Tomb Raider Underworld for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PC, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS.
Rather than say the usual "Buy this game it's the best" type of review that a lot of Tomb Raider fans say I'd thought I'd do a nice balanced review, even though I do believe that you should buy it because it's brilliant. So far I've played it on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360.
PlayStation 3 version
I first played Tomb Raider Underworld on the PlayStation 3, and was amazed at the mind-blowing graphics. Lara looks better than she has in any previous Tomb Raider games and the backgrounds and water effects are fantastic. I especially love Lara's facial expression when you turn the camera angle around to face her, it's as though she's aware that you're looking at her. The ambient music is fantastic and constantly playing in the background adding mood.
When Lara shoots someone their dead body will remain on the ground rather than disappear, if you run Lara into a wall she will put her hands up to stop herself from getting hurt, these effects were in the early Tomb Raider games and it's good to see them back again.
The animation looks rather odd, almost jerky, but apparently all of Lara's movements were motion-captured so they are actually more realistic.
Unlike in Tomb Raider Anniversary there is no rage-meter and you can also keep your finger on the trigger button to repeatedly fire your weapon. I'm glad this feature isn't included in Underworld as it completely ruined Anniversary in my opinion.
Graphically speaking this Tomb Raider is spectacular. Lara will push bushes out of her way as she runs through them and her clothing gets dripping wet in the rain. Another character, whose name I won't mention because I don't want to spoil the surprise, is a lot thinner than the last time they were seen, as though they had been effected by previous events.
Playability wise there were some annoyances and a few game bugs especially with the camera angle not facing where you want it to. Quite often I jumped Lara sideways when trying to jump forward because the camera angle decided to move itself. The autosave feature on the PlayStation 3 was annoying too with the autosave file being separate from manual saves making it a little confusing. There were also problems where the game would sometimes forget what treasures you've already picked up when playing it a second time around, but this bug seemed almost random and sometimes there were no problems. Another annoyance was at the time of playing the game didn't use PlayStation Trophies, but I read this was later fixed with an update patch.
Upon completion of the game you have the option to replay it in Treasure Hunt mode where you revisit each tomb and collect any treasures that you may have missed. The more you collect the more features will be unlocked in the Extras menu. While playing in Treasure Hunt all of the tomb doors are open, the monsters, people and animals you killed are gone and there is no background music other than the sound of rain, wind and Lara's breathing. It's almost like playing a new game and a completely different experience. In many ways it's better than the main game with its main focus on the exploring. Any monsters that you didn't kill in the main game will still be alive in Treasure Hunt mode and it's quite possible to complete the game without killing monsters if you so wish but it would be very difficult.
The in-game help is good where Lara will tell you what you're supposed to be doing, I used that quite often and it saved me having to consult a walkthrough. The ending was brilliant too but I'm not going to mention what happens because I don't want to spoil it. It didn't take me very long to complete the game, it's probably about the same size as Tomb Raider Legend. I did hope it would be longer but it seems that all new games are getting shorter nowadays. I was also annoyed by the American spellings in the game, I know Crystal Dynamics is American but they could have easily fixed that for the UK versions. The cutscenes revealing the story were great building up tension in anticipation as to what would happen next, there were no quicktime interactive-cutscenes asking you to press Up Down Circle etc., but I personally think games are better without them.
Xbox 360 version
The main game on the Xbox 360 version is exactly the same as the PlayStation 3 version, it looks as plays just the same, it's the downloadable content from Xbox Live that makes this version so much better than the others. At the moment on Xbox Live you can download the demo, lots of trailers, pictures, XBox theme, the Tomb Raider Legend outfit, Classic Lara, two wetsuits and two fashion designer outfits. They are all free and require just the standard Silver account. Two new downloadable levels known as Beneath The Ashes and Lara's Shadow are also available. Beneath The Ashes contains even more Lara outfits. These levels aren't free and require 800 Microsoft points each (1000 points cost £8.50). These levels also include cutscenes and are set after the main story of Underworld, each one giving a little more insight as to what happened to the characters next. The in-game help in Beneath The Ashes doesn't work, if you select it nothing will happen, but the in-game help is fully detailed in Lara's Shadow. These two extra levels are brilliant especially Lara's Shadow where you play as Lara's doppelganger, although in parts of the game she had the wrong voice! Both of these new levels contain treasures to pick up and Xbox Achievements.
I noticed that a lot of PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 games have a widescreen effect with a black line at the top and bottom of the screen when being played on a standard-def television. It doesn't do that with this game and it fully fills the screen properly.
PlayStation 2 version
There has been a lot of controversy over the quality of the PlayStation 2 version. Not only were gamers frustrated by the game's release date being delayed but it's clearly not to the standard of what you'd expect it to be. It's not a terrible game I played it from start to finish and enjoyed it but I cannot comprehend why all of the colours look bland and washed out with lots of greys, it just doesn't look right.
There were no energy pots to pick up within the game instead Lara would recover her energy gradually, I thought that seemed quite strange because no other Tomb Raider game in the past has worked that way and it eliminated the tension of needing to find more energy. Lara's torch light automatically switches on and off when she's in a dark tomb rather than the player having to press the button themselves. (Ironically the latest Tomb Raider games work this way too).
There were very few monsters, bad guys and animals around and when they did attack they were easy to kill. The story is the same as in the other versions with the same events happening but big chunks of the game are completely different. A lot of the levels are shorter and there is a lot more lever pulling. One of the levels was almost completely replaced with a cutscene of Lara swimming underwater. While climbing Lara sometimes gets stuck and you have to move the camera from side to regain control. Also the problems with the camera angle seem so much worse on the PlayStation 2 version with it suddenly becoming fixed in one position or zooming out making Lara teeny tiny.
I did love the vibration in the joypad which continually responded with what was happening on screen which somehow felt more intense than the other versions of the game.
Upon completion of the game you have the option to play it again in Treasure Hunt mode but unlike the other versions it plays in the same way as if you started the game in story mode, the only difference is you can select a different level using Lara's PDA. There are other costumes and a weapon select option but these are only available after you complete the game and are replaying a level, however Lara's casual costume with her red top looks very bland and grey. The cutscenes are pre-rendered so that even with a new costume Lara will be wearing her usual one during the story sequences, which is kind of strange because it wasn't like that on Tomb Raider Legend or Anniversary. Another thing different from the other versions is that every item in the Extras menu is unlocked once you finish the game even if you haven't found every treasure, so in some ways it's not that important to find them all. The Croft Manor level was completely different to the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions but I personally thought it was better.
The minimum specs are:
These are actual screenshots not mockups.
While it's clear that the Xbox 360 version is better supported than the PlayStation 3, it's nothing to do with which console is better it's purely do to with Eidos and Microsoft doing a marketing deal to make one better than the other. It's even been said that the graphics are better on the Xbox 360 but I've seen no difference whatsoever with the graphics quality between the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. There are a lot of faked pictures online such as the one below but it's clear that the PlayStation 3 Lara is standing inside a shadow which is why there are no reflections on her chest, please don't be fooled by fake screenshots.
Tomb Raider Underworld has some of the best music ever seen in any Tomb Raider game. Here are a few samples.
If you're looking for a fully detailed review with pictures then I suggest Stella's Walkthroughs but if you just want a few tips then read below.
Read the manual fully, not only will it give you some background information but it will also explain a lot of Lara's moves, some of which aren't explained in enough detail during the game.
If you're stuck then ask Lara by selecting Field Assistance on the game's menu. She will give two levels of help, one will be a hint and the other will be more detailed.
There's no ammo to pick up during the game, so don't rely too much on your secondary guns unless you're face to face with an enemy. You can always run away and shoot from a distance, and Lara can fight animals as well has humans using her fists. You can even jump onto an animal's back and cause it harm that way. (Hand-to-hand combat doesn't work on the PlayStation 2 version but you can still jump on the thralls' backs to destroy them.)
If you feel lost as happens quite a lot on the Mexico level then select the Sonar Map that will give you a rough map of the area. (Note: The PlayStation 2 version doesn't have the Sonar Map).
Don't worry too much about finding treasures, when you complete the game you can replay levels in Treasure Hunt mode and can pick up any treasures you missed, you can also replay the full game and still keep track of treasures you've already picked up.
Alison Carrol is the Lara model promoting Tomb Raider Underworld, not to be confused with Lara's voice actress or motion-capture actresses.
Lara is voiced by actress Keeley Hawes who also did Lara's voice in Tomb Raider Anniversary, Tomb Raider Legend, Lara Croft & The Guardian Of Light, and Lara Croft & The Temple Of Osiris.
I met Keeley at the London Film & Comic Con
These two trailers are the original teaser trailer and the gameplay trailer.
Add Lara to your desktop.
Here is a list of the best Tomb Raider sites on the net.
Stella's Tomb Raider Site - The best Tomb Raider site on the internet with brilliant detailed walkthroughs.
Tombraider.com - The official Tomb Raider site containing lots of info about Underworld and a brilliant forum.
Tomb Raider Chronicles - An 'unofficial' site containing lots of trailers, screenshots, exclusives and lots more.
Website by Raymond Johnson. www.raysnet.com. "Tomb Raider Underworld" © Eidos Interactive.