Tomb Raider Underworld For November

By John Walker on June 23rd, 2008 at 3:40 pm.

LARA VS SHARK ULTIMATE CAGEFIGHT

It’s a rather lovely story, the tale of Lara’s rescue. Tomb Raider, too infamous to maintain the reputation it deserved, span out of control. People, when reflecting on the series, will recall the first couple and begrudgingly admit that they were really good. But then they’ll say things tailed off, descending into generic sequels, eventually finishing in the hideous plane-full-orphans-crashing-into-train-full-of-puppies mess that was Angel of Darkness. But they’re wrong.

Not about AoD of course – you couldn’t even walk in straight lines – but about the previous games. They were all good. Not as great as the first two, purely because of familiarity, but every one was a lovely collection of third-person platforming levels, each improving the graphics and adding in new moves and abilities for the super-posh hero. Even The Last Revelation, with it’s hopelessly stupid ending of a pyramid falling on Lara, was enormous fun. It was what happened around Tomb Raider became increasingly rubbish. There was the tabloid excitement that a new girl with long brown hair had been chosen to be the new Lara, or whatever marketing tosh that was. There were the movies. And, more than anything, there were people writing about a videogame character having big tits. It all must have become too much for Core, who when making Angel of Darkness attempted to reinvent the whole thing, but instead put out an entirely unfinished and barely playable embarrassment. And with that, despite having died two games earlier, Lara was dead.


Is she battling a sentient mud monster? I think she might be.

Then three years later Eidos wanted their cash cow lady back, and picked a new developer, Crystal Dynamics. As if everyone weren’t cynical enough, especially now everyone had decided that most of the excellent games were actually crap, this was received with heavy sighs. And what came out was great! Tomb Raider: Legend got a fine 80% from me in Gamer (and I would have marked higher if the idiots hadn’t sent me bugged code that they fixed before release). It was great because it remembered what made the first five games great: tile-based platforming. Add in a genuinely well written script, with new characters cracking wise in Lara’s earpiece (if you played the Cornwall levels, you’ll remember the best gags), and some of the first ever pixel shader 3.0 graphics, and you’ve something well worth playing.

Rather than sequelling it, and continuing the cliff-hanger story about Lara’s mum, CD then made Anniversary, a sort of modified remake of the original game, and hit the same high. And now the third is dated, and what I want from you is not, “Oh no, another Tomb Raider game, what’s this, the 93rd?” but, “Hooray! A new Tomb Raider game! Another game in a series that, apart from that one, has been consistently really good!”

The Tomb Raider website has been redecorated, rather disturbingly with a picture of Lara at the top in which she appears to have some horrible skin-wasting disease. There’s diaries and assets and all sorts of treats to play with. But more importantly, there’s a release date: November. Good. Click the pics for full size.

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58 Comments »

  1. itsallcrap says:

    I only ever played the first Tomb Raider. I remember being annoyed by the fact that there was a slight delay on jumping in a game where precise jumping played a major part, then buying an N64.

  2. TychoCelchuuu says:

    That is a big octopus and a hell of a swimsuit.

  3. Flint says:

    One of the main reasons why I think that the first one was the quality peak of the series was that it was restricted to Lara bouncing around old, forgotten temples and revealing the mysteries within, with the occasional innocent member of the local wildlife trying to eat you. Lara bouncing around modern locales and shooting humans with MP5s and assault rifles just felt downright wonky. Not to mention that the level design sucked ass in the said modern areas.

    Also that octopus head and the ‘underworld’ name give me Cthulhu vibes. That would be an intriguing direction.

  4. Butler` says:

    I think you’re right about Last Revelation, it was very much underrated. I still see it as a better game than the much lauded “return to form” of Tomb Raider Legend.

    I’ve played them all though (except Angel of Darkness…), and I can’t wait for this new one. I hope it isn’t too dumbed down.

    @Flint, you honestly didn’t like TR2? Venice etc?

  5. Schadenfreude says:

    My main interest in this is that [I'm lead to understand] it’s using the same engine as the new Deus Ex game. Therefore I really hope it’s good and we don’t have another Invisible War on our hands.

  6. Ian says:

    I like the way the Lara website asks you to choose your country between “The United States” and “Europe”.

    They might have well said “Not the United States”.

  7. AbyssUK says:

    I agree TR was great and continued to be great.. until AoD then it failed.. but the recent releases have been a welcome return to form. Heres hoping they weren’t a glitch and I can enjoy tomb raiding again.

  8. Lu-Tze says:

    Skintight wetsuit. Tentacles. This can’t end well.

  9. Inferno says:

    I don’t understand why people hated last revalations so. It had the most ridiculous story imaginable but I thought it was a really enjoyable game.

    The one which goes through her past stages in life (the horror bit as a kid to start) I thought was done really well too except for the fact that if you saved at a certain point on the last level of the game when running through a section with an instadeath causing helicopter the door wouldn’t open and you’d have to start teh entire game again…. yeah other than that it was good.

  10. Daniel says:

    LR was the first tomb raider game I played, and it got me hooked on the series. I didn’t even hate AoD, although it certainly was crap. I quite enjoyed the first two CD tomb raider games, and have been looking forward to Underworld since it was announced.

  11. Ozzie says:

    For me the third one was already no fun anymore, it lacked atmosphere and good level design. I don’t know, it just seemed like another game with another new and rather unmotivated story on top off it.
    I loved the second, the platforming parts and time-based challenges were fun.
    Well, I think apart from the second one I didn’t like any Tomb Raider game.
    So…

  12. fluffy bunny says:

    Skintight wetsuit. Tentacles. This can’t go wrong.

  13. Jonathan says:

    And now she has realistic sweat.
    Realisms a tricky business.

  14. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    Realllllly looking forward to this. I hadn’t actually played a tomb raider game since the original until Anniversary, then I went back and played Legend because I was so impressed. I have high hopes for this.

  15. Chris_24 says:

    Hooray! A new Tomb Raider game! Another game in a series that, apart from that one, has been consistently really good!

  16. Flint says:

    @Flint, you honestly didn’t like TR2? Venice etc?

    I liked TR2 (it’s been ages since I last played it though) and even TR3 – haven’t played the rest actually bar a few demos, though I’m interested in getting Anniversary – but I just don’t find them as splendid as the first one. The modern levels are a big reason for this, not only thematically but I think that they’ve also carried weaker level design.

  17. Optimaximal says:

    Legend was good, if horribly truncated in the plot department (which i’m hoping Underworld will resolve nicely).
    For some reason its the only recent ‘gotta collect em all’ game that i’ve done all the way to 100%… It wasn’t because of the swimsuit model or anything!

  18. John Walker says:

    Good boy, Chris_24.

  19. CrashT says:

    Really like 1 & 2, never played much of the rest. Enjoyed Legend, but not as much as 1, and really liked Anniversary for everything bar the combat and stupid QTE based T-Rex fight.

    Rather looking forward to Underworld.

  20. Shon says:

    I think the last game I played was the third one, and I was stuck on a level in a Museum where I had to shoot security guards. I remember getting nostalgic for exotic environments and killing things that didn’t a job and kids to feed.

  21. Lambo says:

    Oh no, another Tomb Raider game, what’s this, the 93rd?

    Hooray! A new Tomb Raider game! Another game in a series that, apart from that one, has been consistently really good!

  22. Chaz says:

    Tomb Raider 1 and 2 were excellent, with 2 being my favourite TR so far. I got about half way through 3 and then never played another TR game until Legend and Anniversary which I both enjoyed immensely.

    If only they could bring out one of these games without so many of the combat sequences. The puzzle solving and platforming are by far and away the best bits of the games, with the combat always feeling rather tacked on and awkward to handle.

    I felt exactly the same about PoP: Sands of Time which also would have been far better with a lot less of the tiresome combat sequences, and just stuck to the puzzles and the jumping.

  23. Pace says:

    Hooray! Doom 4! Oop, sorry, wrong series.

  24. Jaxtrasi says:

    1 gave me acute in-game hydophobia that I still haven’t got over. 2 had an amazing underwater ship. 3 had incredible atmosphere, especially in Aldwych. 4 had such a sense of scope, especially considering it was set within the “confines” of a single country. 5 had a well-executed sense of cinematic style that had been lacking in the previous games.

    So, Tomb Raider, yay. Turns out I can say nice things after all. Of course, since my first proper exposure to internet communities was via a Tomb Raider forum, I am a little biased.

  25. Phil says:

    Locking butlers in fridges and climbing sphinxs never gets old, though the floaty green blobby level at the end of TR2 has to rank with the first Ninja Gaiden for annoying flying enemies knocking you off ledges.

  26. Rosti says:

    What a shame.

  27. Meat Circus says:

    A proper Tomb Raider Legend sequel. Yay.

    I mean, Tomb Raider Anniversary was excellent and should have its own TV show, but it got just a little TOO HARD in some places.

    I’m looking at you, Great Pyramid, you magnificent bastard.

    Legend I really enjoyed, rather more than I should have done. If you pretend the bike-ridey bits never happened (and they didn’t), the entire thing was a splendid bit of b-movie action platform guff.

    Lovely.

    More of this sort of thing please.

  28. Zed says:

    I foresee Yahtzee’s (Zero Punctation for the 2 people who don’t know what I’m on about) review of this starting with a screen-filling “TITTIES”. Punctuated several times by the same.

    I look forward to it.

  29. Mman says:

    It’s nice to see someone gets it about the earlier games; the amount of historical revisionism about the quality of the earlier sequels (at the very least as far as what the general media ranked them) is utterly disgusting. Especially since no one has called them out on that bullshit.

    “TR3 had incredible atmosphere, especially in Aldwych”

    Since it was mentioned I have to second this; while almost all the earlier games had some of the best atmosphere for their time I think Aldwych was the level that truly opened my eyes (and, as such, changed my perpective on all future games) to how much atmosphere could enhance an experience when it was perfectly excuted, and it’s one of the few game levels I’ve repeatedly replayed for the sole purpose of soaking up the atmosphere.

    The details so far on Underworld have sounded a little too good to be true for me so I’m a little wary, but if they do pull it off it should blow me away. That some articles have said that this Octopus fight is just the first level (although it isn’t confirmed) is hopefully testement to how epic the full game will be.

  30. Mr. Brand says:

    The first two Tomb Raider games were great. Tomb Raider was unique, fun, clever. Part 2 had all of that and larger maps. Loved them to death. Oh, and the polygons were better in part 2 :)

    After that, they focused on boobs. Bigger and nastier for each sequel. No sense of gameplay; at least part 3 bored me to tears, and I never passed the first level. I have the disc right next to me, but Arcanum is more tempting. And Freespace 2. If you’re going to play old games, at least play the good ones :)

    The Anniversary edition is intriguing, though. I may get it for the Xbox 360 if I can find it cheap. This new one..reviews will tell. Poor Lara. She has to star in a new game every other month!

  31. Tims says:

    I love tomb raider :)

  32. Arsewisely says:

    Oooh. I hope that’s a proper octopus fight with wall jumping and shooting! (and doesn’t just involve shooting down that giant suspiciously spikey chandelier thing)

  33. Phil H says:

    I’ve gotta go with fluffy bunny here.

    Legend was my first time through one of the Tomb Raider games and I quite enjoyed it, got into anniversary until that damned T-Rex stopped me cold, guess its time to revisit the game.

  34. BaconIsGood4You says:

    Legend was one of the most enjoyable games in years. I’m not saying it was the most polished or ground breaking but it was a joy.

    Can’t wait for this.

  35. El Stevo says:

    What Flint said. Tomb Raider is weakest in modern locales and against human enemies, and the later games for some inexplicable reason gradually focused more and more on them.

  36. John Walker says:

    Mr. Brand – I’m not sure if I could have made up a better example of exactly what this post’s about:

    “After that, they focused on boobs. Bigger and nastier for each sequel. No sense of gameplay; at least part 3 bored me to tears, and I never passed the first level.”

    How on EARTH do you have the faintest idea what any of the games are like, since you state you’ve not even finished the first level of *one* of them? I have a feeling you’ve confused their not having a “sense of gameplay” (whatever that might be) with your sense of not having played the game.

    Antagonised I am.

  37. malkav11 says:

    Tomb Raider was big during a period of time in which I was convinced that I did not like action games, most especially not platformers. I’m not entirely sure why I thought that, but it meant that I never played any of them until Legend came out. And Legend was awesome.

    I keep thinking about trying the earlier ones, but honestly I suspect that the new games will give me my fill as they come out.

  38. LionsPhil says:

    I’d have more sympathy for Core regarding the “OMG BOOBS”ing of the Interwebs and media if they didn’t used to sell gratuitous “OMG BOOBS” merchandising.

  39. morningoil says:

    Nah :)
    TR3 was a terrible, vile game written for God-knows-who by people who hate gamers. Rubbish. I loved the 1st one and liked the 2nd one, but flounced away in disgust until TR:L and :A both of which were pretty good (apart from their yucky difficulty cliffs at the end)(and so yes, maybe I was foolish not try any of the ones in between, and perhaps I would’ve enjoyed them. But I really hated TR3!). And so I am looking forward to this one too :)

    And indeed a big part of the draw was the great atmosphere, the sense of plunging deep into the Earth, in strange and arcane spaces long unseen by human eyes. That was awesome. More please.

  40. sinister agent says:

    Bleh. I played some of the first and maybe half a dozen levels of the second. Really didn’t like them, I’m afraid. Faffy to control and kind of dull, with dodgy camera work. I’ve played worse games, but the way they were milked, and often on the strength of having a GIRL OMG in, got on my nerves.

  41. Chris R says:

    Can’t believe no one’s linked to this yet:

    Yahtzee’s review of TR: Anniversary.
    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation/5-Tomb-Raider-Anniversary

  42. Mman says:

    “How on EARTH do you have the faintest idea what any of the games are like, since you state you’ve not even finished the first level of *one* of them? I have a feeling you’ve confused their not having a “sense of gameplay” (whatever that might be) with your sense of not having played the game.”

    He said he loved 1 and 2 and specifically meant 3, although if you loved the first two I am curious how the first level of 3 could put you off (the second is where it starts getting merciless and I could see people getting put-off by that), since it’s a pretty standard opening (other than the spiked ramp of doom at the start, anyway).

    My problem with “modern” levels in TR is that they almost always take the dull way and put you some plush skyscraper or something; the modern counterpart of tomb raiding is urban exploration, and when it goes modern that’s where it should be (which is part of why the England level in Legend worked well).

    “TR3 was a terrible, vile game written for God-knows-who by people who hate gamers. Rubbish.”

    Not tough enough for it ;) ? The main issue for the mass appeal of the series from TR3 on was that Core listened to fans who said “make it harder!” too much and ended up taking no prisoners, and while those hardcore (including me) loved it, thinking back that’s probably one of the first things that began the series downfall.

  43. Caiman says:

    The original Tomb Raider was (with a patch) the first 3dfx game that I ever played, so it had the double impact of being a great game and one that broke boundaries. Yes the sequels were all great, but they didn’t capture the zeitgeist of the first and thus will never be as memorable.

  44. ack says:

    Tomb Raider: Legend got a fine 80% from me in Gamer (and I would have marked higher if the idiots hadn’t sent me bugged code that they fixed before release).

    As much as I hate to say this I love to say it:

    Don’t blame the developers for your mistakes. Buy the game, off the shelf, then review it.

    Sorry

  45. Al3xand3r says:

    Eh? That’s stupid, how is he supposed to know the version they sent him specifically to review (they didn’t say “hey it’s a beta, try it out, tell us what you think, preview it” or whatever) is not what will end up in stores? At that point, all you can do to help fix it is to mention the proper score in a later issue, but obviously not as many people would notice that as the actual review. Still, I’m sure a few bugs here and there didn’t affect the score that much (so long as they were easily ignored and didn’t affect much).

    It’s not like companies have some sort of masochist perversion and will often send unfinished games marked for review. On the other hand, it’s not like they can send him a version that’s better than what’s in retail boxes either (not without a patch that’s publically available at least). So in each and every possible case, he has no reason to believe what they send him to review is not representative of what you get in the box and therefor decide to not review it until he can get a regular retail version (though it was probably his boss’ decision anyway).

    Also, I’ll assume that Gamer is a magazine there and say that it’s a damn job, if the company that owns it or the editor in chief does not spent resources to buy the games for review, you can’t expect a journalist to spend part of his wage for that purpose, unless he happens to buy the game for himself.

    By all accounts there’s nothing he could do to better represent the game and the only one who was at real fault is EIDOS for sending unfinished code marked for review.

  46. Pace says:

    ack, that doesn’t make any sense.

  47. The Fanciest Of Pants(Max F) says:

    Hey neat, could be cool. I love how everyone is making Lovecraftian crossovers these days, good times I say!

  48. ack says:

    Ooops seems I stepped in it. Here goes:

    Yes Pace, it does make sense.

    Al3xand3r, you’re partially missing the point (my fault for trying out brevity). Yes, one of the problems with magazines and journalists getting games before release is that they might be getting “non-gold” code. But this is something every reviewer should be aware of if he accepts pre-release code.

    And you’re completely correct that magazines (online or offline) that don’t shell out for released games for their reviewers to play through are “damn jobs”. That is where I was going with my comment and where the love and hate bit was coming from. I realize that Mr Walker was an employee of Gamer and thus bound by their practices, but calling a dev idiots is kind of harsh when they’re doing what the mags want them to.

    The problems with accepting and reviewing unreleased code are many, I’ll try to pull some out of my … erm … hat:
    - It establishes a relationship between publisher and mag that where the publisher gets power over the content of the mag. They might not give review code pre-release to some “uncomfortable” mags f.ex.
    - It fails to guarantee that the game is finished. Granted, that mostly harms the publisher. I remember reading a “review” in one mag (probably PC Gamer, swedish ed.) for a game that wasn’t released and later got pushed back more than 6 months. Bad for the mag, the reader and the publisher.
    - It makes the magazines part of the publishers marketing apparatus. See the Introversion cover story debacle to see what i mean.

    The biggest issues are those that create closer ties between the games industry and the publications. OK, games aren’t the most serious issue facing our planet, but I still expect the people doing the reviewing to not have ties to the industry they’re reviewing. It’s the same thing as all the “exclusives” you see all the time. Ponder the word “exclusive” and think about how many true exclusives you see. And if you see a real one, what did the mag have to do to get it?

    Sorry for the rant. Steve Bauman once did one a lot better.

    Oh, and Mr Walker seems to have done the right thing here though, rating the game down instead of listening to the “oh, that, we fixed that in gold”

  49. SuperNashwan says:

    Hey, John’s one of the good guys, he actually cares about that kind of thing, so I’m sure it’s more to do with what he was told by the dev than the magazine chancing it.
    On the game itself, I’m not sure Crystal Dynamics have it in them to make a genuinely polished and consistently excellent game, going by their previous efforts. Both Legend and Anniversary had moments that really got in the way of enjoying the better aspects of the game, the motorbike section in particular was woeful filler in an already too short game.

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