Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Destructoid review: Tomb Raider Underworld

12:14 PM on 12.04.2008 // Conrad Zimmerman

It's been a long, hard road for Lara Croft. Her first appearance in videogames was received well by critics and the public alike, not least for her fetching figure and acrobatic gameplay. As time moved on, however, Lara simply didn't and the series began to stagnate.

Then Crystal Dynamics came along to take a stab at the femme fatale treasure hunter with Tomb Raider: Legend. With some gameplay tweaks and an improved camera, Lara felt back on top of her game.

Can Lara hit again? I give you our review of Tomb Raider: Underworld after the jump.

Tomb Raider Underworld

Tomb Raider Underwold (360 [reviewed], PC, PS3, PS2, Wii)
Developed by Crystal Dynamics
Published by Eidos
Released on November 18th 2008

Tomb Raider Underworld is a sequel in the truest sense of the word. Its plot is dependent upon the previous title in the series, Legend, to lay the groundwork for this latest escapade as well as for introducing central characters in the story. While you could certainly play this second game without the benefit of the first, it loses much of the urgency and emotional attachment without that experience.

The plot centers around Lara continuing the search to discover what happened to her mother who, as it is revealed in Legend, has been spirited away to the land of Avalon from Arthurian legend. What follows is a somewhat uncomfortable mish-mash of underworld myths from varying cultures crammed together in a tiny box, shaken vigorously and used as garnish atop the Viking legend of Ragnarok.

Were it not for Lara's very personal motivations, the whole exercise would feel unfocused and rather silly. Thankfully, her history as a character manages to prevent it from being a complete wreck. I found myself interested to see if she would ever be reunited with her lost family and, thus, able to dismiss some of the more questionable elements.

Tomb Raider Underworld

Tomb Raider has often made a real effort in the visual aspects and, for the most part, Underworld is no exception. The world looks vibrant and beautiful and creatures move with preternatural grace. Crystal Dynamics has done an excellent job with these elements.

Lara, however, has not fared so impressively. Her running and jumping animations are fine and she moves pretty well in water. Then you come to a point where you're scaling a wall with footholds (think rock climbing walls) and things take a turn for the creepy. Her legs suddenly become rubbery and stretch in ways that don't seem humanly possible. It might seem like a small issue, but these climbing walls occur frequently enough that it becomes really noticeable and it just weirded me out.

Tomb Raider Underworld

As is always the case with Tomb Raider games, the emphasis of play lies with pathfinding. Lara must scale sheer walls, shimmy across ledges and make dramatic leaps to cross rooms and reach objectives. Most of the time, these paths are fairly obvious once you've managed to find where they begin, but that can be a challenge in itself.

The problem here lies in the size of the environments. Many of the locations you visit are absolutely huge. Picking out where you need to go to start the next series of climbs and jumps can be a frustrating affair, as you scan every wall and object to see if it's climbable. The camera sometimes aggravates this by obscuring your view from behind objects.

Lara controls quite well and lends a bit of a forgiving nature to traversing the environments. She will automatically correct for you if you should not quite have a jump lined up exactly right. This is not to say that you will not die a ridiculous number of times because you've screwed up where you are trying to land, but it does cut down on that considerably.

Tomb Raider Underworld

The exception to Lara's generally superior mobility is in combat. A large portion of the difficulty in fighting enemies comes from the camera and the lock-on targeting. Since you choose which enemy you are targeting with the same analog control that you operate the camera with, even minor adjustments to your view will result in targeting a different (and often the wrong) opponent. Add to this the fact that everything which moves on more than two legs does so much more quickly than you can possibly dodge it, and you'll find yourself taking unneeded and often surprising damage while you fight. 

The "puzzles" (and I use the term loosely) range from being predictable to downright annoying. They all consist of finding the missing object in a mechanism, replacing it and operating the device to open a door into the next area. There are no surprises except for when you are given no indication whatsoever as to what you need to collect to make them work. Just once, I'd like to see a puzzle that requires real thought and actually screws you for doing it wrong. Is that so much to ask?

Tomb Raider Underworld

One particularly annoying example of poor level design features three large areas with a puzzle that looks obvious until you attempt to actually solve it, whereupon you realize that the device you need to manipulate does not function without pieces that you would not even notice were absent. Then, you must trek all over this massive environment (using a motorcycle; that's how large of an area we're talking about here), trying to locate the bits that you're missing. It's a needlessly frustrating situation that could have been remedied simply by having access to what Lara is thinking through the use of a better system of objectives.

After you've finished the main storyline, the game unlocks a "Treasure Hunt" mode. For completists, this is a godsend. Rather than force you to play through the entire game to find the treasures that you missed along the way, this mode allows you to revisit the game's levels and track down collectibles without having to muck about solving the puzzles a second time. It's a nice touch that helps validate the existence of all the little crap there is to find, as it encourages replay value without punishing the player who wants it. 

On the whole, it's a mediocre game and a disappointing follow-up to the quite impressive Legend. It does very little to further the series and offers much frustration in exchange. Fans of Tomb Raider will no doubt love it, as it is still superior to many of the titles past the first, but Underworld will not do anything to change the minds of people who have less of an affinity for the games.

Score: 5 - Mediocre (5s are an exercise in apathy, neither Solid nor Liquid. Not exactly bad, but not very good either. Just a bit "meh," really.)

Photo Gallery: (6 images)
Click to zoom - browse by swipe, or use arrow keys

Conrad Zimmerman, Moustache
 Follow Blog + disclosure ConradZimmerman Tips
An avid player of tabletop and video games throughout his life, Conrad has a passion for unique design mechanics and is a nut for gaming history. He can be heard on the comedy podcast () and str... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

Status updates from C-bloggers

StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
What? Wonderful 101 on eShop is $19? NO EXCUSES.
Terry 309 avatarTerry 309
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Robin secretly controls the boobs of Nintendo characters. She stole the Xenoblade boobs and took the Fatal Frame lingerie for herself. #DammitRobin [img][/img]
Matheus Railane avatarMatheus Railane
ikiryou avatarikiryou
I was just playing Skyrim and wondered if anyone has come up with Fallout 3/New Vegas weapon mods for Skyrim? Fighting dragons with assault weapons sounds almost necessary. [img][/img]
James Internet Ego avatarJames Internet Ego
Just bought Fallout: New Vegas. Throw me the best mods there are that AREN'T Total Conversion mods. So now Who Vegas - yet.
Parismio avatarParismio
Oh this Undertale summaration flipnote is so good:
Amna Umen avatarAmna Umen
For an early Christmas present I got my girlfriend Wooly World to go with our new Wii U. I've gotten more joy out of how adorable all the character designs are than I'd like to admit.
Jiraya avatarJiraya
Hey Dtoiders ! Steam just destroyed my wallet ! Share here what you bought in this sale !
GoofierBrute avatarGoofierBrute
And so I purchased not just Hyper Dimension Neptunia, but also its sequel and Grim Fandango Remastered in the Steam Sale, and it isn't even the end of the first day. God damnit. At least refunds are thing a now.
Samsneeze avatarSamsneeze
I'm currently writing a review for a mobile game, but only because I'm enjoying the hell out it. I'm honestly enjoying it far more than Puzzles and Dragons.
Zer0t0nin avatarZer0t0nin
Damn, I think I'm Bruce Willis from Unbreakable. Just fell of a 12-foot ladder and all I got was a little scratch on my finger.
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
After I finish Fallout 4 I'm thinking of 100%ing Skyrim and then installing a TON of dinosaur mods on it.
voex avatarvoex
4 hours into Hotline Miami 2 and I'm finding it just as fun as the original. So far it's a good balance between frustration and satisfaction. Still have no idea what the story is about.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
1. Start playing Ocarina of Time again. 2. Start having fun. 3. Discover fishing area. 4. Stop having fun.
AvtrSpirit avatarAvtrSpirit
A 2-d hovercraft platforming exploration game just came out today. Have fun collecting the coins! My record so far is 140.
Occams avatarOccams
Holy shit the new David Bowie video/song is just lovely.
Barry Kelly avatarBarry Kelly
So many people angry at Play-Asia right now. Totally not exactly the kind of backlash Tecmo were trying to avoid by not releasing the game here in the first place.
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
If you're a UK kid there's a Wii U 32 GB Wind Waker Premium Pack on Amazon for £240. It says sale... I dunno how much of a saving that is. You tell me.
Archelon avatarArchelon
Community Question: Not strictly speaking video game-related, but screw it. Team Captain America or Team Iron Man?
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -