Eyes-on / Tomb Raider: Underworld

After being led into a room with a big television and and lights that gave the appearance that the entire room was underwater, I was sat down for a bit of a private screening of Tomb Raider: Underworld, the newest game in the the eight game long Tomb Raider series, and the third one developed by Crystal Dynamics. Having thoroughly enjoyed Tomb Raider: Legend, Crystal Dynamics’ awesome and desperately needed revamp of the series, I was really looking forward to checking out the game. Sadly, the build was the mid-alpha code, so all I can really confirm from what I saw is that Lara still has breasticles and that they are still encased in tight fitting clothing.

We were shown the first level of the game, which takes place after Lara finds out that her father had discovered an ancient relic but was unable to launch an expedition before he died. Thus she goes to find the location of the relic, which just happens to be under the ocean, meaning the first level starts out with the player swimming around a giant ocean. This is representative of the new slant the design team is going for, with a bit more open areas for Lara to explore instead of just running through closed off tunnels. The ocean looked pretty big to me and fighting sharks appeared simple, plus you don’t have to worry about air anymore because Lara has finally brought a scuba pack with her — it’s been a while since the last time — but the swimming mechanics in Tomb Raider have never been that great, so it’s a bit worrisome that it appears that at least ten percent of the game will be taking place underwater.

Hopefully, they’ve revamped the swimming as much as they have Lara’s movements. For the first time, her movements have been motion captured, and it shows. The last remnants of the original clunky moving, triangley breasted Lara have fallen away, as she looks damn fluid in the levels we saw. She seemed way more lifelike, especially when interacting with the environment.

After entering into the ruins, Lara was back on solid ground and the dev team showed off some of the room puzzles that have always been the mainstay of Tomb Raider. This one involved a giant Kracken which had to be killed by dropping a weight on its head. Lara jumped around the room, pulling levers, finally crushing the creature. Of note here is that moving around has become much easier and realistic, and the development team’s idea is that she should be able to do anything a real Lara would be able to do.

Underworld is going to take place all over the world, much like every other Tomb Raider game before it, and while the story can easily stand on its own two feet, it will also answer some questions long-time fans of the series have.

Other than that, things looked pretty standard for the new Ms. Croft. Running and shooting seemed to play much the same way it did before, and she will of course have appropriately skimpy clothing for whatever she is doing or wherever she is. Another nice touch is that she’ll be getting progressively dirtier as she climbs around ruins.

The game is scheduled for release of the Wii, Xbox 360, PS3 and DS in November of 2008. We were shown the Xbox 360 build but was told it would be just like the PS3 version. The Wii version will actually have some different level designs and gameplay mechanics to fully utilize its controls and the DS version is going to be a side-scrolling platformer.

[See also: Tomb Raider: Underworld gallery]