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Tomb Raider 8 - Underworld

Tomb Raider: Underworld is the eighth pillar installment of the Tomb Raider series. The story continues from the events in Tomb Raider: Legend as a direct sequel, but also addresses unexplained plot elements by association with Tomb Raider: Anniversary; the 2007 remake of the original Tomb Raider (1996). The three games are subsequently merged into the renowned stand-alone Tomb Raider Trilogy of the late 2000s, by the series' second continuation developer Crystal Dynamics. Underworld is the third game in the series to be developed by Crystal Dynamics and is also the first Tomb Raider game to be released on the PlayStation 3.

Underworld is an action-adventure video game with different versions developed by Crystal Dynamics, Buzz Monkey Software, and Santa Cruz Games, all published by Eidos Interactive. Crystal Dynamics developed the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC versions, which were released in November 2008. Santa Cruz Games developed the Nintendo DS version, which was also released in November 2008. The Wii and PlayStation 2 versions were developed by Buzz Monkey Software, although the PS2 version saw a January 2009 release in Europe and March 2009 in North America. Eidos released two new chapters of Tomb Raider: Underworld, Beneath the Ashes and Lara's Shadow, developed by Crystal Dynamics, as exclusive downloadable content for the Xbox 360 on the Xbox Live Marketplace in February and March 2009 respectively.

Underworld received mostly positive reviews for the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC versions. Critics praised the environments, Lara's motion captured movements, story, puzzles, exploration, graphics and the less linear style of gameplay, although some aimed at its "haywire" camera angles and "dodgy" combat system. The PS2 and Wii versions received mostly negative reviews. Most cited them as having poor graphics, being oversimplified and "dumbed" down, and being full of bugs.

As of 27 February 2009, the game has sold 2.6 million copies worldwide. On 25 May 2009 it was announced Tomb Raider: Underworld would be re-released as part of the Xbox Classics and Platinum Range lines for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, respectively.

Gameplay

Differences from previous iterations in the series are that Lara's environment reproduces a more "interactive world that reacts and remembers", such that footprints left in the mud or mud transferred to Lara's knee from kneeling on the ground is washed away by rain, the bodies of the foes she encounters remain where she killed them, and any destruction to the environment she causes are permanent. According to creative director Eric Lindstrom, this is "to not only reward the player for the effect they're having on the world, but to give them navigational aids." The game uses an animation blending system that allows Lara to interact dynamically with her environment, such as pushing foliage aside with one or two hands, depending on if she is carrying a weapon. It also features a "hybrid lighting model that combines dynamic lights with carefully created light maps" and a weather system that changes the environment, for example, "If Lara’s negotiating a wet ledge she’s more apt to slip or lose grip," which makes "the environment ... her adversary" for a large part of the game.

Previously seen separate aspects of gameplay were combined for a new experience. Lindstrom explained that "in the past, there was climbing, and there was shooting, and there was puzzle solving. And they often didn't overlap. We've now integrated all of those elements." This installment also features a new melee combat system, requiring Lara in some instances to use "direct combat and evasive manoeuvres to distance herself from her attacker". Notably, Lara's bike, among other things, is a key component in solving the puzzles she will encounter in her adventure. Pick-ups have multiple uses as weapons and tools in interaction with the environment, and Lindstrom stated that Lara "can also split up her guns and fire at two different targets simultaneously," or hold an item with one hand and fire a gun with the other. The grappling hook can be stretched taut and used to pull objects off ledges unlike in previous iterations, illustrating what project lead Rob Pavey said, that "Lara will be able to do anything that you'd expect her to be able to do," which he called "the big theme this year." Lindstrom describes this as "a philosophy called 'What Could Lara Do?'—WCLD. It's short-hand for having the player be able to use their own intuition about what someone with her abilities should be able to do in an environment such as this, and consistency across the different mechanics and abilities. If she can throw a grenade, then if she can pick up this pole, why can't she throw it?" Crystal Dynamics also aimed to make the game non-linear, unlike Tomb Raider: Legend, and eliminate the need for hint icons that indicate the ability to interact with objects.

The interactive cut scenes from previous titles were replaced with "adrenaline moments". Instead of specific button presses, time slows down and gives the player a chance to get out of harm's way while retaining complete control of Lara.

Story

Synopsis

Tomb Raider: Underworld begins with Lara Croft in the halls of her own mansion home when an explosion suddenly sets the whole building ablaze. Making her way to the front door, Lara is surprisingly fired upon by one of her closest friends, Zip. The game then rewinds back in time to a week before the explosion, just after the events of Tomb Raider Legend. Lara is searching for Avalon, the mythical resting place of King Arthur, hoping it will lead her to an explanation for the disappearance of her long lost mother. Underneath the Mediterranean Sea Lara discovers an ancient temple designating itself as "Niflheim", one of the many Norse underworlds. Deep within, she discovers one of Thor's gauntlets. Most of the gauntlet crumbles to dust when she touches it, except for a small stone on the wrist that glows with an eerie blue light. Some mercenaries arrive and knock Lara out. When she comes to, the lead mercenary detonates a bomb that seals Lara in the gauntlet chamber, while remarking that "Amanda Evert sends her regards."

Lara escapes the temple and returns to the surface, noticing a large cargo ship nearby. Lara boards the ship. During a firefight between Lara and the guards, an explosion occurs and the boat begins to sink. While evacuating, Lara comes face to face with an old enemy, Jacqueline Natla, whom Lara believed she had killed in Tomb Raider Anniversary, but who had actually been discovered and imprisoned by Amanda. Natla tells Lara that the Norse underworld, Helheim and Avalon are one and the same and that she will need to find Thor's Hammer to open the Underworld. Lara soon discovers that she will have to find Thor's other gauntlet and his belt if she wants to find and wield the hammer. Natla provides Lara with a starting point for her search in this quest - coastal Thailand.

In Thailand, Lara discovers another very ancient Norse complex, upon which a relatively newer Hindu temple had been built. Lara does not find the second gauntlet in the Norse ruins, but she finds evidence that her father had found the gauntlet there and removed it before he died. She also discovers a message that reveals that her father and Natla had been working together at some point and that the relationship had not ended amicably.

Lara is able to deduce where her father hid the missing gauntlet - buried beneath her grandfather's tomb, within Croft Manor. She finds a secret old chapel buried beneath her home, as well as her father's secret office. Upon his desk, Lara discovers the gauntlet as well as a tape-recorded message, warning her that Helhiem may contain a powerful weapon that could put the world in danger. Lara is attacked by monsters called thralls, but escapes and returns to the mansion, proper, leading back to the opening events of the game.

Zip claims that "Lara" broke in to her own safe and detonated a bomb in the mansion. When Lara returns to the burning office to recover the security footage, she finds herself faced with a doppelgänger of herself created by Natla, who is much faster and stronger than Lara. The doppelganger kills Alister Fletcher, another close friend of Lara's. After his emotional death, Lara resolves to continue with her quest and prevent Natla and Amanda from recovering any of Thor's artifacts.

In Mexico, Lara finds more Norse ruins. Here, she finds both Thor's Belt and some pictographs linking the weapon in Helheim to Jörmungandr, the mythical Norse sea-serpent that encircles the world. Her next stop are ruins on Jan Mayen Island that correlate to Valhalla. It is here that Lara finally recovers Thor's Hammer. In the meantime, Zip has managed to track Amanda down to a sister-ship of the one Lara sank earlier. Armed with Mjolnir, Lara boards the vessel and interrogates Natla once again. Amanda interrupts the meeting, but before she and Lara start fighting, the doppelganger (under Natla's command), throws her down a shaft, seemingly to her death. Natla provides Lara with the coordinates of Helheim, but points out that Lara does not know the Ritual of Odin, which is needed to open its gates. Lara reluctantly strikes a bargain with Natla and frees her from her cell.

They rendezvous in the outer chambers of the Helheim complex, deep below the Arctic Sea. From a distance, Lara watches Natla perform the ritual and then fly away. With the ritual performed, Lara is able to use Mjolnir to open the gates of Helheim. She battles her way through hoards of thralls and yetis protecting the secret at the heart of the city. Along the way, Lara discovers the horrifying truth of her mother's fate - she has been turned into a thrall. When her mother's undead body advances threateningly upon her, Lara is forced to shoot and "kill" her, an act that greatly upsets Lara.

Natla reveals the true extent of her manipulation of Lara, also revealing that she was the one who killed Lord Richard Croft when he saw Natla's intentions. Natla goes, saying 'she has a serpent to raise', leaving the Doppelgänger to kill Lara. Amanda saves Lara's life and Lara pursues Natla, who is activating an ancient doomsday device. It is revealed that Jörmungandr, the Midgard Serpent, was a Norse metaphor for the many tectonic divisions that encircle the world, beneath the seas. The doomsday device was built upon the most unstable junction of these lines and its activation would cause massive volcanic activity across the whole planet and the destruction of most of humanity, leaving Natla to be the ruler of what's left.

Lara successfully destabilises the device and while Natla desperately tries to repair the damage, Lara throws Mjolnir at Natla, sending her down into the pool of deadly Eitr below and bringing the Midgard Serpent down with it. But this causes the pool to slowly rise and, as Amanda comes round from holding off the Yeti Thralls, she recalls the legend of Thor and the Serpent, ending 'We'll die here, just like your mother'. Lara suddenly sees a dais like the one that brought her mother to Helheim and together Lara and Amanda repair and use it, teleporting back to the temple in Nepal (from Tomb Raider Legend). Lara and Amanda have one final face-off, before Amanda walks away and Lara bids one final farewell to her mother, then too departs.

Characters

Tomb Raider: Underworld, like all others in the series, stars the fictional English archaeologist Lara Croft, who is voiced by Keeley Hawes. She is the only playable character in the main part of the game. Lara's butler and recurring character, Winston (voiced by Alan Shearman), also reappears during the Croft Manor segment. Lara's assistants, Zip (Alex Désert) and Alister (Greg Ellis) return from Legend, though their contact with Lara is now limited to cut scenes rather than during gameplay. Jacqueline Natla (Grey DeLisle) and Amanda Evert (Kath Soucie) are the game's main villains, reprising their roles from Anniversary and Legend respectively. Greg Ellis also voices the leader of Amanda's mercenaries in the Mediterranean. The game also features the Doppelgänger, a creature created by Natla that is nearly identical to Lara, but with pale skin and red hair. Throughout the main part of the game, she acts as an antagonist serving Natla.

Lara, Zip, the Doppelgänger, and Natla reappear in the Xbox 360 downloadable content. The Doppelgänger, who does not speak during the main game, is voiced by Keeley Hawes, and serves as the playable character in Lara's Shadow.

  • Lara Croft: In Tomb Raider: Underworld, Lara once again assumes the position of protagonist. In this game, Lara continues her quest to find Avalon and save her mother. She is voiced once again by Keeley Hawes, who voiced her in Tomb Raider: Legend and Tomb Raider: Anniversary.
  • Winston Smith: Lara's butler, who has appeared in previous games, makes an appearance in Tomb Raider: Underworld and helps Lara convince Zip that she is not the doppelgänger. He is voiced by Alan Shearman.
  • Zip: Zip returns, reprising his role from Tomb Raider: Chronicles and Tomb Raider: Legend as Lara's tech-savvy friend. He almost shoots Lara at the beginning of the game, mistaking her for the doppelgänger. He is once again voiced by Alex Désert.
  • Alister Fletcher: Alister also returns, reprising his role from Tomb Raider: Legend as Lara's book-smart friend. His role is smaller in this game than in Tomb Raider: Legend as he is killed by the doppelgänger. He is once again voiced by Greg Ellis.
  • Amanda Evert: Another person to return in this game is Amanda, reprising her role as an antagonist from Tomb Raider: Legend. Amanda is still set on finding Avalon, and is also an enemy of Natla. Kath Soucie returned to provide Amanda's voice.
  • Jacqueline Natla: Natla returns, reprising her role from the original Tomb Raider and its remake, Tomb Raider: Anniversary. In this game, Natla is the one who creates and unleashes the doppelgänger. She is searching for Avalon so she can unleash the Midgard Serpent Jörmungandr, who will bring about Ragnarök, an apocalyptic event that with usher in the Seventh Age. Natla is voiced by Grey DeLisle, who also voiced her in Tomb Raider: Anniversary.
  • Doppelgänger: The doppelgänger is a complete reconstruction of Lara that was created by Natla for her to use to evil ends. The doppelgänger blows up Croft Manor and is also the person that murders Alister. She is later defeated by Amanda, who uses her Wraith Stone to defeat her. However, the Xbox 360 downloadable content Lara's Shadow has revealed that she is in fact alive, and is used by Lara to ultimately kill Natla, who has survived the fall into the eitr.
  • Amelia Croft: Lara's mother, Amelia Croft, appears briefly and has been turned into a "thrall", a deceased individual whose corpse is reanimated by the substance eitr. As the mindless thrall approaches, Lara shoots her, whispering, "No, no, no, you're not my mother. My mother died a long time ago".

Setting

Tomb Raider: Underworld is set across several countries. The game begins in the Mediterranean Sea, where the first set of levels are set. There, Lara spends some time swimming among sharks and discovers the Norse underworld of Niflheim where she faces a giant Kraken and takes her on board Amanda's boat. The second set of levels takes place on the west coast of Thailand. There she discovers Bhogavati, a mythical hindu underworld, which Lara finds to be guarded with Nāga, creatures that the hindu religion describes as snake people. The third part of the game takes place in England at Croft Manor. Lara discovers, via clues left by her father, a chapel hidden underneath Croft Manor which leads to Richard Croft's secret study. Lara then must escape her mansion as it burns to the ground. The next group of levels takes place in Southern Mexico. Lara explores ruins in the middle of a jungle, she then explores the mayan underworld of Xibalba, which is guarded by giant spiders and Lara is forced to face zombie like thralls as she goes deeper into the ruins. Lara then travels to Jan Mayen Island to find Thor's Hammer. There she discovers Valhalla. A short segment then takes place in the Andaman Sea where Lara infiltrates The Tisiphone, which is the twin of Amanda's original boat. The final part of the game takes place in the Arctic Sea, where Lara discovers the entrance to Helheim. Upon opening Helheim, Lara discovers the Midgard Serpent.

Development

In November 2007, Eidos was reported to have filed for a trademark on the phrase, Tomb Raider Underworld, and soon after reserved the Tomb Raider Underworld domain name. In December 2007, Eidos filed for a second trademark for Tomb Raider Underworld, reserving the right to provide "computer games that may be accessed network-wide by network users." In the January 2008 issue of the magazine Play, details from the "first-ever demo" of the game were revealed. SCi, which owned Eidos at the time, officially announced Tomb Raider: Underworld on 10 January 2008, and confirmed that all platform versions of the game would be released simultaneously in November 2008.

Play's assertions that the game is the "first true next gen Lara with one big physics smorgasbord that looks altogether photo-real" led to speculation that Tomb Raider: Underworld might be using a new game engine for its next-generation graphics rather than the system used by Tomb Raider: Legend and Tomb Raider: Anniversary. Later, the Senior Producer and External Designer separately confirmed that Underworld uses an all-new engine that was built especially for it. This new engine will also be used for upcoming game Deus Ex 3.

Lara's costume was redesigned and she no longer wears her trademark turquoise sleeveless top and khaki shorts, but instead, a dark brown halter top and black shorts. Additionally, her hair is no longer braided, but worn in a ponytail. According to Play, Lara "moves as good as she looks no longer moves like a video game character" due to her being fully motion captured. Olympic gymnast and NCAA Women's Gymnastics champion Heidi Moneymaker was the model used for motion capturing. Lara Croft is said to have over 2,000 animations.[31] Keeley Hawes provided the voice of Lara in this installment, as she did in Anniversary and Legend. Gymnast Alison Carroll was selected as the new official Lara Croft model to promote the game, replacing Karima Adebibe.

The first official video, entitled "Beneath the Surface", was released on 17 July 2008, and featured interviews with members of the development team and showed screenshots, artwork, and several clips of gameplay footage. A teaser trailer was released on 19 July 2008, and the first gameplay trailer was released on 15 August 2008.

Music

Troels Brun Folmann composed the main theme of the game, and was the music supervisor for Underworld while Colin O'Malley was scoring the bulk of the music. Underworld's music is purely orchestral in style.

There are pieces that do not loop, meaning they will only play one time and will be triggered on specific events. The score is made more of musical fragments, similar to the first five games of the Tomb Raider series, and there is less constant music than in Legend.

The first four seconds of the main theme are the first four notes of the well known seven-notes of the first Tomb Raider game main theme. A similar beginning was already used in another track composed by Troels called "Egypt - Cinematic Mix 2". The end of the main theme gets louder than the beginning by adding choirs and percussion. It then drops into a solo performance of the same four-notes reminiscent of the Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness main theme.

In addition to gameplay music, Underworld's Theatrical Trailer also uses orchestral music. The featured piece is the 3rd movement: Lacrimosa, from Mozart's Requiem in D minor. In this case it has been re-orchestrated, though details and/or release are yet to be provided.

Downloadable content

After an agreement with Microsoft, Eidos released two new chapters of Tomb Raider: Underworld as exclusive downloadable content on the Xbox Live Marketplace: Beneath the Ashes on 24 February 2009 and Lara's Shadow on 10 March 2009. According to an MTV Multiplayer blog post, an Eidos spokesperson has stated that there are no plans to release the content for PlayStation 3 or Microsoft Windows. Following a negative reaction from fans, Eidos released a statement explaining that they were approached by Microsoft, and to confirm "there are no plans for additional downloadable content for PS3".

It was also announced that two new outfits, made by Quebec fashion designers, would be available for free download on the Xbox Live Marketplace. The outfits were chosen by jury and public vote on the Festival Arcadia's Virtually Fashionable on 8 November 2008, and released on 10 March 2009.

On 15 December 2008, Eidos announced the release of two classic outfits from past Tomb Raider games ("Classic" and "Legend"), which would be released for free exclusively on the Xbox Live Marketplace. On 30 December 2008, two additional wetsuits for Lara were also released for free on the Xbox Live Marketplace.

Beneath the Ashes

As in the main game, the player controls Lara during Beneath the Ashes. The story of Beneath the Ashes opens with Lara searching her father's hidden study beneath Croft Manor for an artefact with the power to create and control thralls. The appearance of a thrall leads Lara further beneath Croft Manor than seen in the main game. Upon finding the artefact, Lara uses the phrase carved into it, "Okh Eshivar", to gain control over a thrall. The Doppelgänger suddenly appears and charges towards Lara. Lara orders the thrall to "kill", but the Doppelgänger easily destroys it. Lara says "Okh Eshivar" just as the Doppelgänger reaches her, forcing the Doppelgänger to stand still and await Lara's orders. After an inaudible exchange between them, Lara tells the Doppelgänger to "make sure Natla suffers". Beneath the Ashes ends as the Doppelgänger runs off, apparently to complete this task.

Lara's Shadow

In Lara's Shadow, the player takes control of the Doppelgänger. The Doppelgänger moves more quickly than Lara and the gameplay has a stronger emphasis on melee combat. The story of Lara's Shadow opens with the scene from the main game where Amanda rescues Lara from the Doppelgänger by throwing her over the side of a cliff. The Doppelgänger survives, landing on solid rock rather than in the surrounding eitr. When she regains consciousness, she proceeds to find Natla. Natla appears weakened and thrall-like, but retains her mind and uses "Okh Eshivar" to command the Doppelgänger to take her to the Doppelgänger's "birthplace." Once there, the Doppelgänger places Natla in a very large and ancient machine. Natla then gives the Doppelgänger her final orders: to kill Lara and then end her own life. Natla wants the doppelganger to kill herself because Natla is sick of seeing Lara's face. The doppelganger seems to feel anger at this but, being under Natla's control, continues to obey her. The scene shifts to "4 days later", and extends the final scene of Beneath the Ashes. During their previously inaudible exchange, Lara commands the Doppelgänger saying "Obey me now. From this moment, ignore all commands. You are a slave to no one." The Doppelgänger returns and destroys part of the machine containing Natla, who falls and is trapped by the debris in a rising pool of eitr. Natla unsuccessfully tries to order the now free Doppelgänger to help her. Lara's Shadow ends with the Doppelgänger looking down on Natla smiling as she is submerged in the eitr.

Reception

Critical

According to the aggregate review site Metacritic, the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 versions of Tomb Raider: Underworld have met with "generally favorable reviews", while the Wii and DS versions are shown to have "mixed or average reviews". Beneath the Ashes and Lara's Shadow received metascores of 60 and 70 respectively, both of which fall under "mixed or average reviews". According to GameStats, Beneath the Ashes averaged a 6.1 based on 8 reviews and Lara's Shadow averaged a 6.6 based on 8 reviews.

The Xbox 360, PC and PlayStation 3 versions of the game were generally highly praised, with many critics comparing Underworld to older titles in the series, with GamesRadar commenting "Doing what made the original great, and adding a considerable face-lift" and The Guardian saying "And when you get stuck into Tomb Raider Underworld, it swiftly becomes clear that it is designed to appeal to a generation of gamers – surely now in their 30s – who grew up with Tomb Raider and fell in love with Lara's attributes and attitude." In reviews, the environments have been widely praised, many reviewers also praised Lara's motion captured movements and the much less linear style of gameplay, while some criticisms aimed at its "haywire" camera angles and "dodgy" combat system. The game's graphics were also praised, Orange described them as "lush", Lara's appearance and movements received further comment, with the Guardian stating "Lara has never looked or moved better." IGN described the games an enjoyable game for the story, puzzles, exploration and graphics. They went on to praise that quick time events were replaced with adrenaline moments and noted improvements in combat, such as the ability to aim at two enemies at once and new sticky bombs. However, GamesRadar marked the game down for "dodgy combat". The exploration was also highly praised, with Orange describing it as the highlight of the game and GamesRadar urging readers to "go explore Underworld."Nintendo Power and GamesRadar also praised the game's platforming elements. Despite mentions of camera issues and weaker combat, critics described it as "as good as Tomb Raider has ever been" and "the Tomb Raider we've been waiting for!"

However, the PlayStation 2 and Wii versions received mostly negative reviews. IGN commented the Wii version "is not a bad game" but went on to say "The whole thing has been oversimplified and dumbed down. The Wii puzzles are a joke, the combat is almost nonexistent, and the game is pretty short." GameSpot added "Tomb Raider Underworld can be an enjoyable adventure, but it’s marred by bugs, camera issues, and ill-conceived Wii extras."

While the PlayStation 2 version was called "an embarrassment to the franchise" by IGN. They went on to say that the version was such a poor conversion that it shouldn't have even been released, saying "Full of bugs, linear play that discourages exploration and non-existent combat, Tomb Raider Underworld feels as though it's part of the series in name and main character only."

Prior to the game's release, Eidos attempted to prevent any reviews rating the game at less than 8 out of 10 from appearing, with an Eidos spokesman stating "the brand manager in the US that's handling all of Tomb Raider has asked that we just manage the scores before the game is out, really, just to ensure that we don't put people off buying the game, basically."

Tomb Raider: Underworld received a BAFTA nomination in 2009. For Underworld's story, Eric Lindstrom and Toby Gard received a nomination for the WGA’s Videogame Writing Award.

Sales

On 9 January 2009, Eidos announced that Tomb Raider: Underworld sales failed to meet expectations, selling 1.5 million copies worldwide as of 31 December 2008. However, on 27 February 2009, Eidos announced that the game had sold around 2.6 million copies worldwide, outselling the previous two titles in the series. Also, on 8 May 2009, Ian Livingstone, President of Eidos Interactive, said "Underworld has met our target expectations". In September 2009 Tomb Raider: Underworld was released as part of both the Xbox 360 Classics range and PlayStation 3 Platinum range.

Featured Images

Tomb Raider Games

Tomb Raider (1996) · Unfinished Business (1998) · Tomb Raider II (1997) · The Golden Mask (1999) · Tomb Raider III (1998) · The Lost Artifact (2000) · The Last Revelation (1999) · The Times (1999) · Chronicles (2000) · The Angel of Darkness (2003) · Legend (2006) · Anniversary (2007) · Underworld (2008) · Beneath the Ashes (2009) · Lara's Shadow (2009) · Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (2010)

Tomb Raider Movies

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) · The Cradle Of Life (2003)