Zombiegamer go hands-on with Evolve.
Anyone who played the Left for Dead games will tell you Turtle Rock know a thing or two about co-op games. Evolve, from what we experienced, takes the cooperative theme to new heights. Simply put, Evolve is a mecca of a cooperative game!
Four players play as the Hunters while one player assumes the role of Goliath, an alien monster being hunted, surviving, evolving to become stronger, more capable. The map we played on was a fairly large jungle inhabited by other creatures, swamps and some industrial elements – a perfect multi-layered playground for hunting, hiding or fleeing. The hunters’ objective is to kill Goliath, and it can flee from or kill the hunters while its overall objective is to destroy the humans’ resourses.
The four classes are the Trapper, Support, a Medic and an Assault class. The only item the classes have in common is a booster, which needs to be used sparingly, to boost to higher ground. As for the rest, on paper we’ve seen this before – different classes using different weapons and gadgets, serving their own purposes. But it’s the extensive and unique design here that impressed me so much. When I say the different classes serve their own purpose, each crucial in the hunt, I cannot emphasize just how important and different each class is. After a few minutes into it, a player died and was waiting the two mandatory minutes to respawn. With three players left in the interim, one of the experienced players suggests, “we retreat until the other player rejoins” as we wouldn’t survive without the other players’ abilities. And this is the thing with Evolve; each class plays a pivotal role in the hunting process, each necessary in the lengthy, technical hunt.
My first go for example was as the Assault class. I was armed with the most powerful weapon, a Lighting Gun, which deals the most damage. So if I weren’t around, killing the monster would take a lot more precious ammo. The Assault class also lays down mines, again unique to the class. And while you might think this is therefore the most important class, think again. Goliath can endure a massive amount of punishment, and deals a great deal too. So naturally the Medic and Support classes are crucial to back everyone up. I didn’t try the latter two, but I was constantly calling (frantically) for the Medic.
I also had a go with the Trapper, and it was almost like playing a totally different game. My role went from spraying ammo whenever we caught up to Goliath, to actually luring and containing it. The Trapper is equipped with a limited amount of sound-spike sensors that you need to strategically plant around the map – sound being crucial in the tracking process. Goliath disturbs its surroundings, giving off sounds, which pop up on the hunters’ sensors. The hunters can then mark-off where the sound is coming from to indicate the general direction you should be headed in. Once you approach Goliath, the Trapper can choose to shoot-off a dome (thingy), which contains the monster for a period. This is absolutely worthwhile as the monster has brilliant defense or retreating abilities. Once you’ve contained it, the Trapper can also harpoon Goliath to keep it even more confined for a period. So at this point, while the Trapper contains, the Medic can distance herself from the battle and slow Goliath down with a tranquillizer, or shoot it with a sniper rifle. The Support class rounds the entire process off by helping the others perform their own jobs. The Support can provide a shield projector for a timed defensive boost. He can also use a laser-guided cannon, which he uses to call for orbital barrages.
From the careful and technical tracking, which can take awhile, to trying to contain Goliath and the massive undertaking to actually killing it, the process is a tense and an anxious affair that got the adrenalin pumping. I was as anxious as I was excited throughout the lengthy rounds. The rounds are also never the same, because while the hunters are officiously prepared, so to is Goliath.
The controller layout is also out of the norm. The layout is not typical to shooters, where you normally cycle through the D-Pad to equip various items and weapons, and then the controller’s face-buttons normally perform an action. With Evolve’s controller layout, the controller’s face-buttons are each used to equip the various gadgets and guns – so the face-buttons equip a certain gun or gadget, and then the LT triggers or fires the item or weapon. It’s nice and “technical feeling”, but also importantly, quick and efficient in those (many) frantic moments. The D-Pad is used to pull up the HUD map.
Goliath’s abilities are also mapped out to the various buttons. I was pleasantly surprised to find that as the monster, players do a whole lot more than just run around and bash things. At the load-out you choose the strengths you would like to use – from being able to throw rocks and other ‘attacking’ abilities, to more defensive abilities that help you retreat. The technical theme is clear here as well – nothing is simplistic in design.
You can either go on the offensive and flat-out attack the Hunters, or choose to be more evasive. You let-off sounds when disturbing surroundings and leave tracks behind. You can walk around in water to avoid the latter or go into a hiding mode. The basic aim is to ‘evolve’ by eating animals and therefore “leveling up”. The more you evolve, the more powerful or effective you become. Like the hunting, playing as the monster is intense! The decision-making is contestant. “Do I run, do I hide… eat now to evolve? But then I will be giving off signals, revealing my position. Are they close enough for it to matter?” The constant uneasy mindset was intoxicating!
Whether playing as a hunter or the monster, the gameplay calls for on-the-fly decision-making, strategizing and being observant. As the hunters, communication is key to implementing any strategy, more so than any cooperative I can remember.
From what we’ve seen and experienced, Turtle Rock looks to have pulled-off the next great cooperative game. Not only that, but a multiplayer mode that offers unique experiences depending on who you play with. The cherry on top is that the beast you hunt is controlled by another being, instinctively changing things up as you do. We cannot wait for more!
Evolve is scheduled to release in September for Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC.