Tomb Raider: Underworld Review (XBOX360)

It’s hard to believe that Lara Croft has been apart of our gaming lives for over a decade.  She burst onto our screens in 1996 looking pointy, square and lifeless.  Fast forward 12 years and just take a look at her now.  Curvy, lifelike and smooth, Lara is looking better than ever and she’s now taking us through her latest game, Tomb Raider: Underworld.

The Story

Technically, this is the 9th instalment of the Tomb Raider series, but since ‘Anniversary’ was a remake of the very first Tomb Raider game, ‘Underworld’ is known as the 8th in the series.  This whole adventure is based around Lara trying to get to a place called Avalon, a place where her mother can be found, even though she’s apparently dead.  To get Avalon, Lara must travel through the Mediterranean Sea, Coastal Thailand, Croft Manor, Southern Mexico, Jan Mayen Island and the Arctic Sea.   Each of these places contains enemies and mind bending puzzles to figure out before you can go any further.

Gameplay

I imagine most people have played ‘Anniversary’ or ‘Legend’ so you can expect the same kind of controls / movement from Lara.  She has alot freedom in her environments and getting about has never been easier.  A great addition to this game is the way you can now climb up certain walls, stand on poles (you only used to be able to swing from them) and wall jump.  Thankfully, all of these new additions have been helpful and can be done with ease, there really is nothing difficult about the way this game handles.  I suppose the real person to thank for these new moves is Heidi Moneymaker NCC Women’s Gymnastic’s Champion.  This lady provided the motion capture for Lara’s acrobatic movements and Lara is said to have over 2,000 animations.

One small gripe I have though, is the way the camera sometimes doesn’t move to where I want it to be, this seems to be something that doesn’t get fixed as I had the same trouble in ‘Legend’ and in ‘Anniversary’, but as I said, it’s only a small gripe.

Graphics

As expected, this game is visually beautiful.  Outdoor environments are particularly stunning and I especially like the way the environment interacts with Lara.  If she’s in a dusty, dirty environment, then she’ll get muck on her clothes and her skin.  If Lara is in a damp, humid environment, then her face becomes shiny and you can see beads of sweat on her body.  These tiny details just make the game graphically superb.  If you find yourself ontop of a mountain or a tall pillar over the ocean, just take in the views before you continue, and imagine sipping on a cocktail catching the rays.

Take a look at the below picture just to see how Ms.Croft has evolved over the years.


(Courtesy of wikipedia)

Sound

This game sounds great.  The guns sound great, her screams and gasps sound great and I especially like the silence down the narrow ruin hallways and then suddenly you’ll just hear afew small rocks falling down from the ceiling or the wall and then them hitting the floor.  The voice overs in this game are also very good, Keeley Hawes continues to provide the voice for Lara Croft in ‘Underworld’ which is consistent as she provided the voice in ‘Anniversary’ and ‘Legend’.

Treasures & Relics

As with all Tomb Raider games, there are always ‘secrets’ to be found, but what’s great about this game is that each level can contain well over 20 secrets, most of which can be seen just lying about, or hidden in pots which can be broken with a press of the ‘Y’ button.  However, a Relic is not so easy to find.  There will only be one Relic per level and you’ve really got to have an eye for detail, and explore the environments to get just a sniff of a Relic.  I like to try and get as many treasures and relics as possible first time round but I always end up re-doing the whole game to pick up those few that I missed.

Collecting treasures and relics makes great replay value and provides you with 330 gamerscore if you have the patience to find all 6 relics and all 179 treasures.

Achievements

In total there is 1000 gamerscore up for grabs and I think it’s do-able.  Unlike ‘Anniversary’ which I haven’t completed 100% due to it being pretty frustrating and hard, I think ‘Underworld’ is alot easier and completeing this game 100% is definitley achieveable.  Getting achievements in this game is not particulary difficult as you’ll get them for completing levels, picking up a certain amount of treasures and relics and doing swan dives off high points in the level.  The one achievement that I am leaving until last is ‘Master Survivalist’, which is awarded to those who complete the whole game on the hardest setting.  I went through the game on the easiest mode so that when I go back through it on hard, i’ll know what to expect.  You see – that’s smart!

Replay value

I love a game that you can play again, and with this game you can if you want to collect things you didn’t get first time round.  I especially like the way that once you have finished the game, you replay it in ‘Treasure Hunt’ mode which means that you can play through the levels again purley to find treasures and relics.  Enemies you killed first time round will not have respawned and puzzles that took you hours to figure out will still be completed.  This is great and really takes the frustration away and actually makes you want to go back and get those relics!

My Overall Opinion

Personally, I think this is Lara Croft at her best.  I thoroughly enjoyed this game and believe that if there is to be another Tomb Raider game, it’s going to take something seriously impressive to beat this game.  When comparing this to the likes of ‘Legend’ and ‘Anniversary’ it’s pretty safe to say that I prefer ‘Underworld’ hands down.  It’s visually stunning, it contains mind bending puzzles and the upgrade of Lara’s athletic ability is a bonus.

Apart from the minor issue of afew camera angles, I put this game at the top of all Tomb Raider games.  I think I am probably in a good position as I have played and completed all of the previous Tomb Raider games more than once, so I like to think I can provide a fair comparison and opinion for my Tomb Raider reviews.  Admittedly, I am a little biased but I don’t see how you can’t not like this game.  Is that me being ignorant?

I am eager to replay this game to try and collect all of treasures and relics and I can’t wait to finish it on the hardest setting.  Yes it’ll be tough and hopefully I can remember how to complete the puzzles as some of them proved to be pretty time consuming, but afterwards I always feel a great sense of achievement that I managed to figure out how to finish the puzzle to continue with the game.

There is something missing from this game though.   A boss.  As with other Tomb Raider games, there has always been a big bad boss at the end of the game that usually requires a truck load of ammo and a hell of alot of medi-kits, but this game doesn’t have that boss battle.  I didn’t exactly miss it as the last level is frustrating within itself, but some people may not like this.  One other thing I think this game needs is longevity.  Most games now-a-days don’t last very long at all and unfortunately the past three Tomb Raider’s have all fallen under this category.  For me, it’s just too short, but I can’t let something like that lower my rating for this game as I really did enjoy it and I highly recommend this to those looking for a beautiful looking game, a great character, great interaction with the environment and excellent replay value.

Where will Ms.Croft take us next?

Extra Information

This game can be bought from all game retailers.

Play.com – £39.99
Gameplay.com – £24.46

2 thoughts on “Tomb Raider: Underworld Review (XBOX360)”

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