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Tomb Raider Underworld review

Doing what made the original great, and adding a considerable face-lift

This wisdom doesn’t seem to have filtered down to the script, however, which oddly keeps setting up boss encounters and then not following through with a satisfying explanation. But this is par for the course with the batshit story. Lara’s journal entries and narrative commentaries, themed around underworld mythologies, are all splendid. We learned lots about Norse legend, especially excellent words like ‘Yggdrasil’. But come the cutscenes and it’s all garbled madness, with people flip-flopping between evil and good, new baddies popping out of nowhere, and major characters copping it and then going unmentioned.

Which is a bit of a shame after Legend was quite so magnificent at weaving a tale. Zip and Alistair’s constant chatter in Lara’s ear prevented things from feeling too isolated, while offering a chunk of laughs. This time they’re relegated to pointless appearances in cutscenes, and Lara is left to chat to herself in the tombs, narrating her discoveries into her Dictaphone. However, it’s only a small sacrifice for a game that understands the fundamentals of why we’ve loved previous Tomb Raiders, and doesn’t waste our time with the stuff that spoiled them. Remember the incredible cog puzzle in Anniversary, before the terrible dinosaur fight? This is a game entirely made of puzzles like that, and no bloody dinosaur fights whatsoever.

The remarkable architectural vision, coupled with ultra-smart level design, all produced on such a huge scale, makes this as good as Tomb Raider has ever been. It’s still short, it still has annoying combat, and Lara still freaks out and jumps off in the wrong direction far too often. So it still falls short of greatness. But the most exemplary check-pointing we’ve ever encountered forgives a great deal, and the brave decision to ditch the boss fights makes us want to hug all involved. Go explore the Underworld.

Nov 19, 2008

More Info

DescriptionA nice transfer of the TR experience, except it's nearly impossible to see the action on screen, so expect to die a lot.
Franchise nameTomb Raider
UK franchise nameTomb Raider
PlatformDS, Wii, PS2, Xbox 360, PS3, PC
US censor ratingTeen
UK censor rating16+
Release date18 November 2008 (US), 21 November 2008 (UK)