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Laras second DLC experience proves to be much better than her first

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lara’s second DLC experience proves to be much better than her first
By Dakota Grabowski

Diverse and vociferous, Lara's Shadow is what fans have been craving 

Eidos and Crystal Dynamics have served up a second offering of Tomb Raider: Underworld DLC goodness for fans that can’t get enough of the title. The first episode proved to be a big disappointment, so their second DLC offering – in the form of Tomb Raider: Underworld - Lara’s Shadow – is what fans have been waiting for. Once again, the DLC is exclusive to the Xbox 360, so Microsoft is the only home of a handful of expansions to last year’s biggest titles including Fallout 3, Grand Theft Auto IV and now Tomb Raider.

What does the second expansion do that the first didn’t? Well for one, the gameplay is much diverse and vociferous. It’s wild, it’s entertaining and it’s not one to be missed. The puzzles are more complicated than they were in Beneath the Ashes and the title gives more emphasis on the combat. Lara’s Shadow takes place near the end of Underworld when Lara’s evil double is up to no good. If you’ve never finished Underworld or haven’t heard about the storyline, I’ll avoid storyline spoilers and just mention that Lara’s evil twin is out to cause chaos. Doing a good job of tying loose ends from Underworld and Beneath the Ashes, Lara’s Shadow does a great job of providing a well-rounded experience.

Changing up the gameplay mechanics, Lara’s doppelganger depends on her hand-to-hand expertise more than Ms. Croft ever did. She also has much more oomph to her punches since she’s stronger and has superhuman speed at her aide. By using either bumper on the 360 controller, players will gain access to her powers that are known as Shadow Power. Shadow Power is your basic bullet time effect that assists the power and speed of her attacks. It’s a nice addition the game, but you’ve seen it and done it all before in other games. This change to a more combat focused DLC expansion is nice, but I still favor the platforming elements over the action bits.

What else has changed? The Shadow Power replaces the focus meter for Lara. The doppelganger is able to lay waste to thralls (the undead) with relative ease. With speed and agility on your side, the traps and puzzles are much more dangerous and will have you biting at your nails for your own safety. The environments that have been created for Lara’s Shadow are brilliantly large, so be prepared to be in awe of how much adventuring that is set before you. Exploration is joyous and enthralling at times, Lara’s Shadow captures the essence what Tomb Raider is all about. In addition, the camera angles are more forgiving than they were in Underworld, so that too is refreshing.

In comparison to Beneath the Ashes, Lara’s Shadow has a tiny bit more of replay value. This biggest draw of the second expansion is the ability to play as Lara’s evil twin – she’s a fresh breath of air. The length of the expansion is a little longer, but not by much. Beneath the Ashes took an hour and a half while Lara’s Shadow lasted about two hours on my speed run. The price is the valued the same at $10 (800 Microsoft Points). Lastly, the ending is better than both Underworld and Beneath the Ashes due to that it doesn’t leave you scratching your head.

Here’s to hoping a third pack comes in the future that combines both the adventures of Lara and her double. If they can continue applying the same quality production values when it comes to delivering large scale environments, they’ll be able to lure Tomb Raider fans back for one more go-around for Underworld. It’s recommended that you skip over Beneath the Ashes and head straight to Lara’s Shadow if you can only purchase one.

Pros: Lara’s doppelganger, the large scale environments and fast-paced action.

Cons: Only lasts two hours and not enough enemy variety.

 

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