Tomb Raider – Multiplayer Preview
Nearly every gamer has heard of Lara Croft, and her magnificent (if not originally cone-shaped) umm… assets. This year’s re-imagining hopes to break that tradition by creating the tomb-obsessed heroine a little less top-heavy, and a little more ‘realistic’. Another convention being broken here is the addition of a multiplayer mode. There’s been some uproar about it, much like the inclusion of the mode within Mass Effect 3 – “It’s always been a single-player game, and should stay as such.” Many of you had fun with the ME3 multiplayer, did you not? I’m here to tell you to give the Tomb Raider addendum a shot, because I’m pretty certain you’re going to enjoy yourself.
Putting two different modes through their paces, eight of us at Square Enix HQ ended up shouting at each other (ok… it may have been mostly me because I still find it humorously unfair when people shoot me). It was the good kind of yelling though, the kind made only by people playing a team game together in one room. Of course, you can always wear a headset and a mic, it’s going to be a similar deal.
We were playing one of the five available maps – Chasm – a dusty, sand-filled arena. It’s not a huge map, from a birds-eye view, but within it you find diverse levels to explore. Fancy being above the action, picking people off with a powerful bow and arrow? Towers give the height you need, and to reach the platforms the map modifies Lara’s jumping and climbing abilities from the single-player mode seamlessly. Zip-wires also span the map, making movement from one area to another fairly quick… so long as you don’t get spotted dangling in the air. Another concept included in Chasm, which is the main source of entertainment in any Tomb Raider game (the clue’s in the name), is the use of a cave system beneath the sand. These areas are found by breaking down wooden barriers, and inside you can hide in wait for unsuspecting enemies, or set traps.
The traps are found at the entrances to the cave system and are really easy to implement. Simply find them, and press X – the type we tried out strung your prey up by their leg, leaving them dangling for a take-down. Said prey does however have use of a pistol, which they can use to defend themselves as they swing around, or shoot the rope holding them. Some prankster decided it would be funny to plant a mine right next to the trap, which unfortunately (for me) signified an untimely death… via explosion. Sod the objective after that – I’m hunting that asshat in the hope of getting revenge.
That leads me on nicely to the modes you can choose from – first off we tried a game of team death-match. A best of three rounds are played, in which each team takes it in turns to be either the survivor team, or the Solarii… the ‘scavengers’ of the island if you will. The objective is clear: be the first team to get 25 kills within the time limit. Survivors start with bows and arrows, pistols etc, while the opposing bad-guys are armed with rifles. If your team lack skill with a bow, you’re gonna have a bad time. Just wait though; you will have your chance to get your own back during your turn as a Solarii. There are, however, special weapons hidden amongst the sand – these included a mini-gun and a high-powered bow. If your opposing team gets hold of one of these you could well be done for. Queue yelling.
We also got to grips with a mode named ‘Rescue.’ Again survivors vs Solarii, but the task has changed somewhat. The former must work together as a team to pick up a medi-pack highlighted on the map, and drop it at a designated location. They must do this five times to win the round, whilst being hunted by the opposing team. Again, 25 kills will bring victory to the Solarii, but this isn’t just a matter of gunning down targets whilst they struggle with a package. Once a survivor is injured they are ‘downed’, meaning they are on the floor with nothing but a pistol for protection, bleeding out into a sandy pool of desperation. A team-mate can come to your aid, or your hunter can come and melee you in the face, winning a point for their team. A young lady on my team was ‘downed’, and as I went to revive her, in her desperate attempt to protect herself, she shot me… a lot. I went down too, and the Solarii received two points. I learnt the hard way about friendly fire.
A dynamic twist to the map is a blinding sand-storm, triggered by a large bell. The team using it can see the markers of the rival team, making them easier to pick off as they stumble around. The only escape is the shelter of the caves, but being huddled together can make for easy pickings. I’m unsure how a bell can prompt a sand-storm, but it’s an interesting touch that can bring the game to your favour if used correctly.
If you had any preconceptions of the addition of multiplayer to Tomb Raider, I hope I have sold it to you… at least a little. I’m not usually an online gamer, but my experience with the Chasm map made me want to go back for more. It’s entertaining, and the twists included create a different atmosphere that you might not find in the other shooters on your shelf. With the inclusion of ‘Tomb Raiding’ elements; climbing, zip-lining, and spelunking, Eidos Montreal have definitely done the reconstruction of Lara’s world justice. We just have to hope that the single-player by Crystal Dynamics lives up to the multiplayer now… just kidding: Lara’s story is breath-taking, from what we’ve seen so far at least.