Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Night with Lara Croft

If you weren’t already aware, a playable demo for the upcoming Tomb Raider: Underworld unearthed itself on Xbox Live on October 28 and it already looks like Crystal Dynamics, the team behind Tomb Raider: Legend and Tomb Raider: Anniversary, is ready for a three-peat. Aside from some camera issues, Underworld is pretty slick overall. The graphics showcase some impressive attention to detail and Lara Croft controls far more smoothly this time around, with a few more tricks added to her always-expanding acrobatic arsenal.

While the first two installments of the Eidos Interactive franchise showcased innovative level design—particularly for the mid-1990s—It was all downhill from there. Following initial success, it seemed as though less effort went into creating levels and puzzles that were actually fun as more attention and craftsmanship went toward rounding off Lara’s increasingly gravity-defying breasts. I'll admit, the 14-year-old version of me would have loved that job and I doubt I’d turn it down today. But I digress.

With 2006 came the multiplatform release of Tomb Raider: Legend, which made our favorite buxom treasure hunter relevant again outside of the so-so Angelina Jolie films. The following year, Eidos released a revamped and updated version of the original Tomb Raider, featuring new graphics, controls and slightly tweaked level design. What was old became new once again. And so here we are in 2008, awaiting the November 18 release date of the eighth (wow) game in this franchise.

In the demo, Lara is on the coast of Thailand exploring ancient ruins (are there any other kind?). Players will notice that the environments seem a bit more interactive than in the previous two Crystal Dynamics title—for example, Lara will physically push ferns and bushes aside as you move her through them. It's a subtle but effective showcase of the game's physics engine. Not so subtle is Lara's ability to actually kick attacking animals in the face. Have you ever kicked a tiger in the face? Lara Croft does it all the time.

As of this writing, I haven’t gotten all that far in the game, since I’ve developed a nasty habit of inadvertantly hurling Lara to her death in a piss-poor application of the “look before you leap” philosophy. But Underworld looks great, plays great and retains the thrill of exploration that was omnipresent in those early Tomb Raider titles.

And for those interested, yes, Lara’s boobs are still too large for her to be able to move the way she does and no, in this case I’m not a stickler for accuracy.

For more information on Tomb Raider: Underworld, visit tombraider.com.

Image courtesy of Eidos Interactive

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