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Becomming Lara


Lara Croft: From Tomb Raider to Underworld

We've tried to keep it secret, but why hide the truth? TrustedReviews loves Lara Croft and her Tomb Raider adventures. Look - we've even got the same initials! It just happens that some of us on the team were just cutting our journalistic teeth when Lara appeared back in 1996. We were instantly smitten, and even through the hard times and the dark times, we've never been able to let go. So the first sightings of a new Tomb Raider game - Underworld - have got us excited once again. Can the team at Crystal Dynamics carry on the good work they started with Legend? Can they top the much loved Anniversary? Who knows, but it has made us think about what makes this series so special, and take a look back at Lara's exploits, starting at the very beginning.

Tomb Raider actually began development on Sega's ill-fated Saturn console a good three years before it would hit the spotlight on the PlayStation and PC platforms. Core Design had developed a close relationship with Sega during the Megadrive and Mega CD years, but for the new era of 3D consoles the developer wanted to create a new kind of game: a fully 3D action adventure. The team went to work with two big selling points in mind (no, not those). The game had to look like a film, and that film's star was to spend the entirety of the game on screen.


The humble beginnings of a legend. Hard to believe, but these were cutting edge graphics back in 1996.


That star began as a standard issue male military type, but under the guiding hands of lead designer and animator Toby Gard she became first a gung-ho American adventurer - Laura Cruz - and then a more refined English explorer, Lara Croft. The gameplay became less action oriented and more puzzle and platform-based. Infamously, Lara's most notable assets came into play when Gard enlarged her polygonal chest by mistake, only to find that everybody liked the result.

Tomb Raider was a revolutionary title. By the time it was released Mario 64 had blazed the trail for third-person 3D platform games - and stands up better visually today. However, there was something in TR's more realistic style and grand, exotic environments that appealed to players. It was a perfect match for the impressive power of the first 3D consoles - and a great way to show off the capabilities of the early PC 3D graphics accelerators. Tomb Raider pioneered the cinematic storytelling style that would be taken further by the likes of Metal Gear Solid, while dishing out set-piece after set-piece that inspired a real sense of awe and wonder. Even the most cynical game journalists had to admit this was something new and brilliant. Lara's game had an impact that even the likes of Halo or Bioshock would envy.

And with Lara, Core created a character that appealed to not just men, but women. Sure, teenage geeks loved to back Lara into a corner and check out her ‘bad boys' or shunt her into a wall so she made that peculiar ‘ooh' noise. Some even applied the legendary ‘Nude Raider' patch. Women, however, found Lara an easier figure to identify with than the average space marine or ninja assassin, and they liked the emphasis on exploration and logic puzzles. Tomb Raider had great locations and an interesting story to tell. You just had to know where Lara would end up next.

Within a year, it was clear that Tomb Raider was more than just another hit game. Lara started to appear in newspapers and mainstream magazines, culminating in a June 1997 cover feature in UK style bible, The Face. Eidos played up the hype, hiring a string of starlets to pose as Lara at events and trade shows. Ms Croft even made a guest video appearance in U2's huge Pop Mart world tour.

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