Release Date: November 2008
Platforms: PC, PS3, PS2, Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo DS and mobile
Synopsis: Tomb Raider Underworld represents a new advancement in exploration-based gameplay. As fearless adventurer Lara Croft explore exotic locations around the world, each designed with an incredible attention to detail resulting in breathtaking high-definition visual fidelity that creates a truly believable world and delivers a new level of challenge and choice.
Tomb Raider: Underworld is a single player, action-adventure video game. The game is presented in third person perspective, where the player takes control of Lara Croft. Lara's environment reproduces a more "interactive world that reacts and remembers", such that footprints left in the mud or mud transferred to Lara's knee from kneeling on the ground is washed away by rain, the bodies of the foes she encounters remain where she killed them, and any destruction to the environment she causes are permanent.According tocreative director Eric Lindstrom, this is "to not only reward the player for the effect they're having on the world, but to give them navigational aids."The game uses an animation blending system that allows Lara to interact dynamically with her environment, such as pushing foliage aside with one or two hands, depending on if she is carrying a weapon.It also features a "hybrid lighting model that combines dynamic lights with carefully created light maps" and a weather system that changes the environment, for example, "If Lara’s negotiating a wet ledge she’s more apt to slip or lose grip," which makes "the environment [...] her adversary" for a large part of the game.
Lindstrom explained that they integrated the elements of climbing, shooting and puzzle solving.This instalment also features a new melee combat system, requiring Lara in some instances to use "direct combat and evasive manoeuvres to distance herself from her attacker". Notably, Lara's bike, among other things, is a key component in solving the puzzles she will encounter in her adventure.Pick-ups have multiple uses as weapons and tools in interaction with the environment, and Lindstrom stated that Lara "can also split up her guns and fire at two different targets simultaneously,"or hold an item with one hand and fire a gun with the other.The grappling hook can be stretched taut and used to pull objects off ledges, illustrating what project lead Rob Pavey said, that "Lara will be able to do anything that you'd expect her to be able to do," which he called "the big theme this year."Lindstrom describes this as "a philosophy called 'What Could Lara Do?'—WCLD. It's short-hand for having the player be able to use their own intuition about what someone with her abilities should be able to do in an environment such as this, and consistency across the different mechanics and abilities. If she can throw a grenade, then if she can pick up this pole, why can't she throw it?" Crystal Dynamics also made the game non-linear, offering elaborate multi-stage puzzles.
Another new design element was the "adrenaline moments". Instead of specific button presses, time slows down and gives the player a chance to get out of harm's way while retaining complete control of Lara.
In November 2007, Eidos was reported to have filed for a trademark on the phrase, Tomb Raider Underworld,and soon after reserved the Tomb Raider Underworld domain name.In December 2007, Eidos filed for a second trademark for Tomb Raider Underworld, reserving the right to provide "computer games that may be accessed network-wide by network users."In the January 2008 issue of the magazine Play, details from the "first-ever demo" of the game were revealed.SCi, which owned Eidos at the time, officially announced Tomb Raider: Underworld on 10 January 2008, and confirmed that all platform versions of the game would be released simultaneously in November 2008.
Play's assertions that the game is the "first true next gen Lara with one big physics smorgasbord that looks altogether photo-real"led to speculation that Tomb Raider: Underworld might be using a new game engine for its next-generation graphics rather than the system used byTomb Raider: Legend and Tomb Raider: Anniversary. Later, the Senior Producer and External Designer separately confirmed that Underworlduses an all-new engine that was built especially for it.This new engine is also used in the game Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
Tomb Raider: Underworld was developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Eidos Interactive as the final Tomb Raider title to be published under the Eidos Interactive label prior to its purchase by Square Enix.Different versions of the game were developed by Crystal Dynamics, Buzz Monkey Software, Nixxes Software and Santa Cruz Games, all published by Eidos Interactive. Crystal Dynamics developed the Xbox 360 version and collaborated with Nixxes Software for the PC and PlayStation 3 versions.Santa Cruz Games developed the Nintendo DS version,while the Wii and PlayStation 2 versions were developed by Buzz Monkey Software.The Mac version was developed by Crystal Dynamics and released by Feral Interactive.
Lara's costume was redesigned and she no longer wears her trademark turquoise sleeveless top and khaki shorts, but instead, a dark brown halter top and black shorts. Additionally, her hair is no longer braided, but worn in a ponytail. According to Play, Lara "moves as good as she looks [and] no longer moves like a video game character" due to her being fully motion captured.Olympic gymnast andNCAA Women's Gymnastics champion Heidi Moneymaker was the model used for motion capturing.Lara Croft is said to have over 2,000 animations.Keeley Hawes provided the voice of Lara in this instalment, as she did in Anniversary and Legend.Gymnast Alison Carroll was selected as the new official Lara Croft model to promote the game, replacing Karima Adebibe.
The first official video, entitled "Beneath the Surface", was released on 17 July 2008, and featured interviews with members of the development team and showed screenshots, artwork, and several clips of gameplay footage. A teaser trailer was released on 19 July 2008,and the first gameplay trailer was released on 15 August 2008
After an agreement with Microsoft, Eidos released two new chapters of Tomb Raider: Underworld as exclusive downloadable content on the Xbox Live Marketplace: Beneath the Ashes on 24 February 2009 and Lara's Shadow on 10 March 2009.According to an MTV Multiplayer blog post, an Eidos spokesperson has stated that there are no plans to release the content for PlayStation 3 or Microsoft Windows. Following a negative reaction from fans, Eidos released a statement explaining that they were approached by Microsoft, and to confirm "there are no plans for additional downloadable content for PS3".
It was also announced that two new outfits, made by Quebec fashion designers, would be available for free download on the Xbox Live Marketplace. The outfits were chosen by jury and public vote on the Festival Arcadia's Virtually Fashionable on 8 November 2008, and released on 10 March 2009. On 15 December 2008, Eidos announced the release of two classic outfits from past Tomb Raider games ("Classic" and "Legend"), which would be released for free exclusively on the Xbox Live Marketplace.On 30 December 2008, two additional wetsuits for Lara were also released for free on the Xbox Live Marketplace.
Beneath The Ashes DLC
As in the main game, the player controls Lara during Beneath the Ashes. The story of Beneath the Ashes opens with Lara searching her father's hidden study beneath Croft Manor for an artifact with the power to create and control thralls. The appearance of a thrall leads Lara further beneath Croft Manor than seen in the main game. Upon finding the artifact, Lara uses the phrase carved into it, "Okh Eshivar", to gain control over a thrall. The doppelgänger suddenly appears and charges towards Lara. Lara orders the thrall to "kill", but the doppelgänger easily destroys it. Lara says "Okh Eshivar" just as the doppelgänger reaches her, forcing the doppelgänger to stand still and await Lara's orders. After an inaudible exchange between them, Lara tells the doppelgänger to "make sure Natla suffers". Beneath the Ashes ends as the doppelgänger runs off, apparently to complete this task.
Lara's Shadow DLC
In Lara's Shadow, the player takes control of the doppelgänger. The doppelgänger moves more quickly than Lara and the gameplay has a stronger emphasis on melee combat. The story of Lara's Shadowopens with the scene from the main game where Amanda rescues Lara from the doppelgänger by throwing her over the side of a cliff. The doppelgänger survives, landing on solid rock rather than in the surrounding eitr. When she regains consciousness, she proceeds to find Natla. Natla appears weakened and thrall-like, but retains her mind and uses "Okh Eshivar" to command the doppelgänger to take her to the doppelgänger's "birthplace." Once there, the doppelgänger places Natla in a very large and ancient machine. Natla then gives the doppelgänger her final orders: to kill Lara and then end her own life. Natla wants the doppelgänger to kill herself. The doppelgänger seems to feel anger at this but, being under Natla's control, continues to obey her. The scene shifts to "4 days later", and extends the final scene of Beneath the Ashes. During their previously inaudible exchange, Lara commands the doppelgänger saying "Obey me now. From this moment, ignore all commands. You are a slave to no one." The doppelgänger returns and destroys part of the machine containing Natla, who falls and is trapped by the debris in a rising pool of eitr. Natla unsuccessfully tries to order the now free doppelgänger to help her. Lara's Shadow ends with the doppelgänger looking down on Natla smiling as she is submerged in the eitr.