“All these posts and not one Tomb Raider game?” wrote one commenter on our website. To be fair, he had a point. Tomb Raider was quite the ground breaking game when it was released back in 1996. Its darker, more mature tone went down well with the Playstation generation and its main character, Lara Croft, became a gaming icon. The series has spawned dozens of sequels and several remakes since, across almost every format. In this article however, we’re raiding some tombs of our own to resurrect the original game on our Windows 8 PC. While the controls in the game feel somewhat sluggish and dated by modern standards, for those willing to overlook this there’s still plenty of fun and drama to be found as you plunge into the depths of Lara’s very first outing.
To install and play this game, we’re going to use a special tool called GliDOS. This is a special tool that helps when running old DOS games that supported 3D acceleration through the old 3DFX Glide system. Although this tool isn’t free, you can download and try it for free and play the first three levels of the game before deciding if you want to invest $10 for the full version.
To get started, first download GliDOS and install it. You can download the program here. You can install the program to any location on your PC, but keep a note of the new path if you change it from the default, as you will need to remember it when installing the extras.
With GliDOS installed, the next step is to download the preconfigured Tomb Raider files. You can download these files here. Look for the link under “Install Tomb Raider” and download and install the “TrAndUbForGlidos.exe” file (you will still need your original CD, or the GoG or Steam download to play the game). Again, install this file wherever you like, but remember to take note of the directory if you change it from the default.
This is the very minimum you need to do to play Tomb Raider. Playing the game this way will be similar to playing it on a very high spec PC back when it was released.
Playing the game
First of all, insert your Tomb Raider game CD (if you’re playing the CD version). You can use an original Tomb Raider CD, or the 1998 Unfinished Business/Gold edition re-release, which is the same game just with a couple of new levels. Now, start the “Glidos” program from the Start menu or Start screen. A Glide Server window will then appear, as shown below.
Use the drop-down box at the top of the screen to select which version of the game you have. If you have an original CD version, leave the choice as “Tomb Raider (Original)”. Otherwise, choose the GoG or Steam version if you have the digitally downloaded re-release.
Assuming you installed your preconfigured Tomb Raider files to the default directory, you can now simply click on “Start game” and start playing. If you installed to a different directory, you will need to click on “Adjust…” and go to the “Executable” tab. Here you can adjust the path and point the program to where you installed your Tomb Raider files.
Tweaking visuals and sound
Since you’re going to be spending a Lara time in Ms Croft’s company, why not make her environment a little more palatable. Thanks to GliDOS, there are several ways you can improve and enhance the game beyond what was possible on the original hardware.
First of all we’ll configure the visual options in GliDOS. Start GliDOS, click on “Adjust…” and then click on the “Display” tab. The following window should then be displayed.
The screenshot above shows the optimal settings for most modern computers. The resolution setting should be set according to the highest resolution supported by your monitor. Remember that Tomb Raider is a 4:3 (non widescreen) aspect ratio game and will only run in 4:3 aspect ratio modes.
The Inhibit mode change option prevents the games graphics being stretched out of proportion. Texture smoothing and Mipmapping all help to improve the quality of the games textures. Finally, if you have a lower spec PC with an older graphics card, you may need to enable the “Managed textures” option if you opt to install a texture pack.
Click on “OK” when you are done changing these settings. Now, we can move on and install some enhancement packs. Start with the two packs listed below.
The Tomb Raider Audio Pack provides extra background music that is missing on some versions of the Tombraider CD. It also adds extra effect sounds at key points in the game to match the Sony Playstation version. You can download it here, under “Install high resolution textures, enhanced audio and enhanced movies”.
The Tomb Raider FMV Pack improves the quality of the in-game movies. You can download it here, again under “Install high resolution textures, enhanced audio and enhanced movies”.
Download and install both the above upgrade packs. Remember, if you didn’t install GliDOS to the default directory, you will need to manually change the installation directories when installing the upgrade packs.
To activate the upgrade packs once installed, start GliDOS and click on “Adjust”. A “Game details” window will then appear. Click on the “Audio & Movies” tab and make sure “Use Audio Pack” and “Use FMV pack” are selected.
Click on OK when you are done. That takes care of these two extras, now we can move onto the subject of textures.
Tomb Raider texture packs – The nice thing about 3D games is that the higher resolution you run them, the sharper and nicer they look. The one problem with this is textures. Textures are graphical effects applied to surfaces to make them look more real. While polygons scale up beautifully to bigger displays, textures can look blocky and pixelated. The only definitive way to deal with this is to redraw newer, higher resolution textures by hand. For Tomb Raider, that’s exactly what several artists have done. If you visit the Tomb Raider Xtra site here, you can download a texture pack by an artist of your choice. Feel free to browse the site and compare screenshots and choose the pack you like best. If you just want the most complete updated texture pack, we recommend downloading and installing the two “John Capon” texture packs. Download both executables and install them. Again, pay attention if you didn’t install GliDOS to the default directory as you will need to manually change the installation directories when installing the texture packs.
With the texture packs installed, we need to activate them. Start GliDOS and from the main window, click on “Adjust…”. Go to the “Textures” tab and select “Use texture packs to override textures”. Make sure that “Use old-style texture pack” is deselected, then choose the texture pack you want to use from the drop down list. Click on “OK” when you are done.
Congratulations, you’ve now installed and configured yourself the definitive version of the original Tomb Raider game. Feel free to click that “Start game” button and meet Ms Croft. If you want to use a game controller, read on to the next section.
Tomb Raider was released before analogue controllers were commonplace and therefore supports only digital gamepads. Searching around the internet we found this page, which claimed to offer a pre-configured controller setup for the Xbox 360 controller. The files were designed for the Steam version of the game, we weren’t able to adapt them to work with our CD original. Instead, it’s better to use that essential retrogaming tool, Xpadder. Below is a picture of the Xpadder profile we created for the game.
This maps the controls for the game as suggested by Darth Sidious [PT] on Steam. For your reference, here’s how that looks.
Missing codec error when using FMV pack:- You may see this error when playing the game using the FMV pack.
If the message appears before any movies play, you should probably follow the advice given on the prompt and visit mediacodec.org and download the codec pack recommended.
If the first ‘Core Design’ video plays, but the game then throws this error, you could still try downloading the codec pack. However, if your PC is already configured with codecs of your choice and you don’t want to risk installing another pack that could potentially cause conflicts, there is a workaround. Use the Alt+Tab keyboard shortcut to activate the task switcher. Now, click on the GliDOS window. You should now be able to press “Enter” and the prompt will disappear allowing the game to continue. If you still can’t dismiss the window, try the Alt+Tab method again, eventually you should get it.
Title music plays over intro video, and when game is exited – On our test system the games title screen music would stop and then immediately start again. When starting a new game this caused the music to play over the top of the videos own soundtrack. When exiting the game, the music even played on the desktop until GliDOS was closed! We’ve asked GliDOS support for help with this issue and will report back if and when we hear anything.
Texture packs do not appear and GliDOS logo appears on all levels:- If this happens, try exiting the game, disabling Mipmapping (under Display) and then starting the game again. If the game now works correctly, you can try re-enabling Mipmapping again. We have no idea why this setting sometimes has this effect. Remember that the GliDOS logo will appear on all levels after level three, unless you purchase and activate the full version of GliDOS.
Remember, you can get technical support for GliDOS by visiting the support forum on Vogons.org here.
These screenshots are from the John Capon texture pack.