The Tomb Raider Trilogy Review
The Tomb Raider franchise has been around for a long time. Since 1996, Lara Croft has been exploring dangerous ruins, collecting ancient relics, and even slaying the occasional dinosaur. Now the famous explorer's latest adventures have been compiled onto one BluRay disc for gamers to enjoy. The Tomb Raider Trilogy (for PS3) features Tomb Raider: Legend, Tomb Raider: Anniversary, and Tomb Raider: Underworld, plus some pretty basic extras. It's not the strongest compilation, but it's certainly a good package for gamers who want to catch up on the series and anyone who wants to take advantage of trophy support for the first two titles.
Tomb Raider: Legend (originally released in 2006) is the first game on the disc, and it's really starting to show its age. Though the game is definitely playable and still fun, the controls are wonky, Lara's movements are clunky, and the camera is abysmal. Players can overlook the sub-par controls and animations, but when a game requires such precise platforming and plenty of moving around to solve puzzles, an erratic camera is a major setback. While exploring caves and temples, Lara needs to frequently hang from ledges and jump to platforms behind her, and when you can't really see what's behind Lara, you're in store for some frustration.
The second game in The Tomb Raider Trilogy is Tomb Raider: Anniversary, and the moment you play this game, you'll immediately notice the tighter controls, fluid animations, and an improved camera. The game also features a much better adventure, making it a far better game than Legend. It's impressive that the developers were able to take the formula of Legend and craft a vastly superior sequel. While the camera is sure to cause problems, it's a notch or two above the game before.
Rounding out the trilogy is Tomb Raider: Underworld, the only title in the series that had previously been released on PlayStation 3. Since it's the most recent of the three, everything from Lara's movements to the controls hold up much better. The actual adventure in Underworld isn't as solid as that of Anniversary's, but it still manages to outshine Legend's campaign. Unfortunately, camera problems continue to deter the series, even in Underworld. These issues certainly aren't as noticeable as they are in Legend, but they occur somewhat more frequently than in Anniversary.
In addition to the three games, The Tomb Raider Trilogy also includes some short developer videos, trophy support for Legend and Anniversary, and an XMB theme. While these extras are decent enough, the overall package seems a bit bare. At $40, the collection is modestly priced, but a few more extras would have been welcome. Perhaps a more in-depth documentary on the trilogy as opposed to the short developer diaries would have made the package feel more special.
Visually, Legend and Anniversary look a lot better than they did before. Environments are more defined, Lara looks a lot more detailed, and enemies are also sharply realistic. This isn't a major graphical overhaul, but it does the trick, and the PlayStation 3's superior hardware is certainly put to good use. Additionally, the games don't suffer from the frame rate issues that were so consistent in the past. As expected, Underworld, which was already released for PlayStation 3, retains the same spectacular visual design that it did when it launched back in 2008. The animations are also much more fluid and realistic, offering up a smoother, much more polished look.
Legend and Anniversary suffer from a few presentational problems, as well. An "updating profile" message pops up in the corner of the screen far too often, and while it doesn't distract from gameplay, it does mar what should be a proper presentation for a compilation that celebrates Lara Croft's last three adventures. Given that this message and the frequent pauses that plague the first two games aren't a problem in Underworld, having something this sloppy in the compilation is unacceptable.
The Tomb Raider Trilogy is a solid three-pack of games that offers plenty of lasting value. Though most Tomb Raider loyalists probably already own the three games, it's a good purchase for fans who have yet to play any of the more recent ones in the series, and the added trophy support to Legend and Anniversary is sure to entice gamers who want to increase their PlayStation Network level. Because Anniversary features the most enjoyable adventure while Underworld has the best graphics, Legend is easily the hardest of the three games to enjoy. However, it still provides a fun experience that's worth playing, if only to see how much the series has improved since the first release.
If you already own some version of Legend, Anniversary, and Underworld, you won't have much reason to shell out the cash for this collection. If you want to catch up with or don't already own the games, you'll be entertained with these selections for a long time. Just don't expect anything spectacular to commemorate the trilogy.