9 February 2013

With regard to the concept of multiplayer there are three types of fans. Those who believes that a Tomb Raider journey should only surround itself in mystery and adventure, that an option to play with others would detract from the fundamental pillars of the series. Then there are those who embrace the multiplayer idea; the gaming industry has the ability for great potential and fantastic, life changing games have been created as a result of this great potential and execution, and if Tomb Raider wants to explore and tries to take risks then they should! There’s also the final group of people, those fans who are still undecided, after all Crystal has only just announced that this feature is included in the game.

On 22nd January, Square Enix Europe arranged a community event which gave fans the opportunity to play a couple of rounds of the multiplayer section of the game. The event gave an opportunity to discover and answer some of the community’s pressing concerns...

The main concern from fans is that the multiplayer feature will detract from the solace and solitude that we have come to expect from Lara’s games, but that is not the case. The multiplayer comes with the full game and will be ready to go on March 5th. It also uses the same level designs, textures and features from the full game and therefore doesn’t take up too much disc space either. The presence of multiplayer will not detract from the experience especially as the single player and multiplayer sections are separate. The feeling of solitude is embraced in the single player experience, reflecting echoes of iconic elements of the classic games, just executed in a different way. With the snippets of multiplayer we’ve seen so far, there is more of a focus on action, tactics; it takes the survival aspect of the game but extends it.

Apart from a few levels in Angel of Darkness, Lara has always been the protagonist. Her fiery attitude and stubbornness has won hearts, so of course with the announcement of multiplayer, comes the assumption that Lara would not be the main character or in fact a playable character. And in the community we are quite protective of the archaeologist! In actuality, Lara is a playable character, and you’re not restricted by someone choosing the same character even in a team death match. When I was playing, she was a locked avatar at that point. Whether this was restricted because it was a demo or if she is actually a character you unlock later is still uncertain, but you can actually play Lara in a team of all Laras.

In the previous games we were introduced to the idea that Lara’s friends were more like associates, characters of which aided the protagonist but had no real identity or humanity. Lara had isolated herself into her passion for adventure and everything else she’d approach with a cold heart; her lovable fault. That’s where this game differs greatly from its predecessors; there are some people on the Endurance crew you’re going to love, some you want to punch in the face. While I was playing through the demo, the two “survivor” characters I chose were Sam and Roth. I liked Sam in the single player, the latest version expands more on Sam and Lara’s friendship and her personality. Through these changes I find her to be a likable character, even more so than before. I picked Roth as his personality resembles a friend of mine, ironically he has a similar name too (after admitting that, I really hope Roth doesn’t become the main antagonist), even from the start, when "Day 4" was introduced, his character was memorable. He was awesome but not egocentric, he was a warrior but limited by human fragility, he was faced with improbable odds but was the singular pillar of strength. Trust me, Lara’s not the only character that you’re going to love.

Multiplayer is tailored towards the player's experience, it’s not all about intimidation and the instinct to go in guns blazing; chances are that you’re going to pay if you do. And the tailoring system reinforces the need for survival, linking into the fundamental theme from the single player. While separate, the multiplayer uses the ideas from the single player adventure; survival, endurance and risk, are all key themes which binds the two experiences. Before entering a match, the player is allowed to customise their weapons by upgrading the standard arsenal in the game. The player can choose to approach the battle with a militaristic fashion; pistol, shotgun, machine gun, or they could go with a more survival route and opt for a bow and arrow. You will be able to assign two weapons to your character. I wanted to take risks by entering the middle ground in between the two camps, hide behind a structure and quickly catch someone as they run past me heading for my base. I chose the pistol and machine gun which provided a takedown approach before they realised what I had done. Collecting salvage allows you to purchase upgrades such as the ability to hold bigger rounds, increased accuracy, inflicting more damage etc. I had been through a couple of rounds before playing with this feature, and managed to rack up over 3000 salvage points; plenty for me to indulge in all the shiny and dangerous upgrades and still have some left over.

Multiplayer consists of three different modes; Team Deathmatchatch, Rescue and Cry for help. During the community event, we tried two of these modes, the Team Deathmatch and Rescue in a map entitled “Chasm”. Chasm is a scavenger village constructed from the wreckage of broken ships, surrounded by sand and dirt. It features two base camps, built high, on opposite sides of the level. In between the bases is a treacherous middle ground, the battlefield where it’s pretty likely that you can travel the entire way across without accidentally encountering your enemy face to face. The middle ground is also home to tall wooden structures, obviously a place where warfare is either common or expected as there are many locations where players can hide and use the conventional bow and arrow method.

The Team Deathmatch is a pretty simple challenge with one goal in mind; your team kills the enemy and the winner is announced after three rounds (the third round only really comes into play if there’s a tie). Although in practise this is much trickier than expected and it’s where your survival skills really matter. The Chasm especially has many traps, many locations in which players can be hiding; if you advance across the battlefield you’re taking a huge risk, however a surprise attack on the enemy can sometimes catch them off guard. Awareness of the location, or particular behaviours from your enemies (if you play numerous rounds) is important. For instance, I managed to sneak up and take out my sister a few times before she had noticed that a) someone was there and b) realise it was me. In addition, your choice of weapon and its customisation is also vital; bringing a weapon you find difficult or complex can completely turn the battle against you. This specific weapon, for me, was the bow and arrow , however my brother absolutely loved it and declared that it was the best weapon. 

The second mode we played was “Rescue” which involves the player choosing to be either a survivor or a scavenger. The survivors are trying to obtain five hidden medipacks and bring them back to their base which is indicated by a glowing circle. Meanwhile the scavangers are trying to prevent them from doing so, and killing the opposing team approximately twenty times will achieve victory. There’s also meant to be a 10 minute time limit for each round which I don’t remember being triggered during the event. The role of the scavenger was easier by far as the previous death matches can be considered to be a warm up activity, but the ones who played the survivors were more admired as they had the more difficult job of avoiding all the traps, obtaining hidden items and thinking of escape routes to avoid being ambushed. But the survivors also had a handy technique; if you went down, you weren’t out, you were still able to use your gun to shoot any approaching enemies. If you were in this position, there were three ways out of it; 1) a fellow survivor could heal you, 2) a scavenger could run up and kill you or 3) everyone forgot where you were and you ran out of time and causing you to respawn with tattered pride and the bitter taste of failure. 

While the single player section of the game is highly enjoyable, what I've seen of the multiplayer looks just as exciting, especially as they're exploring with different forms of multiplayer instead of the standard "death match". Can't wait to hear what you all think about it on 5th March!


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