Lara proves that there are still plenty of tombs worth raiding
Underworld is officially the ninth entry in the Lara Croft-based series of games, though there have been numerous expansion packs and spin offs along the way too.
Twelve years down the line and it would be reasonable to assume that the Tomb Raider formula was getting as stale and fusty as the air inside an ancient pyramid. Thankfully, that’s not the case.
Admittedly, anyone expecting anything wildly new or different from Lara and her cohorts will be sorely disappointed: Underworld picks up directly from where 2006’s Tomb Raider Legend left off, both in terms of plot and gameplay. The storyline itself is pretty flimsy. It involves Thor’s hammer, a series of proto-Norse ruins, Lara’s quest for her missing mother and a pair of old foes, Natla and Amanda.
As before, you guide Lara through a series of environments, from the jungles of South America to costal Thailand and good old Croft Manor, in search of ancient artefacts. The three main gameplay elements are exploration, combat and puzzle solving. With the exception of a couple of levels that take place aboard a ship full of bad guys, combat is kept to a minimum – thankfully so, as this is probably the weakest part of the game.
For the most part, you’ll find yourself gleefully looking out for ledges to shimmy along, pillars to slide down and sheer drops to leap across as you explore areas and progress through each level. Lara’s movements are much more agile than before and the frustrating control system from earlier Tomb Raider games has been put well and truly to rest. The only remaining bugbear is the in-game camera, which can sometimes hamper progress by swinging itself into an extremely awkward position just as you’re about to make jump across a bottomless chasm or get attacked by a rampaging tiger.
All in all, though, Underworld ticks all the right boxes for a thoroughly enjoyable action adventure. There’s surprisingly little evidence of any dead franchises being flogged, either.
As a Tomb Raider sequel, Underworld refines rather than revolutionises and, as such, it could well be the best game in the series so far.
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