shaunage's Tomb Raider: Underworld (Xbox 360) review

Still good, but the franchise probably needs a third reboot now.

The original Tomb Raider is still one of my favourite games of all time and the recent PSN rerelease showed me that the original is still pretty much playable thirteen years after the fact. I feel that the series dropped off significantly with every game from there onwards, hitting absolute rock bottom with Angel of Darkness. Tomb Raider Legend was an absolute breath of fresh air and was one of my favourite games of the 360's launch year. Anniversary kept up that level of quality and kept me giddy throughout by combining my two favourite TR games.  Underworld changes most of the game mechanics just slightly and manages to make almost all of them noticably worse. The on foot action seems much glitchier now and the controls are just that little bit less responsive. The game ends up much more frustrating than the last two because of these almost constant glitches.
The game's story is a disappointment after the absolutely stunning ending to Legend, never quite living up to the emotional level that final scene hinted at. My other main complaint lies with the distribution of Underworld's hidden treasures. There are no less than one hundred and seventy nine of them, strewn randomly inside some of the thousands of clay pots littering the floors of every inch of the game, leaving you to slowly walk up and kick each and every single one in the vain hope of somehow not missing one. Personally I managed less than half. A step-by-step walkthrough is ABSOLUTELY necessary to get anywhere NEAR all of them. There's nothing clever about where they're hidden either, they're just on the floor for the most part.
The ledge traversal, while significantly worse than the last two games in the franchise, is still the game's strong suit. You are rarely lost and the game has a pretty helpful inbuilt hint system to keep the frustration to a minimum. I realise that much of the review reads as negative, but it's really just a string of "not quite as good as the last two". The core gameplay and exploration is still quite solid and I did enjoy the game a lot. The graphics are a vast improvement over anything the series has seen up to this point and this adds a lot to the experience as a whole.
The download content so far has been impressive and the achievement set on the whole is an above average list, with the small downside of needing a guide for the collection quest. I'm still giving it four stars, where Legend and Anniversary were both a solid five for me. Another year of "more of the same" is likely to drop the score significantly, but for now, I'm still pretty happy with the state of the franchise.

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