Our 12 for 2012 Q&A series continues with Square Enix's Tomb Raider reboot, unveiled last winter and developed by serial Croft worshippers Crystal Dynamics. It's a dark turn for the franchise, taking place before Lara proved herself worthy of gracing a box cover. Here's everything you need to know.
Check our first 12 for 2012 feature for the lowdown on Aliens: Colonial Marines.
First things first: who's the voice actress for the new Lara Croft?
We're not sure. Keeley Hawes - Zoe Reynolds off the BBC's Spooks - voiced Lara in Tomb Raider: Legend, Anniversary and Underworld plus downloadable spin-off Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, but apparently isn't involved with the reboot. When we last spoke to Crystal Dynamics they weren't ready to reveal anything. We'll say this though: whoever voiced the demo we saw sounds like an American actress putting on da Queen's English. Controversial.
Presumably nailing the voice is more than usually important, given that this game is about redefining the character.
Indeed. And thanks, you've waltzed us into our introduction nicely. The new Tomb Raider is all about growing up. Tomb Raider: Underworld didn't sell as well as it could have done, see, and the Square Enix take on that is that big-boobed, "Teflon coated" action heroines are a bit passť, a mite unsophisticated for today's audiences. The reboot aims to modernise Lara, make her less of a jaw-slackening sex object and more of a sympathetic female lead.
It does this by telling the story of her youth - or rather, a specific chapter in her youth, the events that transformed her from a gawky, vulnerable gap year student into a species-endangering, artefact-pillaging adventuress.
Tomb Raider's story is about Lara's gap year? Are we talking InterRail and one night stands in dodgy German motels?
No, we're talking hungry wolves and raving tribal maniacs. As the game begins Lara is travelling aboard the Endurance, a research vessel, with her friend and mentor Captain Conrad Roth. He's from Oop North, apparently. The voice acting tells a different story.
Is the voyage a happy one?
No, unless your idea of happiness is leaping from one half of a wrecked ship to another in the middle of a tropical thunder storm. Lara is separated from Roth in the confusion, knocked unconscious and washed up on a mysterious uncharted island. She's then taken prisoner by the aforesaid raving tribal maniac, strung up like a side of beef in a cave.
Lara starts the game as a sacrificial victim? Doesn't sound like the Tomb Raider I know.
It isn't. The first playable sequence makes the shift in tone pretty plain. To escape, Lara must swing herself into a nearby wall torch (wiggle the stick), burning through her bonds and dropping herself neatly onto a rusty metal spike. Ouch.
The first playable action is a QTE. Good stuff. I'll get my coat.
Hold your horses, Mr So Hardcore It Hurts. QTEs are here, and yes, they're the same old kettle of restart-from-checkpoint fish, but they're firmly secondary to third-person exploration and puzzle-solving. The QTEs we've seen fold seamlessly out of and back into the design direction. The floor gives way at one point during the cavern escape, for instance, a physical plummet corresponding to a loss of control as you hit prompts to dodge boulders and leap over chasms.