2008 Reviews

Tomb Raider: Underworld

  • Review Date: 2011-08
  • Release Date: 2008-11
  • Developer: Crystal Dynamics
  • Rating: 7.5

Underworld is the eighth installment in the Tomb Raider franchise and the third by Crystal Dynamics after their reboot of the series in 2006. Following Legend and Anniversary, Underworld ties together the stories from those two games in a complete trilogy.

I'll say right now, Anniversary pissed me off more than any other game I can remember. Lara's buggy movement, the rubbish checkpoint system and irritating combat left me giving the game only a 5/10. Sure it looked good, but I simply got too frustrated with it..

Underworld is a completely different playing field. I don't remember getting frustrated at all, apart from when I forgot how the checkpoints work early in the game and just assumed I could manually load a checkpoint (oh no that would be too easy, you can only replay the level from the beginning if you happen to quit and try to manually load a checkpoint). But I think part of why I liked Underworld much more than Anniversary is because I understood all it's little quirks much better. Tomb Raider has a bit of a learning curve in getting used to controlling the ridiculous camera and knowing exactly what Lara can and can't do.

So the camera. Everyone complained about it. Just about every review you'll find they'll kick up a storm about it. Understandably so, because too many times in this game the camera has either gone into a wall and you can't see anything or you're against a wall and can't see whether there's a new handhold you're about to jump to. Too many times you're forced to jump blindly into the unknown, hoping something is within reach behind you. The camera is a flaw in this game, but it's not a show-stopper by any means.

Overall the difficulty of Underworld simply isn't as punishing as Anniversary. The insane running wall jumps are rare now, thank god because they were terrible. Even the combat is much easier this time around. And I'm certainly not feeling let down that there was no proper boss battle. I honestly don't think games NEED a boss battle.

Ammunition is now unlimited for the handguns, so I never had to worry about that. The shotgun and machine guns are dominant weapons, neither of which I ran out of ammo for either. By the end of the game when you get Thor's hammer, which rips through almost every enemy with a single thrust, combat is at it's most fun. Even earlier in the game where you're taking on human enemies, Underworld actually feels like a bit of a shooter! Not a bad thing and definitely an improvement on constantly being knocked off your feet by grisly bears in the earlier games, and even Anniversary.

The problem with level design of Anniversary is that the levels didn't feel like they had a purpose, other than being gigantic puzzles/traps. They felt like levels in a video game, not a realistic location hidden on Earth. Underworld fixes that issue with a variety of different settings such as the Arctic and Mediterranean Sea's (yes, you play underwater), Thailand and Mexico. You still have level-wide puzzles, but they're not quite as complex and littered with random traps.

Overall, the game looks slightly better as well, which would make it the best looking Lara game to date. And the best looking Lara! Prancing around in her jungle shorts or skin tight wet suit with her ass cheeks poking out for the world to see. She looks very hot and is great fun to play at a third person perspective. I wish she had a few more outfits though.

I didn't think I'd enjoy Underworld much; it was almost a chore to begin it. But as the game wore on I realised the levels are much better than Anniversary and the puzzles and difficulty setting is more forgiving, making it a really enjoyable game. The camera and leaps of faith need to be worked on, and it's still a very linear game, but it is without a doubt the best Tomb Raider to date (unless you like more of a challenge then you may prefer Anniversary).