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
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
, so that too is refreshing.

In comparison to Beneath the
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.