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Tomb Raider I – III Remastered review


  • Switch between new and old textures at will
  • Photo mode
  • Old games fixed for Steam, with quality-of-life improvements

  • No Level Select after completing game
  • Many achievements bugged
  • Noticeable decrease in effort by TR3

I was surprised but delighted when I found out that the original, retro Tomb Raider trilogy was being remastered. As I’ve probably said many times before, the 1996 Tomb Raider game was an important, formative part of my life, much like Resident Evil. My love for it is hard to quantify in words. It is something that will always have a special place in my heart.

Since I started streaming I’ve been becoming more of a PC gamer; I still have a great love for console gaming, but I enjoy the convenience of playing at my computer, and of course the ability to stream a game without too much faffing.

The original Tomb Raider was indeed on Steam, but it wasn’t perfect to run, and sometimes just didn’t want to open (DOSbox, I’m looking at you). Getting the Unfinished Business levels to work was also a lot of effort.

So the fact that the exact same games from the 90s are now on Steam, and they run perfectly? That’s such a gift. I honestly never would have dreamed that they would do this.

It’s not just that the games are on Steam, they are also REMASTERED. This essentially means they’ve replaced the textures. But they’ve also made Lara absolutely perfect. She looks like original Lara, but improved and modern, they couldn’t have done a better job, she’s so beautiful.

The new textures and skyboxes are gorgeous in many places. There are speculations that they are AI upscalings of the old textures. I don’t want to get all I can tell by the pixels but some of the textures have that certain uncanny lighting that is probably indicative of AI. And I don’t have a problem with that, it probably makes more sense than getting a human to squint at pixels and try to make art.

The cutscenes are undoubtedly AI-upscaled, you get some face-warping and weird edges, but again, I don’t mind, I’m just so glad this even exists.

Not everything is just straight texture replacement, many objects have been rounded and improved, there are environmental effects, sphynxes have proper faces, lovely stringlights added in places.

You can switch between new and old textures at the touch of a button, which is fantastic for people like me who are extremely nostalgic. The downside is, as this uses the Start button on my controller, there is no longer a button to properly pause the game. I can seemingly only press Select and go into the inventory, but this keeps the timer for the level going.

Another plus is the photo mode, which I access by pressing the left and right joystick simultaneously. You can move the camera around wherever you like, change Lara’s facial expression and pose, and even select an outfit. I love to use the camera to look at the level from ~*forbidden*~ perspectives, and scout around to make sure I opened a door etc. I’ve been instinctively wanting to do it in other games!

There are little quality-of-life improvements, such as health bars for large enemies and bosses, sidestep buttons being unified for all three games, the ability to roll underwater even in the first game. You can also run the bonus levels for each game right from the menu, instead of having to download things and replace files.

This remaster is ALMOST perfect. So what are the things I don’t like?

In the original games, you get a Level Select option after completing them. This is great if you just randomly feel like running around in The Cistern one afternoon. But the remaster doesn’t have the Level Select, and I have no idea why they chose to leave it out, it really sucks. You have to start an entire new game if you want to see one level. I’ve started creating a save slot at the start of each level to kind of make my own, but this of course fills up the slots and doesn’t leave much room for different playthroughs (e.g. I have an off-stream and on-stream game, a thorough get-every-pickup game, and a fucking-around game). I hope they will introduce a Level Select in a future update, because this is a big let-down, for me at least.

The photo mode lets you change Lara’s outfit, and it would be nice if we could also change the outfit in-game, but this currently doesn’t seem to be an option.

Another issue is that many of the achievements are bugged and simply do not trigger, no matter how many times you fulfil the conditions. It’s also currently impossible to get the achievement for collecting every item in the main game of TR1, as an item in Atlantis is apparently bugged and in a wall. This will be fixed soon in a patch. The All Hallows level for TR3 also doesn’t activate if you have all the secrets, but again, this will apparently be fixed soon.

The biggest downside of all, in my opinion, is that they clearly gave up by TR3. So many things were smoothed and beautified in TR1 and 2, but 3 is frankly bad in comparison. There is texture replacement but not improvement. The square trees are awful and I’m surprised they didn’t round them off at all. The Sphynx in the museum is truly disappointing. Maybe they’ll improve it in the future, or maybe they’re happy with it.

There was a bit of drama recently when it emerged that the version on the Epic Games store was different and better than the one on Steam; it had more poses for the photo mode (21 to be exact), different textures and skyboxes, light holes and water, it even had a working All Hallows level. This version has now been revoked, and versions of the game on all platforms should be getting a patch soon, and obviously Steam players hope we will be getting the things that the Epic version had.

So because of a couple of disappointing things, I give it 9/10 overall. It’s so close to being absolutely perfect.

I hope more 90s and y2k games get remastered for Steam like this. Imagine Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Soul Reaver, running natively with fresh new textures. I would say Illbleed too, but the company behind it doesn’t exist anymore and Shinya Nishigaki died, so sadly it’s unlikely.


As a final note, I am using tank controls and not modern controls, because the former are so burned into my mind. But I’m not certain I’m using the exact same controls as everyone else, as mine are apparently being remapped by Steam a bit.

EDIT: I didn’t publish this last night because it was date night and I wanted to go to bed afterwards, before proofreading. As is typical, the patch has now come out, probably rendering much of what I’ve said useless, although I haven’t played it yet. So far it is apparent that the ! action indicator has now been replaced by an icon of Lara’s hand, and an achievement for getting every kill in the game, has been buggered by them adding an additional kill to the Colosseum level that wasn’t even in the original game. A sprite of a sleeping bat has apparently been converted into a live enemy, and those of us who had a save waiting in Atlantis to get the achievement for all pickups, are seemingly going to have to start a whole new game for the kills achievement. I’m sure the devs are doing their best but at the same time I want to say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Fix broken things!

PS check out this embarrassing throwback to when I just literally took photos of my TV screen for screenshots.

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