x360a Review: Tomb Raider Underworld - Lara's Shadow
Written Friday, March 20, 2009 By Dan WebbView author's profile
In the latest DLC episode for Tomb Raider Underworld, Lara’s Shadow, unlike Beneath the Ashes which picks up after the ending of Underworld, the story runs alongside aspects of both the main story and Beneath the Ashes filling in a few blanks that you’d previously not seen. Although it’s not really necessary to have completed both Underworld and Beneath the Ashes before jumping into Lara's Shadow, we recommend that you do, otherwise the short, albeit entertaining story will not make any sense to you.
For the first time since Angel of Darkness *shudders*, you won't be taking control of Miss Croft for this part of the adventure, instead, you'll take control of Lara’s Shadow (thus the name) and will spend your time being the lap dog of evil super bitch, Natla. Lara’s doppleganger may seem like carbon copy of Miss Croft but that's only superficial, instead she’s everything Miss Croft is ... and then some. This can only be a good thing, right? Not necessarily. The speed and power that Lara’s Shadow possesses turns Tomb Raider from an exploration title in to more of beat-em up platformer which isn’t the tried and tested formula that the Tomb Raider series was built on. When Eidos said they were going to revamp Miss Croft, I truly hope that this is not the direction they were heading. In all honesty, the change in character isn’t all that bad, it’s just a little different and something that really doesn’t suit the series at all.
Whereas Lara spent her time jumping and navigating the combat arenas with finesse and her agility, Lara’s Shadow is more focussed on power. She possesses the ability to kick, punch, link combos and even take advantage of her shadow meter to unleash powerful blows on the countless Thralls you come across. At one point, we were taking on about 5 or 6 Thralls at once in a Streets of Rage style battle that didn't really feel at home in a Tomb Raider title. The other aspect of the shadow meter (which isn’t unlimited but is self regenerative by the way) allows Lara’s Shadow to access her super speed which effectively slows down time so Lara can make it through the countless puzzles that exist in the tunnels. Furthermore it allows Lara (well, her doppleganger) to access areas her mortal self wouldn’t be able to and Crystal Dynamics do take advantage of that to make some pretty neat puzzles and such.
The levels, as they were in Beneath the Shadows and Underworld, are large in scope and are a masterpiece in their own right. The puzzles take good advantage of the doppleganger’s excessive speed and power and do rely a lot on timing, more so than the other two aspects of the adventure. Part of the problem in Lara’s Shadow comes not with the level and the huge scope of it, but the fact that once you’re halfway through the adventure, you’ll be forced to retrace your steps and do it all over again, so you won't be best pleased. In fact, it’s a little insulting that you’re expected to pay 800 Microsoft Points to play two halves of the same level.
The achievements are one of the positive aspects of the title and rather than take the easy way out that they took with Beneath the Shadows, they utilise Lara’s Shadow’s speed and throw in some speed run areas. The speed run achievements, as seen in Legend, give the game a little challenge (achievement wise) in what has been a fairly easy 1125 points up until now. The rest of the achievements will have you collecting the relic and treasures ... which is what Tomb Raider is about right?
Unfortunately, other than a decent enough story and tying up a few loose ends from Underworld & Beneath the Ashes, Lara’s Shadow isn’t the greatest way to end the experience. Playing with a Lara-esque character who handles like Barry Bonds after a big night at the plate is not as fun as you would have thought. Considering the fact that you tread the same level twice, Lara’s Shadow is a hugely dissatisfying experience and with the plethora of great DLC out at the moment, it’s hard to recommend you spend 800 points on it.