Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Review – A Relic of its Time

The Iconic Trilogy Returns: Tomb Raider I-III Remastered

During the advent of 3D video games on PC and consoles, Tomb Raider was an instant hit, and its leading protagonist, Lara Croft, became an icon overnight. As a 3D adventure game, it captivated gamers all over the world, resulting in sequels released in short order. Alongside the games, Lara Croft, as a character, transcended media and entertainment, appearing on the covers of gaming and non-gaming magazines alike and becoming a cultural icon inspiring a Hollywood movie franchise. There have been numerous eras for the franchise, but it’s been a while since we all had a chance to revisit where it all began, so Tomb Raider I-III Remastered brings together the original trilogy with some new bells and whistles.

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered brings back the legendary adventure that shaped a genre, proving that Lara Croft’s original escapades are timeless.

A Nostalgic Journey with a Modern Twist

For PC gamers, these classic games have been accessible over the years, so it’s more of a convenient package for console gamers to have these games in one place. Regardless of your gaming platform of choice, the convenience and affordability of this collection, along with some notable extra features, serve as a nice entry point for anyone interested in the origins of the franchise or for longtime fans to revisit their favorite moments from yesteryear.

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The collection brings together three games plus all the extra content and missions, making it the complete and definitive edition of each of the games. These were considered AAA titles back in their time, and honestly, despite some aspects not holding up in 2024, these are timeless adventure games purely from a level design standpoint. They reward exploration, environmental puzzles, carefully planned combat, and, more often than not, exciting sequences and set pieces that seem straight out of Indiana Jones. The ambition and scope of these adventures still impress despite their age.

The collection here does a good job of preserving the original style and presentation, so you get that classic 32-bit graphical style but with a nice, clean polish. Surprisingly, the artistic personality still shines through, and the primitive graphics are quite charming. With a flick of a button, the graphics can be switched to a modern style, but honestly, it doesn’t look great. The remade modern graphics resemble something out of a low-budget PlayStation 2 game and don’t do justice to the art style at all.

While the remastered trilogy honors its roots with classic 32-bit charm, its attempt at modern graphics falls short, reminding us that not all past glories need a new coat of paint.

The main issue with the remaster is how the lighting is handled. The lighting effects, color contrast, and texture mapping are inconsistent, and more often than not, things get too dark to the point of being barely visible. This is where having two graphical styles can be useful, as in some sections, the modern graphics will have better lighting than the classic graphics, and yet, in some sections, it’s the opposite. It’s all very inconsistent, so switching between the graphics, for the most part, becomes a practical necessity.

The Challenge of Remastering Classics

As a default, the game uses its classic tank controls with perhaps the most uncooperative camera you will ever encounter, but there is a modern control scheme that remaps the buttons differently and noticeably improves the camera, too. The modern controls are smoother, especially during combat and when interacting with objects, yet the tank controls can be more effective for some of the platforming segments. So, it all really comes down to preference. Those who grew up with the classic games on PlayStation will likely stick to the traditional control scheme, whereas most players will probably want to change to modern controls straight away.

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Returning to the games, the trilogy holds up as among the very best 3D action-adventure games ever made. Longtime fans will swear by a different game; some will argue for the first game, which even now feels like lightning in a bottle, whereas some will prefer the polish and evolution of the second game and the enhanced gameplay variety it offers. The third game can often be polarizing among fans, given its opaque design and stronger emphasis on epic set pieces and segments.

Despite the solid remastering effort, the lack of additional content and extras feels like a missed opportunity to celebrate the rich history of Lara Croft and Tomb Raider.

While fans will continue the debate, all three games provide immensely rewarding level design. There is a sense of wonder as you carefully explore uncharted territories or even find yourself in majestic cities. The combat sequences are thoughtfully placed and require strategic planning, but for the most part, the levels are a test of puzzle-solving ingenuity and the sheer satisfaction that comes with progressing through a level by yourself. What’s great is that the games have a way of effectively teaching players new things without spelling them out in a cumbersome tutorial, which in itself is quite a lost art in game design in general.

The storyline is interesting, too, and Lara Croft has plenty of spunk and attitude in these games that we don’t quite see from her in the reboot entries. It’s a great way for fans and newcomers to experience the globetrotting tombraider herself in her prime. This was the character that allowed video games to become part of global culture and entertainment. Her personality comes through in her trademark design and attire, especially during the voiced cinematics. Speaking of cinematics, it would have been nice to see some remastering of these cutscenes, but at least the voice acting comes across nicely.

A Missed Opportunity for Extra Content

Although the remastering efforts are decent, as a package, the collection feels quite barebones. The three games each have their own menu, but beyond that, there isn’t much else. There are no extras or other features, and it would have been great to have galleries, developer diaries, and other content in some sort of museum. It really would have been a great release to spotlight the history and development of the franchise, but sadly, we only get the remastered games here and not much else. At least all three iterations of the Croft mansion are available here, including the butler who will follow you to the ends of the earth… even into the meat freezer.

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Tomb Raider I-III Remastered is a convenient, effective, and budget-friendly way to dive into the trilogy that launched a bestselling video game franchise and the career of Lara Croft as a pop culture icon. It may not feel like the most definitive way these games could have been packaged together, but what you get are three of the most groundbreaking 3D adventure games with some of the most satisfying and rewarding level designs. Whether you’re a longtime fan or one of the newer fans, these are games worth diving into for anyone looking for a real challenge.

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A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered (PS5)

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered offers a nostalgic revisit to Lara Croft's first adventures, packaging the iconic original trilogy for modern audiences. The collection preserves the essence of exploration, puzzle-solving, and cinematic set pieces, despite dated 32-bit graphics and some new but underwhelming modernized visuals. Players have the option between classic tank controls and an updated control scheme to suit their preferences. While the remaster lacks additional content beyond the games, it remains a cost-effective way for both new and veteran fans to explore the series' roots. Lighting inconsistencies and a sparse remastering effort aside, this collection stands as a tribute to the enduring legacy of one of gaming's most iconic characters.

The Good

  • Comprehensive Collection: The collection conveniently packages the first three games plus all extra content, offering a complete experience of the classic trilogy.
  • Control Options: Players can choose between classic tank controls and a modern control scheme, the latter of which smooths out gameplay and improves camera handling.
  • Preserved Classic Style: The remaster maintains the original 32-bit graphical style with a clean polish, retaining the games' artistic personality and charm.

The Bad

  • Lack of Extras: Beyond the remastered games, the collection lacks additional content such as galleries, developer diaries, or historical retrospectives on the franchise.
  • Barebones Package: The collection is described as barebones, missing an opportunity to spotlight the franchise's history and development comprehensively.
  • Inconsistent Lighting: Lighting effects are inconsistent across both graphical styles, sometimes necessitating switching between them to improve visibility.
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