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Old 06-12-17, 02:28   #1
NoahCrofRaider
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Default NoahCrofRaider Reviews Tomb Raider Underworld

Hello! Welcome to my review of Tomb Raider Underworld.

Table of Contents:
1. Plot
2. Music
3. Visuals
4. Gameplay
5. Levels
6. Replayability
7. Overall Opinion

Right, well, let's review this controversial game.

1. Plot
While the plot isn't as masterfully well done as AOD, I don't think it is as bad as others tend to think. It was not how I would have ideally done a sequel to Legend's awesome story, but I thought Crystal D did a decent job. I think involving Natla was a bad move from the start. She was never blatantly mentioned, referenced, foreshadowed or anything in Legend so it ended up seeming like the developers needed something from Anniversary to bring into Underworld. I also thought the role Amanda played in the story was rather bad. She felt like this emo character that would pop in occasionally and you'd be like, "Oh, right, I forgot you still existed". She didn't have an ongoing role like in Legend, but again, it felt like they needed to cram another thing from Legend into this, and they chose Amanda. She didn't feel even slightly organic or natural in the story. Heck, Natla even felt more natural than Amanda. I also felt like the Norse elements felt forced and unnecessary. On the positive side, however, I really enjoyed the plot twist of Lara's mother turning out to be a thrall. I thought that was perfect rather than to have ol' Mummy coming home with me. I also really liked that there felt to be more of a focus on the actual myth usually rather than her parents. Unfortunately, Lara still mentioned her father several times which left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Moving on...

2. Music
Like Reboot and Rise, the music in this game is pretty forgettable and feels almost nonexistent. Except for a few tracks that is.

3. Visuals
I don't have a whole lot to say, but I think that for a 2008 game, the graphics are pretty great, and I don't think it gets the love it deserves. I felt like I could touch everything, and I thought they had pretty decent usage of foliage and vegetation. I think the levels could've used a little more colors, but levels like Coastal Thailand and Southern Mexico are almost perfect as they are. The character models are also pretty great too, except for the kind of plasticky-looking skin, how pale Lara is, and her odd hair. The water looked nice too.

4. Gameplay
The gameplay isn't as fun and enjoyable as classics-Anniversary, but I do think it is pretty fun. The combat is decent, but needs a lot of work. You have a very hard time trying to dodge stuff and, at times, it's almost impossible. The puzzles are good, I'd say. There were some challenging puzzles that I truly enjoyed, especially in Southern Mexico (further thoughts on that level below). The platforming is rather tricky. The controls are to blame for it though. Lara is a lot hard to maneuver around in this game. She should be easier to control, not harder, considering they used mocap in this. But instead, we have this. It's still sufficiently fun, I guess, but like most of Underworld, there's room for improvement.

5. Levels
I'm going to say beforehand that all in all, the levels, though not many, I really enjoyed and thought we're pretty fun and, at times, challenging. I'm going to keep my review of each individual level pretty short and sweet, unless there's a level that I want to delve deeper into.

Mediterranean Sea
A nice level to start the game. The underwater section was a nice change of pace that I enjoyed, and the rest of the level I thought was okay. I did really like the octopus/squid puzzle.

Coastal Thailand

Second best level in the whole game. It was long, fun, had decent puzzles, and it was gorgeous.

Croft Manor
Short, sort of neat, and felt a little like a filler level. Almost would've worked better as some long cutscene.

Southern Mexico
By far, my favorite level in Underworld. A lot of it felt really classic TR-ish. The atmosphere was great, the puzzles were awesome, there was a lot of exploring and backtracking that I liked which reminded me of TR4. The level felt very meaty and I just can't tell you how much I loved it. A new favorite TR level for me.

Jan Mayen Island
I was very pleased to have a snowy level in this game. It wasn't too long and was also a nice change of pace after the previous levels. The first little puzzle with the tower was nicely creative and I enjoyed it too. Also adored the big room with the hammers; it felt very grand.

Andaman Sea
Crappy filler level. Only saving grace about it was using Thor's hammer finally. This also would've served better as a big cutscene.

Arctic Sea
Though just a tiny bit short, I did enjoy this level. The "Out of Time" segment was cool and also felt pretty grand. Not as grand as the real Avalon would've been, but, well you know.

6. Replayability
This game unfortunately doesn't have any actual way to replay it properly without creating a new save, but there is Treasure Hunt mode. Probably not going to use it a lot though.

7. Overall Opinion
Tomb Raider Underworld is a decent attempt at trying to kind of please everyone. It felt like they were doing something for classic TR fans by how they did the levels, yet they were still trying to please the new fans of Legend and Anniversary. I think it was a "nice try", but there were TONS of flaws. I feel like the story is the one that shows the most flaws, but gameplay is close behind. I wish they did better on the story, and they had just stuck with the Legend/Anniversary gameplay, but built upon that. Underworld didn't provide that; it felt like they were moving towards that, but ended up falling flat on its face. The graphics were a huge step up, and if the character models and animations were improved I'd be good in this department. In the end, I give the game a 6.5 out of 10.

Thank you for reading my review. I hope you enjoyed it as much, if not much, much more, as I did making it.
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Last edited by NoahCrofRaider; 06-12-17 at 11:48.
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Old 06-12-17, 08:11   #2
Nigel Cassidy
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Originally Posted by NoahCrofRaider View Post
1. Plot
While the plot isn't as masterfully well done as AOD, I don't think it is as bad as others tend to think.
I on the other hand think it is as bad as I tend to think

Honestly, I think 8,5 is pretty high for a game you say has tons of flaws. Shouldn't that kind of score not be preserved for games with less than tons of flaws?
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Old 06-12-17, 11:47   #3
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Originally Posted by Nigel Cassidy View Post
I on the other hand think it is as bad as I tend to think

Honestly, I think 8,5 is pretty high for a game you say has tons of flaws. Shouldn't that kind of score not be preserved for games with less than tons of flaws?
Maybe? That fact is, I'm terrible as rating anything using that scale generally, so I wasn't exactly sure how to rate this. Maybe 6.5 or something is more like it?

Updated it now.
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Old 06-12-17, 14:15   #4
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Originally Posted by NoahCrofRaider View Post
Maybe? That fact is, I'm terrible as rating anything using that scale generally, so I wasn't exactly sure how to rate this. Maybe 6.5 or something is more like it?

Updated it now.
I suppose that is what I would give it

Or maybe a 5 from an objective point of view, but ever since the reboot I found a new appreciation for Underworld for being the last preboot Tomb Raider... Well you only need the light when it's burning low, only miss the sun when it starts to snow...
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Old 06-12-17, 17:51   #5
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I liked the original score better.

It also depends on how you rate the game.
Is it a sum of all ratings then divided by however many categories you have? Or do you start with a base rating then adjust based on what you encounter in the game?

I remember my own personal rating for it was a solid 8, boosted from a 6 solely from the music and the sheer amount of explorability.

Good review.
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Old 06-12-17, 18:07   #6
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I liked the original score better.

It also depends on how you rate the game.
Is it a sum of all ratings then divided by however many categories you have? Or do you start with a base rating then adjust based on what you encounter in the game?

I remember my own personal rating for it was a solid 8, boosted from a 6 solely from the music and the sheer amount of explorability.

Good review.
Sorry.

The music and exploring didn't save it for me. Nothing did, really. I wish the levels were better or as good as Coastal Thailand and Southern Mexico.
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Old 06-12-17, 23:03   #7
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Excellent review!

So many of the points you made I agree with, even though I never thought of them specifically (Amanda being shoehorned in, the music being forgettable)

After Legend and Anniversary I had such high hopes for this game, too! Maybe it's my fault for playing it on PS2 first but even when I tried it on PS3 I never liked it too much. It's definitely my least favourite TR but 6.5 out of 10 seems fair!

One thing I found interesting that I just realized reading your review.. the ruins in this game were actually hidden well! Located under the sea or hidden underground- required a complex mechanism to open- as opposed to being out in the open for anyone to stumble across. The designers seemingly tried to go back to TR's roots which I now appreciate more
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Old 06-12-17, 23:30   #8
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Excellent review!

So many of the points you made I agree with, even though I never thought of them specifically (Amanda being shoehorned in, the music being forgettable)

After Legend and Anniversary I had such high hopes for this game, too! Maybe it's my fault for playing it on PS2 first but even when I tried it on PS3 I never liked it too much. It's definitely my least favourite TR but 6.5 out of 10 seems fair!

One thing I found interesting that I just realized reading your review.. the ruins in this game were actually hidden well! Located under the sea or hidden underground- required a complex mechanism to open- as opposed to being out in the open for anyone to stumble across. The designers seemingly tried to go back to TR's roots which I now appreciate more
Thank you, I'm glad you liked it! And I agree too.

It really felt like the designers took a step back and looked at what TR was like/about and tried to build on that.
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Old 08-12-17, 14:32   #9
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Your thoughts echo my own, although I do strongly disagree about the plot. I think it's a bigger detractor than you do. But there are some great moments in the game, IMO, some of my favorite in TR, and that tends to make you forget the silly plot.

I also think the game doesn't get enough love for how it looks. Sadly, it's just not very much fun on replay, so I tend to lose interest before Mexico.
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Old 08-12-17, 18:51   #10
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Although I am more positive about the game, I overall agree with you.
About the things I don't really agree, it's scrap the Croft Manor lever and do instead a longer cutscene... Well, the game is enough short as it is.
If only Beneath the Ashes was the real Croft Manor level...

About the idea of keeping TRL/TRA's animations... I don't know. If we're keeping all the new moves introduced in TRU, it would be certainly cool. However it's like being safe. I like that TRU is at the same time a sequel but want to be further. I think it was important for Crystal to experiment new things and technologies like the motion capture. The better solution imo, was to released the game one year latter, in 2009. This game absolutely need more development and budgets. Unfortunately, the XMAS'08 timeslot was far too important for Eidos...
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