Eidos Tomb Raider: Underworld
Tomb Raider: Underworld brings Lara Croft back in an ardent effort to stop what has been a heady descent into video game irrelevance.
- Beautiful locations, entertaining story, functional controls
- Underdeveloped combat mechanics, generally slow pace, some platforming sections need tuning
Lara tries to whip out the twins — get your mind out of the gutter: the "twins" I'm talking about here are action and adventure — in order to evoke some excitement in Underworld but there isn't enough solid action to back up the platforming. All in all, Ms Croft's latest effort falls a bit flat with a dated feel; it's obvious that the genre that Lara helped pioneer has long passed her by.
Price$ 99.95 (AUD)
It's pretty obvious after playing Underworld that Lara Croft simply can't run with the big boys; that's not a knock on her being a woman but more on how dated she feels. Her gunslinging abilities are outclassed by Nathan Drake and she's unable to use the surrounding environment to her advantage like Indiana Jones. Underworld's gameplay also lacks polish, especially when it comes to combat. There's no workable cover system, the melee moves are downright laughable, and the adrenaline power-up is plain useless; combined, this severely limits your options in battle. The poor combat system also means that most enemy encounters are harder than they should be.
It doesn't help that enemies have a bad habit of appearing when you're in the middle of a tricky platforming sequence. So, to give you an example, this means that dealing with the wave of angry bats that swoop in while you're clamouring atop a set of ruined pillars under the Mediterranean Sea becomes nearly impossible. Lara can't fire a gun while hanging from a ledge, which leaves her completely vulnerable during these scripted attacks. Nobody said Mother Nature plays fair.
Thankfully, the platform challenges and puzzles fare much better. The fundamentals remain solid but it could have benefited from a bit more work. The level design is phenomenal but it's a little too clever for its own good sometimes: It's far too easy to embark on a series of jumping challenges or climb a wall only to get stuck and not clearly understand where to go next because the next ledge or platform blends too much into the environment. Better camera work would easily have addressed this, providing helpful pans to highlight where you need to go next; however, the camera freaks out in close-quarters and offers no aid whatsoever.
Overall, Underworld is a decent enough effort. It has slick controls, interesting puzzles and a story that's actually pretty interesting. However, it never fully compensates for a lack of compelling action and overall polish. It'll probably appeal to diehard Tomb Raider fans hoping to recapture some of the series' lost magic but most gamers will be better served by competing titles like Drake's Fortune.
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