Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft Review | Xbox Series X

A remaster isn’t always a better idea than a remake, even if the nostalgia factor is very real.

By R3GR3T, Posted 14 Feb 2024

Everybody loves a blast from the past, be it for nostalgia or to relive our younger days, and some studios from our past might not be around anymore, but new ones are picking up where they left off. Aspyr and Crystal Dynamics seem adamant about helping us re-experience some of those glory days through their release of a remastered version of Tomb Raider I-III; these Texas and California-based studios collaborated on what might be the remaster of the year, but nothing is quite as it seems.

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft, Review, Screenshots,Action, Adventure, Puzzle, NoobFeed

Both studios are rather well established and have their own releases that went quite far, just to name a few – Marvel’s Avengers and Legacy of Kain from Crystal Dynamics, while Aspyr has releases like Layers of Fear and Mythforce. So, this shows there’s a good track record, but there might be more to this than it seems. We’ve all seen our fair share of remasters, but when you take into account just how old the original Tomb Raider series is, wouldn’t it be better to spend a bit more time on the project and remake them instead? Only time will tell how much traction Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft will gain, especially when some of the issues come to light.

As can be expected, each entry into this series will have you taking on the role of Lara Croft as she lives up to her name as an archaeologist and adventurer… Or Tomb Raider. However, while she only seeks to preserve history for others to learn from it, there are always other people who want those hidden pieces of history for more nefarious purposes. Above all else, your adventure as Lara Croft will have you traveling to and exploring several ancient sites while unfolding a deeper plot. Granted, looks can be deceiving when you’re exploring an ancient tomb or lost city, and traps, puzzles, complicated climbs, and much more are to be expected.

Tomb Raider I Remastered is where it all began for this epic series; however, this is where things take a rocky start. Tomb Raider I will have Lara going on one of her more perilous adventures in search of the Scion at the request of Natla Technologies, an ancient talisman located in the Peruvian mountains in the lost tomb of Qualopec. Now, Lara already has a history of not doing what she does for money; she does it for sport, but Natla still tries to sway her into this quest with money. The plot only thickens when it turns out that the tomb of Qualopec only had one piece of the Scion and her adventure, and she’ll have to mix a little corporate cat-burglary to get the remaining pieces and restore the Scion.

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft, Review, Screenshots,Action, Adventure, Puzzle, NoobFeed

Much like in the first release, Tomb Raider II Remastered takes Lara Croft on another adventure, but now, they are in a race against time to retrieve the Dagger of Xian from the Great Wall of China. This dagger is believed to have belonged to an ancient Emperor of China, who was also known as the Dragon Emperor. Things take a wild turn because she needs to get to it first before the infamous Fiamma Nera gets their hands on it for its mystical dragon-shapeshifting power; this Italian cult will be trying to get in your way with almost every step you take to get all the artifacts related to the Dagger of Xian before you can with the orders they receive from the leader of the Fiamma Nera… Marco Bartoli.

Tomb Raider III Remastered is definitely a more ambitious move in terms of the story since it will have Lara Croft going to several different places, such as India, the South Pacific Islands, Nevada, London, and even Antarctica. This is all in search of a set of Polynesian artifacts that were sculpted from a meteorite; these artifacts each had their own unique abilities, but combining them into one gave those who wielded them the ability to evolve any living thing. Lara learns of the existence of these artifacts shortly after her search for the Dagger of Xian, sending her on yet another perilous adventure while facing off against malicious forces that would want to use the legendary artifact’s power for evil purposes.

As you already know, Tomb Raider I-III Remastered, Starring Lara Croft, was remastered in the same project, but it does come with one major new feature to fit the current time and hardware. The most notable change to come to the trilogy is the option to switch between the old Tank Mode controls or the Modern Controls, which makes the games a bit easier to navigate around with the hardware we have at the moment. Unfortunately, it seems that neither control type had such a smooth transition between the classic versions and the remaster, as there are some serious button mapping issues that haven’t quite been addressed yet. This issue alone can make your time as Lara Croft extremely frustrating and possibly ruin the experience altogether.

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft, Review, Screenshots,Action, Adventure, Puzzle, NoobFeed

Another thing to take note of is that if you remap the buttons so you can actually use the Action button, there’s also the matter of the camera sometimes having a mind of its own. In most modern releases that are similar to this one, you’ll at least have control over the camera, but Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft doesn’t quite give you that. This can make surviving the perils of all three games a bit more difficult, and you definitely won’t like it when you’re trying to make a particularly tricky jump when your camera suddenly starts turning all over the place. Having the camera automatically pan around at certain points was nice during the original release while having to use Tank Mode controls, but it becomes a disorienting mess with modern controls.

Now, aside from the issues that need some serious work, Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft does come with one particularly interesting feature that will have nostalgia lovers ready to live in the past again. This feature is the ability to switch the visuals on the fly between the original texturing and the remastered visuals. It might not appeal to everybody, but this is nice to have if you want to compare certain scenes between then and now just for the sake of reliving the past a little bit. Yes, bring on the next wave of memes because we’ve all seen some of the jokes that went around about how Lara Croft looked during the heyday of these games. For those of you who don’t know, it involves a particular similarity between Lara and a box of tissues; that’s all we can say on this matter.

When you’re not living in ‘Nostalgialand’ by jumping between the visuals presets, you’ll be exploring tombs and retrieving artifacts in one of many places. While things might look a bit slow-paced at first, you’ll need to know that you don’t exactly have a map or straightforward indication as to where you need to go; you’ll need some of that good old ingenuity and a little brainpower to remember where you’re going and find a way to whatever looks like the way forward. This can be done in a multitude of ways that range from climbing, jumping between platforms, swimming, etc, but this is generally easier said than done. Aside from the usual puzzles and traps that will slow you down, you’ll also need to worry about other enemies and even the wildlife that will try to end you or make a meal out of you.

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft, Review, Screenshots,Action, Adventure, Puzzle, NoobFeed

It wouldn’t be Tomb Raider if Lara Croft’s guns weren’t in the mix, and she never leaves home without them. Luckily, Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft has a form of aim assist that removes the guesswork when gunning down anything that tries to stand in your way since you don’t have a reticule. This is also one of the bigger improvements brought to the remaster of this trilogy, and it makes life a lot easier, though it doesn’t mean you’re immortal. You’ll need to keep an eye on Lara’s health bar because death still means you have to reload your last save, and saves are still manual. Sadly, we might have gotten Aim Assist, but the auto-save isn’t part of the upgrade, so you’ll need to remember to save often and use the medkits you’ll find all over the place.

On the visual front, Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft did receive an impressive visual overhaul, but that’s also only skin deep. As can be expected with remasters, it’s not that the world got rebuilt; it just looks prettier, and when compared to what it used to be, it’s still a massive improvement. Though you’ll still have to take the visuals with a pinch of salt because you’ll have the majority of the original blocky design when it comes to environments, the same can’t be said for Lara Croft, who received a completely new character reskin with much smoother textures. Sadly, the wildlife and enemies you go up against didn’t get as much love, and the cinematics didn’t get any attention whatsoever.

Prepare yourself; this is where things take a hairy turn in Tomb Raider I-III Remastered, Starring Lara Croft. Sound effects, voice acting, and background music, where applicable, will still be the exact same as back then with the original releases. So, imagine a somewhat better-looking game but with the same dated audio quality. It’s as bad as it sounds, and this is definitely where the games could’ve used some TLC. However, with the studios only acquiring the licenses for the games rather recently, it’s to be expected that time might have been an issue, and this was likely overlooked.

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft, Review, Screenshots,Action, Adventure, Puzzle, NoobFeed

Overall, Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft is a somewhat solid remaster with some interesting improvements, but the issues mentioned earlier can still cause what should be a fun experience to come grinding to a halt. While there are some interesting improvements and new features, it feels like this remaster could’ve been handled a lot better or instead turned into a remake to really reignite an old fandom that has long since moved on.

Jay Claassen (@R3GR3T_3NVY)
Senior Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC, PS5, XBSX, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Publisher(s): Aspyr
Developer(s): Aspyr, Crystal Dynamics
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Action, Adventure, Puzzle
Release Date: 2024-02-14

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