Tomb Raider Underworld


First impressions

I know, I am soooo late to the party on this one.  And what with the summer games drought, and having recently completed Resident Evil 5 (ahem, an easy recommendation, even if it seemed to lack the brains of previous instalments) – I was eager to get to grips with something new. 

Lara Croft the eponimous big busomed beauty of the franchise may have had a few rocky moments along the way with lackluster sequels and the eventual death of developer Core design.  Thankfully the franchise was taken over by American developer Crystal Dynamics of the mostly decent Legacy Of Kain series.  This resulted in the brilliantly executed but pitifully short Tomb Raider Legend.

So here we come to the hotly anticipated sequel, and boy was I excited as I fired up the trusty 360.  I am glad to say (at this point) that it plays brilliantly, looks fantastic, has many subtle and eye catching effects and very fluid animation.  Also it’s a breath of fresh air in this era of shooters and beat ’em ups to actually play a game that is all about exploration, where you aren’t constantly interrupted by a barrage of enemies when all you want to do is climb and jump and swing and explore (I’m talking about you, Prince Of Persia).

Update (22/08/2009):  Having played the game now for just over a week, here are my thoughts:  The environments are expansive and very detailed, with some good if not revolutionary lighting effects.  At times it looks a little last-generation, but then you notice things like the wet & dirt effects that accumulate on Lara’s body.  Puzzle-wise it can be tough going, but not overly fiendish thanks to a hint-system where you can at any time choose to either be given a clue or the solution, neither of which makes the game too easy as traversing the environment is still the main challenge.  Enemies whilst few and far between may be a touch cliched and dumb but offer a welcome sense of variety and aren’t overly intrusive.  Story wise the cut-scenes are of a high quality, voice acting is passable and it is all very compelling.  Overall a great entry in the long running franchise.

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