Gamers of all types recognize the name "Lara Croft." You know the drill by now: she explores dangerous ruins, finds treasure, occasionally fights dinosaurs, and does all this with a variety of flattering outfits. Lara Croft has been a video game icon for more than 10 years, and the Tomb Raider series wouldn't be the same without her.
For those of you that missed out on some of the recent Tomb Raider adventures, you're in luck. Tomb Raider Trilogy crams Tomb Raider Legend (PS2), Tomb Raider Anniversary (PS2), and Tomb Raider Underworld (PS3) all onto one Blu-ray disc. It's a convenient way to catch up on Lara Croft's dangerous affairs, especially for people like me who haven't kept up with the series since its first outings on the original PlayStation.
There's not much to find in this collection that you wouldn't find by purchasing the games individually. Both Legend and Anniversary have had minor graphical overhauls, but don't expect to see a wealth of bonus content flood your PS3 the instant you pop in the disc. There are a few developer diaries, some Home rewards, a PlayStation 3 Theme, and Trophy support for all three games. It's not a bad offering, but it felt light.
If you'd like to read detailed reviews for each of the games included in the collection, click the images below. Otherwise, read on to find out if this trilogy is worth your money in this day and age.
If you haven't played Legend, Anniversary, or Underworld, this is a pretty good deal -- especially if you enjoy games like Uncharted that combine platforming, puzzle solving and gunplay. That's what you'll be doing in all three games. Lara goes after some sort of treasure, shimmies over lethal spikes, kills a bunch of bad guys, and moves weighted crates. Not a problem for England's finest.
Legend is the oldest of the three games and was originally released in 2006. This doesn't seem like too long ago, but the game shows its age. Not only do environments lack the detail I've come to expect, but the character models look poor in comparison to the rest of what you'll see in Tomb Raider Trilogy. Anniversary, a remake of the very first Tomb Raider, is much prettier. Underworld, which continues the intriguing story told in Legend, is the most beautiful of the set and features some impressive animations.
After playing Legend, Anniversary, and Underworld in that order, it amazed me to see how the developers at Crystal Dynamics improved the gameplay with each title. All three abandon the "tank controls" of the past (the original Tomb Raider was famously clunky) and incorporate more organic platforming. Lara can quickly leap from one ledge to another, spin around poles, and flip through the air with grace. These platforming mechanics are functional in Legend, more enjoyable in Anniversary, and downright nifty in Underworld.
Similar improvements can be found in the combat. In general I'm not a tremendous fan of the "lock on and then pull a trigger to fire" gunplay because I like to aim manually and control my shooting. And the combat in Legend is embarrassing. Apparently Lara is one of the worst shots in history because she can't seem to hit anything unless it's close enough to take her gun away. Couple this inaccuracy with the fact that she can't take stick behind cover and you'll find some very awkward action sequences.
This is much better in Anniversary and Underworld. While it's still not as good as manual shooting, both games do a much better job depicting action on the screen and giving players a more rewarding experience. This is noticeable when you see how the developers reworked the adrenaline system. In Anniversary, it enables players to dodge incoming attacks easily and execute one-hit kills. In Underworld, adrenaline can be triggered at your whim and invokes all sorts of Matrix nostalgia that I'm still not sick of.
If you couldn't already tell, Legend is the worst of the three games in the collection. It's the veritable mold on this otherwise solid set. It's old, it's disappointing, and it ruins perfectly good sandwiches. If anything, it only serves to tell us more about Lara. Fortunately, both Anniversary and Underworld are strong enough to carry the weight of the rest of the package.