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Tomb Raider is tops, but multiplayer feels unnecessary

Tuesday, 5th March 2013 14:40 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Tomb Raider launches today, and while it’s met with very few complaints, Brenna’s got one – she wants more, and she doesn’t want it delivered multiplayer-style.

A good multiplayer mode keeps you focused on a single game for many more hours than the single-player can. Those who lose hours to the multiplayer are more likely to feel that they got their money’s worth purchasing the game; they’re unlikely to trade the game in; and they may even splurge on ancillary DLC like cosmetic items or random drops, ensuring an alternate source of revenue.

When you fire up Tomb Raider today – and I sincerely hope you do, because I loved it – you’ll be greeted by a stylish menu screen complete with beefy audio and slick transition animations. If you’re impatient, you’ll already by hitting the button for “new game”, but assuming you like to savour your games, you may poke around in there a bit. After you’ve remembered what “invert” means to sort out your camera and browsed the locked galleries which promise spoils for skilled adventurers, your eye may wander to two mysterious menu items: downloadable content, and multiplayer.

“In the console space you need to do anything to make sure that that disc stays in the tray,” Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski wrote in a recent blog post. You can’t expect consumers to keep playing the same single-player experience over and over again, and when the cost of that experience is as high as it is, you can’t really blame them for taking advantage of trade-ins and rentals.

What you can do is give them a reason to buy and keep the game. DLC is a good way; whether it’s a series of free hefty content updates like Halo 4′s co-operative episodes, or even the promise of regular premium content drops represented by a season pass. Multiplayer is another.

A good multiplayer mode keeps you focused on a single game for many more hours than the single-player can. Gears of War, Mass Effect, Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed are excellent examples; all three were primarily single-player experiences which many doubted could make the transition to multiplayer. But they did, and have been extremely successful in terms of player numbers and hours spent. Those who lose hours to the multiplayer are more likely to feel that they got their money’s worth purchasing the game; they’re unlikely to trade the game in; and they may even splurge on ancillary DLC like cosmetic items or random drops, ensuring an alternate source of revenue.

Other games are almost certain to hit the jackpot in the same way, and you can’t blame publishers for having a go – as long as doing so doesn’t divert resources from the single-player side of things. But when it goes wrong, it really goes wrong – think of Spec Ops: The Line, which split critics for its bold narrative but was almost universally derided for its lacklustre multiplayer. Others are just a bit forgettable; we haven’t heard much about Far Cry 3, either positive or negative, for example.

The very last Final Hours episode shows
the dev team’s excitement and weariness.

If there was ever a poster boy for single-player games it is the Tomb Raider franchise. Oh, they’re great fun to play with friends, assuming your buddies aren’t of the “pull that switch. That switch. Pull the SWITCH you numbnuts it’s right in front of your face, oh it’s a candle” type. But a lone adventurer plumbing the depths of ancient caverns while woodenly flinging herself between towering structures and fleeing backwards from endangered enemies does not present an immediately obvious multiplayer hook.

So why the heck has Square Enix shoehorned it in? Well, for the business reasons stated above. It was lucky enough to have Eidos Montreal (sitting idle while waiting for Thief 4′s long overdue next-gen reveal, I suspect) to develop the multiplayer, meaning Crystal Dynamics didn’t have to make any sacrifices to get it up and running. But also because Tomb Raider’s combat is such an improvement on past entries that you may well want to do some more of it.

Lara’s moves are frequently and accurately described as brutal, and although her handling of weapons never entirely loses its amateur, clumsy feeling, it improves as she upgrades her gear. By the final hours of the campaign she’s a frighteningly efficient mass murderer and it’s kind of hard to let go of the compact but delightful toolbox of goodies she ends up with. Thanks to the multiplayer mode, you don’t have to.

Time will tell whether Square Enix’s investment was worth it. From my very cursory glance, Stace’s preview, and Eidos Montreal’s own comments, I suspect the answer may be “no”.

To invoke the games writer’s favourite cliche, time will tell whether Square Enix’s investment was worth it. From my very cursory glance, Stace’s preview, and Eidos Montreal’s own comments, I suspect the answer may be “no”. This isn’t a review of the multiplayer. I have no critique to offer beyond the fact that I simply haven’t the slightest interest in signing up to shoot more faces, despite the attraction of unusual asymmetrical modes. Neither Pat nor Dave have shown any enthusiasm, either. Maybe it’ll go great guns, suck us in, and we’ll be proven wrong; it wouldn’t be the first time.

But what I actually did want, as soon as the credits rolled on Tomb Raider, was more of what I’d just had. It’s far, far too early to start nagging Crystal Dynamics for a sequel, and I hope the team takes another five years or so if that’s what a finished product of such quality requires – but that other menu item, downloadable content, certainly has my attention. My wallet is ready, Square Enix; what are you going to do to keep the disc in the tray?

Tomb Raider is out now on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It has reviewed very well so far, although it’s worth noting that PC code has not been made available.

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19 Comments

  1. tmac2011

    im getting it after work, i cant wait to plAY it i could have got it last night but was to lazy to drive into town….

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Karooo

    I was just going to point out the duplicate para but it was fixed :(

    Great writeup, I felt the same way about the multiplayer, so pointless.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Moonwalker1982

    I don’t agree with this. I’ve had the game since last wednesday and the MP is actually heaps of fun and i didn’t expect that. Great map design and lots of places to go, traps are fun and overall it’s just FUN!

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Lengendaryboss

    Looks like multiplayer is dragging Tomb Raider fantastic origin story down. I Guess all the people claiming multiplayer is not needed in games seem to be right.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. OrbitMonkey

    So because a whole heap of journo’s don’t want to sully their precious time with Lara, by competing, the mp is *unnecessary*?

    Though they said the same about Mass Effect Mp & that turned out ok.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. ps3fanboy

    don’t need the mp its half arsed and here’s why…

    the mp part could have been great. but they had to split it up in pieces and sell it as dlc. the mp that comes with the game feels unnecessary and half arsed, because the good mp experience is missing. they can blame their own greed for ruin the mp…

    when i am finished with the game now i am gonna trade it in. had they included all of the dlc in the game when you bought it first time, i would have kept it.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Espers

    tomb raider !! multiplayer ?! seriously !! Oh please ! they could have released it by now !! … hopefully next ps4 x86 friendly will make dev times shorter

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Hellhound30x

    Allow me to clarify, but doesn’t most multiplayer feels unnecessary?

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Rafa_L

    when I found uncharted 2 would have MP, I didn’t care much and assumed I wouldn’t try, ended up it was what I played the most the last few years. I don’t have great expectations for Lara’s MP, I don’t even game that much today, but I hope to have some fun with it, and wouldn’t say it’s unnecessary, it’s always great to try to add value.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Red Demon

    @8 I agree a little bit with you, but Don’t think it is fun to play with friends you know in a team against other people. For example Call of Duty has multiplayer and it fun to play with people even though I am not a big fan of it. I am going to get this game tomorrow, because I can’t today I’m excited for this game.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Hellhound30x

    @10 dude, I’m totally burned out on Multi player… and for the most part it always feels tacked on unless its built with MP at its core…

    #11 2 years ago
  12. deathm00n

    If it is in any way like the MP of uncharted I will spend a lot of time in it :)

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Talkar

    I don’t plan on trying the multiplayer in the game, so i don’t really care if it is good or not. I play Tomb Raider for the reason i’ve always been: To lock the butler in the freezer! Seeing as you can’t do that i’m just gonna stick to the single player :P

    #13 2 years ago
  14. Sini

    piss poor first impressions. Too much fucking brown, QTE events all over, idiotic shaky cam, hate her voice and want to start killing people when I hear it, idiotic conversations with colleagues.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. CPC_RedDawn

    Why are people hating on this game? Coming from a studio that made the abysmal Underworld game this is a freaking masterpiece.

    Yea sure it has QTE’s but they are only really in the beginning when you have no weapons and its not as if the other games didn’t have these either.

    The story is pretty crap sure and the acting from the other cast is poor, but the connection you make with Lara during the first two hours of gameplay is awesome and even more than you ever did with Nathan Drake in three whole games.

    The game drip feeds you new weapons, abilities, hundreds of collectibles, hidden tombs, and upgrades along the way make for a pretty beefy game.

    The combat is both brutal and fun. It really deserves that 18/M rating on the box from shotgun blasts that echo and tear through enemies to flaming arrows and environmental kills. It all feels natural, yea sure it would be good if Lara once in a while spurted out lines that made her character feel a little more remorseful but it still as you mow through countless enemies but after all its still a game and I am the one controlling Lara so I don’t want to play as a wimpy character who wont kill anything. Although it would of been good for it to have taken a little longer for Lara to become the killing machine she becomes so quickly.

    One more thing, I would of preferred a better cover system too the current one has her auto crouching when near enemies. I should decide weather or not to crouch, not the game.

    ALSO people saying this is an Uncharted rip off… wait a minute… what did Uncharted rip off again?

    #15 2 years ago
  16. salarta

    @16: I’ve been checking Twitter and Metacritic throughout the day, and it seems like everyone loves this game and the representation of women through it. It’s pretty much seen as video game Shakespeare. It’s only a few people that have leveled any criticism about the game, everyone else considers it perfection incarnate.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. CPC_RedDawn

    @17 THANK YOU

    The game is beautifully made, and Crystal Dynamic have finally shown what they can do when given the right publisher behind them.

    I hope this spawns a new trilogy of games. If we can have this game series and then the Isometric Tomb Raider series as well that would be great.

    I hope for a new film too, I think Mila Cunis would make a great Lara but thats just my dirty little mind at work ;)

    #17 2 years ago
  18. salarta

    @18: It’s already been confirmed that they’re making a new film based on this game. This game is more what they can do once they completely change a character to fit what society wants nowadays than anything else, but meh.

    #18 2 years ago
  19. ez-haz-34

    Crystal Dynamics + Square Enix needs to get rid of this stupid useless Multiplayer(My Biggest Disappointment) its a waste of my time..stick to the single(solo) story like the original. I have played the very first Tomb Raider all the way the very last one made. Tomb Raider 2013 is AWESOME but its really too short please Crystal Dynamics NO MORE MULTIPLAYER just SOLO ONLY!!

    #19 1 year ago

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