Set mostly in Southern Mexico around Chiapas, Lara Croft sets off to uncover the lost Mayan underworld of Xibalba through use of portals located on our world. The Mayan legend holds that their 300-day calendar year included five extra missing days, days in which, according to legend, the portals opened. It is Lara's task to open the portal once again.
In Underworld, Lara Croft and the environment she explores look much better due to a new graphics engine, and the gameplay itself has been revamped. Interaction with the environment is of special note. If Lara's knees become muddy from crouching the rain will soon wash it away. Lara also pushes through foliage with her hands and leaves footprints in the ground, she is able to destroy parts of the environment, and the people and animals she kills remain where they died.
Other additions to this Tomb Raider installment include a new melee combat system and the ability to pick up objects even if they aren't integral to progress in the game.
Underworld was released on 18th November, 2008 by developer Crystal Dynamics and publisher Eidos Interactive, and was made available for PS2, PS3, PC, Xbox 360, Wii and Nintendo DS. A demo for Xbox Live Marketplace was released on October 28, 2008 at 1.3 GB along side a PC release of this demo days later. The Xbox 360 version features 6 hours of exclusive content in the form of two single-player DLC missions titled "Beneath the Ashes" and "Lara's Shadow".
Tomb Raider: Underworld is a different experience than most other Tomb Raider games because it is somewhat open-ended, giving you the chance to explore and granting the game a less linear feel. As in most Tomb Raider games, Underworld has secrets and items to collect, so you are going to have to play the game more than once going through multiple paths to find everything.
In terms of action, the shooting has been revamped, so that Lara can shoot at two enemies at one time when using her pistols. It has also been noted that combat has been toned down to emphasize the adventure aspect of the game. There are no "boss battles" per se in Tomb Raider: Underworld, only larger enemies and challenges.
One of the key developments in gameplay has been the "giant puzzle" feature which shows the level itself acting as one continuous puzzle for Lara to solve. Developers have mentioned that a big part of the game is watching the level change around you as you solve the puzzles. Instead of a series of puzzles in succession, levels in Underworld are designed to be a mesh of puzzles fitting into a much larger idea than was at first apparent... which comes out in terms of gameplay as a series of puzzles in succession anyway.
Tomb Raider: Underworld is a direct sequel to the previous Crystal Dynamics games Tomb Raider: Legend. As the game opens, Lara is making her way through a flaming Croft Manor. As Lara pushes her way through explosions and makes her way to safety, she finds her butler, Winston helping her technical advisor Zip who is injured. Zip attempts to shoot Lara with Winston trying to hold him back. With that the game returns to one week in the past and we see Lara on her private boat in the Mediterranean sea, searching for the mystical burial place of King Arthur, named Avalon. Lara is looking for Avalon because Amanda Evert, one of Lara's many attractive female nemeses, explained that Amelia Croft, Lara's mother, had been transported to Avalon after pulling a sword from a stone in Nepal.
Upon finding a temple of 'Proto-Norse' origin, Lara comes to believe that due to the similarities between the English myth of Avalon and the Norse myth of Niflheim being so strong (in reality, the myths have almost nothing in common), that they are merely different cultures interpretations of the same place. Upon further searching the temple under the sea, she finds a gauntlet, supposedly that which the Norse god Thor worn. However, Lara is knocked out by a team of mercenaries under Amanda's hire and abandoned to die in the temple. Lara however, chases down the mercenaries to their ship and climbs aboard where she finds Amanda speaking with another enemy of Lara's; Jacqueline Natla, who is held captive. As Lara listens to them talk, she learns that Avalon is in fact the same as Helheim the Norse Hell, rather than Niflheim, and that no-one will be able to enter Helheim without Mjöllnir; Thor's Hammer. Due to an explosion caused by Lara fighting a mercenary, the ship begins to sink. As Lara escapes, she sees Amanda fleeing and shoots at her. Amanda throws the gauntlet into the water and Lara dives in after it, losing Amanda, but saving the god's gauntlet.
After inexplicably making her way to coastal Thailand, Lara learns that her late father, Richard Croft had already done extensive studying on the subject of Helheim and had gotten to the second gauntlet years ago, hiding it in a disguised crypt beneath Croft Manor. Finding the gauntlet (as well as a map to Thor's belt) Lara returns to the surface to find her mansion in flames. Lara makes her way through Croft manor only to be shot at by Zip who explains that Lara shot him and stole Amanda's 'Wraith Stone' from a vault. Lara and Winston explain to Zip that it wasn't Lara who shot Zip, asserting that Lara would have no need to burn down her own mansion and as Lara tells Winston and Zip to get out of the building, she herself goes to check the security feed in the computer room. Upon reaching the computer room, Lara catches a glance at her reflection in the glass wall, noting it looks somehow different. Suddenly, Lara understands that she isn't looking at her reflection, but a perfect doppelgänger of herself on the other side of the glass. As Lara and the doppelgänger fight, Alister makes his way into the room, trying to escape the flames, but is shot by the doppelgänger. Lara attempts to shoot her copy, but she escapes too quickly. Carrying Alister out of the burning manor, it is determined that he is dead and Lara stands, more determined than ever to find Mjöllnir, stating that she needs Thor's hammer to kill a god; Natla.
Making her way to Mexico, Lara finds Thor's belt and as she puts it on, Thor's gauntlets power up, giving her the ability to handle Mjöllnir as soon as she finds it. She makes her way to Jan Mayen Island, finally finding Mjöllnir, where she also finds a message from Thor's father Odin, explaining a ritual needs to be undertaken in order to open the gates to Helheim.
With Thor's belt, hammer and gauntlets Lara makes her way to the sister ship of the vessel she sank earlier, where Amanda is once again holding Natla. Murdering all the guards on the ship with Mjöllnir, Lara confronts Natla. Soon after, Amanda and the doppelgänger appear, but the doppelgänger throws Amanda down a shaft. Natla claims to know the ritual that will open Helheim and agrees to help a wary Lara who proclaims that when Natla makes a wrong move, Lara will kill her. With the help of Natla, Lara opens the gateway to Helheim, deep beneath the Arctic Sea. Eventually, Lara finds Amelia, her mother who has been turned into a thrall, a deceased person or creature that continuously reanimates due to a substance called eitir. Lacking any mind, memory or real conciousness to speak of, Amelia approaches Lara, but Lara coldly and mercilessly guns her down, saying that she was not her mother, and that her mother died a long time ago. After Amelia's death, Natla makes the ridiculous claim that everything up to that point had been orchestrated by Natla to allow her access to Avalon, though it had already been stated that this was not Avalon. She also explains that her first attempt failed years ago when Richard Croft, Lara's father, refused to help her, so Natla killed him.
As Lara goes to strike Natla with Mjöllnir, the doppelgänger appears and restrains Lara. Natla leaves Lara to the doppelgänger, who attempts to kill Lara, but is suddenly disabled by Amanda, who of course wasn't really dead. Amanda realises that the world is in danger and holds off a number of incoming thralls so that Lara can defeat Natla.
When Lara reaches Natla, she is operating a titanic device called the Midguard Serpent, which is designed to bring about the Seventh Age, triggering apocalyptic levels of volcanic activity throughout the world. As Lara steadily destroys the device with Mjöllnir, Natla tries to stop her, but to no avail. With the destruction of the Midguard Serpent imminent, Lara hurls the hammer at Natla which strikes her and sends her hurtling down into a sea of etir.
As Lara regroups with Amanda, they find the exit is blocked and that there is no discernible way out. Lara, however finds a sword like Excalibur embedded in a rock, next to a portal identical to the one that transported Amelia to Helheim in the first place and determines that if they were to pull the sword out, they would be returned to Nepal. However, the portal is broken and Lara determines that the only way for them both to escape is for Lara to hold the Portal steady and for Amanda to pull the sword, with the two of them touching hands at the last moment to both be transported.
As Lara and Amanda find themselves in Nepal, they state that they are even. As Amanda leaves, Lara says goodbye to her mother, walking away from the portal as the game ends.
Shortly before the release of the game, a representative of the Eidos PR company Barrington Harvey caused outrage when he made several comments referring to review scores of Tomb Raider: Underworld.
The news broke when a GameSpot UK employee left a Twitter post explaining that Eidos had asserted that any reviews of the game with a score lower than eight out of ten were not to be posted online or in print until after Monday, November 24th. When a journalist for Videogaming247 called Barrington Harvery, they shockingly received an honest answer: an employee acknowledged the review ban and admitted that Eidos was attempting to manage reviews in order to make the game's Metacritic rating higher and not put people off buying the game.
At the time, OXM UK and Eurogamer had each put up their reviews of the game, both of which stood at 7.0, an act which the representative asserted had caused problems. The Metacritic score stood at 78 and has since dropped to 77.
Although the act of managing review scores is not particularly uncommon in the games industry, it is particularly rare for a representative of such a firm to admit to it as the role of managing review scores is seen by all as dishonest. The news spelled bad news for Eidos who had previously been accused of pulling strings to get Jeff Gerstmann fired from his job at GameSpot over a 6/10 review of their game Kane and Lynch: Dead Men.
In the UK, Game stores offered a Limited Edition copy of the game for the same price as the standard edition. Exclusive to this release is a special bonus DVD which includes "Exclusive Behind the Scenes Documentary," "Previously Unreleased In-Game Music," "Art Gallery," "Video" and "Trailers" all bought together with the standard game disc in a cardboard packaging.
Although Tomb Raider: Underworld has received mostly positive results from critics, it has prompted suffered a few criticisms.
GameSpot offered a 7/10 review of the game, noting "Excellent mix of outdoor, underground, and underwater locations," but pointing out that "it does little to address previous games' problems," which the full review specifies as camera problems, bad dialogue, and a lack of refinement to core gameplay.
IGN went on to point out further flaws, such as object detection and combat issues, although still gave the game no lower than a 7.4/10 for the PS3.
Nintendo Power gave the Nintendo Wii version of the game a 7/10, citing the game's environments as the best in the series, but pointing out easy puzzles as a cause for concern. Combat was also described as "so obsolete that the developers needn't have bothered."
The game has however marveled some reviewers who have produced wildly enthusiastic reviews.
The United Kingdom phone network, Orange, produced a review of the game scoring the game at 9/10, praising the environments and Lara's reactions to them. The diminished amount of combat was noted as a positive change, claiming the main appeal was in the exploration of the worlds which come to life.
Although The Guardian newspaper noted that the camera had a tendency to go haywire, they still gave it a 4/5 review pointing out the graphics and story (going so far to refer to them as "unimpeachable") and stating that fans of the series will "certainly agree that it's the best Tomb Raider game yet."
Gamesradar also went on to give the game a 9/10 review, mentioning that although Lara's tendency to "[freak] out and [jump] off in the wrong direction" happens far too often, that exemplary check-pointing and the decision to ditch boss battles pays off.
As of December 6th, 2010, the platform-specific rankings for each version of the game on Metacritic are as follows:
- Microsoft Windows: 80/100
Eidos released two new chapters of Tomb Raider: Underworld as DLC for the Xbox 360 only due to an arrangement with Microsoft. Eidos did not announce any prices for the new chapters, but offered release dates. The first chapter, titled "Beneath the Ashes," was stated to be released Christmas 2008, but never arrived. The second one, "Lara's Shadow," was released March 10th, 2009.
Lara’s Shadow allows gamers to experience Lara’s universe from an entirely new perspective: that of her evil doppelgänger. With faster movement, shadow powers, and a melee attack that decimates enemies with devastating accuracy and speed, the doppelgänger opens up new gameplay mechanics, areas and puzzles that wouldn’t be possible while playing as regular ol' Lara. Lara’s Shadow is available for 800 Microsoft Points.
When it was later confirmed by a reporter for MTV Multiplayer that there are no plans to produce the two new chapters for PS3 or PC, a outcry from the fans followed. An Eidos spokesperson gave a defending statement for the move: "Microsoft asked us how we could extend the fantastic Tomb Raider: Underworld gameplay experience for their thriving Xbox Live community and this exclusive content was the result."
On November 8th a jury and public vote took place on the Festival Arcadia's Virtually Fashionable to determine which of a number of new outfits would be made available to download over Xbox Live Marketplace. The two winning designs, produced by Québec fashion designers are to be made available at a later date.
Four additional costumes for Lara are available for free on the Xbox Live Marketplace. The costumes are two classic Lara Croft outfits and two types of form-fitting wetsuits.
PC System Requirements
- OS: XP (admin rights required) / Vista (admin rights required)
- Processor: Intel Pentium 4 3 GHz or AMD Athlon 2.5 GHz
- RAM Memory: 1GB (Windows XP) / 2GB (Windows Vista)
- Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce 6 series 6800GT (or better) / ATI 1800XT (or better)
- Sound Card: Direct X 9.0c compatible sound card and drivers
- Hard Drive Space: 8 GB Free Space
- OS: XP (admin rights required) / Vista (admin rights required)
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2 GHz or Athlon 64 X2 4400
- RAM Memory: 2 GB system memory
- Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GTX or ATI HD4800
- Sound Card: Direct X 9.0c compatible sound card and drivers
- Hard Drive Space: 8 GB Free Space
- Controller: Microsoft Xbox360 Controller
The original score for Tomb Raider: Underworld was composed by Colin O'Malley, with the exception of the main theme, which was composed by Troels Folmann.
|Track #||Song Title||Running Time|
Roll Back Destruction
Burning Manor Vocals
Yacht On the Mediterranean
Entering the Temple
The Door to Niflheim
Kraken Is Defeated
Getting the First Gauntlet
Escaping from Neflheim
Welcome to Thailand
Ruins of Thailand
Guardians of the Gems
Gems Meet Light
The Ancient World
The Fire Puzzle
The Door to Secrets
Croft Manor's Ashes
The Unnamed Days
Temples of Mexico
Taking the Skull
The Way Into Xibalba
The Rooms of Challenges
Land of the Dead
Draining the Blue, pt.1
Draining the Blue, pt.2
A World of Thralls
The Tower Mechanism
Gate of the Dead
The Labyring of Valhalla
Hall of Mjolnir
Smash the Bridge
Invasion with Mjolnir
World of Ice
Lower the Gate
The Gate to Helheim
Guardians of Helheim
Out of Time
Door Blows (prologue)
Crystal Dynamics Presents (prologue)
Kraken Tentacle (Mediterranean Sea)
Amanda's Ship (BenR remix)
First Door Opens (Southern Mexico)
The House Keys (Southern Mexico)
Moving Walls (Southern Mexico)
Whispering Ghosts (Southern Mexico)
Fire Room (Southern Mexico)
Spikes and Blades (Southern Mexico)
Little Jaguar Head (Southern Mexico)
Sword Goes Up I (Arctic Sea)
Sword Goes Up II (Arctic Sea)
Sword Goes Up III (Arctic Sea)
Xbox 360 Game Installation
Tomb Raider: Underworld requires 6.6GB of space to install on an Xbox 360 HDD.