The new Tomb Raider launches on consoles and PCs tomorrow, and it’s a bold reboot of the hit franchise (see this week’s issue of EW for Keith Staskiewicz’ story on reimagining gaming’s most famous heroine, Lara Croft). After 2008’s Tomb Raider: Underworld underperformed, developer Crystal Dynamics sought to reinvent a Lara Croft who could compete with Uncharted’s Nathan Drake and reinstate her to her prior glory. They succeeded spectacularly. But getting there wasn’t easy, as documented by veteran games journalist Geoff Keighley in The Final Hours of Tomb Raider, an app launching today that chronicles the long, arduous task of reinvigorating a gaming icon.
Keighley gave EW a sneak peek at the comprehensive app, which offers an insightful behind-the-scenes look at the making of the game. Having previously detailed the final hours of Portal 2 and Mass Effect 3, Keighley spent nearly two years following Crystal Dynamics, gaining unparalleled access to the studio’s creative process.
“Tomb Raider interested me on a number of levels,” Keighley said. “This Final Hours is, at its heart, a story about reinvention of both a studio and a brand. In many ways the franchise has fallen out of favor with gamers. So the stakes were high for Crystal Dynamics, and I thought it would be fascinating to tell the story behind the creative struggles without knowing the outcome.”
The game went through a series of iterations, including a surprising horror-tinged take on Shadow of the Colossus that saw Lara riding a horse and battling giant monsters (see concept art above). But ultimately, focus groups deemed it too off-point, and the team eventually landed on a gritty origin story inspired by such disparate elements as Christopher Nolan’s Batman films and the James Franco-starring tale of survival, 127 Hours.
The Final Hours of Tomb Raider is beautifully designed and meticulously reported, and it offers a variety of interactive features, including previously unseen concept art and preproduction videos of the game in progress. It also includes the entirety of The Final Hours of Tomb Raider videos, hosted by Chuck’s Zachary Levi, that have been released online over the past few months. Coinciding with the app’s release is Keighley’s television special GTTV Presents Tomb Raider: The Final Hours, A Story of Survival, which airs Tuesday at 12:35 a.m. on Spike TV. This in-depth look at the game features interviews with the team at Crystal Dynamics and Grey’s Anatomy’s Camilla Luddington, who provided the voice and motion-capture performance for the new Lara Croft.
The Final Hours of Tomb Raider app will be available later today for $2.99 for iPad and Kindle Fire, with a PC/Mac version coming later this week on Steam.
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