PLAY Mag Preview: Tomb Raider Underworld

PLAY Mag reports:

''From the second we eyeballed Lara Croft in her scuba suit, we anticipated that Tomb Raider: Underworld would be something of a return to quality. The common complaint about Tomb Raider: Legend was that it missed the point of the series, playing like a twisted reinterpretation of Lara Croft's earlier adventures without any of the puzzles, mystery and huge levels that first put the franchise on the map.

Any seasoned fan knows this, though. Legend wasn't broken like The Angel Of Darkness, so it was considered tolerable – Tomb Raider: Underworld, however, which we've finally got hands-on with after many slow months of trickling information, incorporates some of the features that fans may have missed in Crystal Dynamics' attempts at revitalising the series. We're not saying that it's the best the Tomb Raider franchise could be, but it has stepped up its game (so to speak) to a more series-appropriate level.

The main beneficiary in Tomb Raider: Underworld is the level structure, which has tossed aside the third-person shooter design of Legend in favour of long-haul journeys through huge, ancient environments. There are only six main levels in Tomb Raider: Underworld, but expect some of these to run for over two hours, in the vein of Core Design's first few titles in the series. The developer wants players to be irritated by the hair-pulling, seemingly impossible tasks of old.

The difference, however, is that many of Underworld's larger puzzles can be solved in multiple ways. We're not saying that there's a lot of freedom in how you do this, given that the actions available to Lara are pretty regimented, but even giving players a choice is something of a forward step. For one of the tasks we sampled, Lara had to cross a set of successively clamping stone walls without being flattened. There was no way of diving through, since Lara would just be squashed in the time it would take to reach the end.''

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