Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft review for PC, PlayStation, Xbox, Switch

Platform: PC
Also on: PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Aspyr
Developer: Aspyr/Crystal Dynamics
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: Not Rated

Whatever else there is to say about Tomb Raider I-III Remastered, this probably needs to be said first: if you’re a fan of these original Tomb Raider games – as in, you played them 25+ years ago, and you still have fond memories – this collection is probably a must-play. It faithfully recreates the original trilogy in all its polygonal glory, while also adding in quality of life upgrades and options to play with modern controls and updated visuals. If you spent a good chunk of your teenage years playing PS1, you’ll probably feel a rush of nostalgia from the moment you boot this game up.

For anyone else, though, Tomb Raider I-III Remastered will just feel like an exercise in constant, neverending frustration. I wouldn’t say the collection will make you wonder why the originals were so beloved in the first place, but I would say that I can’t imagine enjoying these games unless your enjoyment is based in reliving the ‘90s.

And I get that, to some extent. I was there! It was a fun decade in a lot of ways! But let’s be honest: there’s a very good reason why gaming moved on from what’s on offer here. The controls are frustrating. The camera is a mess. The combat is annoying. The story and the setting are…fine, actually. If you want to look at one area where Tomb Raider I-III Remastered mostly holds up, it’s in the overall package. Sure, these games may feel a little dated in places, but if you want to draw a line from pulp serials to Indiana Jones to Uncharted, that line probably needs to go through these three games. Lara Croft became an iconic character for a reason, and seeing her swashbuckling archaeologist travel the world in these games, it’s not hard to see why. Moreover, it’s pretty neat to see the way the game lets you switch back and forth between the original graphics and the remastered ones – it’s just a press of a button and it’s absolutely seamless.

But it’s hard to appreciate anything else here unless you’re viewing it through the prism of nostalgia. The controls are a pain, regardless of whether you go with the classic controls or the modern option. The classic controls are, of course, the “tank” controls, where Lara literally moves with all the grace of a slow-moving tank. There’s no running diagonally or gracefully jumping from one ledge to another: you move forward, you stop, you turn, and then you move forward in the other direction. If you want to jump, you better be absolutely sure of the direction you’re aiming for, or else you’ll just plummet down to earth – which, obviously, is less-than-optimal if you’re trying to jump over a chasm. You have the option of starting the game with a tutorial, which is both absolutely necessary (since otherwise you’ll have no idea of what you’re doing) and absolutely useless (since even as the game tells you what to do, it rarely feels smooth or intuitive).

It’s not like the modern controls are any better, mind you. You move a little more gracefully, but only slightly: jumping is awkward, rolling feels clunky, and precision is next-to-impossible. Even worse, Tomb Raider I-III Remastered may give you the option to use modern controls, but it doesn’t always adapt the games to that choice: the tutorial is designed for the classic controls, which means that if you want to know what you’re doing, you’re on your own. (And even then, I had to give up on certain parts of the tutorial when none of my button presses seemed to work.)

The controls are a breeze, though, compared to the camera. Regardless of whether you go with modern controls or classic, you’ll almost never be able to fully see where you’re going. There are plenty of places where these games are virtually unplayable, since they’ll ask you to jump from one ledge to another and then swing around wildly so that you have no idea where you’re trying to land. In fact, even just trying to walk from one point to another can be an exercise in frustration, as both control options seem to make it their mission to induce motion sickness. It may all make perfect sense if you sank countless teenage hours into these games 25 years ago, but picking them up now, it feels baffling.

Even the combat is kind of terrible. On the rare occasions where missed jumps didn’t kill me, I’d get ripped apart by the various monsters and wild animals that inhabit these early Tomb Raider worlds. The game may give you dual pistols, but that doesn’t make enemies any less bullet sponge-y. Again, it may be totally intuitive if you lived and breathed these games during the halcyon days of PS1, but coming at it from a modern perspective leaves you wondering how these games became so iconic.

Of course, if you grew up on these games, then all of these complaints are kind of the point. However frustrating Tomb Raider I-III Remastered may be to modern eyes, there’s no denying that these games perfectly capture the spirit of the originals. Whether any of that is enough to appeal to modern audiences remains to be seen, but if you want a game that caters to your PS1 nostalgia, this is definitely it.

Aspyr provided us with a Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft PC code for review purposes.

Score: 6.5

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