Lara Croft has seen her fair share of troubles, but it all had to start somewhere.
The legendary video game heroine has been exploring caves and facing life-threatening dangers in the "Tomb Raider" series since its inception in 1996, when the first game was released for Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn. Throughout the years, Croft has faced all sorts of dangers, in forms both human (mercenaries, sinister villains) and animal (wolves, bears, even a Tyrannosaurus Rex).
She's managed to retain her confidence throughout those challenges, even when she faced tremendously difficult odds in such previously released adventures as "Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light" and "Tomb Raider: Underworld."
But Croft faced her biggest test when she was a young woman, an adventure you can experience today, with the release of Square Enix's prequel, titled simply "Tomb Raider." In this newest game, Lara is merely 16 years old, setting out to find adventure on the ship Endurance. Trouble soon follows, as a storm tears the vessel apart. She barely makes it to an island alive, only to run into ruthless mercenaries who will stop at nothing to kill her and her companions.
As "Tomb Raider" opens, you begin to see where Lara developed both her tendency to explore and her survival skills. You'll have to make your way around the island, avoiding battles with mercenaries — at first. You'll also look for tools you'll need to make it out alive, such as a radio to track down Conrad Roth, captain of the Endurance (and other survivors), as well as a bow and arrows, which enable you to hunt deer for food.
But as the game progresses, you see how much Lara changes as she develops into the heroine we've known all these years. Instead of avoiding them, she begins pursuing the mercenaries and developing keen (i.e., lethal) combat skills. At the same time, the character faces situations in which death could be instant if players aren't quick enough. (In one scenario, at the start of the game, Lara manages to escape from a cavern while it collapses around her.)
The new "Tomb Raider" game carries an inescapable sense of danger, but that's part of the fun. The sheer thrill of life or death struggles, coupled with experiencing Lara's development into a fearless heroine, will keep players coming back for more.
And those who prefer to share the adventure will welcome the game's multiplayer mode, the first in the series. In a twist, you don't play as Lara in multiplayer mode. Instead, you join a band of other survivors who are unrelated to the main game. [See also: New Tomb Raider Multiplayer Mode ]
You can experience "Tomb Raider" for yourself on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 for $60.