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Tomb Raider: Is it gunning for Uncharted's throne?

The return of a legend...

Gaming's first lady, Lara Croft, is arguably the most iconic figure in the entire industry - pretty impressive considering she was only born in 1996.

Known for her brains, bravery and Kelly-Brook trumping norks, Croftie never faded physically but the same couldn't be said for her increasingly hackneyed archaeological jaunts.

Despite a solid first comeback which probably peaked with Anniversary, both Crystal Dynamics and publishers Square Enix obviously concurred that Lara - usurped in some ways of late by PS3 rival Nathan Drake - needed one of those oh-so-fashionable reboots.

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Which is where this brand new 'young' Lara comes in the shape of the simplistically named Tomb Raider. The unripe Ms Croft in question is actually a mere twenty-one years old, and awakes to find herself - metaphorically at least - in hell at the start of the game.

This is no Underworld though; dangling from some kind of cloth cocoon and readied for sacrifice, waggling the stick towards a nearby flame sets our baby Lara on fire and - after a scare-raising encounter with an indigenous nutjob - she's soon squeezing herself through some claustrophobic crevices and emerging into the moonlight.

Tending to her cuts and bruises, this plainly isn't our Lara. Her fear is tangible. Indeed, the horror (and the mystery of the unexplained) are what Crystal Dynamics are using to drive the action.

BERMUDA SORTS
See, there's some seriously freaky faeces going down on this isla canÝbal, from the crafty, unhinged natives to the wreckage of planes and boats from all eras strewn across the coastline.

A strange magnetic field appears to draw craft, much like the mythical Bermuda Triangle, to their doom. Horrid deaths abound, too. We've seen Lara lulled into a false sense of security before being stabbed to death; we've seen her legs splintered and her skull pop like a melon.

This is survival of the fittest, kill-or-be-killed territory. Nevertheless, riddles abound. Just how is it they can speak English? How did everyone end up in this earthbound purgatory? And just how are Lara's jiggly bits going to blossom by at least three cup-sizes in only a few years?

Now the really good part. While Lara's more concerned with getting her shapely derriere off this hellhole than scooping up relics, adventure has ironically never been more prevalent in her life. Exploring the island, quasi-free-roaming-style (albeit punctuated with the obligatory 'epic' set pieces), will see Lara scavenge a serious arsenal of armaments while acquiring new climbing skills - giving the game a tantalising Metroid-y element that promises layers of depth never before seen in a Croft outing.

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If Crystal Dynamics can add more oomph to platforming (Raider was left on the starting grid by Uncharted where ledge-leaping was concerned), we could have a real winner.

Combat - another decade-long bugbear - is also getting some serious loving. Lock-on is out, free aim in... and with pistols, shotties and (our favourite) a bow and arrow, Lara won't be short of savages to spear.

In keeping with the theme of desert island survival, you'll spend large chunks of time at various base camps after reccies. Here you'll whip up new items from bits of driftwood and crabs' legs (probably) and upgrade Lara's skills, RPG style.

There'll even be the chance to hang out with fellow human survivors including Lara's famous mentor, Conrad Roth - but not until you've saved the old fart's life.

Square-Enix are plainly deadly serious about this reimagining - right down to the removal of stretchy-gorgeous Lara babe Alison Carroll
(real-life models are now verboten). If Crystal Dynamics can deliver on some pretty epic promises, we might not only be dealing with a rebirth of Tomb Raider - but also the heralding the arrival of a new genre.

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