E3 2008: Tomb Raider Underworld Hands-On

Lara Croft drops the hammer, Thor's Hammer, this fall.

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Deep within the bowels of the Eidos booth at E3 2008, we got our hands all over Lara Croft in her latest adventure, Tomb Raider Underworld. Her adventure begins, appropriately, under the sea in a cave on the floor of the Mediterranean. There, she will eventually learn that the legendary Thor's Hammer is not a myth, but real. Unfortunately, the secrets of the fabled weapon are guarded by a kraken whose giant tentacles block Lara's path. Our only choice is to drop a huge block of spikes on the kraken's head and make calamari. Our apologies to kraken enthusiasts everywhere for our inhumane treatment of krakens.

To accomplish this feat, Lara slyly jumped from platform to platform and shimmied across gaps in typical Tomb Raider fashion. Lara can use a grappling hook to snag onto stone columns, and then rein in the hook to pull down the stone column, this time on a kraken's tentacle. The level serves as a basic tutorial for navigating the increasingly complicated environments in Underworld. This adventure takes place in Thailand, Mexico, and "the far north," said Eidos, and each area will feature a different underworld, such as the Mayan hell known as Xibalba. After gathering clues and items from each of these underworlds, Lara will eventually track down Thor's hammer, which legend holds has the power to destroy even the Gods. If the hammer thing doesn't work out, Lara still has her trusty duel pistols.

Visually, Tomb Raider Underworld has a long way to go. That's good since the game is still in a pre-alpha state, although it must be said that Lara looked especially lovely in her form-fitting wetsuit. Despite a few bugs, expect large, wide-open environments and multiple paths to reaching your objectives, as well as an all-terrain motorcycle outfitted to negotiate snow and ice. Other new gadgets include an active sonar map that emits an active sonar ping that creates an image of Lara's surroundings, and the grappler that allows for wall runs and rappelling.

Tomb Raider Underworld is expected to be released this November, and we'll have more in the coming months.

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