Review – The Tomb Raider Trilogy
The Scoop:Square Enix puts together a bundle of three of the most underrated games in the Tomb Raider series: Tomb Raider: Legend, Tomb Raider: Anniversary, and Tomb Raider: Underworld. Legend and Anniversary have never been released on the PlayStation 3 and have been upscaled to 720p.
The Setup:Sony has been busy of late pumping out lines of HD re-releases of classic PS2 series. These releases usually feature vastly improved graphics, additional gameplay options and more often than not are chosen only from the most sought after of series. For this reason I am rather surprised that the decision was made to release The Tomb Raider Trilogy as a compilation disc. It isn’t that the games are bad, quite the opposite, they are easily the best in the series; It’s just that they are titles you don’t often hear other people talking about with nostalgic bliss. I for one am glad however that Square Enix is giving these games a second chance because, while not as good as modern titles like Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, they are still some of the best action games from the PlayStation 2 era and for $39.99 you get quite a lot of game.
The first game of the trilogy is Tomb Raider: Legend, which reboots some of the series aspects in order to give an alternate retelling of Lara Croft’s history. This time around the infamous plane crash which made Lara the woman she is today happened when she was much younger and travelling with her mother instead of on her way home from college. Lara and her mother discover an ancient device while searching for shelter and the activation of the device causes her mother to be sucked into a mysterious portal. Now, when Lara is all grown up, she begins to search the world for artifacts relating to the mysterious portal that took her mother, all the while being hunted by a mysterious woman from Lara’s past.
Second on the list in Tomb Raider: Anniversary, this is a remake of the original game in the Tomb Raider series. Originally released in the mid 90’s for the PlayStation 1 and Windows 95, the original game still stands out as the best game in the series and one of the best games from that generation. In this adventure, Lara is working for a mysterious corporation to track down artifacts known as Scions from all around the world that will help Lara find the location of the lost city of Atlantis. It is a very solid remake and is in my opinion the best game in the pack, not one to miss.
Finally is Tomb Raider: Underworld, which is the only one of these titles to be native to the current generation of consoles (even the 360 versions of the previous game were just upgraded ports of the PS2 games). This game ties Legend and Anniversary’s stories together and wraps up the trilogy, this time having Lara delve into the world of Norse mythology on a search for the legendary Mjolnir (which is Thor’s hammer and not Master Chief’s armor for you less cultured people). Lara believes that by finding the hammer she can gain access to Avalon and ultimately save her mother. It is actually my least favorite of the games in the pack and doesn’t appear any different from the previous release, but it is still a pretty enjoyable title.
You also get some bonus content in the package such as Avatars for PlayStation Home and a theme for the PS3’s dashboard. There are also tons of bonus videos, but they’re pretty much all just developer diaries, which always tend to be hit or miss… in this case they are a miss.
- Don’t Let the Words ‘Tomb Raider’ Fool You:Let’s be honest, after the second game the Tomb Raider series got bad… really bad. Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness may just have been one of the lowest points that any major franchise has ever had. Because of that many people have been unwilling to give any games brandishing Lara’s face on the cover (or in the case of Tomb Raider: Underworld everything but her face) a chance. I myself am guilty of this, despite a few of my friends telling me that the newer games were pretty good I wouldn’t give any of them the time of day until after Tomb Raider: Legend dropped in price to below $10. However, Eidos essentially ‘rebooted’ the franchise with Legend; the cannon may still be the same, but the major improvements on gameplay and level design would make the series quite enjoyable.
- Looks Great in High Resolution!:The Tomb Raider Trilogy includes ports of the PlayStation 2 versions of Legend and Anniversary as opposed to the graphically updated versions released for the Xbox 360 and Windows PC but you would be hard pressed to notice since they were already among the best looking games on the PS2 already. With the graphical upscaling the games can easily pass for early games from the current system generation and by doing a side by side comparison I can say they actually look like improvements over the 360 releases. They may lack some of the extra little HD effects that you could turn on with the 360 and PC versions, but everything looks and runs so smooth you’ll hardly notice. I don’t personally own any of the other HD releases for the PS3, but after seeing what they can accomplish I have been inspired to track some of them down. Sly Cooper here I come!
- Excellent Variety of Myth and Legend: Even though each game takes place in tombs from all around the world each one also deals with a different brand of mythology and it all ties together really well. The stories are fairly competent considering the three or four games that came out before Legend; and again, they all tie together really well. At first glance each game appears to be its own separate entity, but in the big picture they all have to deal with an overarching story involving the search for Avalon. Good stuff. On a side note the music is also quite good at pulling you into these mythologies. This is something that has always been present in the Tomb Raider series and these games are no real exception. It’s a little hard to explain in text, you really have to play the game to see. Most of the time there is no music, but when it does kick in it does so solely to pull you into these worlds.
- A Decent Challenge: Tomb Raider games tend to be pretty tough, and this one is no exception. Do you remember the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indy is running through the temple after getting the fertility idol and all the traps are being set off as he runs through them (the famous scene where he runs from the boulder is during this scene)? Well, there are many scenes like that throughout the game, and more often than not these sequences rely on trial and error. Changing the difficulty can make the combat easier, but even on the easiest settings you need to be prepared to die a lot. Some of the puzzles can also be pretty challenging and will often tie directly into the traps.
- Disappointing Controls:If there is one thing that Tomb Raider games tend to always fall short on it is control. It is not that they are terrible, but they always seem so stiff and can make some of the jumps much harder than they should be. The grappling hook is a staple of this trilogy and it has a bad habit of not working when you need it to, I can’t tell you how many times I have endured a climb only to have the grappling hook fail and me end up back where I started with 75% less health. It can be frustrating to say the least, but it doesn’t detract too much from the overall game.
- Lack of 3D Support:This isn’t such an atrocity that it affects the score in any way, but I should note that a few of these HD game collections added support for 3DTVs, of which I own one. I just think it would be nice if they added it; I would take that over Home Avatars and theme packs any day. It also lacks Move support, but I don’t think Move support would in any way help these games. I played Anniversary on the Wii and it was absolute garbage.
Final Verdict: Throw out any notion you may have had about Tomb Raider since 1999, this is a good collection of games with a very nice 720p upscale. At a discounted price of $39.99 you get quite a lot of content as each game rings in at about 8-10 hours, so The Tomb Raider Trilogy can carry you for quite a bit, I recommend you give it a shot.
*As far as a score goes, it seems a little unfair to rate a game from half a decade ago in the same league as the current generation games. So I am going to assign my overall score of the games from the time in which they came out and then average it out.