Tomb Raider: Underworld Review
- Posted November 19th, 2008 at 12:05 EDT by Steven Williamson
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Tomb Raider: Underworld is a lackluster adventure. Lara looks great, but gameplay is predictable and thwarted by camera issues.
- Lara's character model and animations are spot on
- Some beautifully rendered locations
- Predictable, bland puzzles
- Poor camera angles makes exploration frustrating
- Combat is lackluster and overly simple
(continued from previous page) ...human forces, in the form of mercenaries, rears its ugly head for the first time when you’re tasked with infiltrating an ocean liner and then having to see off enemies on your way to the lower decks.
There’s no real differentiation between auto-lock and manual targeting. If you’re close to an enemy and pull the trigger, Lara will automatically shoot directly at him. There’s the cool addition of being able to split up your dual-wielded pistols and shoot at two people at once, and there’s some impressive looking close quarter combat moves, including a more powerful roundhouse kick, but thanks to the over-helpful targeting system, combat doesn’t require any skill. You simply just need to pull the trigger as fast as possible and make sure you dodge out of the way of flying bullets and then get back into position without being hit. Even if you throw sticky bombs at enemies they'll generally land miraculously at their feet or on their bodies, even when you weren't aiming directly at them.
Whilst Lara looks great in combat, the behavior of enemies is far from impressive. Mercenaries often appear to be in two minds as to whether to run at you or take cover and so they'll often end up running back and forward not knowing what they’re supposed to be doing. The lack of care in other animations, aside from Lara’s model, is made more apparent by the way that enemies fall to the floor like a sack of potatoes or do the splits when they die - very bizarre. As a result of dumb A.I. and a targeting system that helps you far too much than it should, Underworld lacks greatly in the action stakes.
In a bid to give the game a movie-like feel and inject some vitality into proceedings, Crystal Dynamics has introduced ‘adrenaline moments,’ which contrary to their actual purpose, do little to get the adrenaline flowing. The first example of an ‘adrenaline moment’ is when you have to escape a sinking ship and cargo comes hurtling toward you. Time slows down and you have to jump over the boxes that come flying your way. The fact that time slows down makes it a really simple task and quite frankly a waste of time. Quick-time events, in which you need to press corresponding buttons that appear on-screen, would have been far more effective than adding 'adrenaline moments.'
We gave Underworld a chance, we really did, but what with the predictable puzzles, exploration that is hampered by camera problems and the uneventful combat sequences, we found the latest game in the Tomb Raider series a little too much to bare. Perhaps we were expecting too much, but that’s what happens when the hype machine comes knocking at your door. If we're told something is going to be brilliant, the best yet, then it's quite easy to get suckered in; we were. If you’ve been a fan of Tomb Raider over the years, then we guess that you’ll still get something out of Underworld, but if you're expecting a memorable and enjoyable adventure, the best in the Tomb Raider series so far, be prepared to be sorely disappointed. Lara looks fresh and reinvigorated, it's just a shame that the rest of the game doesn't.