Tomb Raider I-III Remastered (2024): Community perceptions

Llewella Chapman (University of East Anglia, UK)

2 May 2024


To continue reviewing the remastered Tomb Raider games, this week I interview two members of the Tomb Raider community, who both stream the games on Twitch, Rizza and Tom_Bow_, to understand how they came to play and later run the original games, and their thoughts on the remastered versions.[i]

Challenge running Tomb Raider: Rizza

(You can catch Rizza’s streams at https://www.twitch.tv/imrizza)[ii]

Q: How and when did you come to play the original Tomb Raider games, and what did you particularly like/enjoy about them?

I started with Tomb Raider II (1997) [TR2]. I was 3 or 4 years old, and I had no idea how to control Lara Croft or anything. I would always go to the training level, ‘Lara’s Home’, and play around. Growing up I would always do the assault course or run around and put Lara’s butler, Winston, in the fridge – I didn’t know that putting him in the fridge was a thing; I didn’t know other players did this until I got older. I thought it was just a ‘me thing’ … so it was kind of funny that I later found out that everybody does this: ‘okay, so this is a thing now’ [laughs]. But I would just kind of run around, and I didn’t really know how to do anything, where to go; I didn’t even know what the story was about.

It was just nice as a little girl to see this powerful, independent female character, and I was just drawn to that. As a kid, I would always act like her, pick up my toys and mimic the “ah ha!” sounds she makes in TR2 when picking up items. I would try to crawl into tight spaces, and I’d go to the playground, play around and pretend someone was controlling me like how I controlled Lara. She was just very empowering to me as a child and also when growing up. I invested a lot of time in playing these games, also playing the Crystal Dynamics reboot (2013). I really enjoyed playing the Tomb Raider games a lot.

Q: What interested you learning to challenge and speedrun Tomb Raider and stream it on Twitch?

When I was a teenager, I would play Tomb Raider over and over. If I became tired of playing some other game, I found that I would never get bored of Tomb Raider: the games never became old to me. It was my brother who suggested to me that as I “played this game all the time, why don’t you do video tutorials to show people how to get through Tomb Raider, because maybe there are people out there who don’t know how to do that?” I guess I thought ‘I could think about that, but I don’t know…’, as back then it wasn’t as common [to record gameplay videos] 15 years ago … It’s big now, but it wasn’t back then. Being a female, being a gamer, it just wasn’t that common at that time. Finding out that another girl was a gamer was really rare.

As I got older, I broke out of that shell, and my husband suggested: “Why don’t you try streaming? You like being talkative and meeting new people…”, and I thought ‘Why not? I can try it’. My first Tomb Raider stream was a TR2 ‘all secrets’ playthrough in August 2022.[iii] I wanted to do something that I was already comfortable with – I’d played this game forever, and I knew where all the secrets were, no problem. So that was where I started to meet people before branching out. I looked in the Tomb Raider speedrun category [on speedrun.com] and found that people were actually running it.

I went and viewed other people’s streams to say “Hi”, and The first person I came across was Footi. Watching him I discovered ‘challenge runs’, where you play the games ‘No Loads, No Meds’ [NLNM]. This means no healing or dying and reloading during the game, which you play in one sitting. I thought, ‘this is kind of my thing’, because I love challenges, I love to challenge myself and I wanted to try it.

From there, I branded myself as playing Tomb Raider during my streams. I did try to branch out and play something different, but it didn’t work, it wasn’t for me, and I went back to Tomb Raider [laughs]. It’s just me, it’s who I am. Playing Tomb Raider is what I enjoy, it makes me feel good and I’m comfortable running it. I’ve worked in customer services since I was 16, and I’m super chatty. I love talking to people while I stream and engaging with them. Even when my viewers aren’t chatty, I’m still talking [laughs].

There has been an increase in women streamers and not just in TR, in the streaming world just alone. This has been amazing to connect with these other women streamers along with other momma streamers; it has made me feel like I am not alone! It makes me feel comfortable in the streaming/gaming world, along with being a momma and taking care of my family.

Q: Do you have any advice for people who want to learn how to challenge run the original games?

I watched video tutorials on YouTube and I have a notebook that is full of Tomb Raider strats [strategies] and guides on what I need to do to get through the levels. So I highlight what secrets are important, where I’m supposed to go if something gets difficult etc. I have little tips and tricks, and strats that I added myself from things I discovered, and from watching other streamers. Footi was a huge inspiration to me when it came to challenge runs.

So far, I’ve done TR1, TR2 and Tomb Raider III: The Adventures of Lara Croft (1998) [TR3] NLNM, ‘No Loads No Meds All Secrets’ [NLNMAS], and ‘No Loads No Meds All Secrets Pistols Only’ [NLNMASPO]. TR3 NLNMASPO was the last challenge run I completed of the original games. It took me about six months to finally complete that challenge, and TR3 is well known among the fan community to be one of the hardest Tomb Raider games to play. To do the game ‘Pistols Only’ was a huge accomplishment for me. It took me about six hours to run [laughs], and I’m the third person in the world to ever complete that challenge [the others are TheWorldlyGamer and DouglasMcDoggett]. So it’s really cool to be included in that.

Some people don’t like ‘Pistols Only’. I’m sure it can get a little boring to play, and it’s long, but I like doing challenges like that, things that other people won’t do. I’m like, ‘Oh, let me try it then’ [laughs]. There’s no way I’m trying that challenge ever again: it took so long. I was like, ‘Nope, I’m good, I’m done’ [laughs]. I deleted the game from my computer after I finished it, as I knew the remasters were coming out, and I just didn’t want to see it anymore [laughs]. It’s funny, because a lot of people don’t like the London-based levels, it’s not a fan favourite, but London is my favourite, and ‘Aldwych’ is my favourite level.

Q: Prior to the release of the Remasters, I think you were trying a different type of challenge to No Loads No Meds: glitchless speedrunning Tomb Raider (1996) [TR1]?

I’m currently 14th on the leaderboard, and I did make it into the top 10. When I was getting into learning how to speedrun TR1, I love to study and do my homework, figuring out how to do and get better, and eventually teach people how to do the same. That’s my whole goal: to show other people that they can do this too. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner and not an expert; you can do it if you put the effort into it, you can do it too. I got into glitchless speedrunning and I did TR1, I will be doing the others too … I want to do all the challenges; I want to and am trying to do everything [laughs].

Q: Are there particular new strategies and optimisations you’ve developed to challenge run or speedrun these games?

There are new strategies that I learned from speedrunning that are a little different than a NLNM challenge because it’s all about going as fast as you can. Whereas in NLNM you attempt to not heal or die during the run, which means you need to be slower and more patient. With speedrunning, I’ve learned trickier jumps, and learned how every little step is part of a sequence. Sometimes you will find me counting while running. It helps me set up jumps and movements more precisely. Little did I know there was a lot more to speedrunning than JUST speedrunning!

Rizza speedrunning ‘Caves’ in Tomb Raider Remastered. Courtesy of Rizza.

Q: What do you generally think of the remastered games? Have you enjoyed playing them?

I love them, I love everything about them. I love that newer people are coming into the community, and that’s what I love the most about the remasters: being able to meet new people.

I also love that for the remasters that they included ‘New Game +’ [NG+], which is basically like a challenge run. You can reload, but there are no medi packs at all throughout the entire game. You just collect ammunition in place of where those medi packs would normally be. I really like what they did with that, they clearly thought about the fans, and challenge runners and speedrunners who take time to play these games, and those who are new to the ‘classic’ games and want a challenge.[iv] They also added crystals into the Steam (PC) version of Tomb Raider so you can save and heal too, because enemies do more damage in NG+.[v] It was cool, because you now have to think and strategize about pathing and what crystals you choose to save at during particular points during gameplay.

The only ones I haven’t played yet are the expansion packs, Tomb Raider II: Golden Mask (1999) and Tomb Raider III: The Lost Artefact (2000), but I’ve played all the three main games over my Twitch stream, which took about 12 hours [laughs]. We went through everything, tried out some NLNM strats, some speedrun strats, messed around with a couple of things to see what was different or remained the same, what’s easier/harder. It was really, really good, and I had a great time, finding out the things that were the same, relieved that ‘we can still do this’ [laughs].

I would love to see Tomb Raider IV: The Last Revelation (1999) [TR4] remastered, but we’ll see. To me, it seems like the remasters are doing really well, I’ve seen a lot of people say really good things about it, fans and also newcomers.

Q: What are the key differences between the original games and the remastered games?

The textures are very, very different, but I feel like it’s a ‘good different’: what the developers of the remasters did was bring the game to life, especially in some areas. For me, when you’re in the ‘Atlantis’ levels in TR1, I feel they really brought the textures and lava alive. It’s very bright, and it looks hot. The whole walls look like muscles and it looks gross, but it is supposed to be gross and look disgusting [laughs]. There are some ceilings I’ve noticed, for example in ‘Opera House’ in TR2, they added a big chandelier, broken windows, etc. It’s just little things like that which I noticed, and the additions make it look really good. They brought in a lot of lighting through the sky box in TR1, for example they did that in ‘Caves’, opened up walls, etc. There are some areas of TR1 where they really brought the areas and textures alive, especially for a game originally developed in the 1990s.

I also really loved the remastered cat suit that Lara wears in the London levels in TR3, they made it shiny and actually look like a cat suit. In the original it just looks like an outfit, but now they’ve brought that to life too. I really, really liked this.

Figure 1: Remastered textures used in the ‘Atlantis’ level in Tomb Raider.

Figure 2: The chandelier included in the remastered ‘Opera House’ level in Tomb Raider II.

Figure 3: Lara Croft’s catsuit, worn in the ‘London’ levels for Tomb Raider III.

Q: What about movement mechanics? Are there any issues you’d like to be fixed in later patches?

Some new mechanics and animations have been added, and I thought that was really cool. They included some movements for Lara that were taken from TR4 and Tomb Raider: Chronicles (2000) [TR5], for example the crawl and roll movement, and the sprint bar in TR3 has changed so you can continue to sprint when the bar reaches its lowest point, unlike in the original game. It changes things for speedrunning too, and the new movements might make things a little bit faster. I like that they included really fan-based ideas in the remasters.

I’m not a huge fan of the modern controls, I can say that. I think I will stick with the tank controls [laughs]. I mean, no new game is perfect, some things are buggy, some things I’ve noticed are a little different, but I think they will fix certain things like the ‘achievements’. I’ve completed around 200 achievements, making sure I take my time to go through every game to collect them. Zenuriko and I have created an Excel document that I’ve shared with my followers, and which I’m happy to share with anybody who wants to look at it and keep track of their own progress. It has all of the achievements listed for each game, and I have highlighted different things. For example, if it’s in green I’ve collected the achievement, red means I still need to do it, and then I highlight the ones in blue that I’ve done but are not triggering, so they are buggy. Some of the achievements are really, really weird, and really, really picky as well, and I’ve been making notes as to why they might not be triggering, or that you might have to finish the level before it registers, etc.

Aspyr have a website link to submit any issues we notice, so we have been doing that too as a community … I mean, those things are going to happen when a new game comes out, nothing is ever going to be peachy keen and perfect; you’re going to have small little mess-ups and things like that, and those can be easily fixed and patched over time.

Figure 4: Excel spreadsheet designed by Rizza for the Tomb Raider Remastered achievements. Courtesy of Rizza and Zenuriko.

Q: Out of the three remastered games, do you have a ranking in terms of favourite/best?

This is really tough… I would say look-wise, I think the one they remastered the best was TR1. It looks really good, every area looks fantastic. I felt that the developers spent a lot of time on it. I can’t say anything for the expansion packs yet. Then, and others might disagree, I would say TR2. I really liked what they did with some of the lighting in these areas, and some of the areas seem really dark to me, such as the really deep, underwater areas, but I think they did that on purpose to encourage you to use a flare, as when you’re deep under the ocean it’s supposed to be like that [laughs]. I think they’ve made it look more realistic and darker. Then there’s TR3! And I love TR3. Everything looks the same to me in this game, in my opinion. I didn’t see a whole lot of big changes here. So that’s why I would say that’s the third one for me, because I’m not sure they spent as much time on it. But they added an extra cutscene for the ‘Security Compound’ level when Lara wakes up after she has been captured, and that was really cool, I was really excited to see that. I think they took that from the original PlayStation version, as it wasn’t included in the PC version at all.

Q: What’s the next project/challenge run/speedrun challenge for you?

My next challenge right now is to be top 10 in the Tomb Raider Remastered [TRR] category for any% glitchless. I would love to get a nice time and possibly go back to the original game [OG] and improve that time as well. I would also love to continue my NLNM challenges and get started on TR4 NLNM for my community. It’s been an incredible year, and I can’t wait to see what we accomplish as we continue on!

Rizza’s favourite achievement in Tomb Raider running:

Tomb Raider III No Loads, No Meds, All Secrets, Pistols Only Challenge 


Speedrunning Tomb Raider: Tom_Bow_

(You can catch Tom_Bow_’s streams at https://www.twitch.tv/tom_bow_)[vi]

Q: How and when did you come to play the original Tomb Raider games, and what did you particularly like/enjoy about them?

I think we got a PS1 at some point in 1999 and my dad would buy a new game every now and then. I don’t remember much from back then but I do remember playing through the first level of Tomb Raider, ‘Caves’, with my dad and my brother and it being really exciting. I think the sense of discovery was the most captivating thing. I played Tomb Raider, Tomb Raider II and a demo of Tomb Raider: Chronicles, amongst other great titles like Rayman (1995), Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back (1997), and Wipeout 2097 (1996). Then when I was at university, I shared a house with a PlayStation (PS1) gaming enthusiast and someone had left this big old CRT TV [cathode ray tube television] in the lounge. So we set up his PS1, and I brought the old games my parents had kept so I rediscovered Tomb Raider at this point. It was also around this time Tomb Raider (2013) came out and I became interested in the history of Tomb Raider, although after university I never played the classics again on PS1.

Q: What interested you learning to speedrun Tomb Raider and stream it on Twitch?

I had been watching some Tomb Raider streamers starting in 2019, which was mostly people playing Tomb Raider Level Editor games [TRLEs], but I eventually started watching speedrunners such as Eycore and critzB.[vii] I had no intention to play the games myself, let alone speedrun them. But then COVID and lockdowns came along and I had to find things to do.

At this point, I thought speedrunning was the most interesting way to play to games, so I thought ‘why not learn it?’ I spent some evenings and weekends learning how to speedrun TR1, having not speedrun anything before. After learning some of the difficult moves, I realised I was interested in finding faster ways of doing things. I am a creative person and I really like deciphering puzzles and problem solving and, when I applied this to speedruns, ideas for faster strats and sequences seemed to come naturally. I recorded runs offline and didn’t consider streaming. In 2021 I started learning glitched speedruns, which are faster than the glitchless runs I’d begun with. I became more confident with the level of my speedrunning, and I decided to try streaming some runs. I wasn’t naturally drawn to streaming, but it became a natural thing to do over time. I find streaming speedruns more motivating than just recording runs ‘offline’, and it makes it easier to share ideas and help other runners, as well as having a good time.

Q: You are the current world record holder for Tomb Raider Any% (PC), with a time of 55 minutes 07 seconds. How does it feel to have achieved this?

I don’t think I’m the best speedrunner when it comes to the classic TR games, but I am innovative and always keen to improve existing strategies, which means I spend more time searching for improvements than actually doing runs. Ultimately, practice pays off when it comes to speedrunning, so I’m relieved and satisfied when I’m able to put everything to the test and beat existing records with the help of these new strats. My 55:07 run is improvable to below 55 minutes, which would be a bit more of a satisfying achievement, so there is the looming prospect of going for this goal at some point in the future.

Q: The game mechanics for Tomb Raider are different to the later games – I wondered whether you could explain how the mechanics work with the first game, and the types of glitches that can be achieved?

The mechanics of the original Tomb Raider are the simplest of all the classic TRs, which means there are the fewer glitches that can be performed. Even so, there are plenty of glitches that are incorporated in the Any% speedrun (the fastest category), including the ‘wall bug’ which is quite a game-breaking glitch, which was fixed from TR2 onwards, so is exclusive to TR1. The wall bug allows you to jump into certain walls in a precise way to teleport to platforms above. We use it quite a lot, most notably in the ‘Atlantis’ level, which would normally be a long level, where a single wall bug will skip basically the entire level.

QWOP is probably the most iconic glitch in the TR speedrunning community, where Lara slides along the ground in a pose resembling the athlete in Bennett Foddy’s hilariously infuriating game (QWOP, 2008). We use the QWOP glitch to skip certain obstacles, and it had a huge impact on TR1 and TR2 speedruns back when it was discovered.[viii]

‘Atlantis’ wall bug glitch in Tomb Raider.

QWOP glitch used in ‘Natla’s Mines’ in Tomb Raider.

Q: You’ve developed new strategies and optimisations to speedrun the first Tomb Raider game. How do you go about testing and discovering these? Do you have a favourite optimisation that you have found?

Unfortunately, some of the glitches are ridiculously precise and can only be performed in tool-assisted speedruns (TAS) or by using setups, where fixed moves are performed, usually slowly and carefully, to achieve a consistent outcome. A setup can vary a lot in complexity, but there is a three-way trade-off between complexity, speed, and difficulty of execution. Some of the setups I have found were a fairly long process – the process itself could easily fill another blog post! But it always starts with trial and error, and always record everything(!) – just in case you find something by accident.

The QWOP strat at the start of the ‘City of Vilcabamba’ level is one of the biggest single improvements for the Any% speedrun in the last few years, so that’s definitely one of the best strats I’ve implemented.

I always remind myself that every little thing adds up, and some of the smallest optimisations I’ve found are also some of my favourites, such as a smooth sequence of jumps over the pillars at the end of the final level, ‘The Great Pyramid’, which only saves a couple of seconds (for glitchless speedruns) but is so satisfying to see.

City of Vilcabamba’ QWOP glitch in Tomb Raider. Courtesy of Tom_Bow_.

‘Pillar sequence in ‘The Great Pyramid’ in Tomb Raider. Courtesy of Tom_Bow_.

Q: Do you have any advice for people who want to learn how to speedrun the original games?

If you think you can manage some level stress and disappointment (which comes with the challenge), and you have enough motivation, then the next hardest thing about speedrunning Tomb Raider is just remembering how to do everything that you’ve learned. Patience is essential. It took me quite a while to learn a whole run to the point where I wasn’t forgetting what sequence was coming next, but it got a lot easier after this point.

Q: What do you generally think of the remastered games (movement mechanics, graphics, model, etc.)? Have you enjoyed playing them? Are there any issues you’d like to be fixed in later patches?

I’ve enjoyed playing the remasters so much. They did a great job on the treatment of the graphics. It keeps so much detail from the original games whilst enhancing it all with up-to-date FPS [frames per second], clever lighting and sound design. Aspyr/Saber have used all the original code from Core Design, which made it especially interesting to discover the games as a speedrunner – so many of the glitches from the original games still work in the remasters, something I don’t think many in the speedrunning community would have predicted. There were a few annoying issues with the initial release but these have mostly been fixed by a recent update.[ix]

Q: What are the key differences between the original game and the remastered game in terms of glitches? Are there some that are now redundant, have you found any new ones? Will you attempt to develop a speedrun for this version?

Because most of the glitches from the original games are pretty much the same, it means I didn’t actually have to learn that much new stuff to speedrun the remaster of TR1. So that was a huge bonus for me and I am currently speedrunning the Any% category. It just looks so much better than the original game and runs so smoothly, so it’s just a great experience for me overall. One big difference with the mechanics is the running jumps for TR1, which were made to be the same as in TR2 and TR3. This change meant that almost all the setups for precise glitches from the original game would not work in the remaster. However, the glitches themselves mostly still work, so new setups can be (and have been) found for glitched speedruns.

In terms of glitches that no longer work, there are some significant ones such as a skip for the gold key in Tomb of Tihocan and a door skip in Natla’s Mines, where a slower route has to been taken now, at least until a different way to glitch may be discovered.

There are a number of glitches that have already been discovered in the remasters. However, a lot of them are in TR3 only, and the ones that are new for TR1 are not currently useful for speedrunning. Actually, in any video game it is often the case with newly discovered glitches that a glitch may be really interesting in itself but it quickly turns out to be completely useless for speedruns.

‘Tomb of Tihocan’ “Skyfish” glitch in Tomb Raider.

‘Natla’s Mines’ door skip glitch in Tomb Raider.

Q: Remaster or remake: do you have any thoughts on the changes/additions made to the graphics/level design and how they’ve been updated?

It’s a very faithful remaster and TR1 especially benefits so much from updated textures, models and the whole graphics package. The level designs are unchanged from the original game, and they really didn’t need to be changed. Among things I especially like – the walls in the ‘Atlantis’ levels when you’re inside the pyramid are very creepy now, perhaps a little too real-looking with the beating hearts and pulsing brains, but it really feels like you’re inside a living, growing thing.

The improved models for all the enemies are excellent, and the enemies’ movements are smoothed out a lot compared to the original game. I don’t really have anything negative to say about the graphics or the level design.

Q: What do you think of the addition of modern controls? Will this make much difference to speedrunning this version of the game?

Modern controls are a fantastic addition, and there has already been an uptake in the use of the modern controls by some of the top speedrunners. It will make a difference to speedrunning in all the games, especially glitchless speedrunning, where the movement advantages really pay off. I’m looking forward to getting into speedrunning using them, just haven’t the time yet to get used to them – it really is totally different to playing with tank controls so will certainly take me time to adapt.

Q: Out of the three remastered games, do you have a ranking in terms of favourite/best?

Sadly, I haven’t had time to explore TR3 or The Lost Artefact, yet. I am biased of course because of my attachment to speedrunning TR1, but I think TR1 and its expansion pack, Tomb Raider: Unfinished Business (1997) [TRUB], were improved the most by the remasters. The more varied levels of TR2 are no less lovingly treated, and the atmosphere, often down to the improved lighting, is much more immersive in levels like ‘The Great Wall’, ‘Barkhang Monastery’ and ‘Temple of Xian’.

Q: What’s the next project/speedrun challenge for you?

I have no idea! I will see how long the remasters keep me occupied – probably at least till the end of 2024.

Tom_Bow_’s favourite achievement in Tomb Raider running:

Tomb Raider: Unfinished Business (1998) Any% glitched speedrun


With huge thanks to Rizza and Tom_Bow_ for their time!


Notes

[i] Running’ the game refers to using player-defined goals and rules as opposed to ‘playing’ the game normally. Examples include completing levels as fast as possible (speedrunning), but can also include ‘running’ a game whilst using no health packs or saves (challenge running).

[ii] Rizza’s interview took place online via Zoom on 26 February 2024. Transcribed by author. Rizza answered some follow-up questions via Discord (12 April 2024).

[iii] An ‘All Secrets’ playthrough of Tomb Raider means you collect items in spaces that are typically not visited in the general gameplay route, encouraging exploration, and you either collect extra items, as in TR1 or TR3, or in TR2, players collect a stone, jade and gold dragon item to receive the extra goodies.

[iv] ‘Classic’ refers to the Tomb Raider games developed by Core Design and published between 1996 and 2003 before development was taken over by Crystal Dynamics.

[v] Originally, crystals were only available in the PlayStation version of Tomb Raider.

[vi] Tom_Bow_’s interview took place in writing with question-and-answer documents shared via Discord messages (22 March 2024).

[vii] TLREs refer to levels and games made by fans using the Tomb Raider Level Editor that was released with Tomb Raider: Chronicles.

[viii] You can view Eycore’s documentary on the Tomb Raider QWOP glitch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4sIgvVK1os (accessed 22 March 2024).

[ix] The remastered game was released on 14 February 2024 (to tie-in with Lara Croft’s fictional birthday), with a later patch added on 19 March 2024, and again on 11 April 2024. All screenshots used in this blog post are from the 11 April patch.


Llewella Chapman is a visiting scholar based at the University of East Anglia, UK. Her research interests include film and video game history, gender and costume. Her first monograph, Fashioning James Bond: Costume, Gender and Identity in the World of 007 was published by Bloomsbury in 2022. She has also published an article on the work of Vicky Arnold (script writer) and Heather Gibson (level designer) for the early Tomb Raider franchise in the journal Feminist Media Studies (2023), DOI: 10.1080/14680777.2023.2217346.


Disclaimer: The IAMHIST Blog is a platform that offers individual scholars the opportunity to present their work and thoughts. They alone are responsible for the content, which does not represent the view of the IAMHIST council or other IAMHIST members.

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