Product Type: Eidos Xbox 360 games
Newest Review: ... I found the gameplay a bit lacking. There were some good moments like the timed motorbike speed run but other than that the gameplay... more
An evolution in gaming;The greatest Tomb Raider yet....
Tomb Raider Underworld (Xbox 360)
Member Name: Tycks
Tomb Raider Underworld (Xbox 360)
Advantages: Amazing graphics, gameplay and storyline and innovative environments
Disadvantages: a bit on the short side for some?
There's no doubt in any seasoned gamers mind that Lara Croft is the most badass video game heroine of all time. Clever, athletic, brave, and (yeah, I'm going to say it) rather sexy...you know, in a graphics kind of way.
Whilst our trust and faith may well have been shaken with the more recent games (Anniversary and Legend were exciting but nothing that other games weren't doing), this game once again places Croft, and her developers, at heights over reaching almost every other franchise (along with, in my opinion, the Final Fantasy series) to ever hit consoles.
Tomb Raider; Underworld was the best game released in 2008, bar none. It was innovative, ground-breaking, and quite often breathtaking, taking the player along on an adventure which spanned every corner of the earth. New heights were reached, new enemies came into play, and more plot twists were revealed to create what of the most diverse and exciting titles since TR IV.
The game's narrative follows on from Tomb Raider Legend, focusing on Crofts quest to find out what happened to her mother. The story may, at times, feel far-fetched, but when you are deep sea diving and swimming through tunnels filled with glorious detail including reflections from your torch and algae, in order to find some centuries-hidden ruins, to be honest, the story could be whatever it wants to be when it is wrapped in such an incredible package.
The developers wanted to create a game which seems real, and to have Lara be able to do anything that she should be able to do. Well, whilst this is in all reality, an impossible dream, they have done a pretty damn good job. Lara can now climb up bare rock faces whilst shooting one of her trademark pistols, shoot underwater, jump kick off of walls and onto another to get to the top of an otherwise impassable obstacle, climb up and down poles, swing from them and hang whilst shooting, flip, cartwheel, punch, drop kick and the list goes on and on. The new generation Lara certainly lives up to the standard the fans have been expecting. The graphics are perfectly sublime and incredibly detailed and complex. Water now drips realistically from Lara, and as she climbs up a muddy slope you see her getting dirtier and dirtier, until she jumps in the water and she washes off. Plants are smacked and brushed away, and if it is a wet environment Lara's grip of the climbing face sometimes slips and if the player doesn't react fast, it's already too late.
These are just some of the incredible features involved. The environments are simply the best the series has ever produced. Coastal Thailand was a particular favourite of mine. Completely deserted and sprawling ruins, beautiful sea views, and the return of the tiger enemies. I am a happy fan-boy. The levels range from the Mediterranean Sea to southern Mexico (which is one of the most complex and well thought out levels of any game ever) to an underwater arctic ruin where the final showdown takes place.
The games enemies are tough and exciting. The increasingly deadly sharks are a thrilling addition to a wide range of new enemies, including the Thralls and Mexican hunters. Enemies who have been killed now stay stationary, instead of mysteriously disappearing. In this way, the game really allows the player to leave his/her mark on Lara's world. Bodies scatter the floors, as do scorch marks from where a grenade has been set or where a piece of rubble has been knocked and dislodged.
The combat system is a lot of fun, with matrix style special moves which allow for 'headshots' and instant kills. The battles are frantic and violent, but never just shooting up. A specific strategy of jumping and acrobats are soon developed by the player out of necessity, as Lara face hordes and hordes of evil. The dual pistols are, of course, the main weapons, and the rest of the inventory is surprisingly restrained, with no particularly ridiculous weapons.
The FMV's are, whilst short and far between, very enjoyable, and the scene involving Lara's Doppelganger is one of the best. The narrative involving Lara's mother is very poignant, and although there is no huge boss battle with the evil Natla (The decision to eradicate boss battles, and instead focus on puzzles and more smaller groups of fighting is, in my opinion, a very wise move), the story is wrapped up nicely.
The puzzles in the game hark back to the early days of TR, collecting certain items to gain access to a certain place which holds an answer to the bigger puzzle. In Underworld, however, the puzzles are contained in a fully interactive environment, which of course makes game play about a hundred times more exciting and enjoyable.
The few criticisms I would make? Not enough FMV's, and the game was far too short. Although the levels seem long (but never tedious) the game is over in a surprisingly short time. Although there is the option to replay and do some treasure hunting, there is only a certain amount of satisfaction earned by that.
However, the game, as a whole, is truly incredible. This is a brilliant example of the evolution of a gamin franchise, because more right boxes are being ticked now than ever before. If you want to look at the future of gaming, play on Underworld, it will take you to a new dimension. Lara, you still amaze us all.
Summary: Incredible gaming, an iconic game for the heroine who defined adventure
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