E3 2008: Tomb Raider Underworld
Players: 1 Player Game | Genre: Adventure
Lara Croft has witnessed somewhat of a renaissance over the last few years as the development team at Crystal Dynamics has delivered two solid entries into the once tired franchise. Tomb Raider: Legend was one of the first games that I really got into on the Xbox 360. The gameplay was fresh, the controls were responsive and the game was just an overall great package. Now the team is preparing to unleash the next title in the series, Tomb Raider: Underworld. This new Tomb Raider is looking fantastic. The developers have upped the scale of the environments, performed an overhaul on the game engine and have reportedly given Lara an arsenal of more than 1700 actions. Their focus was to bring her to life like never before and to give players a new level of control over one of gaming’s most recognizable faces.
It is immediately obvious that Underworld has received proper current-gen treatment as the visuals are astounding. The environments are incredibly detailed and the lighting definitely gives them an authentic feel. The smooth controls and animations work together to make Lara feel more responsive than ever before. The visual effects have also been taken to the next level. In previous games, when Lara jumped into water, she would appear wet when she got out. Underworld takes this concept a step further and players will notice Lara actually gets dirty from all her adventuring. The overall design here, while much more detailed, still feels like classic Tomb Raider and that’s sure to have fans and newcomers alike feeling quite pleased.
The story of Underworld centers around Lara’s discovery in some ancient, undersea ruins: evidence of The Hammer of Thor, a terrifying weapon wielded by the Norse god himself. Lara wishes to claim the artifact for herself, but soon finds out that what she wants is at odds with what is best for humanity. The deeper she digs, the closer the world comes to annihilation. Sounds like an interesting twist on the TR formula of the past.
Tomb Raider players know that the gameplay in the series has always focused on achieving a balance between puzzle solving and combat. The new game will still offer plenty of both, but adds in some nifty new features that will allow different types of players to play the game as they please. To accomplish this, the developers have introduced the Help on Demand feature. Players who become stuck on a puzzle can have the game give them a hint as to what they should do next, or if they prefer, it will show them how to complete a given puzzle entirely. This will save players countless hours of frustration should they find themselves at a loss when trying to solve a puzzle. I can say for certain that I will definitely make use of this as I have found that I’m rather terrible when it comes to Tomb Raider’s puzzles. In addition to the Help on Demand feature, players who enjoy the visceral thrill of combat can have the game send more enemies their way. These two features can be used as much or as little as you like allowing you to customize the experience to your liking.
Another mainstay in the franchise is the collecting of items and ancient relics. The developers have promised that they have crammed a lot of collectibles into Underworld so you’ll have your hands full if you want to find every little item. To assist you with this task is a new device called the Active Sonar Map. This device sends out sonar waves and uses the data to construct a 3d map of the environment around you. This will prove invaluable when looking for items as it may reveal hidden passageways that you would have missed otherwise.
Tomb Raider: Underworld is shaping up very nicely and still has a bit of development time left as well. It was recently revealed that the game will ship on November 18th of this year in North America and a few days later on the 21st in Europe. Below you’ll find a brand new trailer for the game so check it out and get ready for Lara’s next great adventure.