11:30 am EDT, September 4, 2018

From pixels to perfection: An in-depth look at Lara’s graphical progression up to ‘Shadow of the Tomb Raider’

The Shadow of the Tomb Raider graphics are looking just about as beautiful as can be, and Lara’s model has never looked better. From polygons to advanced renders, this Tomb Raider graphics analysis covers all of Lara’s iterations.

In 2013, a reboot of the Tomb Raider series released, showcasing the origin story of one Lara Croft. However, leading up to the reboot, Lara has experienced many adventures, some amazing, and some not so great.

As Lara’s adventures progressed into her origin story, she became slightly less sexualized, and a lot more clothed. Midriff hidden and at times wearing pants, Lara was in it more for the action than the ogling of the male gaze.

Starting off with the original Tomb Raider design, let’s take notice of the character model that broke the equivalent of the 90’s Internet: video game magazines.

tomb raider 1 graphics

While the game’s cover art may look sort of neat for a 1996 video game, don’t be fooled. In-game, Lara actually looked like this.

tomb raider ps1 graphics

Lara’s next box art for Tomb Raider 2 took the male gaze effect and amplified things.

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tomb raider 2 ps1 graphics

Her in-game model was slightly less pointy by this point, and had a bit more fluid of actions.

tomb raider 2 graphics comparison

The Tomb Raider 3: The Adventures of Lara Croft box art featured a much more chic Lara, with her wearing her iconic circular sunglasses.

tomb raider 3 ps1 graphics

Lara sometimes wore a lot more clothes, like in the Antartica level. At other times, she wore… a lot less.

tomb raider 3 ps1 outfits

Lara’s more adventurous side was shown on the box art for Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, with her holding a flashlight in one hand and gun in the other.

tomb raider the last revelation box art

At this point in the series, the environments were much more realistic looking, which was a welcome change from the mixed browns and tans of the previous games’ textures.

tomb raider the last revelation gameplay

Lara’s first foray into handheld gaming came in the form of 2000’s Tomb Raider. It wasn’t a retelling of the first PS1 game, but indeed it’s own proper title.

tomb raider gbc box art

The gameplay was surprisingly fluid, and some of the in-game cutscenes were fairly mindblowing for Game Boy Color graphics.

tomb raider gbc gameplay

The next main series iteration was Tomb Raider Chronicles. The box art was sassy and moody, full of lightning and librarian gaze.

tomb raider chronicles box art

The catsuit makes its debut in this game and well… yeah, I suppose it speaks for itself.

tomb raider chronicles catsuit

Tomb Raider: Curse of the Sword was a followup to the 2000 Tomb Raider GBC game, and had a box art that was starting to get a bit generic at the time. And understandably so. There were only so many times that we could see Lara in the same busty blue tank top before the look became stale.

tomb raider curse of the sword boxart

The gameplay once again featured some somewhat impressive GBC visuals, and slightly improved in-game animation and models.

tomb raider curse of the sword gameplay

For the Tomb Raider: The Prophecy box art, Lara’s rendered model was finally updated for the 21st century. She had a newly designed face, and wasn’t wearing the same exact outfit that she had been for around 10 years.

tomb raider the prophecy box art

Lara’s first foray into the Game Boy Advance was a lot better detailed than either of the GBC games, with lush environments and realistic animations. Ontop of that, this top-down shooter allowed players to control Lara in the 3D world.

tomb raider the prophecy gameplay

Lara’s first PS2 game Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness took some leads from the look established in the The Prophecy render, giving Lara her most realistic and updated look to-date.

tomb raider the angel of darkness

Doppelganger plots aside, Angel of Darkness, understandably so, presented our darkest look at Lara thusfar.

tomb raider angel of darkness doppelganger

The Tomb Raider: Legend box art is iconic and beautiful. Lara’s render and in-game models started to nearly match, which is quite the feat for the PS2. The game also debuted the series on the Gamecube, PS3, and Xbox 360.

tomb raider legend box art

Lara’s facial animations were more lifelike, and her combat was beautifully rendered in Legend.

Tomb Raider Anniversary used the same models as Legend, with Lara wearing the same outfit in the original PS1 Tomb Raider.

tomb raider anniversary box art

The game also used the same engine as Legend, which still looks fluid and beautiful even by today’s standards.

tomb raider anniversary gameplay (1)

Tomb Raider: Underworld was what many considered the death of the old series Lara. The game was not received well critically, but featured a beautifully textured Lara on the boxart.

tomb raider underworld box art

The water textures were particularly amazing in this game, as were the fire and dust physics.

tomb raider anniversary gameplay

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light was on PS3 and Xbox 360, and was the first game to be made specifically for iOS. The box art is the first look we get into Lara’s latest model.

lara croft guardian of light box art

The run-and-gun game was simple, and not truly a continuation off of the Underworld plot, and rather more of a standalone.

guardian of the light gameplay

Tomb Raider 2013 debuted a new and improved Lara. With a brand new model and a reboot story, Lara’s failed Underworld adventure became a thing of the past.

tomb raider 2013 boxart

Lara’s face was a new shape, and her hair had new textures. She was wearing a completely new outfit, and for the first time ever, was in an HD game.

tomb raider lara croft reborn

Rise of the Tomb Raider altered Lara’s face shape and structure slightly, and even had two versions depending on the standard or definitive edition.

rise of the tomb raider boxart

The definitive edition also had a wonderful ice texture in the engine. The game overall seemed like the perfect Tomb Raider, until…

rise of the tomb raider ending ice

The Shadow of the Tomb Raider graphics look mighty fine. Lara’s new boxart is moody and dark, perhaps harkening back to her Dark Angel and Underworld games.

shadow of the tomb raider box art

Related: Tomb Raider and The Descent are the perfect companion films

Lara looks savage and wild, stalking her prey in the jungle with finesse and aptitude. Shadow of the Tomb Raider will take everything we know about the way a Tomb Raider game can look and flip it on its head.

shadow of the tomb raider gameplay

Shadow of the Tomb Raider hits store shelves on September 14, 2018 for the Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

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