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

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Graphically competent but boring

First of all, let me get the positives out of the way: this game looks very good. A lot of the environments are lush and give a nice sense of scale. Unfortunately, this is let down by the abysmal camera work. This development team have done some wonderful things with camera work in the past (Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2 comes to mind) but here I found myself constantly in opposition with the camera, almost as if it were fighting against me at times. This in turn made the gameplay even more frustrating and difficult than it needed to be, which is a shame given the already dull and repetitive nature of the combat. Basically, there is a jump button and a shoot button, and you keep the shoot button pressed until whatever is attacking you dies - this is the extent of the combat variation. The puzzles are baffling at times, and the hint system is next to useless, and getting through each level felt more like a chore than a fun way to pass my time. 

Having never played a Tomb Raider game before, I came to Tomb Raider: Underworld not really sure what to expect, but I might have imagined that a mythology which had spawned so many numerous sequels would at least provide an entertaining story with which to propel its iconic heroine around the globe. Sadly, i was wrong. The plot is just barmy, at times impenetrable, and I eventually became convinced it was something to be ignored since it has almost nothing to do with the gameplay. It seems like this might have something to do with the fact that a lot of the game content has been excised in order for it to be sold as downloadable content through X-box live. Developers seem to enjoy bandying about promises of 'extra levels' and content to 'enrich the gaming experience', but I can't help but feel that here that system is almost akin to cutting my arm off then promising to give me a shiny new hook: frankly I'd rather not have the pain in the first place. 

In the end, I played it to completion, but only because the damned thing pissed me off so much I felt compelled not to let it beat me. I rented it, which was a plus because if i had spent my hard earned bones on this then someone would have had to die. Seriously. That being said, it is very pretty and so if you have a few hours to kill and feel like you want to watch Miss Croft running around, guns a-blazing, in those oh-so-skimpy outfits, then it is worth a rental (although I like the fact that her wardrobe gives the choice of normal clothes one might expect an adventurer to wear - I somehow doubt short shorts and Arctic Ocean diving are a sensible combination). However, once (if) you make it to the game's rather underwhelming finale, don't expect to want to play through a second time.

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