Tomb Raider: Underworld Review – Lara Croft: Mother Hunter

Last week, I reviewed Metal Gear Solid 4, the latest instalment in a series that I loved from a very young age. In the same week, Robin talked about nostalgia in games and
so I thought that I’d carry on with that theme. Sure, I didn’t have the best view on MGS4 but this week I feel will be different. This week is about the return of Lara Croft. I consider the Double-D Dame to be somewhat of a gaming idol to me, partially because she’s a badass female character and partly because she was the first protagonist I ever
took control of when I was about 2 or 3 years old. Cute huh? So imagine my excitement as I picked up a copy of Tomb Raider Underworld in late 2008. I wasn’t much of a fan of Legend but Crystal Dynamics picked up their utter crap and transformed it into the (partial) beauty that was Anniversary, so my hopes were high…

 

We’ve made a definite leap away from the crow side of Lara in this game. You know, the “ooh look a shiny object. Yoink! I’m going to take this back to my nest where it will sit and collect dust for years!” side? Instead, she wants closure. She witnessed her mother’s disappearance and supposed death when she was younger, which would affect anyone if they were the least bit human, yet her old best friend/new found enemy told her that she was still alive. So now, ‘clever’ Lara is visiting a few mythical afterlife
places (such as Niflheim and Helheim), in order to seek the truth. You never know when a mythical place could be real do you? Oh wait! Of course! Myths are fictional. Right, well it’s too late to warn Lara now and the writers obviously ran out of normal ideas before they even started the series. So basically, it’s another stupid story, but lots of games have those so let’s move on to the gameplay shall we?

 

Let’s start with the basic functions that Lara has to perform in order to raid tombs, you know, being a tomb raider and all. Shall we begin with climbing? Yes? Good. It’s a lot smoother for the majority of the time now, unlike all the previous games. Hold on a second, I was playing the wrong game. Nope, good old Lara is just moving backwards and forwards when I quite obviously want to move to the ledge above me. No! Don’t let go Lara! Fine. Go ahead and die, see if I care. Just blame it on your massive boobs and move on.
I’m not going to mention when you’re jumping and the game decides to skip a couple of frames. It’s not even just for PC players either, no matter the platform, this will happen. Maybe the developers got lazy and didn’t render those frames. Yay!
Next up is my favourite part of the game, the part I couldn’t live without, the part I’m totally not being sarcastic about right now. Combat. You crawl through the bushes, guns at the ready, waiting for the tiger to sprint at you, feeling no fear because, hey, you’re Lara-freaking-Croft! And then it all goes tits-up. Sure, the guns work fine, like many other games on the market; the developers have spent a lot of time perfecting the metal beauties. But then, when Lara tries to dodge, she starts flipping and cartwheeling away. Oi! You’re a tomb raider, not prancing about in the Olympics. In the midst of all these ‘astonishing’ gymnastics, Lara forgets to shoot and you die anyway. Yeah, the game is just full of deaths, how bloody enjoyable.

 

 
As per usual in a Tomb Raider game, you travel all over the world in order to complete your objective. That’s a given right? Well prepare to be amazed! Sure, when you compare the graphics of each location to newly released games, they may not be breathtaking. But the environments are unbelievably pretty, the greens of the trees are striking, the blues of the water extremely inviting. And then, at the other end of the scale, when you step into the multiple underworlds, you get an immediate chill down your spine; the murky greens and greys warning you not to step any further. For what they’re showing you, they’re near perfect and you probably won’t see better any time soon unless you decide to creep through jungles. On that note, please take me if you wish to do so, I think Lara puts a little adventurer in all of us.

 

The music, as to be expected within every Tomb Raider game to date, fits the mood of each location you encounter. Fighting a beast? The music creeps up in volume, warning you, egging both of you on and bringing both yours and Lara’s adrenaline sky-high. Strolling through the worlds of the dead? Intense, low beats keep you on the edge of your seat, nervous about what’s around the corner. So you get my point right? The only thing I disagree with here is the happy ‘bing!’ when you find an artefact, but then again, I never liked that in the whole series, not just this game. So all in all, the music was a success. Well done Crystal Dynamics! You did something right for the series!
 

 
Once again, the game wasn’t bad as such, particularly aggravating at parts, but not bad. It’s not one I’d play again though, as can be said with any of the series made by Crystal Dynamics. But that could be because I heartily disagree with Alister’s fate and can’t bring myself to watch that cutscene more than once. Eep!

Now where did my copy of Chronicles get to? Ahh, bliss…

-Sian

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Sian Bradley

Sian is the Site Producer, meaning she decides where we're going and what we should do next. She's also got responsibility for publicity and promotion, so if you've seen us on Facebook or Twitter, that's her work.