A much talked about feature is the tips system, which dishes out a clue or a much more blatant piece of advice at the touch of a button. In our experience these tips have mixed rates of success, with our struggles often coming not because we didn't know what needed to be done, but how we had to do it. For example, one level sees you having to find two jaguar heads. Having found one we searched high and low for the second, but simply couldn't find it. The tips system told us that we needed to find the two jaguar heads and place them on two dials at either ends of a massive room. Not much help really. It turned out that we'd managed to miss the first jaguar head which was located at the start of the level.
Something else we found to be a missed opportunity is the sonar map. Accessed from your PDA, this nifty gadget gives you a 3D map of the surrounding area, but we couldn't find a good use for it. Something you might have been expecting is the ability to take pictures and share them with friends (perhaps even showing them the location of hidden gems), but this sadly didn't make it in.
We've had some great looking games over the past year or so, and Underworld is on par with some of the best. Lara herself looks superb, the environments are massive, the detail is hugely impressive and the lighting is wonderful. Comparisons are bound to be made to Naughty Dog's PS3 exclusive Uncharted, and from a visual stand point Underworld certainly doesn't come off as second best. If anything, Lara's latest offers a more diverse range of environments to play in. Even the underwater sections look great (and thankfully control well too).
Much of the wow factor comes from the colossal structures you'll come across and the many massive statues that adorn rooms. If there's a disappointment it's the lack of many epic monsters. The Kraken that has been seen in the pre-release media is a sight to behold and a highlight from the first few hours of the game, but apart from that you'll mainly come across creatures that are large for their species (big spiders and lizards mainly) rather than being giants. It's really only a slight niggle, with the levels themselves providing more than enough spectacle on their own.
Lara is once again voiced perfectly by the lovely Keeley Hawes, and the supporting cast doesn't do a bad job either, with many familiar characters returning. We'd go as far as to say the storytelling here is the best it's been in the series to date, and the ending is both satisfying and open for further games in the series. Xbox 360 owners get Achievements, making gem collecting all the more worthwhile, but sadly PS3 owners don't get trophies - hopefully this is something developer Crystal Dynamics can add at a later date.
Tomb Raider: Underworld is a visually stunning, epic adventure that continues Crystal Dynamics' excellent run. We reckon it's the best completely original Tomb Raider (Anniversary was, of course, a remake) we've had in years, and is only let down by the odd control quirk and camera issue. If you're looking for a game heavy on exploration instead of gun-play and don't mind looking at a finely toned arse for 12 or more hours, Underworld comes highly recommended.