Monday, December 29, 2008
In two decades of playing videogames, I’ve never played one that gave me as awful of a first impression as Tomb Raider: Underworld. In the first hour of playing the game, this is what I accomplished:
- A five minute prologue that taught me how to jump and shimmy
- Dove off a boat and shot two sharks with spears
- Spent approximately 50 minutes looking for a goddamn axle underwater
In Level Design 101, the first lesson developers should be taught is that gamers HATE water levels. I hate water levels, you hate water levels, and we all wish they would just go away forever. Ocarina of Time is one of the greatest games ever made, but there’s one section of the game that everyone dreads – the Water Temple. In adventure games, we want to run around, swing on ropes, swordfight, discover treasure, and beat bosses. We don’t want to slowly trudge through watery caverns with cameras that oftentimes have no idea where you’re intending on swimming.
Tomb Raider: Underworld seems to think that not only do people like water levels, they like them so much that the first chapter of the game should be nothing but aimlessly swimming around with an unworkable camera, awful swimming controls, and an indecipherable map. Oh, and this should all be done with literally zero action outside of turning your flashlight on or off. They took extra time to make sure that Lara controlled terribly, fidgeting around awkwardly instead of swimming whenever you have the audacity to try to make her go forward. I’m also thrilled that they decided to wait until AFTER I had wasted 50 minutes slowly swimming around looking for the axle to tell me that I had the ability to swim faster by using the left bumper.
So that’s my first hour with the game. Does it get better once you leave the water and get on solid ground? Let’s put it this way, the very first thing that happened to me after this was the game misjudged my intended jump direction, plunging me into a rocky corner. Instead of dying or simply having to try the Prince of Persia-esque jump again, Lara got stuck on the rocks in an odd glitch that forced me to mash buttons for a good 2-3 minutes before she could escape.
As the “adventure” goes on, it becomes apparent that there is never a shortage of issues plaguing this title. Why does my flashlight turn off at seemingly random intervals or after cutscenes? Why can’t the game ever tell which way I want to jump when I’m climbing on a wall? Why is this the ninth game in a franchise that was never good to begin with?
Tomb Raider: Underworld is not a good videogame, and you should not buy it. It’s a perfect example of shoddy, unfinished game development and feels like it should have spent several more months in development. It boggles my mind that this buggy, glitch-filled mess must have passed through the hands of dozens and dozens of QA testers, developers, and Eidos management, and they all said “Yep, this seems like a perfectly finished game to me!”
If you want excellent platforming, look towards Prince of Persia. If you want a great adventure game, play Uncharted. Tomb Raider: Underworld attempts features and abilities that mimic those two games, but falls laughably short in its efforts. Considering that none of the previous titles have been great games, I won’t even say it tarnishes the name of Tomb Raider. I’ll just say it’s a bad game.
First Play: 1.0
Replay Value: 2.0
Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.
Commenting has been disabled for this item.