|PS3 / XBOX 360||USA|
By Jeriaska . July 24, 2008 . 1:36pm
Visitors to the Eidos booth at E3 were treated to a walkthrough of the introductory stage of Tomb Raider: Underworld, the eigth installment in the series and the third developed by Crystal Dynamics. Lara starts off this installment with scuba gear, which she equips to visit the ancient ruins located at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. The gear allows the player unlimited time to explore the vast underwater expanses. There is even the option of taking out a digital camera with which to share the locations of secret areas and play paths with others over the Xbox or Playstation networks.
While swimming toward the ruins, Lara is targeted, as usual, by the local predators — this time by sharks. While submerged, the player has recourse to a spear gun and sticky grenades, which the developers have dubbed the "instant sushi maker." There are bioluminescent jellyfish stationed by the walls of the ruins that provide a light source for exploring the caverns, and also pose as a hazard that the player must navigate around. Lara can also use a flashlight, which unlike Tomb Raider Legend's has an unlimited power supply. As Lara passes through dirt-strewn passages after climbing out of the water, her face and feet will noticeably be streaked with grime.
One of the new design elements of the game is the ability to pick up items too large to fit in Lara's backpack. The player can carry them around, as in the case of a giant key that is needed to open the doors to the underwater fortress. Above ground, Lara can use these portable objects as weapons, and still have a hand free to aim one one of her firearms. After opening the portal and breaching the water's surface, you enter a flooded hallway and see a giant tentacle. The way forward is blocked by a giant sea creature, called a kraken. The stationary monster's appearance does not initiate a boss fight — rather the player needs to flip a series of giant switches to progress past the obstacle.
The upcoming title marks the first time Lara's animations have been motion captured, courtesy of former professional gymnast Heidi Moneymaker. Looking up the athlete's profile on IMDb, you can see a list of her roles as stunt doubles on big-budget action movies. Lara's moves become more noticeable during select moments when she is placed in great danger. At those predetermined events, time slows down and the player must react to the sudden peril. During these adrenaline moments, a button prompt flashes on screen, which must be responded to within a certain window. For instance, in facing the kraken, the creature will fling out a tentacle at the character and smash the platforms Lara is standing on. These are the first of the game's split-second reactions that players will need to pull off in order to progress through Tomb Raider: Underworld when the game is released this November.