Tomb Raider: Underworld • Page 2

Croft's unoriginal.  

You don't always have to worry about pixel-perfect positioning like in the old days, either. You can usually rely on Lara to work out you wanted her to jump to that conveniently-placed pillar, rather than plummet thousands of feet to a crunchy death. There are still too many occasions, however, when she doesn't make a jump she really should be able to, or sails right past a ledge without grabbing it because that's not how you're supposed to complete the level. This is a particular problem in the final missions, which generally feel a bit rushed and are full of punch-to-bloody-stump moments.

But Lara has never looked more graceful and acrobatic, and nor has she ever had such a wide range of moves at her disposal, even if some of these are a bit useless. Walking along beams, for example, is painfully slow; you're required to correct Lara's balance with fiddly nudges of the analog stick on 360 version, but it's easier just to let the b**** fall, catch the beam on her way down and then shimmy along at a much faster rate. However, some of the moves are brilliantly satisfying and do make you feel like a proper action hero. These include the ability to rappel down vertical walls using your grapple line, and the melee kick which sends enemies sprawling. After all these years there's still pleasure to be had in pulling off a complex series of swings, grabs and jumps in one fluid sequence, especially with Lara now more elegant than ever.

So it's all the more frustrating that she still won't do certain things. She'll chimney-kick her way up hundreds of feet of flawless walls, no problem, but if one of those walls has a rough texture or a bit of a dent, she won't do it. She'll happily clamber along vertical surfaces with nothing but tiny hand and footholds to grip onto, but she won't climb over foot-high rocks on the ground if they're round rather than straight-edged. Round things are a problem generally for Lara, as are things with the aforementioned bevels. When it comes to edges that haven't been finished off with a diamond cutter, our heroine's hands are made of butter. So it's always been, but it's 2008 and it's about time Lara got a grip.

2
Fans of dress-up are well served, as usual. Because that's what you're a fan of, isn't it.

It's also about time she learned to climb different kinds of crates. Two of the levels in Underworld are set on a ship in the middle of the ocean. It's the same ship in both levels and both are abominable. You're required to navigate your way across the deck by jumping between crates. Only the big crates, mind. Lara just can't cope with climbing on the thinner wooden one, despite the fact she's oh-so acrobatic and they're large enough to support her frame. Similar inconsistencies and disappointments crop up throughout. Lara can pick up poles, but she can't carry them through holes while crouching even though there's plenty of room. She can shimmy along the railing running the length of the deck, but she can't go any further because there's a porthole with a two-inch raised frame in the way. She's got a boat and it's beautifully reflected in the water, but it's full of invisible walls that she pushes her hands up against like a scantily clad mime-artist.

And if you think that's dated and rubbish, prepare yourself for the AI. You begin to notice something's wrong when you find yourself shooting six tarantulas as they emerge from the exact same spot in the scenery and follow the exact same trajectory across the wall. Later on, sharks, panthers and tigers all pose a bit of a challenge, and are all satisfying to shoot in the face, but then there are the two-legged enemies. They all look the same, follow the same attack patterns and are incredibly stupid. The men with guns on the ship have never heard of taking cover, nor even moving out of the way when being repeatedly shot in the chest. It makes the combat system in Uncharted: Drake's Fortune look impossibly complex and sophisticated.

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About the author

Ellie Gibson

Ellie Gibson

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Ellie spent nearly a decade working at Eurogamer, specialising in hard-hitting executive interviews and nob jokes. These days she does a comedy show and podcast. She pops back now and again to write the odd article and steal our biscuits.

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