Where in the World is Lara Croft?
Tomb Raider by now has become famous for its many reboots over the years - first with Eidos themselves trying to find a new space for the treasure-hunter, and eventually with Crystal Dynamics taking over and giving Lara new life. Of course, Tomb Raider has already suffered this said reboot, and is now living with a new lease on the franchise. Fans are coming back, new thrill-seekers are giving it a try, and overall, the series is living with extra good-will towards the future.
It's important to look at the chronology for Underworld to be understood more appropriately. First, we had Tomb Raider: Legend, which was a successful reboot of the series, seeing Lara finally explore her more Physics oriented side, and giving the series a more action-oriented camera and controls. After that, we received Tomb Raider: Anniversary, another success as a result of a revision of the series roots, creating an entirely new game using essentially a pre-established tale, with updated graphics and updated controls.
Underworld brings the series back to where it was with Legend, an entirely new story, with no ties to the old Tomb Raider games. The environments prove to be once again exciting to explore. However, we're talking about a Tomb Raider game that lives in a post-Uncharted world. That game managed to take a stale treasure-hunting action genre and turn it on its head with an exciting story, great cutscenes, and good gameplay mechanics.
I'd be lying to you if I said Underworld approaches Uncharted's level of interest and gameplay - it doesn't even come close. But for a Tomb Raider game, it still is very good, with the physics puzzles that made Legend and Anniversary so interesting. The game still suffers from the same issues as both its predecessors, namely bad gunplay and occasionally twitchy controls towards the parkour-esque segments.
Ironically, the last two Tomb Raiders both had stories that were cool, but not very compelling, such is not the case with Underworld. The story in this game is epic - both in size and scale, starting off with the iconic Tomb Raider mansion exploding in flames. The game evolves from there, flashing back and forth, involving Lara in a story that answers questions left open from the previous two games.
Lara looks as good as ever thanks to a fresh coat of polish on the engine that ran both Anniversary and Legend, making the game even flashier than before. Furthermore, the physics-based puzzle set-pieces have a certain luster to them that is inexplicable, the game just looks as good as it usually plays.
There are a few minor gripes I have with this latest installment. Basically, what happens is that once you get to the end of a level, you're forced to backtrack to the opening through an alternate route. This is a way of artificially inflating playtime from a 6 hour game to a 10 hour game, which is a problem when the latter four hours are only filled with backtracking through alternate means. The other gripe I have involves the game's running and jumping, which is at times so twitchy that you want to go left when you actually want to go straight.
Is it a must-buy? No. But for Lara Croft fans, this game will not disappoint, assuming you liked the reboot that Crystal Dynamics introduced with Legend.