Reviewed: February 14, 2009
Released: November 18, 2009
Game Chronicles Magazine got its humble start as a strategy guide site for various titles, but none more so than the Tomb Raider series. Our founding leader spent much time exploring every nook and cranny in the efforts to give players like myself a chance to truly enjoy the complex worlds that the Tomb Raider series is known for without going out of our minds trying to figure out what to do next.
Tomb Raider is one of the gaming industries most iconic franchises, largely thanks to a smoking hot, gun totting beauty. The franchise has also spawned two films that feature the equally jaw dropping Angelina Jolie in a role that she was born to play. This year, Lara Croft returns in her newest acrobatic filled adventure, Tomb Raider: Underworld for PC.
In Tomb Raider: Underworld Lara Croft picks up where she left off at the end of Legends as she treks across some of the most jaw dropping environments in search of artifacts and ultimately a prize worth more than any treasure in the world. Along the way she will meet old foes and other creatures that will give her a run for her money.
As I mentioned above Tomb Raider: Underworld is a continuation of Tomb Raider: Legends which is recapped for you at the beginning of the game for new players or a refresher for past players of the series. Underworld kicks off as Lara explores an ancient ruin on the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea floor. She soon discovers a long tarnished a site dedicated to both Norse mythology and evidence that indicates that Thor's hammer, the mythical weapon wielded by the God of Thunder, actually exists. Okay interest peaked here for me.
So without giving away much of the story away, Lara must find certain equipment to aid her in wielding Thorís hammer. The rest of the juicy details I will let you find out about by playing. All I can say is that Underworld plays out like you expect a Tomb Raider should. Tomb Raider: Underworld offers players an improved gameplay experience over that of Legends. Laraís movements, agility and speed are carried over from Legends, giving the player a greater flexibility on how the traverse Laraís world.
Iíve also had a chance to play the 360 version so I can compare control schemes between it and the PC version. I usually prefer using the keyboard for most PC title with the exception of titles like Saints Row 2 and Need for Speed. Tomb Raider: Underworld could easily fall into that exception list were it not for the fact that some maneuvers are actually easier to pull off with a keyboard due to much tighter controls. There were times when using a PC gamepad was a must but for the most part I played just fine with the keyboard.
When it comes to video games in general I am not a huge fan of quick time events resulting in players being forced to time button presses to keep your self alive or do attacks. Thatís probably why Iím not a huge fan of God of War and the likes. Well, those quick time events have been removed from Underworld and have been replaced by what they call Situational Adrenaline.
So rather than having to hit a random button when prompted to, players will enter a slowed state and have to figure out how to save themselves from the occurring threat. I believe that this gives the player a more involved role in the title as Lara is never really out of your control.
The combat system has also received small upgrades that are quite welcome. The first being Laraís ability to fire at two different target independently given the right situations. She is also capable of firing whilst perched on the tops of pillars and beams as well. Lara still retains the ability to tumble and jump while unloading hot lead into what ever she may be targeting at any given moment.
The developers have also added an adrenaline system, which is built up after each well placed melee attack or bullet. Players can then trigger the adrenaline at any time, which instantly slows down the actions of your enemies and makes your shots hit a lot harder. Players are also able to store adrenaline until itís topped out. Once this happens you can get close to an enemy and bounce off of them, lining up a reticule into a highlighted area to potentially perform a fatality that is worthy of being in a Tomb Raider title. It doesnít always work but is damn satisfying if it works.
The one thing that I really want to talk about is what Crystal Dynamics aptly calls WCLD or ďWhat Could Lara Do.Ē This feature allows players to use their own intuition about what someone with her abilities should be able to do in a given environment. Lara can use sticky grenades, so she is capable of throwing things. So why not objects like blocks and poles?
In this title you can pick up use random items, toss them, use them as melee weapons if need be or whatever it is you need to do. Laraís Grappling hook is also now capable of being drawn taut around object and obstacles to help you get past various obstructions.
Tomb Raider for the PC features very few flaws that I could see. The one thing that actively annoyed me was Laraís uncanny ability to hit the wall that Iím trying to climb up and repel her in the other direction, sometimes to her death. The camera angles and controls are somewhat janky at times as you are often incapable of seeing where you are supposed to jump too. There was also a fair bit of clipping where Lara would often sink into walls or platforms at times.
Graphically, Tomb Raider: Underworld blew me away from the moment I installed the title and loaded it up for the first time. The opening video was just awesome. Watching a building being blown up in reverse is a great was to grab someoneís attention. But the opening video is only the tip of the iceberg with Underworldís graphics. The environments are so detailed that I almost felt like Iím there.
The water and its effects are some of the clearest that I have ever seen in a title in recent years. Laraís character model looks ravishing as ever and as well as those of her comrades and enemies alike. The only thing that I was bothered about was the shadowing on her face and upper body during cut scenes. It seemed a bit rough, but other wise the graphics are amazing.
Keeley Hawes returns to Underworld to portray the voice of Lara Croft, just as she did in Legends and Anniversary. Keeley simply does an amazing job as Lara and is definitely upt to carrying that torch. The sound effects of Tomb Raider are also exceptionally well done. Everything from the rustle of foliage as Lara moves through it to the sound of her weapons fire to the water effects are nicely done.
Composer Troels Brun Folmann returns to do the score of Tomb Raider: Underworld along side fellow collaborator Colin OíMalley. I really like the score as it is as immersive as the environments and really put me in the mode to play.
Value wise, Tomb Raider: Underworld is well worth the money. Underworld features Player Tailoring which allows players to make the title easier or harder for them to navigate through. Upon completing the various locations you are also allowed to go back and collect any treasures or relics that you may have missed the first time though. And believe me, unless you spend a fair bit of time exploring the non-linear levels you will miss a few here and there. I know I did.
Tomb Raider: Underworld is simply my favorite Tomb Raider to date. Sure, I managed to get through the original titles. But that was due to a now good friend and fellow gamerís guides. I really like the improved gameplay and somewhat improved camera angles. There were times where the camera angles made maneuvers hard, but overall much improved from previous versions.
If you are a fan of Lara Croft, who isnít, then youíll really appreciate Tomb Raider: Underworld. There arenít many titles that can come close to the glory of Tomb Raider. If youíre looking for some gun-totting, cliff-hugging action then look no further than Tomb Raider: Underworld for the PC.