I find myself in a richly dense forest, full of foliage and wildlife. Despite my hulking disposition – standing nearly three times the high of a full grown man, with horns protruding from every angle – I’m scared. There are four highly trained hunters quick on my tail, they have each other to rely on. All I have is my cunning.
An antelope-like creature darts out from a bush across the walkway. I pursue in haste, knocking the nimble beast easily to ground with a few swipes of my razor sharp claws. As the lifeless body lies before me I carefully scan my surroundings before ravenously plunging my fangs into the carcass. Hungrily I feed, I must continue to feed. In my current state I’m no match for my pursuers; but if I can continue to feast, to grow, to evolve well then I may just have a chance.
Welcome to Evolve, the new asymmetric multiplayer title from 2K and Turtle Rock Studios. Providing a colorful mix of combative and cooperative elements, Evolve looks to offer something truly unique with its 4 versus 1 gameplay.
Playing from the side of the hunters Evolve looks awfully similar to Turtle Rock Studios’ previous series, Left 4 Dead. Just like L4D, the game plays as a cooperative first-person-shooter and places a strong emphasis on working in tandem with your teammates.However, this time around you won’t be facing off against a mindless horde of zombies. In Evolve there is only one objective, kill the monster. Best of all, you won’t be squaring off against some AI-controlled behemoth, you’ll be chasing the most dangerous game, another player.
While multiplayer games can prove daunting for the uninitiated, Evolve does a excellent job of keeping things simple. Hunters won’t have to worry about selecting skills or picking the perfect weapon, as each of the four classes is outfitted with a specific set of weapons and abilities. Instead the game’s nuance comes from how you combine those tools with your teammates.
Each class fulfills a unique role that complements their fellow teammates. The Trapper can track down and impede the monster’s movements. The Support buffs the damage of his allies while also providing a protective shield. The Assault brings heavy fire power to the table, dealing massive amounts of damage. Finally there is the Medic. Her job is to heal the team in a pinch and expose weak points for the team to exploit. With each member bringing something unique and vital to the team’s success, it helps to further instill the importance of working together as a cohesive unit.
The monster on the other hand functions as a lone wolf. At PAX East 2014 only one monster was available to play (the Goliath), but more monster types along with additional hunter classes will be available in the final version of the game. Controlling the Goliath is a completely different experience. The camera drops to third-person, and the game plays more like a action-oriented title than a traditional shooter.
Much like the hunters, the Goliath has his own load out of skills, including the ability to breathe fire, hurl boulders and pounce on unsuspecting foes with deadly force. While the monster doesn’t have any teammates to rely on, it can use the environment to its advantage. Monsters are far more agile than their hunter counterparts. They can sprint and scale over ledges and buildings. This comes in handy, especially in the early parts of a match when the monster is at its weakest.
Evolve creates a kind of cat and mouse mentality. At the start of a game the hunters’ greater numbers gives them the advantage. However, as a match progresses the monster can hunt and feed on the AI controlled wildlife littered throughout the map. Once the monster has fed enough they’ll be able to evolve, augmenting their attacks and gaining new and more powerful abilities. Once a monster has evolved into its third stage, it hits the peak of its power, becoming a seriously deadly threat. It’s interesting to see the power dynamic shift throughout a match, and if the monster can last long enough, the hunted will often become the hunter.
Essentially it’s a race against time. The hunters want to find and dispatch the monster as fast as possible, while the monster wants elude the hunters biding its time in the hopes of evolving. Of course either team can still win at any moment. A hunter who wanders too far away from his teammates will be no match for a monster, even in its weakest state. While a highly organized team of hunters can still successfully face off against the final evolution of a monster.
The ultimate objective of the Evolve, much like the rest of the game, is quite simple on its surface. The hunters achieve victory by dispatching the monster; while the monster can win by either eliminating all four hunters, or reaching its final evolution and destroying the generator.
In fact what was most refreshing about Evolve was its accessibility. Even though this was my first time playing the game, I had a very clear understanding of what my goal was as the Goliath, and how to achieve it. Facing off against four other newcomers it appeared as though they were able to grasp the game’s systems as well. Each hunter seemed to understand their role, they stuck together using their abilities in conjunction to great effect.
While I really enjoyed Evolve’s straightforward nature, it also seems like it could be a bit of a problem. Once hunters learn that they should stick together, the monster’s job becomes exponentially more difficult. As a monster, your best chance for victory is to pick off a lone hunter, but there is virtually no reason for the hunters to ever spread out from one another.
The players that I faced grasped this mentality right from the start. We played for roughly 20 minutes and not once did they separate. While I was able to sneak in and land a few attacks here and there, I was never able to breach their unified defence. Even after managing to reach the monster’s final evolution my attacks still felt inferior to their collective strength.
Now it’s plausible (and also very likely) that I simply stink, but it appears once hunters gain this knowledge they have a clear advantage. To be fair, prior to playing Evolve everyone at PAX watched a demonstration that hammered-in the importance of teamwork. But in a multiplayer game, it’s common for strategies to be shared, and I can imagine it won’t be long before most hunters know to stick together at all costs.
Small hiccups aside, the asymmetric team dynamics and enticing concert of combative and cooperative elements, make Evolve feel like a breath of fresh air. I may have been defeated at PAX East, but I look forward to exacting my revenge when Evolve is released this fall on the PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.