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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May, 2005, 09:10 GMT 10:10 UK
Lara Croft gets new lease of life
Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website, in Los Angeles

Screenshot of the updated Lara Croft
Lara's first outing as the relic-hunting heroine was in 1996
The iconic heroine of the Tomb Raider games, Lara Croft, is getting a total makeover in an attempt to revive the fortunes of the cyber idol.

The last game in the franchise, Angel of Darkness, bombed, widely criticised for being virtually unplayable.

The people behind Lara are hoping to resurrect her fortunes by going back to basics.

They offered a first look at Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend at last week's E3 games expo in Los Angeles.

'Fresh development'

"Everything is new," said Matt Gorman, global brand manager for game makers Eidos.

"Not a single line of code came from Core," the team behind the ill-fated Angel of Darkness.

Screenshot of the updated Lara Croft
It is hoped that Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend can revive the franchise
For Legend, Eidos has handed over the making of the game to US developers, Crystal Dynamics.

The studio, which is owned by Eidos, has made a reputation for itself with games like Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver and Project Snowblind.

"We wanted fresh development," said Mr Gorman, acknowledging the previous Tomb Raider game had been "horrific".

"With Angel of Darkness, we strayed. We took Lara out of her context, out of the tombs."

'Original vision'

The setting of Legend will be familiar to Lara fans. The game is set in a world of tombs, jungle and mountain ruins.

The look of Lara Croft has also changed. She looks far more like her original incarnation, rather than the busty heroine she morphed into for some of the later games.

The production quality of Angel of Darkness has harmed the franchise. But if we can create a well-reviewed Tomb Raider game, the fans will come back to us
Matt Gorman, Eidos
This is due to the involvement of Lara's original creator, Toby Gard, in the game.

"Toby had an original vision for Lara," said Mr Gorman. "He has been able to put his vision into the game."

The level shown at E3 showed a more lifelike Lara exploring ruins and tombs, with the mix of fighting, leaping and puzzle-solving that has come to characterise Tomb Raider games.

But no one was allowed to play the game, so it is impossible to comment on the gameplay.

This was the major failing of Angel of Darkness. Its awkward control system and a bewildering third-person perspective quickly undermined any enjoyment of the game.

Lara's appeal

Since the first Tomb Raider game was released in 1996, Lara Croft has gone on to become a global phenomenon.

She has made it onto the silver screen in the shape of Angelina Jolie and has featured as the cover model on countless magazines.

Screenshot of the updated Lara Croft
The game's developers say the title is going "back to basics"
But Angel of Darkness games tested the faith of even the most hardcore fans.

And the producers of the second Tomb Raider film blamed the game for the movie's poor box office performance.

"We've found the affinity and the appeal of Lara Croft is still there," said Mr Gorman.

"The production quality of Angel of Darkness has harmed the franchise. But if we can create a well-reviewed Tomb Raider game, the fans will come back to us."

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend is due to be released for the PlayStation 2, the Xbox, the GameCube and the PC in the autumn.

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