Tomb Raider: Anniversary, Crystal Dynamics' reimagining of the 1996 original, launched 15 years ago on Xbox 360 believe it or not. Yep, it's been a decade and a half since the series' sole remake hit Xbox, and its birthday has got me thinking about the future of the series. While I thoroughly enjoyed Crystal's recent trilogy, especially the 2013 reboot, there has to be more room for 'Tomb Raider' remakes, particularly looking back at the PS1 era of the franchise.
Some of my fondest memories of gaming in the late 90's and early 2000's are all about Tomb Raider, specifically the original game through The Last Revelation on PlayStation 1. I was a wee 'un back then, so my playtime was sporadic at best, but various scenes from those original games are still laser etched into my brain to this day. And yes, that includes the infamous butler-in-the-fridge shenanigans from Tomb Raider 2.
Thinking back though, those games had such a unique atmosphere that the series never managed to replicate once it moved on from the original PlayStation. Sure, the somewhat eerie vibe felt at least partially born from hardware limitations of the PS1, but I reckon it contributed massively to what Tomb Raider was all about. Having full control of Lara in a 3D environment was novel for the time and helped propel the series to stardom, but the foreboding atmosphere is what sticks with me the most all these years later.
For a series that's all about raiding tombs and adventuring in foreign lands, those older games just nailed the feeling that you were out there, in the middle of nowhere, scouring for unearthed treasures and fighting off whatever came your way. Those old games were borderline scary at times (for some reason the tutorial dude creeped me out in The Last Revelation, along with any tiger confrontations the series threw up), and it's a feeling that Tomb Raider hasn't really explored since. The 2013 game was a 'gritty reboot' of sorts, but it was still too bombastic to ever really deliver in the atmosphere department.
One aspect of the original Tomb Raider games that hasn't held up, like, even in the slightest, is the control system. Moving around as Lara on a fixed axis just isn't fun, and to be honest, it never was. At the time it felt revolutionary to move around in a 3D space like that, especially using a controller, but it always felt like you were fighting the controls even back then. Any attempts to replay the original in recent years have been quickly met with a sigh of disappointment over the controls that no level of nostalgia can make up for. Pain.
And that's where, for a while, Anniversary came in. Crystal Dynamics' 2007 remake is a bloody good effort, managing to capture most of what made the original so captivating back in the mid-late 90's. It isn't a perfect take on Tomb Raider 1, but it features a nice mix of modernisation combined with the hallmarks of the original that managed to make it work at the time.
But, 15 years have passed since and now even Anniversary feels a little tired. Combat is stiff, visuals have of course come on leaps and bounds since then, and generally, those older games are probably ready for another refresh. Embracer now has the keys to the franchise and I feel it's only fair to kick things off by doing justice to what made the series so memorable in the first place.
The question is, what form should that take? The team could have a crack at another reboot — almost a decade on since the last one — based on what made those PS1 originals so iconic. Or, they could go the Capcom Resident Evil route, taking liberties with some inspired remakes that successfully mesh modernity with the series' original identity. I'd take the latter at this stage, especially seeing how well it can be done with the likes of Resident Evil 2 Remake.
Look, all I'm saying is, I reckon it's time for Tomb Raider to go back and modernise some of those earlier games in the franchise, in one form or another. It's a series that deserves to be enjoyed on modern platforms with modern controls (at least let Lara move freely!), and I just hope that if it happens, the team brings that classic atmosphere along for the ride!
What would you like to see next from the Tomb Raider franchise? Drop your ideas down in the comments below.