developer: Crystal Dynamics
publisher : Square-Enix / Eidos
Game mode: single player
Tomb Raider: Underworld for PC, PS3 and X360 is the 8th instalment of the popular series with Lara Croft in the main role. The game is developed by Crystal Dynamics which created Tomb Raider: Anniversary and Tomb Raider: Legend. The title is still published by Eidos Interactive.
The plot revolves around the search for artefacts connected with the mythical Nordic god Thor. For example, Lara Croft visits south Mexico in order to discover and investigate the underworld called Xibalba. She goes to ancient ruins of a Thai temple, dives in the Mediterranean Sea, and the Arctic Ocean. All of these locations are associated with the mythological realms of death – Xibalba, Valhalla, and Niflheim. Underworld is a direct continuation of Legend – Lara does not abandon her quest of finding the mythical Avalon, where she hopes to find her mother.
Gameplay is a combination of jumping, running, lever pulling, puzzle solving, and fighting. Lara has a new set of tricks and a very useful tool – a rope with a hook, which comes in handy while exploring. You can climb columns and get to places difficult to reach. Moreover, the fit heroine can climb walls with any grooves on the surface. Lara can even stick to a ledge or a column with one hand and shoot moving targets with the other. Altogether, the sexy protagonist has about 1000 animated moves. Lara can also use a motorcycle to travel between distant locations. If she, for example, sets elements of a puzzle in a particular position, a door at the other end of the map opens. Lara would not make it there on foot before the door closes – in such situations the vehicle is very advantageous.
The game offers partly non-linear gameplay. If you come across a poacher hunting game, you can choose one of two options. The first one is to stay away, hide, and observe the combat. After the battle you can jump out of the bushes and kill the remaining enemy. The other option is to attack openly both opponents, but it is vital to remember that they are also driven by the survival instinct. They can set traps, attack from behind, etc. Luckily, Lara is not defenceless – she can kick, punch, throw grenades, and shoot guns. Moreover, she can use elements of environment as weapons – e.g. you can grab a pole bitten into the ground and throw it at enemies. The shooting system allowing for aiming two targets at the same time is a great novelty. While using guns, Lara does not have to focus on just one target, which makes gameplay more complex. As combats with other humans are a rarity in the game, Lara fights mostly wild animals.
In comparison to former instalments, visuals are improved and offer much more dark and gloomy atmosphere. The interactive environment is the game’s main asset. For example, the archaeologist leaves shoe prints on muddy surfaces and after kneeling her knees get dirty with mud and the rain washes off the dirt. Moreover, Underworld puts an end to disappearing bodies of enemies and each destroyed environment element stays destroyed forever, which is important, as levels are really huge. If you get lost, you can find the right path by tracking bodies, broken trees, or fallen columns. The play of lights and the weather system, which directly influences the slippery of ledges and other surfaces, perform important roles in the game. Due to the motion capture technique and an Olympic gymnast’s skill, the model of Lara Croft is more realistic than ever.
The game no longer offers Lara’s distinctive outfit. In this instalment she usually wears black shorts and shirt and braided hair. However, in the course of the game she changes her outfit several times. The archaeologist again speaks with Keeley Hawes’s voice.
PC / Windows
Recommended: Core 2 Duo 2.2 GHz, 2 GB RAM, graphic card 512 MB (GeForce 9800 or better), 8 GB HDD, Wndows XP/Vista
Sony PlayStation 2
Uses: memory card 8MB