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No woman can compete with the digital perfection of Lara Croft. So discovered Rhona Mitra, the actress who was dumped from her promotional role as Croft just weeks before the release of Tomb Raider 2. Words: John Henderson
This was to have been an article about the rapid rise of hard-drive It girl Rhona Mitra. chosen to become the real-life incarnation of Lara Croft. silicon heroine of the bestselling video game Tomb Raider. Plastered over the cover of men’s mag FHM and fawned over in the Sunday Times ‘Style’ supplement. it seemed as though her trip to the top was assured by the imminent release of Tomb Raider 2. As it turned out. Lara Croft changed the script just before the game’s eagerly awaited sequel made its debut.
Tomb Raider has become one of the biggest grossing video games of all time. Sales in Britain alone have topped l.5 million units, and 13.5 million have been shifted worldwide. To put such ﬁgures in perspective, a Hollywood film is considered a blockbuster if it pulls in over $100 million. Tomb Raider has come close to $500 million. That's Jurassic Park territory.
With her pneumatic breasts and in-your-face attitude. Lara Croft quickly became both an object of male desire and a video game character that girls could relate to. What better way to publicise the game than to have her come alive in the flesh? The first attempt at such a Pygmalion-esquc marketing gambit sunk without trace. bat then. along came Mitra.
Having already been relate to' typecast in Jilly Cooper’s The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous. her posh girl rebel image ideally suited the aristocratic India Jane antics of Lara Croft. And she was stunning. moving a gushing Jilly Cooper to comment: ‘l’ve been in a room with Rhona where men were just silenced by her beauty. She is ravishing.’
Mitra’s apparent success as Croft seemed to indicate that, at last. a virtual character had reversed the usual Barbie-doll tie-in merchandising style and spawned a real-life spin-off.
Then came a last minute press release. quoting comments made by Larry Sparks, Marketing Director at Eidos. publisher of Tomb Raider 2. ‘Both the real-
98 THE “ST 23 Oct—6 Nov 1997
With her pneumatic breasts and in-your-face attitude, Lara Croft quickly became both an object of male desire and a video game character that girls could
Tomb Raider's digital It girl Lara Croft
life Laras used in previous marketing campaigns have proved highly successful. but we now feel that the digital character is strong enough to stand on her own two feet . . . so non-digital promotions/PR will now be phased out.‘
It seems that charismatic video game characters can now publicise themselves and haie transcended the need for some sort of reality. Perhaps it‘s not surprising. Can you remember who played Mario. Nintendo’s Italian plumber. in the spin-off film‘.’ Did you need the film to give life to the little guy? I don‘t think so. Mr Hoskins.
Creating an iconic character is the key to video game success. Mario launched Nintendo single-handedly. and Sonic did the same for Sega. Sony have been very quick to make. sure that the Playstation is the only console Lara Croft will ever appear on again, and it’s a move that will no doubt shift another 100.000 machines.
These new digital celebrities have no need of a physical manifestation. One of the most striking covers this year from style mag The Face. featured Lara in her original digital form. However beautiful Rhona Mitra was. she was never going to compete. Part of the appeal of celebrities has always been their distance. their untouchability. What could be more untouchable than a string of binary code? lOOI IOOIOI. Phwoar.
Tomb Raider 2 is due for release on Fri 21 Nov. See opposite for review.
Games oWeb Sites 0CD ROMS
GAME Tomb Raider 2 (PC/PlayStation) £44.99
Lurking behind all the hype about virtual heroine Lara Croft (see opposrte). is a game well worth playing. The two biggest criticisms levelled at the original Tomb Raider concerned its speed, or lack of it, and the uniformity of its graphics. Both complaints have been addressed, and Lara now bounces around in a much more distinctive environment. She responds more willingly to your commands and even has a couple of new tricks she's keen to show off. The puzzle elements have been enhanced, and the lighting has been cleverly improved. All in all, it’s enough to go to any girl’s head.
WEB SITE Scotgeist http://www.scotgeist.com
Run by The Herald, Scotgeist claims to be a site dedicated to providing a ’new platform for Scottish creativity’. Opening with an essay by broadcaster and journalist Stuart Cosgrove on Scottish serial killers and national identity, Scotgeist seeks somewhat preteritiousiy to gather the thoughts and outpourings of the Scottish diaspora. It is coupled with another site called 52, which proclaims itself a think-tank for the new millennium, and ponders the question of a possible second Scottish Enlightenment. Both sights have a slick and engaging design, and, depending on the calibre of their contributors, will either sink or swim under the weight of their ambition
GAME Virus (PC CD-ROM £39.99)
At last, a game with some vaguely originai creative thought, even if its roots can be traced back to the 605 sci-ii classic Fantastic Voyage. On loading, Virus takes a snap-shot of the contents of your hard disk and then constructs the playing area around the set-up of your own files. Each game is therefore unique to the machine it's installed on, and as the name suggests, your task is to track down the data—threatening monster. Combining strategy with straightforward 30 blasting, Virus breathes fresh air into a staid genre, and if the threat were actually real, this game would make for some serious drama.
REVIEWER THIS ISSUE: John Henderson