Adsolutely Fabulous? Tomb Raider: Underworld ‘Free’

Games move so quickly. Today’s AAA title, with a huge marketing spend and adverts, is tomorrow’s experimental sales fodder. There’s a new Tomb Raider coming out in March this year, so Square Enix have lobbed Tomb Raider: Underworld up on their streaming game service Core. That’s the (*counts on fingers*) eighth? Yeah, eighth Tomb Raider game, for fans of chronology. It’s “free” up there, which means you need to watch some ads and install a thing, and even then you might not get to play all of it right away.

Square Enix’s Core Online service is one of those things that just seems to exist. I’ve only ever used it to test it out: the tech is impressive, and you can play games on it for “free” from start to finish, although you do need to do collect playtime according to the adverts you watch. I just tested out Underworld, and can confirm that I was playing the game in under two minutes, which is still impressive to me. There are even a few quality control toggles, all the way up to 1080p and ‘High’ quality, which is more control than I imagined. I played it for 10 minutes until the first ad break, when it dropped me out of the game and asked me how much longer would I like to play. The choices ranged from 8 minutes for a 23 second advert, to 23 minutes for a 1 min ad. All for Square Enix games.

There’s another, better Tomb Raider game up on Core as well, with the same restrictions. Hmm, I sound grumpy. I’m glad these games are here, and hope they serve a purpose to people who might not be able to afford a new game. I’d happily stick a child in front of the browser playing Mini Ninjas.


  1. aliksy says:

    Interesting. I would use a service like this to try games I’m not sure I’d like enough to buy.

    GamersGate has a similar ad-supported free games thing, but the selection is pretty poor. The ads also seemed out of date.

    • alicaben says:

      my buddy’s mother-in-law makes $64 every hour on the internet. She has been unemployed for 7 months but last month her check was $18946 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more here link to

  2. Inglourious Badger says:

    Hmm, interesting way of making games free to play. The funny thing is some people will still be annoyed about this, just you watch…

    • Bhazor says:

      Because eventually it will be applied to a game I actually care about and this will ruin it. Just look at D3 and Driver:San Francisco.

      Also the thought of marketing companies getting money makes my stomach turn.

      • KenTWOu says:

        Except Driver:San Francisco has offline mode and even had offline mode when RPS said that it was affected by DRM. And it wasn’t! RPS just didn’t check the facts and didn’t read —Edit— section.

        • Terragot says:

          When will you people learn that RPS isn’t about facts, it’s about pun threads.

          • Bhazor says:

            I couldn’t play the game for a month because of a broken offline mode and server down time.
            Don’t like that example then how about the other dozen always on/phone home drm crippled games out there? Thats what this is, another form of DRM with the added benefits of unskippable ads.

          • KenTWOu says:

            Yeah, I know and that shit disappoints me.

        • Zyrxil says:

          Except you have no gdamn clue what you’re talking about. In the last major Steam sale that had Driver SF on steep discount, the game wasn’t playable even in offline mode because the game was still querying offline Ubi servers while ingame. Not for authentication stuff, but it still made the game lag to an unplayable degree. The only solution was to blockade the executable completely via Windows Firewall.

          • KenTWOu says:

            I don’t know what’s happened In the last major Steam sale. I’m talking about this. Driver:SF wasn’t affected during that period of time.

            Not for authentication stuff, but it still made the game lag to an unplayable degree. The only solution was to blockade the executable completely via Windows Firewall.

            By the way, this stuff reminds me about Assassin’s Creed 1 freezing/lags (FYI it doesn’t have online DRM or Uplay authentication), because the game tries to connect to Ubi statistic servers, but your ISP doesn’t update their DNS servers. So it was ISP issue.

        • Tams80 says:

          If a game has a broken offline mode, for those it affects, the game effectively has no offline mode. That, I consider is completely unacceptable if you’ve paid for it.

          • KenTWOu says:

            You didn’t get the point! Stevedroid on ubi forums didn’t find ‘offline’ button. Because old Uplay client was shit crazy and had different offline option dialogues for different games (by the way, Ubi fixed that a long time ago). RPS said Driver:SF affected by DRM. But Driver:SF offline mode wasn’t broken! I played the game during that DRM server maintenance period and it worked perfectly in offline mode.

      • monkeybars says:

        So just pay for the game, if you actually like it.

        • Vorphalack says:

          He’s quite obviously referring to a future scenario where the only option is game + adverts.

          • Henke says:

            I doubt the ad revenue will ever become so great that companies will outright stop selling games to customers in favor of a model like this.

    • D3xter says:

      The games were like $2.50 on Steam during the Christmas Sale, I believe the entire Tomb Raider Pack with all the classics was $12.50 or so and those were on Sale on GoG too. That will prevent “Cloud Services” taking over any kind of sizeable market and will prevent you having to play games streamed via Internet with bad latency and at low quality, possibly with unskippable commercials in the future…

  3. jonfitt says:

    She’s going to run into some buoyancy issues there.

  4. tobecooper says:

    Ninth. (CHRONOLOGY IS EVERYTHING! Never trust wikipedia! The remake counts!)
    (Or did a shark got your finger while you were counting? Then I’m sorry.)

  5. db1331 says:

    I rather enjoyed Underworld. I’m a sucker for Norse Mythology and giant sea creatures. Plus, the game actually looked quite good maxed out.

    • f1x says:

      Aye, one of the best Tomb Raider titles in my opinion

      along with the Guardian of Light, if that one counts

    • Shih Tzu says:

      I enjoyed most of it, and you’re right, it was actually quite pretty. I think it peaked in the early levels which were the more traditional contemplative tomb-raiding, but maybe that’s just my personal preference.

  6. RyuRanX says:

    Low resolution, aliasing, poor framerate with lots of slowdowns… If I didn’t have this great game on Steam already, I’d prefer getting it for “free” somewhere else.

  7. jon_hill987 says:

    When I want to play games in low resolution with no AA I will buy an XBox. Not to mention the JPEG compression artefacts and latency…

  8. mbp says:

    Guardians of Light is absolutely terrific if you have a friend to play co-op with. Mind you it can usually be found on sale somewhere for less than the price of a pint so I wouldn’t bother with the compulsory ad watching for the free version.

  9. TimMc says:

    Why would they give Underworld for free? Only reason people like me bought that game is because we didn’t know how buggy it is in the first few minutes.

    30 minutes spent watching a crate bounce off a pressure pad because idiots didn’t code physics right is not fun.

  10. yogibbear says:

    First mission she is in the underwater bit with no shoes, no shin guards, her butt sticking out jumping all over rocks everywhere and not bleeding her knees out… I am disappointed. Need blood mod to feel the realism.

  11. BubuIIC says:

    Well that is strange. You can play “The Guardian of Light” and “Mini Ninjas” in Chrome without installing the Plugin (through native client). But it doesn’t work for Underworld for some reason.