Tomb Raider I - III remastered wallpaper
April 24, 2024

Put on your shortest shorts and find a hole in the ground to jump in, in our Tomb Raider I – III Remastered review!

Picture it. It’s 1996, you’re sitting in the living room around the CRT TV, PlayStation plugged in, it hums to life with the fantastic PlayStation logo screen then, a short cutscene heralds a chill title screen. Welcome to Tomb Raider.

This iconic franchise from Core Designs introduced the world to Lara Croft, a hard-hitting, badass treasure hunter who almost seemed like a direct challenge to the likes of Indiana Jones. The original iconic Lara is back so it is time to assign the newer Laras to the memory tomb and get to some classic raiding!

Tomb Raider I – III Remastered Review – Story

Lara Croft is a “Tomb Raider ” of some renown, even in the first title it’s clear she is mid-career as a spelunker and living it. In the first game, she is approached by Natla Industries to find a relic of untold power. In the second game she is seeking a dagger with the power to turn its wielder into a dragon and the third and final game in the trilogy has Lara has a somewhat more mystical journey about deities and meteorites. Each game opens with a fantastic cutscene that sets the tone and has a reasonably high amount of story scenes for such old titles. All of which is voiced!

Tomb Raider I - III remastered review visuals comparison

Original on left, remastered on right.

Lara herself lives up to the hype with a no-nonsense attitude and just absolute style. The way she conducts herself is often comically dismissive and badass, especially when dealing with the often idiotic baddies of the series. As the series progresses she finds herself in situations more and more bizarre but not many match the drastic twist in atmosphere in the first Tomb Raider title. Ending in an almost horror-like environment fighting demonic entities. In fact Tomb Raider 3, despite also having a magical artefact feels much more grounded.

It’s an interesting series to experience in a packaged trilogy where the stories can be experienced side by side, it pointedly shows how Core managed to iterate on the story design and presentation as they developed the series. In fact, these three titles are an essential piece of game history that it’s thrilling to have upscaled and remade.

Tomb Raider I – III Remastered Review – Gameplay

Tank controls are back baby! These games are heavily designed around a very specific grid system for which the tank control scheme fits perfectly. Being a modern redo of the series though it does of course feature adjusted controls for players who are less likely to enjoy the old controls. However, the game is not designed around them so while they are serviceable it makes the experience feel much worse as things like long jumps pretty much cease to function as intended.

Tomb Raider I - III remastered review visuals comparison

Original on left, remastered on right.

Lara still has movement that feels quite unusual in comparison to other 3D platformer titles yet none of them have such a feeling of realism. Lara has a real physicality that is quite innovative for the time. Even small things like Lara bouncing off a wall or struggling to pull a box help connect the player to her, adding an element of wanting her to survive. She really feels like a part of the world in a way that most characters in gaming don’t. It’s ingenious and unseen in most modern games.

Controlling her during some actions can feel a bit stiff, for example, side-stepping around trying to find the activation point of a switch, can be a little aggravating. All of that said… use the classic controls. The game is designed to use them and requires the accuracy they provide.

Combat in these older games is interesting, it strides the line between satisfying and limp. Weapons like the dual pistols are iconic and can target multiple enemies at once making them a fantastic base arsenal for Lara but she can also find much more powerful weapons, like shotguns, while exploring meaning exploration is occasionally rewarded with more fighting ability.

They don’t all sound amazing but they do have a nice reverb-style sound effect. In the original versions, most of the wildlife and humans were quite resistant to bullets however, in these remasters, aside from bosses most enemies crumple pretty quickly meaning fighting is more about positioning Lara and firing away than being careful.

Tomb Raider I - III remastered review visuals comparison

Original on left, remastered on right.

This collection also highlights the changes made as the series progressed. Things like ladders wouldn’t be in the levels until the second game! It’s really fun to experience this progression without having to wait years between games. Obviously, the series expanded hugely to the point that levels would have quite large areas traversable via vehicles, something Uncharted didn’t manage until its 4th entry. As expected there is no cut content here either, this is 100% of the first 3 games including their iterations of Croft Manor with their much-loved tutorial and Butler freezing action.

Tomb Raider I – III Remastered Review – Visuals

The iconic polygonal design of Lara Croft will be seared into the eyes of early series adopters with her square guns and, at least in the first game, lack of ponytail. Her new character model is very cool, she looks just like her artwork from the time and has a host of new animations like lip syncing giving her a little more life versus her old school model.

Obviously, with a much higher detail model, the world is also in need of an overhaul. Luckily the designers have found a great compromise that allows the world to function the same as it always has but showcase a much higher level of detail. The lighting and textures are so much more detailed than before yet faithful to the original meaning it’s not lost that unique charm. A lot of the previously 2d billboarded elements have been reimagined as 3d objects which helps ground the new visuals.

Here are some comparison shots to further explain how nice this overhaul is!

Tomb Raider I - III remastered review visuals comparison Tomb Raider I - III remastered review visuals comparison Tomb Raider I - III remastered review visuals comparison

Original on left, remastered on right.

This collection allows players to swap between the old and new graphics at the press of the plus button. It’s silky smooth and instant. The ability to swap these modes is present even in menus and cutscenes meaning it’s possible to watch the crunchy original versions of the cinematics which otherwise are well upscaled using AI. Where there is a small issue is there are moments in each of the games where the new visuals are too dark as a result of aiming for natural lighting, this is something that benefits the older style.

Humans, animals and aberrations all benefit from new higher poly but same style models that keep the game feeling authentic while polishing up some of the weirder designs. Wolves are prominent at the beginning of the first game and have had quite the polish up, they are less blocky and benefit from a more visually coherent face design. This is true across the entire set of games but can sometimes clash with those OG movement and death animations.

That said, there are little bits and pieces that feel odd, Lara’s new ponytail has some bizarre issues due to its physical nature. Balls of her hair twitch, stretch and mush in distracting ways that can mean that it detracts from the otherwise much more stable visuals.

Tomb Raider I – III Remastered Review – Sound

From excellent visual design to sublime music Tomb Raider really has all angles covered. Characters retain their original voiced dialogue which exudes character and is very much of its time, but enjoyable all the same! These voices and the cutscenes are really impressive for the age of the recordings, but be aware they can be a bit crunchy at times. Sound effects are a mix of slightly remixed sound and original sounds that really bring the actions to life, grunts and crunches, gunshots and growls all contributing to a larger feeling of immersion in the world.

Music is an interesting subject for the series as what is there is great at building tension, presenting wonder and backing up the exciting climactic moments however, it’s absent for a large duration in each title. Using the music sparingly this way really lets the environmental sounds mentioned earlier build the feeling of isolation while grounding most actions and when the music does kick in it can be a real adrenaline burst as it signifies enemies approaching or larger events.

Tomb Raider I – III Remastered Review – What Else?

There are a few choices that are faithful to the original titles that can trip up a new player on occasion. The menu layouts can take a bit to adjust to with things like ‘Load Game’ being positioned first on the section where ‘Save Game’ is located meaning that it’s possible to accidentally load instead of saving, it may only happen once or twice but it’s a shock when it does. It is also great to be able to hop between the three games without having to reboot the collection!

Tomb Raider I - III remastered review visuals comparison

Original on left, remastered on right.

With frequent updating various aspects of the titles have been tidied up and polished to a sheen recently making this only ever more desirable.

Tomb Raider I – III Remastered Review – Conclusion

Tomb Raider I – III Remastered is a tour de force for the franchise. Revitalising the original games and thrusting Lara back into the limelight. These games not only stand the test of time but highlight some of the best of their original era as well with tight level design, cool stories that showcase a badass heroine and sound design that is iconic.

Tomb Raider I - III remastered review visuals comparison

Original on left, remastered on right.

Nintendo Switch is a great platform to revisit these three titles as the games run excellently and play quite easily into the pick-up and put-down nature of portable gaming. Pick this collection up!

So, why should you play Tomb Raider I – III Remastered?

  • Three of the most iconic and excellent games.
  • Play as Lara Croft!
  • Switch seamlessly between the original and new graphics.
  • Gameplay all about precision, even climbing takes careful skills.

But why shouldn’t you play Tomb Raider I – III Remastered?

  • Sometimes cryptic puzzles can take some mental gymnastics.
  • Tank controls give you the ick.

A review code was kindly provided by the publisher for the purpose of our Tomb Raider I – III Remastered review. Keen to try out more remasters? Check out our review for Metroid Prime Remastered and join us over on the Qualbert Discord.

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