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Tomb Raider: Underworld Preview PC

Writer: R J Gaffney » Blog
Posted: 7th Nov, 2008

Publisher: Eidos
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Release: TBA
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I downloaded the Tomb Raider Underworld demo today. Yes I know, I'm late to the party, but I only just got the 'net on yesterday (after one month offline) so cut me some slack.

I will admit I'm a bit of a Tomb Raider fanboy, ever since the first was released twelve years ago. When I was twelve. The original Tomb Raider was released literally half my lifetime ago. I am old. Lara, however, has not aged a day.

While I have been avoiding any information regarding the title to limit spoilers, from the opening video it was obvious that, like any super-heroine, Lara needs to a super-villain. Natla, Lara's original nemesis, appears to fill that role nicely. This was obvious from the dialogue that opened the demo level.

While Natla is, apparently, returning, Lara's sidekicks from Legend, Zip and Alistair, have also made the leap to Underworld, though they only appear briefly during the level brief. They don't chatter throughout the level as in Legend, returning Lara to the atmosphere of isolation so loved by fans of the series.

The story centres around Lara's quest to enter the underworld, something for which she needs Thor's hammer. I have no idea how this story is going to play out, but if it wraps up the cliffhanger ending of Legend I will be more than happy.

But to the demo itself and the gameplay therein. The standard set by Anniversary and Legend is met here, but with a few incremental, albeit welcome improvements. Here's a blow by blow account of my adventure.

Leaping off the boat and in to the water, I saw several sharks who looked quite cranky, so I shot them. No need for a special underwater spear-gun here, just Lara's standard pistols. I found a sea-cave that had a little secret priceless artefact in it, so I stole that and saw a ledge worth climbing. I swam around for a bit more, but I couldn't go far before I hit invisible walls. That annoyed me. Crystal Dynamics, bless them, could at least have made large freak waves that wash you back in to the play area instead of stupid invisible walls that break the atmosphere, but whatever.

Rising from the beautiful, beautiful ocean is where I discovered the new approach to climbing. The wall now actually has handholds in it that Lara will reach for, animated nicely by what I'm guessing is some sort of procedural thing. Climbing the cliff I found another secret cave, in which I was introduced to the new close-quarters combat. Creepy crawlies leapt at me, so by pushing the standard “use” button Lara busted a move or two and unleashed a flying kick and an angry stomp to get rid of the ...

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