The "Tomb Raider" saga has always been about the plight of one woman, Lara Croft. But for the latest entry in the series, a prequel that focuses on the younger Croft, Square Enix has added a new mode that lets you play along with friends.
The "Tomb Raider" multiplayer mode might not be quite what you’d expect, though. Players don’t take control of Lara Croft, or even any individual characters from the single-player mode. Instead, you fight in a whole new scenario, one that challenges survivors, who find themselves stranded on an island, to take on the scavengers, who will do anything to keep their territory clear of visitors. At CES, Square Enix invited us to take an early version for a spin, pitting teams of four against one another, a balanced squad of survivors versus scavengers.
The Square Enix team showed us only one map from among the five that will be available upon the game's launch: the small village of Chasm. On one side, the scavengers launch their attack, keeping their medical supplies safe while earning points with kills. On the other side, the survivors must fight their way to the supplies and bring these goods back to the team's home base.
The sides are fairly balanced: Each combatant carries an assault rifle holding just over 100 bullets. Players can also use a vicious melee attack for up-close assailants, or to finish off someone who’s been taken down. Once you’re in the "injured" phase, you can still fire a handgun at enemies while waiting for one of your teammates to revive you. [See also: "Borderlands 2" Is a Blast]
It sounds like a typical multiplayer set-up, but there are differences. First, you can set up all sorts of traps for enemies, including timed bombs, spikes that launch out of walls, or rope snares. The snare is the least lethal, as you can still shoot while hanging upside down and free yourself by firing at the rope. The others pretty much mean instant death, though, so proceed with caution.
Second, you can activate a sandstorm after making enough progress in a match, similar to a "perk" in the "Call of Duty" games. While the other team remains blind to your location, you get a better view of where your colleagues and enemies are positioned.
Though we only got to see the one map (and a handful of players) in the hands-on demo, the game does appear to have promise, with the potential for growth through downloadable content. Square Enix is already planning to offer a free bonus character, a virtual model of actor Zachary Levi from the television show "Chuck," as an incentive to those who pick up the game at launch.
"Tomb Raider" hits stores March 5 for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, selling for $60.