Lara Croft has been tasked with firing SCi Entertainment back into the black as the computer games maker prepared to launch the latest instalment in the Tomb Raider franchise.

Fans will have their first chance to play Tomb Raider Legend when it hits stores in Europe next Friday followed by its debut in North America four days later.

Tomb Raider is the one of the most successful games in history, selling more than 28 million units and giving rise to two Hollywood films featuring Angelina Jolie.

It was acquired by SCi when it bought rival Eidos in May for #103 million who in turn picked it up in a takeover of the former Birmingham-based CentreGold.

SCi said the game was one of the key reasons why it expected to post full-year profits ? it said it was on track to hit its target of #23 million.

This was despite recording a pretax loss for the half year to December 31 of #20.1 million against a #3.9 million profit a year earlier.

In addition to Tomb Raider, the company will publish Urban Chaos, Hitman: Blood Money and a new version of Championship Manager in the second half.

Chief executive Jane Cavanagh said: "We are confident the launch of eagerly awaited titles such as Tomb Raider Legend and Hitman: Blood Money provides a firm base to our profitability for the full 2006 financial year."

Julian Lakin of Mirabaud Securities said: "If press reviews are to be believed, they will both fly."

The last version of Tomb Raider sold about 2.3 million units, a figure which disappointed analysts,

SCi, which recently ended takeover talks that had been going on since October, said revenues in the first half were greater than expected at #50.1 million - compared with #17.9 million - but had not translated into profits.

That was because best-sellers such as Lego Star Wars, which has shifted more than 3.3 million units since its launch in April last year, involve a distribution agreement rather than published directly.

Eidos published previous versions of TV quiz Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and SCi announced that it signed a deal with Celador to develop new versions for the Sony PSP and PS2 consoles.

Referring to the launch of new hardware such as the Xbox 360 and the debut later this year of the PlayStation 3, SCi said it would not rush out games immediately.

"Our general strategy is to plan development on new platforms such that new products are launched once the installed base of the platform is commercially viable," Ms Cavanagh said.

"This will generally occur about 12 months after the hardware launch."