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Tomb Raider: Underworld

Bigger levels, better moves, tighter shorts - Perfect

Standing on a boat in the middle of the Med, the voluptuous Lady Croft glistens in the sun. She leaps into the bluest ocean we've ever seen, equips her breathing apparatus, and makes for a sunken tomb.

The scale is jaw-dropping. Lara is free to swim wherever she pleases and, after a dive which seems to last forever, she sets about exploring the buildings half-buried in the seabed. Tomb Raider has never looked this good.

Crystal Dynamic's latest demo revealed parts of Underworld's second mission and also introduced a handful of new features. First up is Lara's radar - a ping map which reveals hidden areas. After finding a locked door she must locate two keys to gain entry into the tomb. One is on a nearby altar. The other? Hidden in a room behind a mass of seaweed. Exploration would eventually have uncovered this treat, but the radar realistically cuts down on hapless searching.

Zoom

Lara's been practicing a few new moves too. Swimming has been altered, allowing the heroine to be directed with just the analogue stick. It's a helpful adjustment, and a necessary one given the abundance of hungry sharks and poisonous jellyfish.

Gym freak
Lara's also able to perform a hand-over-hand stretch to bridge gaps in ledges when hanging. She can now abseil (rather than stop during a wall-run and adjust her height), and she's learned how to perch on horizontal poles too.

All these moves were used to reach the demo's final room, where a battle against a Kraken awaited. Emerging victorious, her legs and arms were visibly muddy from the acrobatics along the way. Filthy, injured, and in trouble with the RSPCA, we fell in love with Lara even more.

Underworld looks stunning, but the visuals are the least of the improvements. Every level's scale feels like St. Francis' Folly times ten. Without doubt this open-world-ish design is the direction the series was meant to take.

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