Review: The Tomb Raider trilogy

Posted: July 25, 2011 by Tony Polanco in REVIEWS

Lara Croft.

The name makes gamers think of ancient tombs, death defying platforming, globe trotting and enormous…puzzle rooms. All kidding aside Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider series are true icons of the gaming industry and without them, games like Enslaved, modern Prince of Persia or Uncharted would not exist. Personally speaking, it is the first game that I’ve played that allowed me to explore a fully 3D environment. Some people have Mario 64 but I have Tomb Raider.

The Tomb Raider series is getting a complete overhaul next year and appears to be very different tonally from the original series. But before we get our hands on Tomb Raider 2012 we can appease our Lara Croft appetite with the Tomb Raider trilogy HD collection. 2006’s Tomb Raider: Legend and 2007”s Tomb Raider: Anniversary have been given the HD treatment and are packed along with 2009’s Tomb Raider: Underworld onto one blu-ray disk. Explore the hidden secrets of this collection after the jump.

The first game to chose from is Tomb Raider: Legend followed by Anniversary and Underworld. You can play them in any order and even skip back and forth between games if you’re so inclined. I went right to Underworld since it’s the only game in the collection that I’ve not previously played. In the interest of being completely honest with my readers, I want you guys to know that since I’ve played Legend and Anniversary to completion when they were originally on the Playstation 2 that I only played the HD versions for a few hours just to get reacquainted with the controls and to see how the visuals have been updated. As far as Underworld is concerned I have completed it twice and got the platinum for it. Did I REALLY have to mention the platinum part? Nope. But I like boasting about my trophies. I’m being completely honest here after all. Anyway lets break down each game but since these are re-releases I’ll be brief.

Tomb Raider: Legend was the first significant reboot of the franchise. Perhaps it’s because I played Underworld first and was already used to the control scheme but Legend holds up pretty well considering that it’s the oldest game in this collection. In the game, Lara is on a quest to find her lost mother and to uncover the secrets behind the King Arthur legend. This journey leads Lara all over the world and is a great excuse to have a nice variety of levels to play in. You’ll be in places like Peru, Tokyo and Kazakhstan and thanks to the graphical overhaul the locations in the game look better than ever. You’ll notice a few funny looking textures here and there but considering what the game originally looked like it’s a pretty good upgrade graphically. Legend did a nice job of introducing a new control scheme into the Tomb Raider games and is the foundation upon which Anniversary and Underworld are based on.

Tomb Raider: Anniversary is a re-imagining of the original Playstation era Tomb Raider. It’s a re-imagining and not a remake because it took the stages from the original game and modernized them by re-arranging the level layouts and puzzles. Anniversary also took a lot of the mechanics introduced in Legend and further updated them. Out of the two Playstation 2 era games in this collection, Anniversary looks the best. While Legend still had some shoddy textures in places, Anniversary was pretty much spotless graphically though it still was nowhere near as good looking as Underworld.

Tomb Raider: Underworld is the most recent game of the collection and since it was made specifically for the current generation of consoles looks the best. Underworld is a direct sequel (story wise) to Legend and has Lara still searching for her mother. The journey has Lara discovering some of the secrets behind Norse Mythology and how Thor’s equipment really functioned. Although the game was released in 2009 it very much still feels like a Playstation 2 era game. You will still have to deal with distracting camera angles and clunky lock on shooting mechanics. To be fair these controls would have been great in 2006 but just like the controls of the other two games, the controls of Underworld feel dated. But even with it’s problems, Underworld is a very enjoyable game and the best one of the collection. And on a side note I have to say that it was nice to see a Lara Croft that was built like an athletic woman would be and not the anorexic super model of the other two games. The Lara of Underworld looks like she actually eats every once in a while.

I couldn’t call this a proper review without fully going into some of the things that aren’t up to snuff in this collection. If you’ve been paying attention so far you’ll know that the biggest issues I had were camera angles and combat. Playing these games again was a big eye opener as to how far video game controls have come in just the last few years. Since the games in this collection were released, franchises like Uncharted, inFAMOUS and Assassin’s creed have evolved the action adventure genre with their smooth and intuitive control schemes and it was jarring to play games that I thought controlled great at the time. A lot of the time the biggest challenge came not from fighting sea monsters or navigating a lava pit but from trying to get the camera in a good position or trying to lock on to a specific enemy. After you spend enough time with this collection the control issues will become a part of the game and you’ll deal with it (like we used to back in the day) but you might be shocked even when you play Underworld at just how archaic the controls feel. None of the games are broken per say and all are playable but just pretend that it’s 2006 and you’ll have an easier time dealing with control and camera issues.

At the end of the day The Tomb Raider trilogy is a must buy for action adventure fans and of course Tomb Raider and Lara Croft fans. The Playstation 2 era games have been given a new graphical coat of paint and now that they have trophy support, people who have already beaten these games have another reason/excuse to replay them. The collection also has some additional content like making of mini documentaries, a background theme for your PS3 and even some clothing for your Home Avatars. The games may not control as well as modern action adventure games and the lock on based combat feels very limiting but this is still a highly enjoyable and reasonably priced collection that fans of the genre should own.

Liked

  • Three great games on one disk
  • Gorgeous locations and settings
  • Lara Croft
Disliked
  • Lock on aiming
  • Camera angles that sometimes get you killed
  • Messing up jumps even though you did nothing wrong
We’d normally post a trailer for the game but for whatever reason, Square-Enix never made one for this collection so here is a really cool fan made trailer by youtube user TRdude92.
The Tomb Raider trilogy was developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square-Enix. It was released exclusively for the Playstation 3 and costs $39.99. The copy played for this review was a new retail copy.
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