Square Enix were kind enough to invite us along to their studio in London to have some hands-on time with the first implementation of competitive multiplayer in the Tomb Raider series.
We had one map (Chasm) and two modes to work with: the standard team death-match which is pretty self-explanatory and Rescue mode, wherein the survivors have to collect 5 med packs and return them to base while the Salvari (Scavengers) try to stop them.
There is quite a strong Uncharted feel to the multiplayer: from scaling environments, unlocking weapons and even the animation when you carry a box back to base. One extra addition though are the traps; throughout the maps are context sensitive areas where you can lay a trap for an unsuspecting enemy, the only one I saw being the rope around the ankle that drags you upside down, after which you either shoot yourself free or wait to be saved.
The “Final Hours” video we were shown before we started touted “Survival” as a key theme of the multiplayer, though if I’m being honest it sounds like they’re blowing smoke on that one, as it still has the standard re-spawn system that other games have, even allowing you to re-spawn right beside a team-mate, making death a momentary annoyance. If the team were really wanting to mimic the feel of the game it seems like stealth and an emphasis on co-op would be the order of the day instead of the Uncharted approach which usually just results in massive gun fights. Tomb Raider: Guardian of Light was said to have helped in digging out their identity, but honestly I failed to see it because in that game you actually have to help each other to progress, whereas here it’s just the same old “kill the other team” variant we’ve seen in many games.
The best thing about multiplayer though is the bow. While guns are the safer option as they have a higher fire-rate, there is nothing more satisfying than pulling off the perfect shot with the bow, which if used correctly, can be a one hit death machine. It has been balanced against the other weapons quite nicely.
One weapon that hasn’t fared so well however is the axe, the melee option. The room would erupt with laughter whenever two players would try to melee each other but fail to connect again and again. I fell off quite a few ledges while trying to axe an enemy but the targeting, if there is any, is so imprecise and unpredictable that it’s near impossible to control, with the winner usually being the one that goes back to shooting first. If you can sneak up on an enemy you can quickly dispatch them with it, but everyone runs around too much to make it a viable option.
There was fun to be had here, but I’m afraid to admit that after the hour mark, I was pretty much done. I will add a caveat that I’m not the biggest multiplayer fan in the world, that being said I’m not above it. We were told from the get go that this still isn’t a finished build as it was still fairly choppy but still ran well enough. Despite that, it simply feels like the multiplayer on offer here won’t keep players involved for very long.
In a pleasant surprise, we also got to play the single player adventure for just short of an hour. Most on offer has already been seen so I’ll just wrap up these thoughts quickly. After the harrowing escape sequence at the beginning of the game, I do wonder if there is enough to keep players interested for long. There wasn’t much motivation for characters, who themselves aren’t particularly well-defined (at least not yet) and unfortunately they seem to have arrived a little too late to the hunting game, as what’s on offer here seems fairly simplistic and linear. I’d hate to sound so negative about the whole thing as I did have fun and there was plenty to enjoy, but I do wonder if the quality of the game will be as high as I thought it would be.