Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first: you can relax, Lara’s first venture into multiplayer is rather good fun. I had a couple of hours with the game but I was limited to just one map, two game modes and characters with the lowest experience levels – so consider this a ‘first impression’ rather than a thorough prodding.
The eight player map was small enough not to get lost in but had plenty of opportunities for ambushes and sneak attacks. Large parts of the play area consist of wooden towers and shacks which can be used to gain a height advantage on the enemy, the downside being that cover atop a tower is rather scarce. Further pathways can be opened up by destroying certain walls or panels and there are tunnels, zip lines and ropes to use (or in my case plummet to my death from).[drop]There are the obligatory red barrels to shoot which provide exceptionally pleasing explosions that can fling the enemy high into the sky and traps can be set to capture opponents.
These include a noose that hoists enemies into the air and leaves them dangling, trying to free themselves whilst you can nip out from your nearby hiding place and leisurely murderise them. You can also booby trap ammo dumps, a personal favourite, and shoot out supporting beams and drop piles of rocks on heads.
The weapons selection is pretty standard with plenty of options to upgrade and personalise your weapon load-outs. I can’t say for certain but I didn’t see any sign of my two pet hates in multiplayer – rocket launchers and sniper rifles. Instead you get bows and with a small amount of practice it’s easy to become an unstoppable killing machine with just a couple of bits of wood.
Each level also had two ‘super weapons’, an enhanced bow and a minigun. The minigun is particularly fun to use and the highlight of the hands on was when I found it, stood on the highest tower and took out most of the opposing force in a hail of death. There are also elements you cannot control: whilst playing a sandstorm may occur reducing your visibility to almost nothing, for example.
We played Team Death Match first, each game lasts around fifteen minutes and it is exactly the same as every other Team Death Match you have played, however the second mode offered something slightly different. Unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the mode (it’s rather difficult to take notes when being attacked) so let’s call it Doris.
In Doris the Survivors must locate five med kits and deliver them to a safe zone whilst the Scavengers must stop them from doing so and register twenty kills. The Survivors have to work as a team, if the team member holding the med kit is attacked then they drop it and have to run back to pick it up, so providing cover is essential.[drop2]You may be thinking that twenty kills is a rather low number to win a game but Doris has a twist. One you have ‘killed’ a Survivor then they will fall to the ground and break out their pistol.
To complete the kill you must make you way to the downed player and perform a brutal melee attack with a climbing axe to finish the job.
As the enemy is still armed then they still have an opportunity to take you out and their team mates can also stop by and revive them back into the game.
The mode seems to be exceptionally well balanced and most matches were neck and neck to the bitter end.
I should point out the melee moves in this mode are particularly brutal and I found this rather shocking the first time I managed to, excuse the pun, execute one. I suppose it’s rather hard to kill someone with a climbing axe in a nice way but the splashes of blood were a stark reminder that this is not the family friendly Tomb Raider we used to know.
Since the announcement of the multiplayer component many have expected it be rather like Uncharted. To be honest I have barely played the Uncharted multiplayer as I found it twitchy, fiddly and rather underpowered but in comparison Tomb Raider feels bigger, louder and smoother.
The couple of hours I had with the game were excellent fun and, unlike many franchises that tack on multiplayer just to get DLC sales, this seems to be a solid, well thought out addition.