Another exciting adventure for Miss Croft in her new designer outfits, boasting motion-captured movements modelled from gymnast Heidi Moneymaker (no pun, real name), she runs, climbs, swings, swims, swishes at undergrowth, chimney vaults and fights her way dirty kneed through a maze of jungles, caves, glaciers, ships and strange ancient machinery ... but Lara need never feel alone out there in the middle of the Mediterranean, or in Thailand, Southern Mexico or Jan Mayen island in the Arctic ocean; for around any corner there is bound to be another adversary, mercenary or Colin O'Malley orchestra.
Underworld is poised for greatness, but with yet another new graphics engine developed especially for the game, fresh with the latest bugs, it presents the gamer with yet another bag of niggles. The character animation is better than before, indeed it is excellent and you have to see it to believe it, but Lara has forgotten how to walk or creep. The best she can do is run in slow motion, or at least that's what it looks like to me. Perhaps walking was not in Heidi's contract ... this practically forces me to run around everywhere, giving me no time to really absorb the fantastic artwork and impressive scenery, and possibly as a result I discover that the puzzles require no thought whatsoever. If you can press it, push it, switch it, rotate it or climb it - do it. You don't need to know why, you don't need to examine the mechanism.
Long gone are the days where you need a piece of paper to write down clues or figure out how to solve puzzles. I didn't get stuck once playing this game. This was the most disappointing aspect of the release. Despite promises of non-linear gameplay and while the graphics are generally superb (with the few usual bugs such as Lara floating in mid-air in some camera angles), the sound effects and music heart-pounding, and while the story sets up the adventure excellently - the main reason we keep coming back to Tomb Raider is for the puzzles. In Underworld, they are simply far too easy to solve by anyone's measure.
The only real genuine puzzle in the game is why, if Crystal Dynamics focused so much on the WCLD (What Could Lara Do?) philosophy, why did they fail on that point so catastrophically - to the point where Lara still can't jump onto ledges that are only a foot above her head if the game developer hasn't thought about making the ledge "grabbable", and she still jumps off to her death in stupid directions when that's clearly not the direction in which you intended for her to die! The controls continue to be the most troublesome aspect of the most recent Lara adventures, when the puzzles themselves ought to pose the greatest challenges.
Another major disappointment for me is that exploration is not encouraged. Except to find a limited variation of pick-ups and a few bonuses which unlock some rather uninspiring extras, the game is in fact as linear as they come. And with the demise of Croft Manor, there is no escape to Lara's house to take a break from the bats of Bhogavati to practise your pole-dancing skills.
However, that should not put you off buying this game. I've said it before I'll say it again, there is no other game like it on the market. No self-respecting gamer would miss buying Tomb Raider Underworld. It is a marvel to behold, we only wish the developers would go back to basics and create a game that is primarily designed to exercise the grey matter and less of the adrenaline ...