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Lara Croft gets a makeover (January 1)

Ten years ago the idea of the adventurer Lara Croft investigating forgotten tombs had a magic all its own.

But underneath the weight of several movies, comics and endless reiterative game sequels, the excitement over Croft’s explorations faded.

That magic was recaptured with last year’s “Tomb Raider: Legend,” and game developer Crystal Dynamics hopes to keep the momentum going with a remake of the game that kick-started Croft’s fame in “Tomb Raider Anniversary.”

Entering the production of its seventh PlayStation 2 game, this studio is well-versed in unlocking as much power as the console can offer.

The new “Tomb Raider” looks phenomenal, even several months away from its spring release.

An approximation of high dynamic range lighting and some intense texture work on both characters and environments results in a world that looks the way your mind imagined those old levels to be.

The new level design combines passages from the first game and wholly redesigned sections put in place to take advantage of new gameplay abilities. Many of these emerged in “Legend,” where developers finally got rid of the grid-based movement and added physics-based puzzles and objects.

Players will also use new tools like the grapple, which made its debut in “Legend.”

The levels that emerge are a mix of new puzzles and familiar locations, with less combat than in “Legend” and a return to the exploration focus of the original.

While Crystal Dynamics wouldn’t comment, we see a hidden agenda behind the choice to bring “Anniversary” only to the PS2. With last year’s game ending on a complete cliffhanger, we wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear “Tomb Raider: Legend 2” announced for next-gen consoles soon. (Note from Tomb Raider Anniversary will also be released for PC and PSP.)

Meanwhile, franchise fans have a lot to look forward to in this nostalgic take on Lara’s beginnings.

By Game Informer,