A legend reborn, that's what SCI/Eidos are promising with the new version of Lara Croft, Tomb Raider: Legend. After the back street abortion that was Angel of Darkness, the long running Tomb Raider series certainly needed some kind of rebirth; post-Angel, one of gaming's enduring icons could easily have sunk without a trace.
Yet with both a new developer and a new direction, there were strong hopes that Crystal Dynamics could inject new life into a fading franchise. We didn't hear much for ages after the initial announcement and then as fellow hacks first began to encounter the title, the whispering campaign began. "Have you seen the new Tomb Raider?"; "No really, it looks amazing, Legend could be Lara's reincarnation."
Despite their most convincing entreaties, we still maintained a healthy scepticism, as Public Enemy once noted, "Don't Believe The Hype." That scepticism endured until last week when we encountered Tomb Raider: Legend first hand behind closed doors at the Leipzig Games Show. Although we only saw one level based in Africa, by the end of one stunning 20 minute presentation we were more than half way to being convinced. Legend could indeed signal the rebirth of Lara Croft as gaming's premier icon.
You can read more about the actual game itself by checking our exhaustive coverage through the links up there to your left, but we nabbed the chance to speak to Legend producer, Morgan W Gray, to hear the very latest on Lara's re-launch, new gameplay elements and of course, that untold origin.
Here's what we discovered.
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend is obviously a very new direction for the series, almost a rebirth, was that the way you looked at it when you were designing the game?
Morgan W Gray: All along, all along, that was the entire goal. We realised Lara Croft was very strong and the franchise was very well loved, but we've had some disappointment from the fans [over the previous version]. We looked at the core of the game, some of the best things we've done in the past and we wanted to make sure we propel them forward and bring in some new additions that the fans want. We also asked 'what if we were back in 1994, Tomb Raider one, what would we do with that as a starting point?'
So you've adopted a very back-to-basics approach with Legend?
Morgan W Gray: Exactly, we feel Lara Croft is an adventurer and the game is called Tomb Raider, so we wanted to get her back into the exotic locales where the game was based in the first place. Exploring places that no other person has ever been - let's focus on the tombs. We do it throughout multiple environments, that's one of our cornerstones. That's not to say we don't have a few urban locales but our main focus is on bringing you to corners of the world to do adventuring Croft-style.
One of the main draws is obviously the new Lara Croft model. Could you fill us in on some of the design decisions on the look and feel?
Morgan W Gray: Our new Lara model was obviously a very difficult undertaking. How do you re-define an icon, how do you make her modern and get the right look? So we spent a lot of time going back and forth but we're pretty happy with her athletic build, her facial features. We think she's still sexy and sensual, but without being cartoony. She looks like an adventurer.
We also really wanted a low interface in the game, we wanted everything to be natural so her equipment is all on her body, that's all she uses. She always has her dual pistols and her new magnetic grapple, which allows her to do numerous things like pull objects toward her, or use it like a rope. We've got a digital imaging device, her binoculars which have a host of new modes and functions. Grenades, weapons she picks up from her enemies. We wanted to keep the tools simple but give a lot of functionality and multi-purpose use. We felt like if we overloaded you with 80 million single-use type things, we'd diminish the overall experience.