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Tomb Raider I-III Remastered

1 May, 2024 - 5:59 pm by
About 11 mins to read
Reviewed on: PS5

If I were to present to you an image of the grey, concrete brick-looking relic from the 90’s that is the Playstation One console, and was to ask “name the first games that pop into your head?” 

What are you going to say? 

Crash Bandicoot, maybe? Metal Gear Solid? Resident Evil 2, perhaps? For me it will ALWAYS be the first installments in the Tomb Raider series, in all their blocky retro goodness.

Tomb Raider will forever be renowned as one of gaming’s most iconic and ground-breaking series, and one that I’ve been a huge fan of since my earliest childhood memories in gaming began. Over the years that pass, every so often I’ll get that familiar itch to replay and revisit these games again – however, the only way to do so was to risk mild electric shock in an attempt to boot up the old consoles! Cue the teams at Aspyr and Crystal Dynamics 2024 remastered release of the Tomb Raider Collection I-III to save me from my plight!

Unless you have been living under a rock the past 28 years, we all pretty much know the rundown of these games, but here it is just in case. Tomb Raider is a third-person action-adventure, puzzle-solving platformer, starring famed female British protagonist, archaeologist Lara Croft. Lara travels the world, exploring tombs and various hazardous locations, searching for mysterious lost artifacts, usually to prevent some nefarious character who plans to use said artifact for no good. Originally developed by Core Design and published by Eidos Interactive, the original Tomb Raider was released all the way back in 1996, and was revolutionary and innovative for its time. Tomb Raider 2 followed in quick succession in 1997 and then Tomb Raider 3 then hit the shelves in 1998.


At A Glance

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered

Positives

+ Classic Tomb Raider gameplay with striking revamped visuals
+ All three expansions included for the first time on console
+ Added ‘modern’ control system to cater to new fans

Negatives  

– Outdated gameplay mechanics can sometimes be more frustrating than enjoyable
– Clunky manual saves are unforgiving
– Renovated lighting system makes some areas harder to navigate

Overall

8 /10

Played On

PS5

Also Available On

Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One

Find out about our scoring policy here.


Now, let’s swan-dive into the review!

In the age of revivals, Aspyr has given these games a new lease of life with a full graphical overhaul, now playable in widescreen and all with an upgraded frame rate of 60FPS. There’s revamped textures, baked and real-time lighting effects and shadowing, remastered menus, new character models, lovely new HD sky boxes – even the 2D sprites have been replaced – and that’s just to name a few! Aesthetically this game has never looked better. Even Lara has had a glow-up! It’s the way the game looked in my mind as a child; the game that could have been had the technology been around at the time. But it’s in no way overwhelming and doesn’t distract from the original gameplay, it simply enhances it, like a filter on your phone camera, it’s just giving you the best version of what it’s given to work with. Obviously it cannot fairly be compared to modern gaming standards – some of the textures are a bit like wallpaper plastered over giant Lego bricks, and the cutscenes are still pretty ghastly, but it does a pretty good job all things considered. 

There’s nice little extras added too, such as lush plant life, particle effects, boss health bars, and subtitles. There’s a new photo mode (should you want a selfie with a cross Atlantean), and over 200 new trophies to collect to keep you busy. What’s also great is the option to switch between the new and old graphics at the push of a button to truly get that authentic vintage Tomb Raider experience, in all its polygonal glory. I found myself compulsively flipping between the two, comparing various iconic locations I had played so many times before looking so much more refined and immersive than ever. The cracks in the stone of the colosseum, the pulsing fleshy walls of Atlantis, the dense foliage of the Indian jungle – seeing them again, all scrubbed up with a fresh coat of paint was a real kick in the feels.

And we have a brand new way of traversing these levels; an additional “modern” control system has been added, which uses more up-to-date analogue controls and a free camera that most modern gamers will be accustomed to. But hardcore retro-gamers needn’t fear, as they should feel right at home with the original, old school “Tank” controls, as they are still available as an option. I personally found the modern controls preferable, as it felt like a much smoother experience compared to the rigid tank controls. But they were not without their problems – the camera was a little unruly at times and would often get stuck on corners or inside the cavity of Lara’s head, particularly if you were up against a wall or in a tight crawl spot. They also -for some illogical reason- completely remove some of Lara’s key movement abilities, such as side jumps, back jumps and side steps, which is rather impractical, particularly during a shootout with one of Natla’s goons or when trying to dodge an oncoming boulder. Consequently, I quite often found myself having to toggle back and forth between the two. Not ideal. 

The controls may seem tricky at first but give it time and practice and in a few hours you’ll be flying. A bit like learning to ride a bike! But rather than riding a bike, playing a Tomb Raider game is a bit like driving a classic car -it’s a timeless experience- but although it may be fun to go for a spin, it is unfortunately a product of its time. It’s outdated and janky and doesn’t always deliver the smoothest ride, so it’s not always appreciated by the modern consumer.

The gameplay requires a certain amount of patience, and the modern gamer might struggle with the fact that often the puzzle itself is navigating the labyrinthian levels in order to progress, leading to quite a lot of confusing back-tracking. It’s a rather dated concept. There’s certainly no hand holding, in fact, there’s barely any guidance in the games at all! You’re left to your own devices, which can be almost as frustrating as the tricky, rage-quit-inducing grid-based jumps you’ll need to perfect during gameplay. As you do progress and then inevitably die due to some miscalculated jump or by taking a tumble into a spike pit, you will then come to the untimely realisation that this game has NO auto saves, just manual ones. So don’t forget! 

You DO NOT want to do that level with the kayak again… trust me.

The combat is also probably one of the weaker aspects in the series; there’s no real dodging, just a lot of haphazardous jumping and rolling. Lara’s guns repeatedly lock-on and -off of their own accord – including targets that are already dead. This makes for a bit of a lacklustre experience, and shooting those icky giant spiders come Tomb Raider 2 becomes far less enjoyable and much more of a chore.

“But should I buy this game?”, I hear you ask.

Honestly, that’s a really tricky one for me to answer. I am blinded by nostalgia. I love these games no matter how infuriatingly vague, obtuse, isolating and notoriously difficult they can be at times. I must be a sucker for punishment because I thoroughly enjoy every meticulous jump or toilsome puzzle these games hand out. They simply don’t make them like this anymore. 

And this may be the exact reason why the modern gamer may not share the same opinion.

If you have dabbled in retro games before, don’t care too much about having the best graphics, and can go in with the understanding that these games are nearly three decades old and haven’t really aged that well, I’d say give it a go. 

Speaking of not aging so well however, it’s worth mentioning that these games now come with a disclaimer warning about the “offensive depictions of people, cultures and stereotypes that are both deeply harmful and inexcusable”. Rather than remove the content, Crystal Dynamics have left it in so that we, the audience, “may acknowledge its harmful impact and learn from it”. Let’s be honest, there’s a fair bit of problematic content in the series. I think deep down we all knew that relieving cultures of their ancient relics and shooting endangered wildlife was never exactly appropriate.

At the retail price of around £25 for all three games plus all of the expansions (previously PC-only exclusives), you’re looking at a minimum of 80+ hours gameplay, so you’re definitely getting your money’s worth. Downside, it is digital download only at the moment, which is a bit of a shame, as I’d quite like a physical copy on my shelf.

You can clearly see the love and attention the team at Aspyr has put into the restoration of this acclaimed franchise; it’s a long-awaited love letter made by fans for fans, and hats off to them. I’m really hoping they will find the time to continue to remaster more of this series in the not-so-distant future. The Last Revelation would be next, and it’s my favorite.

Whether you are exploring these games for the very first time and just want to see what all the hype is about, or you’re a veteran player who’s ready to be hauled back to the 90’s, nostalgia goggles in hand, ready to reminisce on a time when gaming was a little simpler, anyone who’s a self-proclaimed gamer should try this series at least once, and Aspyr have made this Tomb Raider Remastered collection the definitive way to do so. 

In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.


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Our Rating
8