[Xbox 360 Review] Tomb Raider: Underworld

Lara Croft returns in Tomb Raider: Underworld, her final adventure
before a huge revamping of the series. So is this a brilliant way to
send Lara off before reconstruction of the series or an example of why
the series needs change? I am pleased to say that this is the best Tomb
Raider title to date. Crystal Dynamics uses Underworld to continue and
bring a conclusion to Lara’s adventure she began in 2006’s Legend.

Underworld begins with you controlling Lara in Croft Manor as the manor
is ablaze. As you finish making your way to the exit, Zip and Winston
meet you. Zip takes shots at Lara, and thus the game truly begins.
Flashback to a week prior, in which we find Lara continuing her quest
to find Avalon and her mother. Throughout the game you will travel to
not only the Mediterranean, but also Thailand, Mexico, the Arctic, and
even explore deep beneath Croft Manor. Lara spends her time immersed in
Norse mythology, to include finding and using Thor’s gauntlets, belt
and hammer.

The gameplay of Tomb Raider: Underworld will remain familiar to fans of
the series. But this time around, the platforming elements are at their
best. Crystal Dynamic utilized motion capture for Lara this time around
and it shows. Controlling Lara now offers a higher degree of realism.
Climbing, jumping and balancing all look and feels as you expect a
person would normally act. When you really get the controls down, you
can seamlessly traverse your way through the landscapes without
faltering. The puzzles integral to the Tomb Raider experience are back,
and while not as difficult, they don’t feel like a chore and are always
fun to solve. None of the puzzles should take too long to figure out
and get past. The only real faults to the Tomb Raider gameplay are the
aiming of jumps and combat. Various times, Lara can seem to have a mind
of her own and when you tell her to jump one way, she decided to go
another. This usually ends in death more than not. The combat is
something that has never really seen the much needed improvements. It
never feels comfortable and because everything has unlimited ammo (sans
grenades), it makes it very easy to just continually dodge and shoot.
There is no real skill needed to take down any opponent. This is a
small element of the gameplay, and easily forgiven once the platforming
elements pick back up.

Graphically Tomb Raider: Underworld makes huge strides. Dirt shows up
on Lara now, footprints are left in the mud, and damage to the
environment remains permanently. The environments composing each level
look beautiful and set the tone perfectly. Levels never have the cookie
cutter feel that many games fall in the trap of using. The lighting
effects are also very well done, and look best when utilizing Lara’s
Flashlight. The flashlight becomes a key tool in helping Lara through
her adventure, and is never too bright or too dark.

The voice acting in Underworld is very well done, and features solid
dialogue. British actress Keeley Hawes does a brilliant job as the
voice of Lara Croft. The sound effects used in the game are
incorporated into the environments very well. Traps, doors, and other
moving objects sound like you would expect, and not overdone. When
animal growls, you can tell how near or far to Lara or it is. The
soundtrack really stands out in Underworld, with its orchestral style.
You will never hear the music on a generic loop, but instead is based
around specific events. It helps to set the tone of what is happening
currently and rarely, if ever, feels out of place.

In all, Tomb Raider: Underworld is a fitting conclusion to the current
incarnation of Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider franchise. Crystal
Dynamics does a great job bringing all questions to a close, previously
left unanswered in prior installments. Lara proves she still has what
it takes, by putting out a solid platforming adventure and an engaging
story in a gaming landscape overflowing with shooters. I look forward
to see the future direction Crystal Dynamics takes Lara and Tomb Raider
in its remodeling of the series.

Rating: 8.6/10

Leave a Reply