April 13, 2024
She is back, and crisper than ever. Tomb Raider 1-3 remastered is here. Jump back in and dust off those pesky pixels. Lara is raiding clearer than ever. The Finger Guns review:

Man, this has been a long time coming, hasn’t it? Finally, we have Tomb Raider 1-3 Remastered. When we have ‘remasters’ as recent as The Last Of Us 2, it only felt like a matter of time before the original trilogy of our girl Lara gets a look in. Yes, we’ve seen Tomb Raider come in many forms, including the remake of the 1996 Tomb Raider. Fans, however, have been pining, screaming in fact for a clean-up of the original three. 

The Tomb Raider community has always been quite a friendly one. Most gaming communities can be seen as toxic or egregious in their stances of the franchise they support, but in the small corners I have peeked into, everyone has had so much love for the TR series. 

People who are my age will likely remember the old Tomb Raider’s. The exact ones this port review is bringing back to life, however, to some in the community the only Tomb Raider’s people will be aware of – or may have even played – are from the 2013 release onwards. 

We’ve seen the ports of the classic Metal Gear Solid games, and it’s always a different kettle of fish when there are beloved games at stake potentially getting a rewiring, new overhaul look, or even enhanced controls. You will be battling the opinions of people who are very married to the older models, some who appreciate its age but welcome a difference, and some who have never played it but are interested in jumping in. Reviewers were very split on the MGS ports for the above reasons.

For me, there is something special about Tomb Raider when you are in your early 30’s, it means that these games came out in your childhood. Opening the gateway to gaming and the taste for adventure (or perhaps continuing the start of the journey). 

A common question on the announcement of this treasured trilogy is which one will you jump into when the game starts? Will you brace all anticipation for further along loved levels and start from the beginning? Maybe you’ll be an anarchist and start from 3 and go backwards. Or are we all going to be honest and admit we all started at Tomb Raider 2? 

Okay, well I did anyway. Tomb Raider 2 has a very special place in my heart, and the collection allows for you to dive in and out of any of the games as you please. I started where the heart was, and immediately was overcome with nostalgia. It took me a while to reintroduce myself with even just the tank controls, as I navigate trying to remember that the world of gaming has come on significantly in 27 years. All the while trying to remind myself that the analogue sticks did not exist on the PS1 controller. 

The camera takes on a whole new life of its own. Attempting to constantly be behind Lara can mean it snaps into places and clips all kinds of environments all of the time. I personally had to just resort back to old ways. Initially, I ended up trying to play the game in a way you may play Horizon or Uncharted, but that won’t work. The camera will betray you wholeheartedly even in modern controls. The level design, the way that platforming works does not lend itself well to a modern camera. Similarly, with the modern controls, if you choose to do this, it appears you may lose (or have a harder time navigating) some of Lara’s iconic moves. 

Being able to jump backwards has always been really important, and could always be done with a tap of the button. The distance of jumping back, running and grabbing a ledge, (walking three steps back) can be the difference between you grabbing that ledge and falling to your death. 

Tomb Raider really stepped up platforming in the 1990’s, but it meant that precision was more important than ever. It doesn’t have the technical standpoints we do today. In modern controls, should you tap the back button, Lara will just run towards you. In a game this old, this will cause you a swarm of problems on ledges, platforms and timing. By testing modern controls, I found that pressing three buttons at once could allow me to walk back. Seems odd considering this is usually completed with a simple tap in tank controls. However, with these modern controls, I could only jump back when my guns were out. This will eventually be quite futile, as you would have to get your guns, jump back, run, put your guns away, jump and grab, just to be able to reach a lengthy platform. 

If you’ve played the old games, I can probably predict you may stay with the older tank controls. For someone who may be jumping in for the first time, they may be able to pick up the modern controls, however, even with the experience I have now, I found it increasingly frustrating to try and navigate. It’s also a bit of a shame you can not mix and match your own type of controls. You are able to change the input of controls, but you can’t have a modern camera with tank controls, for example. 

Arguably with any port or remaster, one of the key features are the visuals. Again, Tomb Raider is over 25 years old, this is not an easy job to get perfect. The rebuild with all things considered is a stellar achievement by the developers, Aspyr. With the ability to instantly flip between each one I found myself doing this out of curiosity and intrigue almost all the time. The newer remaster brings depth, character and new life into an archival beloved series and snapshots of the environment. The new changes also bring warmth, weather changes and vibrancy to some of the levels too.

In Tomb Raider 3, London town lighting almost looks like a very different city in comparison to its older brother. Venice, a beloved level favourite by fans boasts a huge improvement to textures and those further arctic levels invite crunchy, glistening snow. 

It is also up to you whether you wish to relive the infamous cutscenes in the older style or relish in a do-over. Personal preference had me flipping between both. I found that some scenes lost their edge in the newer version. They were brighter, or lit very differently, removing the atmosphere that was once curated and now conveying a different emotion or feeling about the environment in which you are exploring.

Sometimes it would purely be for an advantage to change the definition. Older scenes were sometimes much more well-lit, or even at a completely different time of day. There would be a time where a certain secret or passage would come to memory, or when blades would attempt to slice me in three and it was at my own advantage to have a certain definition. I also found that some areas were leaps and bounds of beauty like the South Pacific. 

I would be remiss not to mention gaming’s favourite freezer geezer. I would also be remiss to not attempt to lock him in like the good ol’ days. You’ll find he has a little glacial edge to him whilst encapsulated in ice. One new feature, that I’m not sure I fell quite in love with, was the addition of an exclamation mark on actionable events, or items to be picked up.

This was never a feature in older games and isn’t something that turns off when flipping visual graphics. It’s very Metal Gear Solid, it doesn’t quite fit or belong and for some reason, it feels old and dated in both versions but I suppose does serve a purpose. 

This brings me to the discussion of modern gaming in general. It feels like games of this era have that difficulty flare we are just not used to in modern adventure games, even platformers anymore. I’m most familiar with TR2 and most of this is down to muscle memory of replaying the game countless times.

For those areas of TR1 and some of TR3, I genuinely scratched my head having to think meta and place myself back into the perspective of what calibre of puzzle, writing and level design Tomb Raider deals with to figure out what may be next. Luckily should you get very stuck, there are 27 years of walkthroughs available online at your disposal.

This exclamation mark seems like an attempt to perhaps hint at the hand-holding-like gameplay some games incorporate today. Do original Tomb Raider fans need the exclamation mark in front of a block to tell you to move it out of the way or that something can be done here? No. Do newer players? Well… maybe, but that might not be what every newer player needs or wants.

However, the urge to wander off was so visceral, and whilst this is still possible in some capacity, it can lead you to your death. Speaking of death, if you’re reading this and can’t wait to jump in. Let me remind you that autosave was not a thing for the PS1. Again, autosave: Not. A. Thing.

Read it again because I have sworn at myself more times than in the last two weeks than I have in a lifetime. The amount of times I’ve trundled on through, and immediately died, walked into spikes, got sliced with a blade, missed the timing on a boulder, dropped into lava, or jumped into fire before realising it’s been a while to save has been more than I’d like to guess. 

Having never played the bonus levels such as The Golden Mask, I was able to experience some Perspective of a newcomer and this does worry me that for some, love could be lost with all the elements an original tomb raider brings. I suppose this is the consequence of an ever ageing industry that attempts to re-invent the wheel with both console and game every few years and therefore is the ickier side to nostalgia (alongside the somewhat janky controls I mentioned earlier).

Additionally, many player bases are now here for collecting and with three games in store, and the addition of trophies since the first PlayStation, the remastered collection brags nearly 250 trophies. Each game holds around 60 trophies each, give or take, and some will challenge even the most dedicated of fans. It may, however, leave a sour taste to discover that not one trophy is a platinum on the PS5 edition.

 Oh, and if you are wondering if the classic cheat codes still work – they absolutely do! They won’t get you any cheeky trophies if you use them but they are a lot of fun. I ended up playing through all of Tomb Raider 3 in cheat mode, skipping levels once I got too eager to go onto the next and revelling in every gun from the beginning. It was a lot of fun! I couldn’t activate the cheats in the previous two, but it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t work.

Overall, I predict this will be a huge crowd-pleaser for most. Especially the fans. Every essence of what is loved so dearly about these games is still very much in the bones and foundations. Despite some expected outdatedness (and some realisation I feel I was a smarter gamer at the ripe age of seven) the not-so-smooth controls, and the most peculiar nod to MGS. It fills me with such pleasure, nostalgia and joy to be playing them again, and to think they were once worried a women protagonist would not be a successful or good idea.

Long Live Lara Croft.

Tomb Raider 1-3 Remastered has rejuvenated the old and spruced it into the new. The visual rebuild is a stellar job of a series that has stood the test of time. Whilst the camera and modern controls can betray you as the player and may not be suited to a game of this era; the fun and joyous experience of jumping back in is not one to miss.

Tomb Raider 1-3 Remastered is out February 14th 2024 for PlayStation 5 (review platform), PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC via Steam.

Developer: Aspyr
Publisher: Crystal Dynamics

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.

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