After two reasonably successful Tomb Raider games (Legend and Anniversary) under its belt, we were really looking forward to developer Crystal Dynamics’ newest iteration. Unfortunately, despite (or perhaps partially because of) Crystal Dynamics’ lofty ambitions for Tomb Raider Underworld, this acrobatic platforming puzzler suffers from a severe lack of polish and ultimately feels unfinished. Granted, the plot is a perfect capper based on the story trajectory of the last two games, so there is some value for followers of Lara Croft’s prior adventures, but take heed that you’ll need to wade through quite a few pernicious control issues, a querulous camera and several straight up bugs to get at the goods.
Tomb Raider Underworld picks up after the events of Tomb Raider Legend. As the third game developed by Crystal Dynamics, it presents the conclusion of a trilogy that was fleshed out in Anniversary, which retold the story of Lara’s first adventure highlighting her family drama. Lara’s mother disappeared while helping Lara’s father chase down an artifact of sufficiently infamous stature (no spoilers here) and Legend and Anniversary served to set Underworld up as the final chapter in Lara’s investigation into the suspicious nature of her mother’s disappearance.
For fans, Underworld successfully brings things full-circle, delivering a fitting solution to the missing mom equation that has had Lara puzzled for the last two games. For those unfamiliar with Lara’s past adventures, however, Underworld does little to describe the profound significance of its events in relation to the previous games. The result is that Underworld is weighted to benefit longtime fans and is fairly successful from a purely story-based standpoint, but this plot payoff is buried under layers of mechanical and technical issues that could keep all but the most devoted followers of Miss Croft from finishing her trilogy.
Da Vinci’s Buggy Code
One of the major detractors to the enjoyment of Underworld is the unfortunate prevalence of a number of pesky bugs. We’re not talking about the ornery jumping tarantulas which make up a significant portion of Underworld’s somewhat limited bestiary… no, we mean broken parts of the game itself. Lara frequently gets caught on bits of the environment that interrupt her traditionally fluid animation and can lead to hiccups in her gait that cost her life. Nothing is more frustrating than taking extra time preparing for a difficult jump, only to botch it at the last second because Lara’s boot catches on an invisible yet immovable triangle jutting from the scenery.
Lara will also occasionally display bizarre behaviors such as holding her arms out as though she’s jumping whenever you try to shoot her guns. That particular issue doesn’t show up terribly frequently (it only happened once during one level and we weren’t able to reproduce the error), but it combines with a number of other little programming missteps to undermine the overall integrity of Underworld.