Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light will be available to download from Xbox Live Arcade on 18th August and from the PlayStation Store and Steam a month later. To celebrate Larry's return, we have for your viewing pleasure an exclusive new trailer, lovingly displayed below.
We also pinned down brand director Karl Stewart and producer Forest Large to discuss her (isometric) new perspective. Read on for Crystal Dynamics' thoughts on sex, modernity, and what's next for our beloved English rose.
Eurogamer: Describe Lara Croft in one word.
Karl Stewart: Iconic.
Eurogamer: Even after all these years?
Karl Stewart: Even after all these years she's still an icon in the videogame industry. Lara has seen her ups and downs and ups again. No matter what happens, when we talk to gamers and the press she is still without a doubt held in extremely high regards because of what the title has stood for from the very first days of Tomb Raider 1 on the PSone.
It can only get better. Guardian of Light is a classic example of us looking at the IP with the same respect it should be given even after all these years to being able to try and come up with something new.
Forest Large: The first thought that came into my mind was iconic, actually. So Karl took the word right out of my mouth. I would say unafraid. She tackles everything head on. She deals with things straightforwardly. She's brave. For me, she is unafraid.
Eurogamer: Would you agree that Crystal Dynamics rescued the franchise from mediocrity?
Karl Stewart: We view it as being given the opportunity to get back to something iconic. When we took over the helm of Lara Croft after Angel of Darkness we had the opportunity to take her in a new direction with Legend, bring a new engine and whole fresh new team.
I wouldn't say rescued. Extremely fortunate to be able to have the opportunity to work on such a big franchise and IP and look at it with a fresh set of eyes. We made some big investments. We built a whole new engine, the Legend engine, when we released our first game at Crystal Dynamics, Tomb Raider: Legend. Ultimately, we feel proud of what we've done over the last few years. I don't know whether rescued is the right word, but certainly given it a breath of fresh air.
Forest Large: We're grateful for the opportunity to be working with Lara Croft, who is such a strong character. It's a massive opportunity for us and we have done our best to be true to her character.
Eurogamer: Tomb Raider sold on sex. Is Lara Croft's appeal still to do with sex? Does sex still sell in games?
Karl Stewart: When Lara Croft came on the scene she was right for that time. The character that appealed to people came through in that interpretation. As time's gone on cultures have changed. Our perception of new videogame characters has changed. We're looking for different things. We're looking for a bit more realism, a bit more emotion, depth and storytelling.
So naturally we've had to evolve the character. We've moved away from the blatant use of sex to sell the game. She's still sexy, she's still beautiful, but there's a lot more depth to her character than there was 15 years ago.
Going forward, the same thing stands for any other iteration. You cannot rely on one attribute to sell a videogame. If you do, you do it at your own peril. Games are becoming more and more involved and deeper and more emotional. You have to be willing to make those changes.
For Lara, we understand that, first and foremost. We would never rest on the fact that it was sex and sex appeal alone that would sell an IP. That's clearly evident when you look at the evolution of the character over the last three games. She's become more hardened. She's changed physically and mentally. We start to look at the character in a different perspective in terms of bringing her into a space such as an arcade isometric view.
It's not a focus on the physique of Lara. She still has her gymnastic abilities as you can see in the game with her running and jumping and rolling. But it's more about bringing a creative aspect of having a character like Lara working with somebody else. They're things that are natural progressions within the videogame space that you have to make, otherwise you'll fail time and time again if you keep resting on that one laurel.
Forest Large: The character I know and love as Lara Croft is incredibly accomplished. She's studied. She speaks a lot of different languages. She's smart. She works hard. She is incredibly determined. Also, she's beautiful. That's a reflection of modernity and women. It's okay to be accomplished. It's okay to be smart. And it's okay to be feminine and beautiful at the same time. It's not mutually exclusive.
There was a time when it was mutually exclusive. If you're beautiful and appealing then you're dumb. And if you are smart then you're not beautiful. As woman professionals grow in the workforce, and as we evolve our understanding of women's rights and the various roles that women can have in society, we're moving away from that mutual exclusivity. It's about Lara being brave, accomplished, studied, and absolutely determined in everything she does. It's the whole person. It's not the one dimensionality.
Eurogamer: But most female characters in games only exist as sex symbols. There's still a long way to go, isn't there?
Forest Large: I absolutely agree. My dream in my lifetime is to have more female characters that are not so one dimensional, that are multi-dimensional, like Lara Croft. I hear what you're saying. I agree we're not there yet. I hope we can get there in my lifetime.
Eurogamer: The Xbox Live version of Guardian of Light will be released on 18th August as part of Microsoft's Summer of Arcade promotion. When will the PS3 and PC versions be released?
Karl Stewart: We hope to have details in the next seven to 10 days. As with all arcade titles, irrespective of platform, you have to go through your submissions before they agree and approve a date. Unlike a disc-based title where we can pick our window, you have to go by what the first parties approve and give you a date, to make sure you're not coming out on the same day as five other titles. They like to manage the release window accordingly. We have requested a specific date and hopefully we'll get that and it's not too long after the 360 SKU.
Eurogamer: Is there a chance that the PC and PS3 versions will release on the same day as the Xbox 360 version?
Karl Stewart: No. The agreement with Microsoft is, in order to participate in their hugely successful Summer of Arcade promotion there is a window of exclusivity. That window of exclusivity is a set four weeks.
Eurogamer: So we know it'll be a 360 exclusive for at least four weeks.
Karl Stewart: Well, for exactly four weeks, really.
Eurogamer: So we can work out when it'll probably come out on PS3 and PC.
Karl Stewart: Probably. Again, that's our ideal date. It'll be up to the first parties and the likes of Steam to agree that's the best date for us to come out on.
Eurogamer: How does Uncharted 2 make you feel?
Karl Stewart: Awesome. Uncharted is a phenomenal game. Full credit to the development team for the time and energy they put into it. As with any game, irrespective of Uncharted 2, we're blown away and we're delighted with the fact that the bar is continually raised and we break new barriers in storytelling, physics and graphical fidelity. It's a credit.
It's not just Crystal Dynamics who have to look at that and think, we now know where we have to go. Every developer irrespective of what game they're building now has to look at the competition out there and realise in order to have somebody put down their hard-earned cash, you have to continually deliver something new and exciting and worth that $60.
Eurogamer: What impact does Uncharted 2 have on the future of the Tomb Raider franchise?
Karl Stewart: We had already made the decision that we needed to revisit Tomb Raider in a different light after the trilogy finished. As time goes on we'll start to talk about that in more detail. It's not for now. Needless to say, we work in videogame development, and we, like every single developer, analyse and pull apart every single game.
Uncharted, of course, was a game that broke new ground. We will continue to look at that level of detail and that quality of game, irrespective of whether it's Uncharted or a game that's due to come out in six months. It won a number of tremendous awards and it broke new ground. Everybody, not just Crystal, would have to stand up and take note.
There is an aspect - which they own, that's theirs - that they will continue to pioneer. It's the same with us. We have our pillars, we have our heritage, and we have to be careful that we build on them. We just need to look at it carefully. We're not going to go into too much detail right now on the future of Tomb Raider, because that's for a later date. But I do appreciate the question.
Eurogamer: You've said in the past that there are two teams within Crystal Dynamics: one working on the downloadable game, and the other working on the pillar release, as you've described it in interviews.
Karl Stewart: I certainly have. We've split into two to make sure it gets back to our core of making sure we deliver the right experience to the right audience.
Eurogamer: When Guardian of Light is released, will the team join the team that's working on the pillar release, or will it continue to work on downloadable Lara Croft games?
Karl Stewart: Right now the team is busy finishing off Guardian of Light. Of course, if this game is successful, digital games can be built on a much shorter timeline than a full disc-based game. We have allotted ourselves enough time and space to be able to say that, if this is successful, which we hope it will be, then we will start looking at this space.
The two teams, one pillar and one specifically created to look at the IP and the gaming space in new and different ways, have continued to come back with new ideas to help push the boundaries. If this is successful then we will look at this becoming a part of our pillar. But this is our first time entering into this space, so we're not going to go too far down the road in saying, 'Let's start focusing on several other versions,' until we see how well this does.
Eurogamer: I know you don't want to talk about the pillar release, but tell me something about it because I'm very interested.
Forest Large: You're naughty!
Karl Stewart: It'll be called Tomb Raider.
Eurogamer: Shocking. I've heard it'll be an origins story. Put me right.
Karl Stewart: We want to make sure that everybody gets the information and is surprised and excited together. We're not going to go into any detail right now, apart from the fact that of course it's called... Tomb Raider!
Eurogamer: When will you take the lid off?
Karl Stewart: It's called Tomb Raider! Right now we are busy. Unfortunately we have seen things appear, and that really is unfortunate. We like to make sure that everything is done correctly and the right amount of time and energy is put into a project. We go through a lot of research and a lot of study. It's never a given. Bits and pieces have leaked out. It kills us to see that. But right now, we don't want to go into any detail whatsoever until it's ready and the fans get excited. When we come out and announce it, in whatever time period that may be, it'll be done correctly. You'll be happy to hear what we have to say. I don't want to spoil it for you!
What we've learned very quickly since taking over the brand at Crystal Dynamics is we have a tremendous amount of fans. We have a tremendous amount of intrigue about what we do. If somebody happens to leave it makes the news. If a piece of rumour comes out it happens to make the news in a completely different way. We've seen things over the last year or two that to us are so small. We go on to the community and there are threads with thousands of people talking about it.
We have to appreciate and understand that of course there is a lot of intrigue into what we're doing in the studio, and that's great. But we want to make sure it's fully baked and when we do come out everything's thought about and you're delighted to hear about it and see it. But when stuff does come out obviously it's a little bit disheartening. You do your best to make sure that you get things right before anything comes out and hopefully that will be the case.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light will be released on Xbox Live Arcade on 18th August for 1200 Microsoft Points (£10).