x360a Review: Tomb Raider Underworld - Beneath the Ashes

Dan Webb

After what can only be described as a shambolic build up to the Tomb Raider Underworld downloadable content, we can finally put the cut game content claims and its delayed release behind us as we head back to the world of Lara Croft and really get “Beneath the Ashes.”

Beneath the Ashes takes place after the events of Tomb Raider Underworld but funnily enough, you don’t really need to have experienced the main game ... or remembered it, to enjoy it. The plot is simple, Lara has discovered one of her father’s files that documents a hidden artifact that has the ability to create and control these mystical thralls and as a raider of tombs, Lara must travel into the depths that lay under her now cremated mansion to retrieve it.

The story is light, with a cutscene at the beginning and the end, so nothing too engaging or strenuous, so it’s up to the environment to pull you in and it does just that. The age old crypts and caverns that exist beneath Croft Manor are dark, dingy and as creepy as that old man in the tin hat that throws bread crumbs at the school kids on their way home from school. The lighting is spot on and the detail is as good as you could expect from the retail game.
The game is, as expected, bugged with the same issues that are prevalent in the full retail version, with plenty of blind jumping along the way. Beneath the Ashes also went a little beyond Underworld with the odd occasional frame rate issue resulting in stuttering gameplay, and some awkward jump sections that if not hit exactly, you’ll spend 5 minutes tracking back to try again, which as you can imagine is hugely frustrating.

From the bad to the good though, where the full retail excelled in epic multi stage puzzles, Beneath the Ashes focuses more on the subtle and clever puzzles which are equally as compelling. I’m sure you’ll have your ‘scratch the head’ moments as we did, but if that ever happens, Lara’s father’s journal can act as a handy hints guide along the way. Don’t think it’s all clever puzzles and archaic scenery though, you’ll have your share of bats, huge spiders and thralls to take care of along the way.

Like the main game, the crypt is littered with treasures and relics to collect which make up 75 of the 125 achievement points; with the other 50 going to the completing the chapter. Not an ideally easy 125 points for some, but one that will have you searching the darkest of crannies for that last hidden treasure.
You’ll be left with mixed emotions after playing Beneath the Ashes. On the one hand you’ll have really enjoyed the experience, especially the fact that the new level isn’t a patchwork quilt of other environments from the main game; it’s a fresh new level with some pretty great puzzles. On the other hand, 2 or 3 hours will have passed and you’ll be questioning the price for such a short albeit entertaining experience. Where do you draw the line though? If the full retail game gives you 10 hours play and costs £40, then surely £7 for 2 or 3 hours is bang on. Well, we’d be inclined at saying that the full retail game should have been longer, just like this should have been for 800 points. Damn you Rockstar and their value for money DLC!! Either way, if you love Tomb Raider, you’ll love this, I did ... even if the price is probably twice as much as you should be paying. Where the content lacks on longevity and value for money, it makes up for on style and substance.

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