Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tomb Raider : Underworld - PS3

For fear of turnip throwing hippos ...

My "experience" with Tomb Raider dates way back to the first one on the PS1. I have played TR1 and loved it. TR2 ... not so much. And my interest in the series fell to the wayside, until a few years ago when Lady Croft came to the X360, riding in on Crystal Dynamic's TR: Legend. I really enjoyed that one, and went to get TR: Anniversary, which was like playing the first one all over again.

So, when TR: Underworld came out, I happily got it. And that is when my Xbox died, when I put it in. Did Lara kill my Xbox? Maybe.

Anyway, it would lay in limbo for about a year. I REFUSE to get my 360 fixed for now, on principle. So, I saw it as a cheapy on sale for the PS3. I figured I might as well, since I still wanted to play it and the previous game ending on a cliffhanger of sorts, I wanted to finish the story. Hopefully.

Let's get this out of the way: I hate water levels in TR. Because of the 3D floating gameplay, I always freak out whenever anything comes at me from behind because I can't hear it coming.

So, what's the FIRST level of Underworld? It starts with a freaking huge open water level. Filled with damn sharks that charge you from behind. I had to go and find some keys to open the door to the underwater city WHILE not getting killed by the sharks. I hated it. Way to start a game by making me hate it. At least the oxygen thing has been taken care of in this game with Lara having an external reserve of air.

And this sets the bar for the rest of the game. It seems that most of the areas are large and open, but with every one requiring you to find some randomly dropped key element to mechanisms hidden SOMEWHERE in them. So, as opposed to how the other games I've played before felt (exploring to figure out puzzles), you mostly run around the stages, killing everything and just trying to find where the keys are.

And some of them are REALLY idiotically placed. Like I spent HOURS looking for a "key" that at first I didn't even know I had to get. I went through the entire stage and came back to the entrance to find that there was missing a piece in the exit opening mecanism. So I had to go back and search ALL OVER THE STAGE for it. How fun is that, looking for one little thing in a large empty temple? And it was simply dropped somewhere insignificant, among other rocks in some random non-descript dark corner. Ian was not happy.

I did ALL the other TR games without looking at cheats or walkthroughs to finish them. Except this one and I held out as long as possible. It is filled with things that if you don't KNOW where to look, you can't find it by any other means then luck.

Sadly, the levels felt generic and repetitive. The story didn't even hold me. I actually didn't care. The focus of this game is the mythological underworlds of different cultures. But they all just felt like generic empty temples. Nothing to set them apart from any other TR tombs explored in the past.

And the levels are more then ever built around Lara's motorcycle. In fact, many of the puzzles REQUIRE you to use a motorcycle. Good thing ancient civilizations had the foresight to think of that! So many levels are just vast expanses of little hubs connected to long stretches of road. And you have to cart many times going back and forth between them. BOOOOORIIIIIIIING! And I hate driving levels. I suck at driving. I had to restart in one instance because I got stuck between a wall and a plant. That sucked.

The graphics are serviceable. Some occasional pretty moments, but nothing overly inspiring.

The traps were rare and far between. And they felt very uninspired and downright lazy sometimes.

And they changed something from the previous games. They got rid of the quicktime events (which I personally don't really mind) to just masked quicktime events where everything goes into slow motion .... So, it's basically still quicktime events, but just without the button indications. Which in my book, makes it even worse because you still die, but you don't know if it was because you didn't press the right button or if it was just that what you did was wrong. And you have to reload everything and try and try again. LAME!

So, this game didn't have enough of what I like about TR, wich is shooting stuff and exploring. Too much water and motorcycle. There wasn't any feeling of accomplishment or big set pieces.


Even the last boss is very boring. All you need to do is naviguate through a series of floating rubble pieces and once you get to her, you kill her through a cutscene. Not satisfying at all.

------------------- END OF SPOILER --------------------

It's an okay game, but I somehow expected better since the previous chapters I enjoyed a lot.

Okay for a bargain game.


p.maestro said...

i picked up TR Legend at blockbuster for 5 bucks. haven't beat it. it was pretty cool. wasn't sure if i should pick up any other Tomb Raider games... wondering if it's a game that's stuck in the past. when TR first debuted it was pretty groundbreaking. like an awesome prince of Persia. i'd played it on the home computer back in... jr high i think? now with games like that awesome ubisoft Prince of Persia trilogy, and Assassins Creed, (similar mechanics, different gameplay) i just wonder if the franchise can stay current? sounds like Underworld is a pain in the patoot

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