Do me a favour to help me set the stage for today’s story here, gaming fans. Picture Lara Croft, of tomb raiding fame. In particular, her appearance. Don’t think too hard about it – just conceptualise the very first image your hormone-addled lizard hindbrain conjures. Got it? Now then, I’d wager biscuits to bucks that your imagination has been a tad naughty; somewhere in the ballpark of 80% skin. Oh, don’t start. You know I’m right.
To be fair, you could be forgiven for not necessarily jumping to, erm, shall we say, full clothing right off the bat. Since her inception on the PlayStation 1, Lara has largely been positioned as something of a blocky, polygonal sex symbol; a presentation exemplified, and perhaps exacerbated, by her being played by Angelina Jolie in the franchise’s live action debut. And then Alicia Vikander for the second attempt. Natch.
Rocking short shorts, a mane of tumble-out-of-bed chestnut hair, and a physics engine devoted entirely to her chest region, poor old Lara, for all her globetrotting and butt-kickery, remains pigeonholed as a bit of a pin-up.
Which is why the sixth instalment of the action series, Angel of Darkness, stuck out from the others. Well, let’s be frank, it mostly stuck out in that it absolutely sucked, but we’ll put a pin in that briefly. In this game, Lara was dressed – prepare yourselves – like an actual human being. Sure, she still had the anatomy of a Barbie doll on a Cosmo diet, but at least she got her wardrobe sorted. She tottered about Paris and other exotic locales in corduroy shirts and denim jackets, as well as, chiefly, full-length trousers. Finally, a game starring a female protagonist where the user was encouraged to look at something other than her rear during play. And before anyone comes at me, this can be a tongue-in-cheek issue with male characters too. Just Google Crash Bandicoot‘s working title.
Unfortunately, to return to the point, the stuff there actually was to look at stunk. Glitches abounded; Lara handled like she’d developed a spontaneous fault in her kneecaps; cut content was obvious and left gaping, smoking plotholes from whence it had been ripped – basically, the whole experience was nothing short of miserable. Even the developers would later look back on the project with disdain, and it’s generally credited with sinking the otherwise-profitable Tomb Raider franchise for a while. Geez. Way to go, Angel of Darkness.
As ever, though, fans like us common folk have come to save the day. Much like what we’ve witnessed with such endeavours as Project 06 (aimed at breathing some, or indeed any, life into Sonic 2006), devotees will always find the positives in a gaming dumpster fire and will often try and finish the job themselves. Such is the case with an ongoing Angel of Darkness remake, dubbed Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness 1.5. Going a bit Kingdom Hearts there, lads.
This ambitious project is being spearheaded by developer Julian Guba and Lara character model creator Konrad Majewski. The pair are using Unreal Engine 4, known for its versatility and ease among modders, to completely remake the much-maligned title.
As PCGamesN reports, the dynamic duo have “been tinkering with the engine for over five years now,” and it sounds like “the developers are nearly ready to properly reveal it.” They appear especially proud of their “highly detailed” Lara model, which they claim boasts “150,000 polygons, subsurface scattering, 4K textures, and realistic hair shading.”
I know what you’re all salivating to find out, however. Have the jeans and shirt survived intact? Yes, weary travellers. Yes, they have. The pins are covered; I repeat, the pins are covered. We’ve been given one of our first looks at the remake in the form of a developer Tweet, which you can have a gander at below:
Considering that we haven’t heard so much as a muffled peep from the once-in-your-face Tomb Raider franchise for some time, it would seem the pressure is on fans for the moment to maintain general interest. Could this be the thing to do it? Only time will tell… which you can tell more easily with a snazzy Timex (TM) watch, as advertised in Tomb Raider Chronicles!
Really. I’m not joking.
We can only hope Square-Enix, Lara’s current custodians, adopt a healthier attitude to fan projects than the likes of Nintendo. She may be good at navigating caves, but law books? That’s another catacomb of jaguars entirely.
Are you a fan of Tomb Raider? Will you be playing this remake? Are you glad to see this iconic character dressed a bit differently? Let us know!