Lara Croft is a new woman – thanks to the same voice.

Croft – the female hero of the video-game series “Tomb Raider” – returns with another chapter Tuesday with “Rise of the Tomb Raider.” It is the latest chapter in the popular video-game franchise – and the second to feature the lauded voice of Camilla Luddington, credited with helping to breathe new life into the character.

Back are the lush jungles to be explored and treasures to be found – along with Luddington’s voice and likeness. Luddington has helped redefine one of the most celebrated female heroes in video-game history. Next to Ms. Pac-Man and Princess Peach of Nintendo fame – Lara Croft is one of the most recognized female characters in gaming. Croft is also one of the select iconic video game characters to survive upgrades in technology with new consoles and star in a feature film and theme park rides.

Hopes are high for the “Rise of the Tomb Raider,” seen as one of the most anticipated games of the year along with Activision Blizzard’s (ATVI) “Call of Duty Black Ops III” and Microsoft’s (MSFT) space-age shooter, “Halo 5.” “Rise of the Tomb Raider is being released exclusively on the Xbox One console with versions for other devices to follow next year.

Croft first appeared on video game consoles more than 19 years ago – and was an immediate hit as the character was a refreshing break from the stereotypical muscle-bulging male leads in video games. The game, though, has been completely rethought in the age of high-powered video-game consoles sporting high-definition graphics. Think less Barbie – and more Indiana Jones.

Writer Rhianna Prachett developed the Lara Croft character in the last two titles to be a brazen explorer more likely to have sweat and dirt smeared over her face from climbing cliffs than make-up. The game stresses Croft’s history and humanity and puts in her situations where she must use strength and smarts to survive, Luddington says.

“This Lara is more fleshed out – which makes her more realistic,” says Luddington. “I find this Lara to be inspirational.” Luddington’s voice draws out Croft’s travails and falls – literally – as she faces dangers and literally must fight to stay alive.

It’s a new dimension of a game that debuted when characters looked more like polygons than people. As the graphics have been upgraded, so has the story and presentation. 2013’s “Tomb Raider” and Luddington’s take on Lara’s voice and likeliness has won critical acclaim for leaving behind the cartoonish version of the previous versions of the game. Metacritic, a Web site that compiles game reviewers, gave the reboot a score of 86 out of 100 ranking it as one of the best received games for the Xbox One.

Luddington recalls playing the original version of “Tomb Raider” when her brother “allowed me to play.” She says she was “excited to play a female character” since there were so few to choose from when the game was released nearly two decades ago. Given her history with the game, Luddington says she was thrilled to find out she was chosen for the part. During her auditions she was only told he was trying out for the voice part of “Sara” for a project called “Krypted.”

Luddington says she “doesn’t hold the honor of being called a gamer,” but still remembers her favorite games from the 1980s like “Sonic the Hedgehog,” “Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker” and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” She still plays “Sonic.”

Square Enix, the game’s developer and Microsoft, hope the game will also be inspirational for gamers and make it as much of a hit as the last title, “Tomb Raider,” which Luddington also did the voice of Croft for.

“Rise of the Tomb Raider” debuted today as an exclusive title for Microsoft’s Xbox One. Hit games like this one are seen as the key to narrow the sales lead that Sony (SNE) has on its competing PlayStation 4 platform. “I hope this game is equally appealing (as the previous one),” she says. “(Lara’s) mantra is to keep going … even when she’s struggling.”

Follow Matt Krantz on Twitter @mattkrantz

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