The news of Tomb Raider having multiplayer added to its intrinsic design for the first time was met with, if not anger, then a significant amount of uncertainty. The Tomb Raider brand has always been about Lara Croft, her adventures and the art of solo gaming. Wouldn't an ill-advised multiplayer mode have the potential to ruin all of that? After all, there are plenty of blockbuster releases that don't feel the need to include multiplayer these days and they're all the better for it. As it turns out, players really don't have anything to worry about.
A major concern for fans is when single player campaigns are finished off quickly so that a haphazard multiplayer mode can be squeezed in before a deadline. There is no such fear here though, as Crystal Dynamics has outsourced multiplayer development to Deus Ex: Human Revolution studio Eidos Montreal. Very capable hands, then.
And from our early impressions we think they've done a good job. The multiplayer features a small range of game modes, from the standard but necessary Team Deathmatch to the hectic Rescue mode. Rescue is comprised of two teams battling it out across a small map. One team is made up of Survivors, who have to find and collect five medi-packs and bring them back to a certain point. The other is a team of Scavengers, who must rack up 20 kills if they want to be named the victors.
You might think that the Scavengers have the upper hand, as they can focus on hunting down their targets without having to worry about collecting any hard-to-find items. This is where Eidos Montreal decided to change the gameplay dynamic and add a bleed-out time for Survivors who go down under gunfire. This allows them to continue firing shots at enemies, giving them the opportunity to take out their killer or anybody else that happens to be in range, until they bleed out, get revived by a teammate or take an axe to the head. The Scavengers are afforded no such luxury.
Maps are littered with destructible scenery, explodable barrels and deadly traps to shake things up a bit. The map we played also had a sandstorm feature that could be activated to hinder the other team's vision for a short period, giving you a precious few seconds with the upper hand. Ziplines and climbable walls have also been added to make travelling across the map seem a little more adventurous, a little more 'Tomb Raider'.
A level progression system has been designed to keep players coming back for more, with new perks, weapons and player skins being unlocked over time. Extra XP is generously awarded to players who perform admirably in battle, meaning that it shouldn't take too long to reach the level cap of 50 and get your hands on the cooler weapons. It's not ground-breaking and there's nothing that hasn't been seen before but it gets the basics right and delivers a fun experience.
While some are bound to still feel aggrieved that multiplayer is making its Tomb Raider debut, fans can rest assured in the knowledge that it takes nothing away from the solo action and that there's at least a good few hours of fun to be had here. If anything, it just gives players another reason to keep coming back to the tremendous Tomb Raider world that Crystal Dynamics has painstakingly put together, which can't be a bad thing.