Tomb Raider 1-3 Remastered vs RTX Remix Performance Review


Sometimes, a classic game’s soundtrack hits you hard; for me, encountering Nathan McCree’s score for the original Tomb Raider is one such nostalgia-overload moment. Lara Croft’s debut adventure was at the core of the modern 3D era of games, and during the late ’90s and early 2000s she became the biggest star in games. So it’s something of a blast from the past that now, almost 28 years later, a remastered collection of the first three original games has arrived across every format, including the Switch, and from a remaster perspective it offers a decent treasure – at least on paper. Improved models, textures, lighting, and controls, a 120fps mode on PC, Xbox, and PlayStation, and bundled-in DLC (which we called expansions back then). This remaster comes with competition in the form of the free RTX Remix mod for the original, which adds real-time ray tracing. It shines a whole new light on Lara, so much that it may just leave the remastered Lara in the shadows.


There’s no better place to start than with the heroine who stole the limelight: Lara herself. She occupies a decent percentage of the screen real-estate at all times, making her one of the most important areas to focus on. The Remaster wins this section hands down. Right from the main menu, you can see the original, angular design of Lara becomes far more organic and fleshier. The original Lara model was made up of approximately 250 polygons, most of those in her face. The new model, by contrast, is likely in the tens of thousands, and it improves her face, eyes, ponytail, and pretty much every curve.

Her model has been sympathetically managed within the original design, but sadly this does not extend to her movement, animation, and physics. The RTX Remix is second, with polygon increases and the ponytail also added in. But it is much closer to the original than the remastered version. Much of the original was data or procedural driven, such as ray casts on the environment for collision and climbing, to the gun and head movement that tracks enemies.


An important one – and really, one that should be a simpler conversation than it is – the full Remastered mode on everything, including the Switch, is 60fps. Aside from a couple of dropped frames in camera cuts it runs fine across both Series X at 4K, and Series S, which runs at 1440p 60fps. The original mode takes authenticity all the way and is capped at 30fps.

Lara Remastered

The developer of the remasters and the Open Lara update stated on X that the reason for the cap is that the old game engine’s logic locks it to that rate – a common issue with serial code back then. But interpolating the original graphics using a buffer creates lag so – we can assume – due to constraints of time, budget, etc., it remains 30fps.

Textures and World Detail

The results here are not as clean cut. The Remaster has the most increases in sheer surface and geometric detail, with more curved and less angular surfaces, higher detailed textures with surface effects, and even a quasi-parallax occlusion map on ladders, though that appears to be broken. The skulls or moveable blocks now sport concave and convex surfaces which increase the complexity and detail. Grass alpha, hanging vines, and trees are now 3D objects rather than 2D sprites that pan with the camera frustum.

Textures and World Detail

Water is far superior in the RTX Remix, on the surface at least, with a more realistic specular and reflectance map along with a distortion map for objects below. This looks much better than the remaster. Once swimming in the deep, though, the Remaster balances the feel of the original better and with much better visibility.

Lighting and Shadows

Unsurprisingly, both updates are drastically better than the originals when it comes to lighting, but both also suffer from similar issues. In the cold light of day though, the Remastered version is not a patch on the RTX mod. A weak light map or vertex map GI is used in some areas both on walls and Lara herself; this is not close to the full path-traced global illumination bounce we see in the RTX version.

I know the internet correction force will call out the obvious, “Who lights all these torches in the long-lost temple?” question, but this is a game and one about ancient made-up artefacts. Nothing here stays close to reality and in the aims of visual, technical, and atmospheric quality the difference is night and day.


This brings us to the classic Mario 64 vs Tomb Raider question: both solved similar problems, but only Mario was built around the precision of the analogue controller of the N64, while Tomb Raider was designed for D-pad controls and a six-button pad. As such, the “modern” controls in the Remaster are far worse than the OG tank mode that the old game and RTX Remix use, although mouse and keyboard is also great and an option along with a transformative 1st person view that aids the games control immensely along with the immersion, not available in the remaster.


Remember, the original Tomb Raider was designed on a grid tile system for movement, which you can see in the world, and you can see that Lara’s walk divides each cell into approximately four sections. Each level is built around the slow climb, walk, balance, jump, grab, etc actions. The journey is the adventure, not the destination, and without fine control the base controls provide, it feels clunky, frustrating, and largely not fit for purpose.


This is a lift and shift carbon copy with an instant nostalgia hit when Nathan McCree’s incredibly evocative music begins to play. It takes me right back to 1996, and those moments of tension or wonder as it kicks in and tips you off to something lurking just ahead.



The very small and largely independent team that built Tomb Raider I-III Remastered have clear passion and skills for the legacy of Lara Croft. The enhancements offered are great and much better than, for example, the recent Konami Metal Gear Solid Collection. High frame rates, dual new and old modes, all of the expansion packs, improved graphics and controls alongside fast swapping across all 3 titles and DLC from the main menu are welcome. However – and this is directed more at the owners at Embracer – this is a series and character that deserved more money and team size thrown at it to really do these classics justice. The AI-like texture and character updates feel as if this was designed with a mobile release in mind rather than PC, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5, and even Switch. The visual enhancements are great and stay close to the origins, but a higher fidelity level would have been welcome. The RTX Remix mod is extreme in the use of Path Tracing, but for a free mod that can be played by anyone with the original games on PC, it proves that had the Remastered project been given more resources it could have improved on that visual quality without the need for expensive ray-tracing hardware. It certainly does not beat the Remaster in all areas, but on a pure visual quality and technical level it makes a much bigger splash and has a better atmosphere. Maybe updates will come that add more to the Remaster and improve on some of the areas noted, as Ms Croft should always look her best no matter where she is or what trouble she finds herself in.