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Joystiq Review: Tomb Raider Underworld: Lara's Shadow (DLC)


Acting as a cracked mirror, reflecting the obsession and ruthlessness that has come to envelop Lara Croft in her most recent adventures, the Doppelganger makes for an interesting choice of protagonist for Tomb Raider Underworld's second downloadable expansion. As Lara's shadow so curtly explains, she's an exact duplicate of Tomb Raider's lithe leading lady -- minus all the flaws.

Unfortunately, Lara's Shadow is anything but, serving only to highlight and exacerbate one of the biggest problems that has plagued the Tomb Raider series since its inception. It's vaguely appalling that developer Crystal Dynamics has managed to introduce even more combat this time around, even after removing most of Lara's guns.

It's shame, then, that you have to punch all the monsters to death.

Lara's Shadow shows a lot of promise at the beginning. With enhanced reflexes and superior strength, the Doppelganger plays like Lara Croft ... if she had super powers. The pace of platforming quickens dramatically, with Doppy scurrying up walls and leaping distances that would take regular old Lara straight to the Game Over screen. Add in a nifty (albeit trite) ability to slow down time, and you're left with an exciting take on Tomb Raider's methodical platforming.

It's shame, then, that you have to punch all the monsters to death. Though Doppy still packs a pair of pistols, she's better off using her fists and feet while fighting enemies that are too numerous to avoid and too inept to be entertaining. A few flashy special attacks fail to redeem an asinine combat system that manages to outstay its welcome in a 90-minute adventure.

There's always been a strange tug-of-war between Tomb Raider's more thoughtful adventuring and its exotic animal blasting, and it's never been more obvious than in Lara's Shadow. You'll climb ancient structures and reactivate spectacular machinery! Then you'll stand on a platform and kill a legion of monsters, which then triggers some arbitrary mechanism necessary for your progress. That sort of thing deserves an inarticulate "ugh."

Those looking to forgive all the violent parts and focus on platforming should know that Lara's Shadow features some impressive environments that are definitely worth seeing once. But twice? Running through the game's second half again to undo your previous mission objective is likely to leave you feeling dissatisfied and cheated -- and that's absolutely not a feeling you want after spending $10.

Sorry, Doppy. Sometimes there's just no substitute for the real thing.

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