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Tomb Raider: Underworld

Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, Wii, PC - Xbox 360 version reviewed.

For anyone who has followed Lara's exploits since the original Tomb Raider made its debut, Underworld is going to be a bit of a rollercoaster ride. We've had the initial climb. At the moment, Ms. Croft's reputation is higher than it's been at any time since her late 90s heyday. With a few reservations, most of us saw Tomb Raider: Legend as a welcome return to form, while Tomb Raider: Anniversary - though intensely frustrating at times - proved that the team at Crystal Dynamics fully understood what made the series tick, and had what it took to take Lara forward.

Well, as with any good rollercoaster, the biggest, scariest drop is right at the start. The opening hours of Tomb Raider: Underworld contain stretches that leave you wondering whether Lara's fortunes really are in capable hands, or whether the game has been rushed out for release. The opening tutorial is clumsy and the following underwater sequence in the Med unexciting. What follows in an undersea temple is solid Tomb Raider fare, but hardly incredible. The levels that come after - particularly a combat heavy section pitting Lara up against a crew of poorly modelled, pitifully stupid henchmen - are downright awful. This hideous thought springs up: they brought Lara back, only to blow it all now.

Then the action moves to Thailand and things perk up considerably. Subsequent levels are among the biggest, best and most ambitious in the series and that old Tomb Raider feeling is back in spades. The game still has its peaks and valleys in the hours that follow, but give it time and this is another fine adventure for our heroine.

Visually, Underworld is a confident step on from Legend and Anniversary. Crystal Dynamics seems to have abandoned earlier efforts to make Lara look more realistic and gone instead for a style that brings the unfeasibly breasted model of old up to date. Where there has been effort to make Lara more lifelike, it's all in the details and animation. It's easy to believe that the team motion-captured an Olympic gymnast for Lara's movements; every motion looks impressively natural and the animation seems to crib from Naughty Dog's Uncharted: Drake's Fortune in that her interaction with the environment, down to little trips and stumbles, seems more real. This is also reflected in small, surface details, like the way Lara's clothes and skin get covered with grime as she adventures in dirty or muddy places, or get wet when there's rain or water involved. This isn't photorealism in the Crysis style, but it is a thoroughly convincing fantasy.

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Read Comments

Hamish Campbell

November 25, 2008, 7:13 pm

Whilst I was very pleased with the bikini bottom arse shot, I was a bit disappointed with the real lack of screenshots which would give me an idea of the boob size they have gone for in this member of the series.

Please try to focus on the key areas of interest and not get side tracked by things of lesser import (AI, story, gameplay spring to mind).


November 25, 2008, 10:06 pm

Guys seriously? Did not feel betrayed by the makers of the game? I love Tomb Raider, and I have played most episodes available on so many platforms. One element that repeats itself throughout the series is the annoying camera angles, and one thing is for sure, it's not changed that time around (neither has clipping but that's issue No 2). I mean, they always got to rush out their games out before Christmas leaving us to play "bugged" games. I spend most of the times throwing my controller accross the room because I keep on missing a ledge courtesy of the dodgy camera. Don't we, as gamers, matter anymore?

The game is gorgeous and quiet entertaining, will attempt to finish it eventually, but I cannot help but feel a grudge against the maker of that game. This could have been something really special...


November 25, 2008, 11:09 pm

What has happened!! I base my comments on the Underworld demo, but there isn't much difference between that and the finished game I gather from reading the review.

Combat. Horrible and non-intuitive. The headshot feature is near impossible to use and they learnt nothing from Anniversary. Legend was awesome with the whole slide and kick enemies or jump on their heads and fire shots, but thats (I assume) gone again. Despite nice animations and less stiff or blocky animals why can Lara not do things such as shoot animals whilst still on the ground before jumping up, only to get knocked down again?

As Wilfried comments the camera angles are awful this time around. Legend was quite well done. Everytime you're on a ledge or hanging off something, the game doesn't seem to make it easy to judge depth or time jumps. It's always really close to the character and swings into walls etc.

Finally if they wanted fluidity as was constantly mentioned in all the interviews, why not implement something like the Prince of Persia mechanics? Climbing has never been so tedious and stop-start. I wish this game had been made straight after legend, without the detractions of Aniversary that introduced terrible mechanics into a revived game.

Whoever released this game forgot it was supposed to be fun.


November 26, 2008, 1:49 am

The biggest problem with Underworld is that Uncharted simply blows it out of the water, and that's over a year old now! Even if Uncharted 2 turns out to be just more of the same, Mr Drake will still have the edge over Ms Croft!


November 26, 2008, 3:34 pm

As I tried to get over in the review, Underworld isn't the game it should have been my any means. To be honest, I found the camera angles weren't as bad here as in Anniversary, where controller through the window incidents were an hourly possibility, and the better checkpointing makes it less frustrating. The combat is, however, thoroughly rotten.

Despite this, I'd never say that Underworld isn't fun. Despite it's failings I still became very much caught up in it, and I think most fans of the series will get the same feeling the more they play. It's one of those games where I'd hate anyone to buy it and go in with the highest expectations, but I also wouldn't want those people who'd enjoy it to miss out. Hopefully, the review reflects that.



November 26, 2008, 5:38 pm

Ah, it's all just cosplay now.

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