The Aldwych Underground vs The Tall Oaks Underground

Friday 12 August 2016

The Aldwych level is one of the most iconic sections in Tomb Raider 3, and an all-time fan favorite. The Underground chapter of Leon Kennedy's campaign from Resident Evil 6 is an impeccable piece of modern survival horror setting and gameplay. These two sections, although divided by a distance of almost 15 years, have a few very interesting things in common.

Lara Croft in Tomb Raider 3 and Leon Kennedy with Helena Harper in Resident Evil 6 descent into the depths of the Subway system of London and fictional town Tall Oaks respectively, for different reasons. Lara is looking for the secret lair of the Damned, while Leon and Helena take the underground route so as to make it as safe as possible on their way to the local Cathedral, while the town above is infested with zombies.

However how both Undergrounds look and what the heroes encounter down there is pretty similar.

The Aldwych Underground and the Tall Oaks Underground are both abandoned, but not for the same reason. The first is closed while the second is out of use temporarily due to the zombie outbreak. Even so, there are spots in the whole place that look regular, and one can mistake them for standard, safe stations.

The escalators in Aldwych look normal (albeit being out of order) and there are posters on the walls as well:

Equally in Tall Oaks Subway, some platforms look relatively OK and there are posters here too:

On that specific platform however, things are not as normal a few steps ahead.

Any creepy Underground that respects itself must include mice. In the Aldwych station, they are enormous and if they get close, they can even bite you.

 While in Tall Oaks, they are standard size, and absolutely harmless.

While wandering around the platforms, Lara and Leon with Helena come across a random burning fire. In Aldwych it was probably lit by the Damned so as to keep them warm.

It is a simple campfire-style fire, built with planks of wood.

In Tall Oaks Underground, it blazes in a barrel, although it's again planks of wood that are burning. It is not clear why it's there but I would guess it was possibly lit by survivors that sought shelter in the Subway, before they turned into zombies themselves.

Most probably to burn something, considering the time of year was June, therefore there would normally be no need for seeking ways to keep oneself warm.

A dog may be a man's best friend, but not in these cases. Lara stumbles upon a few dogs that are not particularly friendly and  show their teeth in any given instance.

The same happens with the dogs in the Tall Oaks Underground, which not only are hostile, they are also zombie versions of themselves.

And it's not long before the dogs decide to attack directly. Lara gets in serious trouble with these guys.

Of course the dogs that attack Lara would probably cower in shame in case they encountered their Tall Oaks counterparts.

Holy moly!

All of a sudden, the stations become unusually crowded. And with what crowd! The tough, long-bearded guys that Lara encounters are determined to kick her out.

As it turns out by the end of the level, though - and after Lara has already disposed of half the Underground population there - the Damned were in fact victims of failed experiments and were inhabiting the abandoned Subway like the living dead.

Meanwhile in the Tall Oaks Underground, Leon and Helena are in slightly bigger trouble:

The guys they get to encounter are not 'like' the living dead, they are the living dead (aka: zombies). And if Lara had the chance to talk with the Damned and become their ally, there's no way Leon and Helena can do such a thing with the zombies. The zombies are creepy enough out in the open, let alone in the dark and secluded Subway. It is notable that many of the Underground zombies are particularly resistant to attacks; and don't even get me started on those that vomit toxic goo on Leon and Helena.

In the Subways there is also a train that is parked near a platform. In Aldwych, it is just sitting there, out of use.

In Tall Oaks Subway, it seems like it had to stop midway, as there are (zombified) passengers inside. Of course you don't know this until you get in.

Lara and Helena can get to the top of those trains. Lara does it by herself, as the train is short therefore she can jump and grab its roof and go up.

What she finds up there is a shiney box of flares.

I'm pretty sure that if Helena was on her own, she would find a way to get up by herself. For now, she gets boosted by Leon to reach the train's roof.

What she finds there is an open ceiling hatch, from which she drops in the compartment so as to unlock the door for Leon.

Lara does not enter the train on which she climbs, but she does enter another, very similar one, near the end of the level. Or, now that I think about it, it could be the same train, as she enters from a trapdoor. In any case, once inside, the air is still eery and worrisome, despite the bright colours and vintage architecture.

Leon and Helena get inside the train with the open ceiling hatch, and the atmosphere in there is no less creepy:

The dim light, the random screams heard from various directions, the waking zombie passengers, all add up to a perfect evening train promenade. Not.

What is a creepy Underground without a ghost train? Both Aldwych and Tall Oaks Subway have plenty. The ghost trains pop out of nowhere, running at top speed, unable to stop because nobody is driving them, and disappear as mysteriously as they appear.

Lara can avoid them by jumping in any depression that she finds close.

While Leon and Helena can dodge it by sticking onto the wall of the Subway.

And of course if those trains catch you off guard, they will send you to your doom before you know it. This is depicted in a bit less gory way for Lara (the technology of the time wasn't so developed, so the blood looks a bit like red ink dots) but more graphic (you get to see her clearly being knocked by the train):

It's a whole lot more gory for Leon or Helena (the character with which you play only gets killed, as the bot is normally more careful), but it's very rapid and you can easily miss it:

And it's Game Over for everyone then.

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