News, Views, and Reviews
Make no mistake, Tomb Raider is first and foremost a single player game. I understand that some people buy the competitive shooters like Halo or Call of Duty and play nothing but multi-player (their loss). Games like Tomb Raider are usually the opposite, in fact, some wondered why they even added multi-player. Though it is somewhat derivative, there is some fun to be had here. In other words, don’t buy this game for the multi-player, but don’t overlook it, either.
Features: Tomb Raider is an eight player game, has five maps available for four game modes, and a sixth map is only available during Free For all. The five modes are: Cry For Help, Free For All, Rescue, and Team Deathmatch. Players can choose between Ranked, Casual, and Private matches, but all are played online. Team based game modes are round based, and players are put on either the “Survivors” or “Solarii” team for one round, and then the teams switch for the second round. If there is a tie, there is a third round.
“Cry For Help” tasks the Survivors with activating radio transmitters to call for rescue, while the Solarii try to keep the batteries away from them. This is sort of like king of the hill. There are three towers that the Survivors “activate” by standing next to it, and the Solarii “deactivate” it the same way. When one tower is fully activated, the battle moves to the second tower, and on to the third if possible.
“Free For All” does reward players that get enough kills without dying with “Executioner” status for a limited time for bonus points.
“Rescue” makes the Survivors try to steal medical supplies before the Solarii can finish them off with a melee execution. This is similar to a one-flag capture the flag. The offense needs to capture the supplies five times before they are killed twenty times by the defense – with the complication that the players on offense “go down” when wounded, and need to be executed before their teammate revives them – or they bleed out.
“Team Deathmatch” has no other objective than trying to get more kills than the other team, though there are still two alternating rounds and a tie-breaking third round if needed.
Maps and Traps: The maps seem to be a decent size for only eight players, and have plenty of tunnels to sneak through, ledges to climb, and zip-lines to use. It takes some getting used to, but one of the fun features is being able to set traps. These vary from map to map, and include basic traps like feet snares and spike traps – and some strange traps like lightning rods. The feet snares are not immediately deadly, and you or a teammate can free you from them, but standing too close to an active lightning rod is instantly fatal. Thankfully, these traps seem to stay active even after you die, so it’s generally a good idea to set them when you have the chance. There are other features that make each map special, like a moving gondola or a blinding sand storm. There are currently two “power” weapons hidden on every map: the “competitor” bow and a Gatling gun. Every map also has a healthy dose of explosive barrels. Overall, these unique map features keep the matches fun and exciting.
Weapons and Loadouts: There are a number of player models to unlock for both teams: the “Survivors” are comprised of the “good guy” characters from the campaign, and the “Solarii” are the crazy-cultish “bad guy” inhabitants of the island. Players can customize their “loadouts” or equipment ahead of time. As you level up, you’ll unlock more player models to choose from, and a few player perks, like being able to carry more ammo or do more melee damage. Each weapon has their own attachments to unlock, but these have to be unlocked separately. These weapon attachments are fairly comparable to the “salvage upgrades” in the campaign, except you can have only two attachments at a time. This might sound like there are layers of depth here, but really, it just feels like everyone uses the assault rifles, as jumping and climbing and map hazards make it futile to use anything else. There is some satisfaction with using the bow, mostly because it IS so challenging.
Fun in Spite: Unfortunately, TR multi-player has many issues. It’s hard not to make the obvious comparisons to Uncharted, so let’s just get them out of the way. Uncharted has more maps, game modes, and character customization has more character models and individual clothing items to choose from. Uncharted has more weapons, though there is no bow, or traps on their maps for that matter. The custom matches in Uncharted also feature more choices, like making pistols-only or snipers-only variations. Also absent from TR are the number of Co-Op game modes found in Uncharted. I mentioned in my single-player review that TR doesn’t have a hard “cover” button, and that mostly works because Lara automatically hides when she’s in combat. “Context-sensitive-automatic” behavior just doesn’t cut it in multi-player. So, there are some control tweaks added to multi-player: pushing in the left thumbstick does put you into a crouched position, but that’s not the same as a “cover” button. If you’re aiming (holding down the left trigger) and press in the left thumbstick, that swaps the camera from shoulder to shoulder instead of crouching, so that causes some unnecessary grief. Uncharted has a “cover” button. It also seems that the priorities of single-player have trickled down to multi-player; Lara, her voice and her environments, were clearly the priority and look and sound the best. The maps and character models in multi-player are just…decent. Some of the textures aren’t even that good. This isn’t the only game that tones the graphics down in multi-player, but these graphics are really toned down. I’m sorry, but Uncharted also looks better. In summary: Uncharted looks better, has better controls, has more player model and weapon customization, has more game modes including custom game modes, and has Co-Op game modes. AND it also has a video-editor-replay feature (that’s becoming so popular these days). To be fair, multi-player wasn’t added until Uncharted 2, and Uncharted 3 refined it further, so that’s a three-game-head-start on TR.
In SPITE of these issues and obvious comparisons, TR multi-player is still pretty fun. The few game modes it does have are fairly unique and interesting, and the maps and traps are fun to navigate. I believe DLC (downloadable content) is in the works, so maybe we’ll see more maps and game modes in the future. For now, enjoy the campaign – and don’t overlook the multi-player.