|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PC, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Crystal Dynamics||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Eidos Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 18, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Visually, Underworld is both amazing and underwhelming all at the same time. For starters, Lara is more lifelike and sexier than ever; there's a lot of booty to be found in Underworld and it's not limited to treasure collecting. The varied environments are always breathtaking, vibrant, and crisp, with a solid draw distance and a realistic, lived-in look. The cinematics both in and out of engine have received a lot of care and polish to bring the story to life. Also, subtle animations such as Lara protecting her face from pockets of extreme heat, casting aside obstructing vegetation, and the determined way she trudges through a deep stream are great at establishing the mood of the title. I also enjoyed how Lara remains soaked after getting out of water and how dirt and grime accumulates on her over time.
Unfortunately, these pristine moments are frequently marred by nearly ever-present clipping and collision detection issues, invisible platforms, occasional framerate drops, and somewhat challenging camera angles. Players will find Lara levitating on uneven surfaces and fences, kicking through enemies, and being absorbed by walls and objects. Most noticeably, players will be thwarted by a challenging camera that often frustrates platforming sequences. By and large, the devs did a decent job with the angles and gave players control over the camera, but too often it inexplicably pans out or zooms in, causing tempers to flare when you fall to your doom. Finally, enemies, especially humans, are a bunch of silly clones. This exacerbates the already dull combat sequences. These graphical missteps leave a bad impression and even goes so far as to hamper gameplay.
Graciously, the musical themes and voice over work is outstanding throughout. The varied and epic score sounds like it was pulled straight from a Hollywood summer blockbuster. The music not only fits and heightens the events that transpire onscreen, but it also matches the scope and character of each locale. The interesting cutscenes are made even more enjoyable by top-quality acting. The only aural downside would have to be the screaming spiders. I've heard of barking spiders after a night of Mexican food, but screeching arachnids in a video game just come off as cheesy.
Tomb Raider Underworld was far more enjoyable than I ever thought it would be. The expansive environments, solid platforming sequences, challenging puzzles, and adventure-filled storyline should appeal to anyone who loved the Prince of Persia games and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. Disappointingly, combat is fairly mediocre, and a lot of technical inconsistencies are troublesome. Nevertheless, Underworld is a very good game. Eidos can feel confident that Crystal Dynamics has returned this gaming superstar back to her former glory. I expect the next entry to be substantial. After all, third time's a charm!
CCC Editor / News Director