HomeReviews4/5 ReviewTomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft Review

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft Review

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Lara Croft is a British gaming icon, and rumours are currently swirling about what adventures are planned for her next. She was created by the brilliant folks at the now defunct Core Design, just down the road from me in Derby (as it happens). Lara Croft Way, in the very same city, was named after the famous artefact hunter in tribute. 

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft takes us back to where it all began, nearly thirty years ago now. Each game includes the expansions and secret levels that were released as expanded versions of the main games. These were brought only to the PC back in the day, so as a console gamer I’m delighted to see this content included. 

Lara Croft is a formidable explorer and survivor, who travels the world in the search for ancient treasures and mysterious artefacts, often of great supernatural power. I remember playing the originals and being blown away by the ambition of scope in her adventures, despite technology significantly lagging behind.

tomb raider i-iii remastered starring lara croft review 1
The most iconic of Tomb Raider moments are included

This is where Aspyr have come in, with their “remastered” collection. To be clear, this isn’t a ground up remake of the originals. What it is, however, is one hell of a glow up. The foundations have been scaled up to include a brilliant amount of detail, and I must say the games look beautiful. At the same time, you can clearly tell which era they belong to. This isn’t the same job that Crystal Dynamics did with Tomb Raider: Anniversary.

Subtle additions add a lot, such as greater draw distances, much improved lighting and little touches like adding a starry night sky in place of a black void. What’s great is you can hit start to switch between the original and updated graphics at any time. This includes if you’re in the menu or on a loading screen, it’s pretty impressive stuff.

On the subject of loading screens, they look absolutely gorgeous, acting as posters for the setting of each cluster of levels. Across all of the games, Lara travels to numerous wonderful places from Peru and Egypt to Greece, London and even Antarctica. She is without doubt a globetrotter, one wonders where she gets the cash.

Each game is tied together by a simple narrative, and sets up the villains pretty effectively. Cut scenes are earned, as they are few and far between but are worth waiting for. These have been scaled up too, but not to the level that the rest of the games have been.

My favourite Tomb Raider game of all time is Tomb Raider II. What I love so much is not only the pace of the storytelling, but the variety of locations Lara gets to explore. It’s not easy though, as enemies will pop up at pretty much every opportunity, often resulting in an effective jump scare. What that game taught me is that Venice is apparently crawling with henchmen. 

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Lara looks great in this glow up

Interestingly, Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft doesn’t just address the visuals, but the controls have been reviewed too. Now, if you have played the original games it’s fair to say the control scheme hasn’t aged particularly well. Lara handles like a tank, but this is because navigating the environments often demands precise movements, otherwise you’ll fall to your death.

The “modern controls” allow Lara to move freely without turning on a fixed point. It feels like a revelation at first, as she zips around without continually bumping into walls or having to line every movement up exactly. However, as you play the contradictions between these controls and the game design start to become clear.

Firstly, Lara is slippy. You’ll need to make use of the walk function, because if you run around freely Lara will take a couple of steps too many and sprint straight off the edge of the ledge (again often to her death). Secondly, lining up jumps is difficult because you still need a run up before you can jump. Instead of Lara jumping back when you tap down, she turns and runs the other way. You can counteract this by running in a little circle before jumping, but it feels much more risky than tackling certain elements of the platforming than with the “tank” controls. 

Also, I found it literally impossible to pull off a safe drop with the modern controls. This is when you back off the edge of a ledge, hang, and then drop so less fall distance is covered, ultimately avoiding injury. For the reasons given above where Lara runs in any given direction, I had to constantly swap between old and new control setups in order to drop down from high ledges safely. 

Lastly, combat can still be tricky. Lara will be constantly fighting off human baddies, as well as a whole range of dangerous animals on her adventures. The range of weapons are still satisfying (switching from the classic pistols to uzis is still a thrill), but using the modern controls means when running Lara will turn away from her enemy, and lose aim. Trying to line up shots becomes more difficult, especially as whatever you’re facing will typically charge straight at you. It’s certainly an adjustment, and rolling to change direction becomes very important here.

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Whip those pistols out

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft is a collection of old school games, no matter their appearance. This is also the case when it comes to saving. If you die, it’s back to where you started. Now, you can save at any point and in Tomb Raider I and Tomb Raider III they have done away with those stupid crystals, which were used to limit the amount of times you could save. Instead, they are just collectibles now. That’s the good part.

The bad part? Well, I can’t remember if the originals had the same problem, but on a few occasions I accidentally loaded my game instead of saving. To do so, you flip open Lara’s passport in the main menu. On the first occasion you go to save, it is on the first page, but it moves and is replaced by the load game options once you have data saved. When you move from one level to the next (there is still no autosave remember), I instinctively went to load the game, and was transported back to the previous level. There is a “restart level” option there, but it’s a few pages in. It may just be me, but little redesigns in areas such as this would have brought further welcome quality of life improvements without changing anything significant about the games themselves.

On that note, work has also been done to improve the camera, which had a tendency to completely freak out in tight spaces. You can lock it with a press of the thumbstick so Lara can have a good look around whilst staying anchored to the spot. However, old habits die hard it seems as, at times, your view will once again become obscured by walls or tight spaces, and you’ll need to do a good bit of shuffling to sort it out. Another change is the addition of a photo mode, which freezes the action and allows you to take snaps of Lara, as well as change her outfits, facial expressions and more. This is a fun addition, and with the visual tweaks actually surprised me with some of the pretty photos I managed to capture.

As far as I can tell, one thing the team at Aspyr haven’t changed in Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft, is the music. This is great news, because there are some iconic arrangements that sound just as good now as they did years and years ago. That was a good decision.

The achievements in Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft are inventive and well thought out. Rather than going down the lazy route of solely awarding Gamerscore for completing levels, taking an experimental approach, or just trying something, can often bag you one. That’s how the best achievements work, when the developers anticipate your move and reward your curiosity.

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Puzzles? We got puzzles.

Overall Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft gets the balance right in the approach to bringing these classic games up to date for a new generation. In doing so, nothing has been lost that made them so iconic in the first place (niggles included). In that sense this is a very faithful “remaster”. 

You can probably guess that I’m a huge fan of the originals, but I’m well aware of their limitations. Despite this, these three games (the following releases are hit and miss) are undeniably stone cold classics, and remain incredibly enjoyable even to this day. Aspyr have added value to them, which is a big success with a release such as Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft.

Perhaps people were expecting remakes, but Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft has to be thought of as a game of its time, not a modern release. When you take into account that context you can truly appreciate just how brilliant these three adventures still are.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Authentically improved visuals
  • All content included
  • Photo mode is fun
  • Save crystals have been binned
Cons:
  • Modern controls have limitations
  • The camera can still be a nightmare
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Aspyr
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC
  • Release date and price - 14 February 2024 | £24.99
Darren Edwards
Darren Edwards
I have been playing games since a very early age, thanks to my Dad's encouragement. I've been an Xbox gamer since the very beginning, the Master Chief is to thank for that. I'm also a big Nintendo geek, and my other half is a PlayStation nut. I'll play pretty much anything in any genre (although FIFA and COD maybe pushing it).
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Authentically improved visuals</li> <li>All content included</li> <li>Photo mode is fun</li> <li>Save crystals have been binned</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Modern controls have limitations</li> <li>The camera can still be a nightmare</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Aspyr</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC <li>Release date and price - 14 February 2024 | £24.99</li> </ul>Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft Review
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