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Lara Croft: The Evolution

Tomb Raider: Legend
Year: 2006
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Platforms: Xbox 360, Xbox, PlayStation 2, PSP, GameCube, PC

Despite the enterprising attitude, Angel of Darkness didn’t usher in a new and modern era for the Tomb Raider franchise. As such, U.S. developer Crystal Dynamics inherited the property, crafting a new title for a slew of platforms including the Xbox 360. Crystal waited three years before debuting a new Lara to the world, releasing Legend in 2006.

Lara’s direction under Crystal continued the trend of rooting her in reality – items were designed with purpose rather than for simple aesthetics. Her clothing, gear, and weapons appeared tailored to her outlandish lifestyle, and in that sense, were practical. Lara lost her archaic braid in favor of a simpler ponytail, and her reconstructed face boasted hints of makeup, more naturally shaped eyebrows, and softer lips – although Crystal opted to retain the classic M shape of her mouth. 

Lara’s body was also refined. While still maintaining idealistic proportions, her silhouette was more in line with that of an athlete than a pin-up model. Lara’s default outfit highlighted improved muscle tone with large expanses of bare skin, still paying tribute to her hip-hugging legacy.  The shorts and crop top were joined by other ensembles, such as a stylish motorbike jacket, practical winter attire, and an infamous cocktail dress.

Crystal maintained other important elements of Lara’s identity, including her holsters, twin pistols, backpack, and combat boots – all modified, however, to fit the new scope of the game. Lara boasted new equipment, too, such as a row of grenades along the small of her back, a flashlight, binoculars, and a rappel device. Lara was becoming increasingly utilitarian, without sacrificing her sex appeal. 

Lara’s upgraded appearance didn’t go to waste. Crystal whipped up a slew of unlockable outfits for Lara to romp around in, including the ever-popular black bikini.

Tomb Raider: Underworld
Year: 2008
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PC, Nintendo Wii

Developed for current generation hardware, Tomb Raider: Underworld offered Crystal Dynamics a chance to continue pushing Lara’s physical presentation. Having found solid footing with Legend (and Anniversary), nuance became key in Lara’s most recent adventure. Again embracing a more proportional build, Lara’s muscles became even more defined – especially in her arms, abdomen, and thighs. Lara’s face took a stronger appearance, too, more striking with defined cheekbones, thick black eyeliner, and glossed lips.

Lara’s outfit again gravitated toward athletic gear – comprised of a lycra-like fabric and breathable mesh housed in a design one wouldn’t be surprised to find at retail. Other Underworld ensembles such as Lara’s cheeky wetsuit may have been less practical, but generally speaking her outfits continued to trend toward believability. Until you checked out the unlockable roster, that is.

Underworld offered Crystal a chance to make Lara’s interactions with the environment even more involved. Lara would remain wet for a time after swimming, and become caked in mud as she explored. At 32,000 polygons, Lara looked pretty sharp, even when messy.

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