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Lara’s Shadow Developer Diary Gets Released March 5, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfangirl in 360 DLC, Underworld.
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A developer diary has been released for Lara’s Shadow.  You can find it on the official Tomb Raider site here.  A big thanks goes to adventurerLara for reporting it on Tomb Raider Forums.  The footage from the level looks great and does not seem to spoil any puzzles.

The Doppelganger will have greatly expanded physical capabilities and the level designers seem to have used this as an excuse to make much larger and more difficult levels, which sounds fantastic to me.  Plus, I’m pretty sure I saw her jump at least as far as Lara could in the first six games, so I’m psyched to have that back.  The melee combat looks interesting too.

As a Tomb Raider fan I have to give the obligatory complaint that the people mispronounced Lara’s name repeatedly throughout the developer diary, but in all honesty I don’t care about that as long as they deliver on the level design and gameplay, which so far it looks like they have.  We’ll find out for sure on March 10th, which is only a few days away  😀

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Fan Feature: Doppelganger goes all Phoenix-y March 4, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in 360 DLC, Fan Pulse, Underworld.
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To celebrate the upcoming release of Lara’s Shadow, which has thus far been confirmed to star Lara’s doppelganger who will have shadow-y superhuman abilities, Priscilla of Tomb Raider Forums (DA page here) has created a sublimely wicked render of Lara’s evil twin.

Posed through Dusan’s brilliant XNA Lara program, the doppelganger is set against a backdrop of the burning Croft Manor. She was made to have the same pose as Phoenix of the X-Men series as she appears on the Phoenix Endsong cover. You can see comparison shots here.

Be sure to drop by our Fan Pulse bundle of posts to have a look at the best of the best the Tomb Raider fandom has to offer.

Don “virtually fashionable” designer outfits on March 10th for free March 4, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in 360 DLC, Underworld.
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Virtually FashionableEidos has released word that Lara Croft will be donning designer outfits in the upcoming Lara’s Shadow DLC for Xbox360. While the main DLC game will cost some points, the outfits will be for free. The bonus costume pack contains two of the best entries in the “virtually fashionable” Festival Arcadia event last December, one of which you voted for.

The fresh set of costumes goes Live on 10th March as will Lara’s Shadow. Hop on to Tomb Raider Chronicles for previews of the other add-ons to Lara’s wardrobe.

Eidos: Tomb Raider Legend lifetime sales reach 4.5M units, Underworld ships 2.6M February 27, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Crystal Dynamics, Eidos, Square Enix, Underworld.
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Eidos has just released its Interim Results for the six months to 31st of December 2008, and things seem to be looking up. (Both for the British firm and its takeover bidder, Square Enix.)

Tomb Raider: Underworld‘s sales, while below expectations, has narrowed Eidos’ interim losses. It has shipped in 2.6 million copies as of the December 31st year-ender and has sold 1.5 million units thus far. This has brought Eidos’ revenue of £80.3m (2007: £63.4m) to a 26.7% increase. Lara’s 2006 title Tomb Raider: Legend, according to the report, has sold 4.5 million copies to date.

Of particular interest in the report is Eidos’ directive to have Crystal Dynamics continue to solely focus on the Tomb Raider franchise. If this has any bearing on Square Enix‘s eventful takeover, we’ll know come acquisition day. But for now, we’ll have to wait till the March stakeholder meeting over at Eidos HQ.

[InvestEGate UK]

Tomb Raider Fangirl Review: Beneath the Ashes (It’s Epic!) February 26, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfangirl in 360 DLC, Underworld.
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I just finished playing Beneath the Ashes, which is the first downloadable expansion pack for Tomb Raider Underworld (the DLC is exclusive to Xbox 360, although the main game came out on several other platforms as well).  I had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed the level.  As a general warning to everyone, you MUST make a manual save if you want to turn the console off, otherwise it will not keep your place when you turn it back on (unlike the main game which made permanent autosaves).  I will now give a more detailed review, but I will refrain from spoiling the puzzles or the storyline.

The level does actually have a bit of a story which seems to be setting the stage for the upcoming DLC entitled Lara’s Shadow.  This second expansion level is due to be released on March 10th (I am looking forward to that even more now!).  Lara’s headset is back, which I am not too thrilled about as it completely ruined the atmosphere of Legend and greatly spoiled my enjoyment of that game, but it was not too bad in Beneath the Ashes.  There was a cutscene at the beginning of the level and one at the end, and the headset was only used twice in between that I remember (and only a few lines of dialogue each time at that) so the level was essentially silent except for the wonderful ambient noises.  The sound effects were brilliant and really enhanced the experience for me.

As for the graphics, I cannot give an honest review of that.  I have not yet set up my Xbox 360 to use a high definition monitor so I had to make do with a tiny 13″ standard definition TV set.  Beneath the Ashes looked great anyway (about the same as the main Underworld game looks on this TV set) but I am sure that my TV did not do it justice.  Additionally, the game was obviously designed for a much higher resolution as I had trouble reading the words on the screen.  To make them fully legible I had to fiddle with my TV settings so that everything was dim and nearly black and white.  This was only really necessary to read the journal that Lara’s father wrote (accessible via the PDA).  It is an interesting read and adds a bit to the feeling of the level, but unlike the Underworld Journal, the BtA Journal gives away hints and tells you what you will see in advance.  I suggest reading it at the end of the level as I did so that you get the full experience without the spoilers.

In any case, aside from reading the journal, I played the level with my TV set rather bright with maximum color saturation.  The level was quite beautiful this way, which I was not expecting given that it’s a dank stone dungeon.  The floor was slick with water and gave a faint iridescent shine of red and green.  The walls had bits of green moss growing on them.  There were faint hints of color all throughout the level.  Everything was eerily beautiful.  Combined with the ambient sound effects and overall lack of distracting dialogue, this provided a fantastic atmosphere which really absorbed me.  It brought me right back to one of my very first experiences playing Tomb Raider, which was the Tomb Raider 3 demo in the South Pacific in which you have to traverse a partially water-filled cave.  I can’t explain it in more detail, but the feeling of exploration was the same.

The level design was quite good.  I never got thoroughly lost, but still it was a lot of fun figuring out how to get through the areas and I loved the fact that I had to go back and forth between different areas.  For example, I was in one room with a giant waterwheel (which is completely different from the Wii version’s waterwheel room) and I saw a place I wanted to go but it was too high to reach.  I went on with the level in another direction and eventually I found myself back up where I had wanted to go before.  That’s the same sort of magic that made Palace Midas so wonderful in the original Tomb Raider game, to have that instant realization of familiarity and accomplishment when I realize that I have managed to get somewhere that was previously inaccessible.  This sort of level design is so much better to me than a more streamlined approach in which the player has to solve one room at a time and then never return.  I truly hope that Lara’s Shadow and future Tomb Raider games will take this more complex, intertwined approach to level design.

Concerning the puzzles, there were only a few challenges that I would really consider to be puzzles but they were incredibly clever and I really enjoyed them.  I am a little bitter that one of the puzzles was spoiled in the Developer Diary (and the launch trailer as well, although I did not watch that one until after I had won the level).  I know that puzzle would have taken me quite awhile to figure out on my own, but I instantly knew how to do it from the trailer.  However, the other puzzles were really good too so I am very relieved that they were not spoiled in anything that I saw prior to playing the level.

The combat was essentially identical to the combat in the main game (same guns and same abilities).  As in the main game, you get a choice of which secondary gun to take with you.  As for enemies, we get a new type of thrall which seems to be a Crusader knight, plus we see the return of the bats, small spiders, and giant albino spiders.  I have played the Wii version of Underworld more recently than the 360 version, so I found myself getting a little annoyed at some of the enemies as I would rather be left to explore in peace without distraction (the Wii version of the main game has far fewer enemies than the 360 version).  However, the combat wasn’t too much of a distraction overall.  It provided a bit of action to the level without being overly frustrating, so it was alright with me.  Plus, I loved making the small spiders scream…

As for a few other loose ends which may be interesting, the game has 125 points worth of achievements, which you get for completing the level and finding all secrets.  There are 28 artifacts and 1 relic.  I didn’t keep track of an exact play time, but the level took me several hours to win since I tried to explore every inch and I found the relic and all but two of the artifacts.  I discovered that if you start BtA over again after you win it, then it keeps track of all the secrets you found the first time.

There are also six new outfits that come with BtA.  There is the awesome Casual Explorer outfit which can be seen in the official screenshots and trailers (it has a blue shirt, brown pants, and boots).  There is also a gray version of Underworld’s main shorts outfit which is alright I guess, and then there are four bikinis which aren’t my style.  BtA also lets you choose from a few of Underworld’s main outfits, plus the free DLC outfits, in case you don’t like any of the new ones.

That pretty much wraps up my review for BtA.  I was thoroughly impressed by it and now I am really looking forward to Lara’s Shadow, which comes out in less than two weeks.  Before I had played BtA, I expected Lara’s Shadow to be better based purely upon the general information and the concept of each one.  Now, I’m not so sure.  I would love for Lara’s Shadow to be even better, but BtA set the bar rather high.  I am now expecting Lara’s Shadow to be completely different because of the new gameplay mechanics which are supposed to be in it, so I don’t even know if it will be possible to compare them.  Honestly though, it won’t matter as long as Lara’s Shadow is great in its own way.

Lara’s Shadow to feature superhuman game mechanics February 24, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in 360 DLC, Underworld.
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Eurogamer‘s scored an interview with Underworld DLC senior producer Ron Rosenberg.

He unveils new details about Lara’s Shadow, sharing that “the release is a great example of using DLC to innovate and try new ideas and I can’t wait to hear what the fans think of it,” and that the Doppelganger’s abilities “make the experience different than any other Tomb Raider game.”

Rosenberg also shares new details about the story of both DLCs as well as other juicy bits of the exclusive deal and the content and length of the add-ons.

Make the Eurogamer jump for the full interview. Also, check out Tomb Raider Chronicles for the latest screenshot release for Beneath the Ashes.

BTA Countdown: Albino arachnids lurk Croft crypt February 23, 2009

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Still counting down to Beneath the Ashes. Yesterday’s screenshot showed a massive wheel mechanism in Lara’s basement, today’s show a massive spider lurking the depths of Lara’s manor. The DLC goes Live on February 24, by which time you’ll have the chance to shoot the arachnid to its death.

As always, you can hop on to Tomb Raider Chronicles for the full image.

360 achievements list suggests new combat system for Lara’s Shadow February 22, 2009

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It’s no secret that you will be playing as Lara’s doppelganger in Lara’s Shadow, the second of two downloadable content for the 360 version of Tomb Raider Underworld. We’ve seen her superjumping abilities in the full game and we’ve caught glimpse of her superfast hand-to-hand combat skills facing off with Lara in Croft Manor. Needless to say, fans have been wondering if they will be of any use in the actual downloadable add-on.

Well, we might just have the answer.

Jack Croft of Tomb Raider Forums has posted the Achievements list for Lara’s Shadow. What’s worthy of note is that you will be speed-running through a certain Transformer and a Refinery, earning you the “Right of Passage” and the “Refinery Speed Run” achievements respectively. But what really caught our attention is the “Shadow Combat Master” achievement, which becomes unlocked when you “complete the combat tutorial in Lara’s Shadow.

Make of that what you will, but we’re pretty sure we won’t just be using pistols and Lara’s high kicks in this shadowy excursion. We’ll find out for sure come March 10.

The Top 5 Best Fan Covers of Tomb Raider Music February 22, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in 5 Things, Fan Pulse, Hollywood, Music, Underworld.
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Tomb Raider is (unfortunately) known for five things: Lara, her set of twins on her chest, and her set of twins in her holsters. Today, we’re here to make that six; that is, with proof that a little-appreciated aspect of the series has earned itself a fanbase of its own. That’s right, we’re talking about music.

As part of our 5 Things features, we’re going to give you The Top 5 Best Fan Covers of Tomb Raider Music. As we count down to the top spot, we’ll be giving you the sublime moments of each fan rendition — moments that will have you stop, look (at the minute mark), and listen (again, and more carefully). So, without further ado, here are the best fan covers of Tomb Raider music on the Internet:

5. Lacrimosa (Mozart’s Requiem) – as performed by Jh8812 via YouTube: Granted, Lacrimosa isn’t exactly identifiably Tomb Raider, but last year’s teaser for Tomb Raider Underworld — which has thus far garnered more than a million views on GameTrailers alone — had everyone talking. It was enough that Lara (!) blew up her own house to have us scratching our heads, but the irony and intrigue of it all was amplified by the solemn yet foreboding music of Mozart’s Requiem. In his blog, Troels Folmann, music supervisor for Underworld, shared that “Blur (the team behind the teaser) originally used Mozart’s Lacrimosa [only] as a temporary piece,” but when he heard it, he ordered them not to change a single note.

Now, what makes Jh8812‘s rendition of Lacrimosa so special? It’s evident how passionate he is about playing the piece, and it effortlessly captures the twisted, tragic fate of Lara’s home being burned to ashes. Of course, being that the demo was posted in 2007, it’s highly unlikely that Jh8812 played this with Underworld in mind; it still stands, however — all things considered — that it’s a sublimely melancholic piece that encapsulates the tragedy that is Tomb Raider Underworld (no pun intended). Sublime moment: 00:31.

4. Vertigo (Tomb Raider II) – as performed by sosogood via YouTube: Originally composed by old-school Tomb Raider music man Nathan McCree, Vertigo served as the title theme of Tomb Raider II. There’s nothing much to say about the original (YouTubified here), apart from the fact that it sets the mood for Lara’s Chinese expedition to unearth the dagger of Xian, an endeavor that pits her against the maniacal Marco Bartoli.

The McCree piece was covered by sosogood in 2007, and while it doesn’t retain the synthetic yet relaxing sound of the original, the piano rendition kept the solemn feel in tact, as if to set to the player on a journey much like that of Lara’s lone world-trekking. There’s something about piano covers that makes a piece more relaxing, and sosogood’s Vertigo is a standing testimony to that. Sublime moment: 00:35.

3. Pandora’s Box (Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life) as performed by CalikoKat via YouTube: Composed by the Alan Silvestri himself, Pandora’s Box (original orchestration here) was set to the dramatic scene of Lara and Terry’s confrontation in the cave where Pandora’s box was kept hidden from man. She wanted to go and leave it be, he wanted to go with it and not leave anything behind. It was the ultimate dilemma for Lara in the film: Choosing between the man she loved (or loves) or the assurance that the human race will be kept safe from the plagues and illnesses Pandora can unleash. She chose the latter. She had to kill Terry Sheridan.

Pandora’s Box was a dramatic and climactic piece as it was presented in the film (performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, no less). CalikoKat, however, made a more subtle and melancholic cover of it. It’s evident too that he is quite the classical piano expert, what with the complicated music sheet propped open for reference. Enviable, that skill. Sublime moment: 01:56.

2. Classical Mansion Music (Tomb Raider II) as performed by sondrolo via YouTube: One of the cheap thrills of training in Lara’s mansion in Tomb Raider II was playing the music in what looked to be the ball room of our heroine’s humble abode. It was classical, fast-paced music that served as an adrenaline booster while doing the rounds in the mansion, and it served as a mood-setter in the otherwise lonely, creepy (Winston was there) place.

In what seems to be the only remotely lively entry in our list, sondrolo achieves a feat that would have most Tomb Raider fans’ jaw drop. It’s a masterful rendition of the original with nary a hint of reference or any sheet for guiding the performance. It’s sublime at any given point, especially considering the breathless (if only fingers could breathe), skillful strokes of the piano keys. Sublime moment: Every moment.

1. Title Theme (Tomb Raider) as performed by Touhomus via YouTube: Also composed by Nathan McCree, this served as the title theme for the original Tomb Raider in 1996. Characterized by the use of harp and chants similar to that of the Gregorians’, the piece gives a meditative vibe that depicts the solemn moments of Lara’s discovery of long-forgotten places. It’s the epitome of Tomb Raider music in that it captures the spirit of the original and what it’s all about.

Touhomus‘ cover of this piece tops our list, hands-down, for its authenticity. It’s such a masterful and skillful rendition of the original that it’s difficult to set it apart from the actual piece itself. At certain moments, one could swear it was Nathan McCree playing. That’s how good it is. And that’s why it wins our list of The Top 5 Best Fan Covers of Tomb Raider Music. Sublime moment: Every moment.

And that’s that. The Top 5 Best Fan Covers of Tomb Raider Music. Stay tuned for the next installment of 5 Things!

XNA Lara: Awesome fan-made program makes real-time TRU Lara Croft posing possible February 21, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Fan Pulse, Lara Croft, Underworld.
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Following the release of Underwold Explorer by happyfunstick, a program that literally lets you fly around the Underworld universe, Dusan of Tomb Raider Forums has released XNA Lara, a fan-made program “that I’ve written to allow everyone to play around with Lara’s model from TRU.” And from what we’ve seen of these fan-created poses, the “playing around” bit provides for infinite posing possibilities. (As if you haven’t realized that already given the above-shown Sir Croft-posed Lara Croft.) Pretty nifty tool.

Make the Dusan jump to get full details for download and installation.