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Tomb Raider: Underworld (PS3/360/Wii/PS2))

Written by Jazzking2001 - Owner on . Posted in Video Games

{tab=Story} Tomb Raider: Underworld, also known as Tomb Raider 8, is the eighth game in the Tomb Raider series, released on 18 November 2008 in North America and on 21 November 2008 in Europe. It is the third game in the series to be developed by Crystal Dynamics. Underworld resumes the adventure from where Tomb Raider: Legend left off and addresses elements of the plot left unexplained in Legend and Tomb Raider: Anniversary. {tab=Review (PS3)}

After Angel of Darkness on the PS2 alot of people lost faith in the Tomb Raider series and for good reason. The game was horrible. But then along came Legend which seemed to redeem the series and show that Lara still had some greatness left in her. However Underworld has failed to live up to Legend in nearly every way.

Underworld continues the story of Lara trying to find what became of her mother. In search of this she finds she must search for Thor's Hammer. Along the way she finds that many of the ancient cultures concepts of the Underworld seem to be related(hence the titles name). The problem here is that none of this ever really seems interesting because there is far to little story. The game probably has no more then a dozen or so cut scenes. The fact that the entire story is dependent on so little is quite disappointing.

Speaking of little, the game is also very short. Some gamers will finish it in a single sitting while most will finish it in 3-4 days. While there are various treasures and relics to collect there is very little incentive to do so.

When it comes to game play there are various problems riddled throughout. First and foremost is the games camera which seems to hate the player. The camera will often times get stuck and refuse to budge or just not do what it should. A few examples. There are numerous times in which Lara will have to crotch and get through a tight space. While doing this the camera will zone in. However once you are back out in the open the camera forgets to zoom back out. Often for minutes at a time. Preventing you from continuing.

Another example of the camera not working would be that it doesn't help the player. In most games with alot of platforming often times the camera will pan a bit to give the player an idea of where they should be going next while in a particularly challenging spot. Underworlds camera however will look in the oppsite direction of where the player really needs to go. Often times making it impossible to perform a jump as you cannot see where it is you are supposed to be landing. This leads to alot of confusion as you will often time think that the camera is pointing in the direction it wants you to go. But this is almost never the case.

On top of the camera issues the game feels somewhat sluggish and there will be times in which you feel you are not in control when you need to be the most. The game also has some odd issues like not telling you how much ammo you have remaining for your secondary weapon. You will see what remains in the clip however it never tells you anything outside of that. So often times you will find yourself either using up all your ammo to quickly and having to rely on the pistols or saving your ammo for nothing and never using it at all.

The games animation is also a sticking point. Most of the animations in the game look stiff and often times out of place. In fact the only animations that look smooth are of Lara walking and of Lara swimming. There are Assassin's Creed style wall climbing sequences. However unlike the perfect animation blending in that game Underworld will often have Lara hanging from a rock that is not there. This is most likely the result of the animation system not blending the way it should resulting in Lara reaching for something she shouldn't be.

There are also countless clipping issues in the game that will cause you to miss jumps and ledges or simply get stuck in a wall. There are some nice touches like Lara holding her hands up to shield herself from fire or to push plants away. However even these have issues as Lara often performs them to late resulting in her shielding herself from nothing or pushing away invisible plants.

On the bright side when the game does work it is very enjoyable. The game has some decent puzzles and a few great set pieces that will leave you awe struck. There are portions of the game that seem alot more polished then others in which aside from the animation you will forget most of the other short comings. However these moments are often followed by incredibly annoying or frustrating sections that put a damper on the mood.

The game looks good as well however I can't help but say that it could have used a little more polish. There are portions of the game that look absolutely beautiful and showcase a considerable amount of detail. But there are also plenty of area's that lack polish. Character models as well are a mixed bag. Lara looks great however many of the other characters and enemies look rough and unpolished.

The soundtrack is decent with epic pieces and various songs there for the soul purpose of setting a tone. The sound design is a bright spot. The game sounds great with a good surround set up. Dripping water, winds through a cave and pebbles falling. So many great sounds that remind you where you are and give you a good sense of ambiance. The voice acting is decent. Nothing to spectacular but it gets the job done.

All in all Underworld is a disappointment. The game could have greatly benefited from a little longer development time to fix the camera and animation issues. If you are a fan of the series I would recommend renting the game as there is little replay value and with the games length renting seems like the perfect alternative to buying the game. {slide=Graphics - 8.0} A bit of a mixed bag with stunning areas with great detail and somewhat lack areas that lack polish. {/slide} {slide=Sound - 8.5} The game has great environmental sound effects that deliver a great sense of ambiance. Voice acting is serviceable while the soundtrack is decent. {/slide} {slide=Gameplay - 7.0} The game feels far to sluggish and the camera often times feels as if it is against the player. When these issues are not a issue the game is fun. {/slide} {slide=Fun Factor - 5.0} Because of the camera and animation you will often find yourself missing jumps and ledges as well as getting glitched into walls.Frustration soon follows. {/slide}

7.0 Overall (out of 10 / not an average) {/tabs}