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SYFY WIRE Tomb Raider

'Tomb Raider' goes next-gen: Lara Croft nocks an arrow for an Unreal new gaming adventure

Crystal Dynamics’ new game is tapping the cinematic power of Unreal Engine 5.

By Benjamin Bullard
Lara Croft in Tomb Raider

Lara Croft is officially a next-gen adventurer. The next video game installment in the hallowed Tomb Raider series has just been announced, and it’ll be developed for Sony and Microsoft’s flagship consoles via the boosted rendering tech of the latest version of Epic Games’ Unreal Engine — the same high-powered tool that Lucasfilm leans on to provide the dramatic sci-fi backdrops for The Mandalorian.

The perennial fan favorite series from Square Enix was revealed during Epic’s annual "The State of Unreal" tech presentation, with Crystal Dynamics — a longtime Square Enix studio collaborator whose Tomb Raider roots run deep — announced as the yet-untitled new game’s developer.

On the heels of the studio's work on 2020’s Marvel’s Avengers, the game marks the second new-gen project from Crystal Dynamics that’ll feature a female lead: It’s also been recently recruited to help Microsoft develop the upcoming Perfect Dark franchise reboot for Xbox consoles and PC.

Beyond its high-tech starting point, not much more is known about the next Tomb Raider, which Crystal Dynamics says is still early in development using Epic’s just-released Unreal Engine 5. “Our goal is to push the envelope of fidelity and deliver the high-quality, cinematic action adventure experience that fans deserve from Crystal Dynamics and the Tomb Raider franchise,” the studio said in a Twitter video.

Though it’s hard to top Angelina Jolie's and Alicia Vikander’s live-action portrayals of Lara Croft, Crystal Dynamics’ new game may just be the one that comes with the tools to bridge the gap between game animation and film. For a taste of what Unreal Engine 5 can do, check out last year’s incredible The Matrix Awakens game tech demo — a slice of PS5 and Xbox Series X action that seamlessly merges live-action performances from Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss with car-chase shootout gameplay.

No release date was mentioned along with Lara Croft’s next chapter, but Tomb Raider is only one of the many gaming franchise blockbusters that’ll rely on Unreal Engine 5’s cinematic production power in the years ahead. Fortnite already has embraced Epic’s newest game creation tool, with CD Projekt Red recently revealing (via The Verge) that it’s begun work on the next installment in the smash-hit The Witcher series, with Unreal Engine 5 as the new game’s development backbone.

Elsewhere in Lara Croft’s crossover movie world, watch for Vikander to reprise her leading role in the upcoming movie sequel to 2018’s Tomb Raider.