Team Deathmatch was the first, but its clash of warring sides offered nothing fresh on the staple multiplayer mode. The other mode, however, offered much more promise. In the mode dubbed Rescue, two teams are tasked with separate goals. Lara Croft's faction, the Scavengers, is sent after a medpack item in the level, and given a goal zone to bring it back to, scoring five times to win. The opposing team, called the Solarii, is given a kill goal (20 in the current build, though that may change), with the trick being that shooting the other side will only down them, making it necessary for the trigger-happy team to run to and finish off their wounded enemy in order to score a point.
While Team Deathmatch is more or less standard multiplayer chaos, the balance of goals in Rescue makes the mode vastly more interesting. And while the screenshots will probably bring plenty of suggestions that Eidos is borrowing a page from the Uncharted playbook, the complexity hints that there's something new here. For his part, multiplayer producer Joe Khoury waves off any specific Uncharted influence. "Obviously Uncharted comes off because of a Tomb Raider/Uncharted comparison," he says, but "we didn't really look at one source of inspiration." Instead, the seeds of Tomb Raider's multiplayer started back in 2010's Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, where Khoury says Eidos learned "how it feels to have Lara with a buddy or a teammate, and it was well received."
Development on Tomb Raider's multiplayer has been ongoing for roughly two years at Eidos Montreal, the developers behind Deus Ex: Human Revolution, with Crystal Dynamics maintaining its focus on the single-player campaign. Khoury says there were "pillars" in single-player that the multiplayer team tried to build on. "We felt that the island being intimidating, the weather factors that we could add, could really push on a kind of dynamic multiplayer."
The most direct result of this is something the team calls a "game-changer": In the one map on display, a player could climb to a high platform and turn a wheel to ring a huge bell, which then brings on a brief, map-wide, sandstorm. Opponents of the team who rung the bell get their visibility brought down to zero for a short time, while the team that triggered the game changer instead gets to see their enemies outlined in the sandstorm at a greater distance.
The multiplayer game also shares the viciousness of Tomb Raider's single-player. There are death traps that can be set up for an instakill, and environmental obstacles like explosive barrels and loose rock formations that can be used against nearby adversaries.
Multiplayer has its own progression, completely separate from the single-player game, where players earn "salvage" and XP for stylish kills or accomplishing level objectives. Earned currency can be used to unlock weapons and various character skins. At the top of this progression pile is a familiar sight, in the form of Lara Croft herself. In the current build, players had to be the highest level and pay a stack of salvage in order to play as the series star in multiplayer.
Khoury says that's all part of the design: "Lara's special," he says. "Lara is the pillar of this franchise and we felt that going through the single-player itself, you'll have a chance to play Lara, and you'll only meet the other characters in this franchise. [But in multiplayer,] the work up to get to Lara is the reward."
But just a few matches in one mode hint that Eidos is aiming to bring what looks so fascinating about Tomb Raider's single-player mode to the multiplayer side as well.