New Lara: "We wanted a bit of baby fat"

"We want her to get damaged."

Tits and arse aren't the most important thing this time around for Lara Croft. Youth and, by association, vulnerability are - Lara Croft is a battleaxe with "Amazonian proportions" no longer.

"We wanted to make a girl that was somewhat familiar, yet had a special quality about her something in the way her eyes look and her expression in her face that makes you want to care for her," art director Brian Horton explained to Game Informer.

"Her skin is still bare on the arms and there are going to be rips and tears on her clothes, but it won't be about being revealing. It's a way of saying that through these tough situations, there is a beauty and vulnerability coming through. I think that is sexy in its own way.

"There is a different tone we are going for across the board," he said, "and Lara Croft as a sex object isn't our goal. No unlockable bikinis."

In the Tomb Raider reboot, announced earlier this week, Lara Croft is 21 years-old. This is the story of how she, a desperate survivor, becomes a heroine.

"She isn't going to be as tall as the men around her about a head shorter. This reinforces the feeling that she's against all odds," Horton said.

"The relative proportion is more important than the actual number [5' 7"] making her feel like a scrapper of sorts, even though she will always find a way through her self-determination. She will find a way to survive even if she doesn't have Amazonian proportions in the game.

"The emphasis on acrobatics isn't nearly as important as the fact that she is capable."

Horton and team decided to "soften up" Lara almost right away, but kept distinguishing features such as the ponytail, brown eyes and M-shaped mouth. Horton also "wanted a little bit of that baby fat" and "roundness of the face" to emphasis Lara's younger age.

Lara's costume will be layered tank tops and cargo trousers, clothes picked to get away from the sexuality of skimpy hotpants and towards the reality of an explorer. That costume will show "the accumulation of that survival story" through "discolouration", "rips" and "tears".

Lara will also be visually beaten up.

"At one point, since survival is such an important element, we thought about having her bones break and she would be crippled in some way," revealed Horton. "And while we realised that it would be fantastic from a fiction standpoint, it would hurt us in gameplay.

"We want her to get damaged," he added, "and that is a huge part of how we present the character, but we didn't want to go so far as to say that she had splints on and things like that. It was just a step too far from the gameplay goals.

Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics will downplay the sexual side of Lara - though still abundantly evident - by not hiring a real-life body double for promotional events - gymnast Allison Carroll was the most recent lady plucked from ordinary life to portray explorer Lara Croft.

Horton said that if there happen to be racy moments in the new Tomb Raider, that won't be the scene's primary motive.

"We don't want to play up sexuality for sexualities sake," Horton insisted. If for any reason we wanted to put her in a situation that would be alluring, it isn't to be alluring. It would be because the situation called for it."

"Lara is a lover," he added, "of archaeology - and she has these book smarts."

"Her brains are another huge part of her sex appeal. She is an attractive girl who doesn't play up her looks, but she is super smart and she is very ambitious."

Just like Michelle Dewberry from The Apprentice.

The new Tomb Raider has no firm date, although Eurogamer heard during the summer that the new Tomb Raider pillar release will happen around Christmas 2011.

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