Evolve – Preview

Title   Evolve
Developer  Turtle Rock Studios
Publisher  2K Games
Platform  Windows PC. PS4, Xbox One
Genre  FPS, Co-op action
Release Date  October 21st, 2014
Official Site  http://evolvegame.com/agegate

When Left 4 Dead burst onto the scene back in 2008 it set a new bar in terms of four player cooperative gaming. One sequel and nearly five hundred hours later, I’m ready for whatever Turtle Rock have got in store for us next and, at E3, I went hands-on with their next creation, Evolve. If you’re not familiar with the Left 4 Dead formula it goes something like this: four players attempt to get from the start of a map to the finish in order to escape from zombie hordes and four ‘special’ zombies controlled by four other players. It’s essentially a four versus four with a ton of AI controlled zombies trying to get between the survivors and the exit. Evolve throws this well-worn and successful plan out of the window in favour of a four versus one scenario, and it’s here that Evolve starts to stand out from the crowd.

The four human players of Evolve are tasked with hunting down a creature that threatens a local area or human populous, and the creature is tasked with either killing the four human controlled players or destroying their secondary objective, which is the aforementioned local area. Each side gets a variety of gadgets or powers to play with and it’s combining these powers and tactical smarts that will win you the game.

Not that it’s that straightforward – not at all. In fact, if you play as the monster (at E3 this would be the Kraken), you’re at something of a disadvantage for a good portion of the game, and your mission is a blend of fending off the surrounding humans and trying to evolve, because when the game starts you’ve got the damage potential of a tub of jelly. Perhaps that’s an exaggeration but if you go toe-to-toe with the Hunters right away, you’ll end up dead. Each monster starts relatively weak and, in order to evolve, the player must eat local wildlife in order to fill an evolve meter. With that filled they can find somewhere quiet to go into a cocoon-like state, in which they gain experience points to plug into their powers, and more damage potential, as well as physically changing their form.

The Hunters have a relatively easy time of it by comparison, at least to start with. They come in four varieties: the Trapper, the Support, the Assault and the Medic, and each will be needed if the ‘good guys’ want to win. The Trapper is on hand to hunt and ensnare the monster, while the Assault is present to deal out some heavy damage. The Medic does what a medic does best and keeps the team alive and, finally, the Support generally does its best to keep the whole team functioning. While they have an impressive array of gadgets and skills on hand to track and kill the creature right from the start, their biggest enemy is time, because the longer they spend finding the creature, the more chance there is that it will evolve from stage one up to stage three, and that’s when things take a turn for the worst.

During the first stage the monster will largely be evading and eating, attempting to avoid being found by the Hunters and, instead, focusing on evolving. The biggest threat to the creature is being located and hurt because it doesn’t naturally regenerate health; any damage dealt (aside from a tiny bit recovered during evolution) is permanent. With the Kraken it was a case of moving quickly around the environment, using his ability to fly and dash. This worked well in the first instance to eat some of the smaller creatures, but as you grow stronger you’ll need to hunt bigger game. This is, of course, more dangerous but, equally, the Hunters need to follow you wherever you go and the native monsters will attack anyone who encroaches on their space.

In the demo, as the Kraken evolved, the player put experience points into various attack buffs, including shockwave and vortex attacks. The Kraken had a mix of ranged and short attack options but no real defensive opportunities, other than to run away. Turtle Rock have conveyed an amazing sense of ‘hunter versus hunted’, especially early on when the monster is at its weakest. Before long though, the Hunters found the Kraken and a battle ensued – it was a bloody mess of rag-dolling humans and screaming beasts – the Kraken’s shockwave and banshee mines proving very effective. The Hunters used various abilities, including tethering the Kraken to the floor so it couldn’t escape, and deploying shields to trap the creature in a small arena. The plan, much like the shield, wasn’t airtight, however, and the creature flew off to lick its wounds and eat some more local beasties.

The combat from the Kraken perspective looks to be somewhat manic and unclear at the moment, due to the small size of the opposition compared to the Kraken’s ridiculous mass. It wasn’t clear if short range attacks were scoring hits, and there seemed to be more of a focus on spamming area-of-effect attacks, although these look to be very effective when you’re surrounded. From the Hunter perspective, it’s surprising just how hard it is to hit something that is so large. The Kraken could easily be an end-of-game boss from Duke Nukem or Serious Sam, and yet the bastard soaks up so much damage and is agile to boot. If this is a ‘balanced’ monster, I dread to think what a slow-paced heavy hitter would be like. Note: It would be fucking terrifying.

As the monster grows stronger the Hunters soon become the hunted and this incredibly vibrant feeling of being the weak and wounded creature suddenly starts to dissipate as you realise your diet of local animals has grown boring and instead you want to taste the sweet combination of Hunter blood and bone. Equally, as a Hunter, you go from being a kick-ass big game hunter into a slightly-concerned c0ward. You no longer chase the monster through fear of being lured into a trap with a much stronger enemy. It’s like watching an Aliens film play out, as this bunch of rag-tag idiots massively underestimate their opponent and then start getting picked off one by one.

Overall I’m incredibly impressed with how Evolve is shaping up. The fact that I’ve seen a mere drop of what is going to be fully available has left me feeling very excited indeed. If Turtle Rock continue along this path, I fully anticipate them to replicate the success of Left 4 Dead.

Last five articles by Chris


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