Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 Publisher:Eidos Release Date: Q4 2008
In the industry it’s hard to get much bigger than Lara – no innuendo intended. If gaming had a King then it would probably be a fight to the death between Mario, Sonic, Gordon Freeman and all the spiky-haired bozos from those Final Fantasy games.
But when it comes to the Queen of gaming, well, Lara has even Princess Peach and Samus beat. There’s just no rivalling her in terms of mass market recognition, even if it is mostly down to the ‘Girl Power’ trend and a svelte silhouette.
That silhouette has done the trick though and Lara has now seen her way through a whopping fifteen games if you count the handheld and DVD action-adventure titles too. Those games have ranged in quality from the revolutionary and fantastic through to the... well, probably best if we don’t mention Angel of Darkness.
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Now, Lara is prepping her gear for a sixteenth adventure—the third in the new continuity restarted by Crystal Dynamics—and we were lucky enough to take a sneak preview at the new game, Underworld, and see how it’s shaping up. What did we think? Let us tell you…
The Beginning of the End
The first thing to clear up is where Underworld is set in the Tomb Raider timeline. Over the years we’ve seen Lara as a young lass, an adventurer just starting out, and an established grave robber with a very emo fashion sense.
It’s made especially hard to keep track of things when the last Tomb Raider game, Legend, marked a series restart and yet was followed immediately by a modern remake of the original game.
So, allow us to clear things up; Underworld is set in the new series continuity as restarted by Crystal Dynamics in Legend. In fact, Underworld is pretty much a direct sequel to Legend and skips over Anniversary totally. No more remakes.
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Underworld picks up the plot where Legend left off. Lara, who had watched her mother disappear after fiddling with an ancient stone dais and has since been obsessed with antiquities, has discovered that her mother is not dead after all. Instead, she has been trapped in the mythical realm of Avalon – a fate that Lara herself doomed her to.
Lara immediately begins hunting for a way to free her mother, driven by both her obsession to unlock these mysteries of the past and her guilt.
How exactly the titular Underworld of Lara’s next expedition will tie into this hunt to free her mother isn’t exactly clear, but we did confirm with some of the developers that Underworld will be a direct sequel to Legend and that Zip and Allister will return as supporting characters – albeit in a lesser role. Obviously, the title of the new game gives a certain idea of what Lara’s mission will involve anyway.
More concrete though was the reveal of new moves, abilities and a radically different game design that renders Underworld massively different to any of Lara’s previous adventures.