Tomb Raider 1-3 Remastered (Xbox)

We’ve been in the company of Lara Croft since 1996, we’ve been through highs and real lows along this journey, more recently Lara’s been in more positive light with her modern realistic trilogy. But we’ve not seen a mainline entry since 2018’s Rise of the Tomb Raider, behind the scenes we’ve seen a few changes, in 2022 Embracer Group purchased a bundle of things from Square Enix, amongst them the Tomb Raider franchise. Anyway Aspyr were given the task of developing remasters of the original trilogy of Tomb Raider, let’s see how they’ve fared.

Tomb Raider 1-3 Remastered is a collection if you can’t tel,l of the original 3 Tomb Raider titles, these however include all the original and expansion packs that were available. So Tomb Raider 1’s Unfinished Business, Tomb Raider 2’s The Golden Mask, and Tomb Raider 3’s The Lost Artifact.

All 3 games have been lovingly remastered by Aspyr, but mostly due to them bringing in OpenLara’s developer Timur Gagiev as technical director. This has been seen as somewhat as a master stroke, due to the way Aspyr have previously handled some of their more recent Switch Ports (KOTOR 2 and the case of the missing DLC springs to mind). Luckily having Gagiev on board we’re happy to report the port is of impressive quality.

For those that haven’t played the original Tomb Raider trilogy, you play as young Lara Croft, a British archaeologist who’s more often than not, hired to acquire ancient and mysterious artefacts, these usually involve jet setting across the globe traversing jungles, caves, amongst many of the wonders of the world too. The games are a primitive set of 3d platforming adventure games, lead with tank controls, which can at times require precision movement, quick reactions, and some key sharpshooting as you engage treacherous territory, all controlled without analogue sticks using some classic tank controls.

Those who aren’t used to the original janky controls do have options too, with a more “accessible” modern control system, as much as some people might prefer this modern setup I couldn’t get to grips with it, probably due to being much used to how it’s played in the past, I know from speaking to my colleague, he had less reservations about the new control system and was able to navigate much better than I could. My only gripe with the original controls is combat, it still feels very sluggish, with Lara struggling to react in time to faster moving enemies, her lock on can feel maybe half a second or so to where you’d like to be, it can be a chore, and if you’re close quarters with a faster enemy, your life will more than likely drain fast if you’re not ready.

Back in 1996 Tomb Raider was ground breaking, we hadn’t seen the scale of some of the areas we were exploring, climbing, diving from. It was a new experience for a lot of people. Tomb Raider was a staple in 90s gaming, and they were tough games back then, in 2023 there’s still a great sense of challenge here, puzzles are still relatively trial and error, with some puzzles leading to the next labyrinth, get it wrong and you could be met with instant death, do something different and you could find one of the many secret rooms each level has, there’s so much to explore, in each and every level for each individual title, Tomb Raider even now still amazes me, with how good level design could be, especially being one of the first major 3D adventure titles, we see a lot of variety, with intricate platforming, intense gun fights, and later on we see more stealth and vehicle sections. Tomb Raider still remains a strong challenge today, and those who want to find everything will have a blast with over 250 achievements to find across the titles, it’ll keep you busy for months.

Visually the games have seen updates using the original engine and source code, but fully remastered graphically into a much more pleasing aesthetic, Lara looks great, with each environment looking funnily enough as it used to, with just a nice lick of HD paint and some light touches like paralax scrolling on some ladders to give a more 3d visual to them, there’s also some slight use of AI in cutscenes, you can see some slight AI upscaling used in cutscenes to give a “better” presentation but these only work so well, like most AI there’s some little issues. Unlike the previous remake Tomb Raider Anniversary, we have no changes in the games geometry, everything remains as it was with no dramatic level or design changes. All character models have been recreated for better or for worse, where some will look a bit unhinged due to limbs looking a bit off, Tomb Raider 2’s butler is a pretty good example of this. We do have some other visual changes, t if you do feel like you want to step back in time, you can revert to a similar but not perfect vision of the past. Pressing the start button in game will revert the graphics back to a 1990’s style, with it’s heavy polygonal style and JPEG artefacts, it’s as you’d remembered playing it on your Playstation back in the day. Doing this aswell will lock the games frame rate to a strict 30 frames, which can be seen as “unplayable” now but it’s very authentic.

Personally I prefer playing with the more modern visuals with its 60 FPS and 4k boosted visuals, similar games have adopted the retro but still modern looks to great effect and Tomb Raider is definitely one of them. Other things of note, are we’ve seen some dynamic lighting added into the modern version, which gives some areas a new lease of life, some general scenery changes to make the world look a bit more lived in, some of the lighting changes are quite different to the original, playing Tomb Raider 2’s Golden Mask levels, quite a bit of the areas where flares are required are a lot brighter, pretty much negating the need of the flares at all.

I do however wish we have a few more visual options for the retro set up, a bit more of a RF retro tv filter would have been really nice for this, or even some more visual notches to make it match to the game looking how it was on the pc back then, or even things to make it more akin to some of the more modern patches and fan packs. The possibilities here could have been a bit better, as opposed to the on off switch.

As well as the new visual changes, we do have some more additions to the classics, with the aforementioned achievements, some of these can be as simple as doing a huge dive into water, some might even have you exploiting an old bug to find a hidden medipack, there’s some big variety in hunting achievements. We also have New Game Plus options for the first time, with a greater spike in difficulty due to not being able to use medipacks, harder enemies, and original saving methods (crystals only). Finally the original games now have photo mode, which is pretty common in most games, but actually can act as a secondary tool of exploration, if you’ve just flicked a switch but don’t know where it’s activated, use photo mode to have a quick scan around. Or take pics of Lara, the choice is yours.

The soundtrack still retains all the classics tunes and noises we were previously used to. With Tomb Raider 1 being the most atmospheric of the bunch, music is much less frequent than in the sequels, giving you a huge sense of isolation, until you hit big open sections or finding something you’ve been looking looking for, you’ll hear a small loop of music, which could be the games opening title or even the secret chime, these never get irritating going throughout. The sequels have a bit more going in them musically, but again these all remain within the same plan of the first game, being allotted for certain events or sequences to play out. All original music has been retained and if you’re a big fan of the franchise you’ll spot some “new” music in Tomb Raider 3, with some previously unused music being added in to where it should have originally been used.

A good selection of the better Playstation era 3d games have been ported or updated in recent times, with Spyro, Crash and even Medieval seeing modern remasters, Tomb Raider 1-3 Remastered is an excellent addition to any retro enthusiasts library, with 3 big campaigns to get through, loads of little extras to get. The game holds up really well in 2024, there’s a few small issues but nothing that changes my opinion.



How remasters need to be done

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