately, the jumping is bloody brilliant. The key word for this game is ‘architecture’. Each of the five settings has behemoth buildings, with towering statues, immense chambers, and puzzles on a larger scale than ever seen before. Get the idea? It’s big.

Thailand’s astonishing Hindu site is a fantastic example. A gargantuan stone statue of Shiva looms over the ruins, balanced on the giant upturned body of Kali. Shiva’s arms are manipulated via enormous mechanisms in order to focus a single beam of light onto Kali’s forehead. But these mechanisms require components found in the echoing antechambers below, each a series of exploration puzzles and traps.

The upshot of all this is the complete abandonment of the tiresome Corridors of Death that have blighted the series. At no point in the entire game is there a spinning blade moving back and forth along a wall. Hallelujah! In fact, we can think of only three corridors throughout that contained any sort of moving obstacle, and each were perfunctory, making the connection between two chambers more interesting. Instead, Underworld is about entering a giant room and exploring the place.

While there is usually only one correct route, there’s always the sense that you discovered it for yourself, rather than that you were funneled into its inevitability. Also, many locations have multiple goals, solved in whichever order you choose, furthering the sense of freedom. Instead of being given new moves, this time you’re left to judiciously apply what Lara could already do: jump, swing, climb, grip and roll.

More Info

Release date: Nov 18 2008 - DS, Wii, PS2, Xbox 360, PS3, PC (US)
Nov 21 2008 - DS, Wii, PS2, Xbox 360, PS3, PC (UK)
Available Platforms: DS, Wii, PS2, Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Genre: Action
Published by: Eidos
Developed by: Crystal Dynamics, Santa Cruz
Franchise: Tomb Raider
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Mild Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes, Mild Language
PEGI Rating:
16+

21 comments

  • tororosso - May 1, 2010 12:04 p.m.

    This game brought back memories of PSone original Tomb raider. Focus was back on the puzzle aspect of the platformer game of old. Kudos for that... Theres alot of good things they did to this game. Puzzles, Bright Graphics, Beautiful game world. Thailand Level still looks awesome even now in April 2010. good UI very clear. but there one huge problem with it.. which is camera. being that its a platform based gameplay this short coming has been very frustrating especially in certain levels where this it just purly fails. Ratings: Gameplay 68 (horrible camera angles) Story/Immersive rate 80 Video 83 Audio 76 Overall 77
  • derringer83 - November 20, 2008 7:36 p.m.

    Crankr.... you pretty much wrapped it up and sold it to me. WANT!!!
  • purpleshirt - November 20, 2008 1:11 a.m.

    oreo... rofl u r epic fail jk like i was joking with the leet speak but your still an epic fail
  • bassfu - November 20, 2008 12:50 a.m.

    Good missing the point Oreo. He meant that if people will hate the fundamentals of a game why would you rate it a 9?
  • Kilr - November 28, 2008 4:24 p.m.

    Just played the demo and this game is deff. rent worthy. One of the few amazing puzzlegames that comes out recently
  • kram101 - November 24, 2008 10:24 p.m.

    looks cool
  • fallenangel660 - November 21, 2008 6:11 p.m.

    woow looks amazing!
  • muffchild - November 21, 2008 5:41 p.m.

    was playing this last night. I'm not sure how they did it but this game looks outta this world up close. the textures and lighting are phenomenal and the polygon count is through the roof. And Lara's vagina bulge looks amazing in a wetsuit while shes straddling a slippery pole.
  • lewis42025 - November 21, 2008 12:02 a.m.

    whew.....that made my day, but this game looks great
  • lewis42025 - November 21, 2008 12:02 a.m.

    @muffchild: LOL!!!!!!!! ROFL!!!!!!! LMAO!!!!!! WHATEVER!! U R FREAKIN HILARIOUS!!!!!!!
  • muffchild - November 20, 2008 9:18 p.m.

    I'd chew the corn outta Lara's poop.
  • Crankr - November 20, 2008 3:43 a.m.

    This game doesn't look so cool. All you do is crawl around the levels same as always, with Lara getting dirty and wet and... oh god, WANT!!!
  • solidsnake_5552000 - November 20, 2008 2:51 a.m.

    How short is "a bit on the short side"? less than 10 hours??
  • oreomonkey - November 20, 2008 12:12 a.m.

    yes becuz u want a short 2 hour game with a bad story and boring combat... good thinking Longdon
  • LONGDONGpiChong - November 19, 2008 11:47 p.m.

    they say that you will hate Not the best combat a bit on short side weak story But isn't all those reasons the most important parts of A game????
  • garnsr - November 19, 2008 11:13 p.m.

    I've been wanting a good action adventure game for a while, and have been waiting for this, but I hadn't heard anything for a few months, I was getting worried it wasn't going well. Now I'll have to go pick this up in the next few days.
  • muffchild - November 19, 2008 6:18 p.m.

    sweeeet...
  • FluffyDestructo - August 25, 2009 8:24 p.m.

    Great great game. it was pretty short and easy but still a lot of fun. Probably the best one yet.
  • SuperBadnik - March 28, 2009 9:32 p.m.

    Loved this game. At least one of the best Tomb Raiders, if not the best. It's kinda annoying it was a bit short, as it's soo good and the DLC was top notch also. Roll on TR9 :D
  • SuperBadnik - February 13, 2009 8:18 p.m.

    One of the best Tomb Raiders yet. Now i can't decide if The Last Revelation or this is the best Tomb Raider.

Showing 1-20 of 21 comments

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