Hands-On Preview: Evolve – Survival of the Fittest

In the last generation, Xbox 360 and PS3 introduced online multiplayer on a huge, widespread scale. It was the beginning of an era as titles like Call of Duty and Halo brought online, competitive multiplayer to anyone, and everyone, across the globe to play at the same time in epic, big match-ups.

Another title in particular, Left 4 Dead, came to consoles and PC packing some of the most intense and strategic multiplayer around, but most of all, doing so through collaborative play. Like Battlefield or Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead was dependent on teams working together and each character having their own part on the team, and all engaging with one another to reach the end goal of survival.

Flash forward several years later, and now we have Evolve, the latest title from the original Left 4 Dead developers, Turtle Rock Studios. Debuting this fall as a cooperative multiplayer title on Xbox One, PS4, and PC, much of the DNA that made up Left 4 Dead is easily apparent in Evolve, and already it looks to be one of the highlights of the upcoming barrage of releases at the end of the year.

Evolve pits players into two factions for its cooperative, “asynchronous” multiplayer: four players are put into the roles of “the Hunters,” while another takes on the role of “the Monster.” During the demo we played at E3 2014, the Hunters were broken up into four distinct classes with unique abilities and equipment: Assault, Trapper, Medic, and Support. Likewise, the Monster being shown in the demo, the “Kraken,” certainly had a few tricks up its own monstrously long sleeves to hold its own against the four enemy players.

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Starting off with the Hunters, one of Evolve’s biggest strengths shown in the demo is the reliance on having each team member use their varying abilities and equipment collaboratively to take down the Monster. The four Hunter classes each serves a specific role within the team: Assault deals the most damage with its machine gun and flamethrower, the Medic and Support provide health and other bonuses to the group, and the Trapper assists with locating the Monster and keeping the rest of the team on its (ever growing) tracks.

Playing as the Assault class in the demo, my role within the team was to be the damage-dealer: the Assault class’s Flamethrower provides the highest damage in the entire game, but also is limited by short range, a problem fixed by the machine gun with its much longer range but smaller damage spread. Evolve shined when it came to how I used my class’s capabilities with the other team. While the Assault class’s weapons were more focused on short-ranged bursts of damage, using the flamethrower while the Monster was pinned down by one of the Trapper’s abilities/equipment made for a more effective use of our abilities. On the Hunter side, much like Left 4 Dead, the key of the game is to work together and find what combination of players, classes, items, and weapons work best in a given situation.

On the other side of the arena is the Monster, and as the game’s title so heavily implies, the goal for the opposing creature is to “evolve” into a larger, more physically imposing enemy for the Hunter team. With a litter of enemy creatures for the Monster to feed from, the Monster’s goal to progress through three levels of evolution provides a number of options for the Monster’s successful victory – rushing in against the player’s for an ambush as a Level 1 Monster could be a dicey (but effective) move, while slowly gobbling creatures and building up to the ultimate Level 3 evolution makes for a more imposing, carnivorous foe to tackle.

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After running through a mission with a complete team of four players against a Monster (the newly-revealed Kraken), it’s easy to see that Evolve, with its fast-paced struggle between Hunters and Monsters as they both race toward their respective end goals, could be one of the key titles to make this holiday season a big one, especially for the Xbox One and PS4 versions. Although the title may have some of the more demanding play requirements like its predecessor, Left 4 Dead, and the need for a coordinated group of four Hunter players, even just the first round of Evolve already had me wanting to jump right back in, even after the game’s fairly lengthy 30 min – 1 hour average time per match.

Though it may be a more involved experience compared to the swifter Call of Duty or Titanfall, seeing its advances and refinements from its Left 4 Dead origins makes Evolve all the better: it keeps the core, team-focused gameplay of the previous title, but at a slightly faster-paced and goals that make each side race toward the finish line. Even in a swath of other first-person shooters out there, it’s exciting to see that Turtle Rock Studios may just have the next evolution of the FPS on their hands this coming fall.

Evolve releases for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on October 21st, 2014.

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