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Tomb Raider Underworld: Lara's Shadow

Now this is more like it. Whereas the previous installment of Underworld downloadable content bored us to tears with a level that looked like it’d been cut from the full game owing to gross mediocrity, this second stab is a whole new Thrall... er, ball game.

Actually, let’s be more specific. In terms of level design, it’s only a mild improvement. This episode, set in a perpetually black subterranean cavern, sees Lara’s evil double tasked with helping out evil Atlantean babe turned ghoulish monstrosity Natla. After slogging her way across pits of icy fire, she’s then got to do the whole thing in reverse – an old and cheap trick that won’t endear gamers already cursing at having to fork out for the privilege of another all-too brief jaunt into the Raider universe. Still, it’s a decent opportunity to hone your new Shadow skills so we’d advise slaloming through it as quickly as possible.

Not sounding too hot so far, is it? Thankfully, Lara’s lookalike is able to inject some much-needed vitality into proceedings. She might not score quite as high on the babe-o-meter, but Dark Lara has some funky tricks up her Goth sleeves. Primarily, hitting either of your pad’s bumpers kicks off ‘shadow time’, allowing our little devil to scamper up sheer rock faces the regular Lara would baulk at. Combat skills see the same upgrade, making her a feisty proposition in the fisticuffs department.

At the moment, it’s all potential – but while we like nothing more than testing our grey matter with regular Lara while sipping on a cup of tea, Dark Lara offers quicksilver fast leaping and fighting. It makes for a real contrast and a pleasant change, so fingers crossed Crystal Dynamics make more of these new elements in the inevitable future installments of Ms. Croft’s adventures...

Apr 2, 2009