Review: Tomb Raider Trilogy (PS3)

Title: Tomb Raider Trilogy
Format: Blu-ray Disc
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Publisher: Square Enix, Inc.
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Original MSRP: $39.99

Tomb Raider Trilogy brings together the three most recent disc based Tomb Raider adventures in a single package for the PS3. Tomb Raider: Legend and Anniversary are making their debut on the PS3 while Underworld is essentially the same game that was released in 2008. Tomb Raider: Legend sets Lara on a quest to find out what really happened to her mother who apparently died before her eyes when she was younger. Underworld continues this storyline. Anniversary is more a Director’s Cut of the original game than a straight up remake having been rebuilt from scratch.

As an added incentive, the package includes Trophy Support for all three games (with three potential Platinums), two different Avatars for PlayStation Home, an XMB Theme, about a dozen Developer Diaries and a ton of unlockables for each.

Gameplay:
All three games here are unmistakably Tomb Raider with the lonely exploration of far flung locales. Tomb Raider: Legend was the first of the series that hit the newest generation of consoles, releasing in mid 2006 for every console available at the time including the Xbox 360. Crystal Dynamics built a brand new physics engine specifically for this game. The engine was subsequently used for Anniversary the following year. The controls afforded by this new engine are a huge step forward in the franchise, allowing users more control over Lara and better navigation of the environments. It’s certainly not perfect by any means as you’ll still have issues here and there getting her to line up jumps every now and then but it’s a vast improvement over previous Tomb Raider titles.

With the new engine, Lara’s movements have become much more fluid and lifelike. When it came time to make Tomb Raider: Underworld, Crystal Dynamics went back and rebuilt the physics engine to take advantage of the newer PS3 and 360 hardware. While it doesn’t hold up next to its spiritual successor Uncharted, the physics work quite well for a Tomb Raider game.

If you’ve ever played a Tomb Raider game before, you know what to expect here. There’s a lot of exploration and puzzle solving punctuated by brief moments of combat. It works well as a number of the puzzles can be very intricate requiring lots of time and effort and the environments tend to change things up before it can get boring.

Legend will send you to Bolivia, Peru, Tokyo, Ghana, Kazakhstan, England and Nepal with each location bringing a fresh set of challenges. It may seem like a bit of a let down then that Anniversary takes you only to Peru, Greece, Egypt and “The Lost Island”. Don’t let that fool you, while the story remains the same as the original Tomb Raider, the game feels fresh and new. All the cinematics were redone along with new voice acting. The environments, while all reminiscent of the original, are greatly expanded to bring a much grander sense of scale and adventure to the game. Underworld, as expected, ups the ante across the board with even bigger environments and more complex puzzles to keep you on your toes.

The AI can be a little wonky at times depending on where you are in relation to enemies, especially in the first two games. At one point in Anniversary, I fell into the water while I was being chased by wolves and they stopped dead in their tracks. They just kind of froze in place until I got out of the water then they suddenly woke up and came chasing after me again. Underworld tends to have its own set of problems with invisible walls in particular. I found this out right at the beginning of the game while on Lara’s boat. I walked around and found her coming to a dead stop with her hands pushing up against invisible walls all over the boat. It’s a bit jarring and takes you right out of the game but if you can set that aside and work within the parameters you’re given, you probably won’t run into issues like that too often.

Visuals:
As you can see from the included screen shots, Tomb Raider has never looked better. That’s not to say that you won’t see some oddly blocky environments here and there, but those tend to be limited to the first two games.  While Legend and Anniversary have more of an ‘early in the console lifecycle’ look to them, the lighting and textures in Underworld look beautiful. The fire at the beginning of the game is especially mesmerizing.

Lara herself looks better than ever, with a much higher polygon count and a number of different outfits throughout all three games. The environments are wonderfully detailed with lots of little touches and flourishes to really breathe life into otherwise static locations.

There seem to be more issues with textures and low polygon counts in some of the environments in Anniversary, but for the most part, they’re few and far between. If you take the time to play the first 10-15 minutes of the original Tomb Raider on the PS1 and then jump right into Anniversary, you’ll be blown away. Obviously, that’s to be expected, but it’s great to see the time and effort that went into the remake, along with the loving attention the game was given.

Audio:
The music in each of the games is excellent. While Legend tends to use a more eclectic mix of sounds from tribal beats to jazzy riffs all with a mix of instruments, Anniversary and Underworld go for a more sweeping and orchestral sound. The choices really make Anniversary shine like never before.

The other sound effects in the game, such as finding hidden treasures, are all reminiscent of the originals. They tend to give you that nostalgic Tomb Raider feel. It’s great to see that Crystal Dynamics really respect the legacy of Tomb Raider and they’ve done a lot to ensure that fans of the game would feel right at home here.

Conclusion:
Overall, this is a solid package of three full games at an excellent price. While Underworld has already been on the PS3, Legend and Anniversary are enough of a graphical leap from their PS2 counterparts to warrant a second look, especially for fans of the series.

The three games included here can’t compare to a game like Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, but they’re quite good in their own right. If you’re a fan of the series, this package is a no-brainer. If you’re a fan of adventure games in general this is definitely worth a look. The games here definitely feel like older titles and they do have their problems here and there, but the puzzles and exploration will certainly keep you busy… at least until Uncharted 3 comes along.

Score:
7.5

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  • Anonymous

    You would have to be a boob not to buy this!

    (sorry)