Since the first Tomb Raider game  blasted its way into stores in 1996 Lara Croft has gained icon status. Over the years, hundreds of real-life models have dressed up in the part of the impossibly proportioned heroine and hundreds of thousands of gamers have spent large chunks of their teenage years making the braided brunette jump over obstacles or barrel roll while emptying gun magazines at approaching baddies.
Originally inspired by comic book ‘Tank Girl’, Lara is the athletic London-born heir of Lord Richard Croft, with a figure most women would be envious of  and bank balance, weapons arsenal and gadgets that would silence any grandstanding tech geek. Or maybe it is her looks that kept them quiet and transfixed.
Even the man behind her last four adventures says you can sometimes struggle to connect with the character.
All that is about to change though, promises Noah Hughes from Crystal Dynamics - the man who helped breathe new life into the franchise.
Lara’s upcoming outing ‘Tomb Raider’ - a reboot of Lara’s legend - is due out in the UAE on March 5. And on a recent visit to promote the entirely Arabicised version of the game in the UAE, the creative director of the title for PlayStation and Xbox 360, said: “We felt Lara had been reduced in some ways to just an icon, kind of one dimensional, so when you ask people ‘Who is Lara?’ She is the braids and the pistols. That is cool but we thought that left an opportunity to re-imagine her as a more human and believable version of that icon.”
Looking at the exclusive trailer, the Lara that has emerged is more of a real woman, less of the buxom beauty, though of course she is still attractive to the male gaming fraternity.
“What we try to do is retain recognisability in a less characterised way, that wasn’t inheritably about desexualising her, it was just making her feel real, making her feel like a person you would know and you would hang out with,” explains Noah.
With the tag line of the new game being ‘A survivor is born’, Noah and Co wanted to create a grittier Lara, who is forced to rely on her wits and not just her hardware. She is also more fallible than before - this Lara can bleed. This evolution echoes the recent darker reboots of popular film franchises seen in Hollywood.
“We did look at Batman and James Bond  when we were doing this quite a bit,” says Noah. “They did have at least similar issues and that is just a means to an end, for us at least, rather than saying we are going to make a dark and gritty Tomb Raider, we said we are
going to make a human Lara and that is why it will be cool.”
Her creators may not have set out to make Lara’s story darker but it certainly deals with some pretty dark themes, such as desolation, survival at all costs and there have even rumours that sexual assault might form part of Lara’s legend - although Crystal Dynamics has denied this.
“Part of making a human Lara is seeing her get hurt and bleed, especially creating contrast from what she has become when she is unflinching and can’t be hurt,” adds Noah. “It is more about showing humanity, that is not just pain, you will see in this story that we have more characters around Lara - her mentor, her friends. There are other aspects which bring out humanity, it is less about darkening Lara and giving her life.”
Either way, the Lara that has been shown in sneak previews might just be the sort of heroine that the teens of the late nineties, who are now all grown up, can get back on board with.
Tomb Raider is credited with having a larger than average female gaming audience.
One such gamer is the lady who dubbed Lara’s upper-class English accent into Arabic for the new game. Nadine Njeim (right) has also enjoyed her fair share of the limelight for being just as glamorous as Lara Croft herself - she was Miss Lebanon 2007.
“I’m a gamer so I am really familiar with the game,” says Nadine. But when I sat down and I really got to reading the script for the new Lara Croft it was a totally different experience. I relate to her, in this version, someone who is young and is vulnerable.”
“Even though I’m not running through jungles, we are as women in life, facing obstacles, we are weak and vulnerable in certain points but we find tools within ourselves to make it through,” adds Nadine.
But she laughs at the idea that Lara will probably never be in a beauty pageant.
What do you think about the new Lara? Is it important to make her more 'realistic'? Why change her for the Mid-East?