A couple of weeks ago I got an exclusive playtest of Tomb Raider Underworld and got to speak to some of the team behind the game. Since then it’s been embargoed but now I can give you all the juicy info. So let me tell you what I saw.
Running on an Xbox 360 with a very decent framerate, the game opened with a usual shot of Lara’s behind looking over a temple as clouds swept across the sky with dismal rain falling from the skies. So weather effects are a new feature and even clouds cast shadows across the sky. Lara can even get muddy as she rolls over the ground and the rain slowly washes it off. Some people alone in their bedrooms may like to roll around a lot! – just for fun.
She then spots black panthers fighting enemy guards. This again is new AI similar to what we’ve seen in Bioshock, where AI characters will fight each other and you, creating a more dynamic world. She then bounced about targeting two panthers at once, so there’s a new dual targeting system in there too.
Next was the problem of getting high enough to climb about. Luckily, Lara can now pick up weapons such as big sticks and insert them into holes to make new vertical paths to ascend those dizzy heights she loves falling from so often.
Throughout, Lara looks more fluid than before and that’s because for the first time they motion-captured a gymnast. Would have liked to have had that job. They have also concentrated on her facial features more, showing off anger when she fights and even the odd smirk. Something’s funny, she just won’t tell us what it is.
We were then treated to a puzzle where Lara had to smash a stone floor, and luckily, there was a big stone block on a pillar above. Thanks to a new physics system, Lara could send out a grapple hook past the object, then move round to use the wire to push the block off the ledge and smash the floor. Again, we’ve seen it in other games but never through the eyes of Miss Croft.
Finally, after solving another puzzle Lara had to make it through a timed section on a motorbike with very fat wheels. Apparently there’s also something very cool about this which we haven’t been told about so expect another update when I get it.