My expectations for Evolve have been incredibly high. Since seeing it in action at PAX East, but not being able to get my hands on it, I’ve been eagerly anticipating devouring my first morsels of action like a greedy Goliath trying to evolve as quickly as possible. To my delight, I got quite the meal in a lengthy hands-on preview at 2k’s Evolve booth at PAX Prime.
As I entered the demo room, Brian Roundy – one of 2k’s PR Managers –greeted me and my fellow press members before quickly inquiring, “Soooo, who wants to play the monster?” I looked at the tentative faces around me, before looking him in the eyes and saying with resolve, “Let’s do this thing.”
With a 2k employee giving me a quick breakdown of the controls, I was dropped in as the Kraken, the latest creature announced by Turtle Rock Studios that is dripping in Cthulu and Tyranid inspiration.
The Kraken varies quite a bit from the Goliath – the first monster revealed for Evolve – opting less on jumping into the fray to smash everything in sight for more of a ranged harassment angle on the game. The natural ability to take flight, occasionally using speed bursts to propel himself forward, combined with a skill set that includes lightning bolts, mines and gusts of wind, makes the Kraken a formidable floating death machine.
Starting with three points to distribute in any fashion across four available skills, I dumped one into the vortex ability that can knock over hunters with a large blast of air for crowd control, and two into his lightning strike ability for some competent damage at my weakest form. To cap things off, I got to pick a perk to define my build. Either a 15% bonus to damage, a 15% bonus to damage resistance or a 50% decrease in the time it takes to consume the creatures used to evolve. My thoughts being that the most competent strategy would be to skulk about the map and evolve the maximum number of times before a confrontation, I opted for the 50% bonus to consumption time.
Entering the cliff filled Distillery map, I quickly set out to find prey to feed my beast. Clicking in the right thumbstick allowed me to sniff out the area in what I’d consider a sort of vision mode akin to the Batman Arkham series detective vision mechanic. With a pulse I could sniff out the position of nearby creatures, birds and even the team of hunters that are out to bring me down.
Climbing cliffs and floating my way through caves I made quick work of some small creatures I had located, whipping tendril like appendages to beat them into submission. Feasting on their corpses, I soon found myself evolving to level two. Constantly sniffing out the area, I meticulously navigated the environment, always attempting to avoid startling the indigenous creatures that could give my position away, like a flock of birds. Tackling some burlier monsters, I made it to level three without once seeing an enemy hunter.
Up to this point, I had been working completely on my own for about five minutes without the developer chiming into my headset at all. Glancing over to him, I only then found out we had a minor audio issue that had prevented me from hearing any of his advice.
Getting synced back up with each others headsets, we agreed that now that I was level three it was time to go, as we so poetically put it, f*ck shit up.
Now, instead of using my super sniffing abilities to know where to flee and how to avoid trouble, I was like a bloodhound seeking out a juicy steak. Hurtling myself through the air, I launched myself in the direction of the enemy hunters with my enhanced skill set, now including level three Lightning Strike, Vortex and Banshee Mine skills. Coming across a lone Trapper, he was surprised to see a pillar of lightning home in on his position like an orbital strike.
Massive damage being dealt, he started to flee and bring his buddies in on the action. A quick vortex blew his reinforcements right off their feet, allowing me to shoot out mines for severe explosive damage. The full team now at my mercy, I focused my attention on the medic, rapidly hurling damaging lightning skills to remove it from the equation as quickly as possible.
With the medic down, a two minute timer began for me to kill the whole team and claim victory. If I didn’t succeed in this time, the defeated hunters would be redeployed at the end of the timer with strikes against them – essentially a reduction in health as penalty for being previously defeated.
The medic going down first put the rest of the team in a major jam, being unable to be rapidly healed and kept in the fight, the assault and trapper soon fell victim to my wrath as well.
This left the support who, with the crafty use of an invisibility skill, escaped the battle. Failing to pick up his scent with my snout I was unable to hunt him down and seemingly left with no other option to win but to wait till the hunters had fully regrouped. At this point, the developer on my headset piped in, letting me know that I could also destroy a power generator in the level as an alternate victory condition.
Tracking down the power generator, I began to relentlessly wail on it while the timer ticked away for the return of the enemy hunters I had so easily disposed of previously. By beating on the generator I’d be able to force a confrontation, either they’d come to me or they’d lose the match. After being redeployed into the game, the hunters were on the move and homing in on my position. Jumping into the air to get into a better position, the Trapper activated a dome-like energy field to trap me in and prevent me from fleeing.
This choice was, by all accounts, a very poor decision. After all, I wasn’t stuck in there with them, they were stuck in there with me.
Using my repertoire of skills I made quick work once again of the Assault, Medic and Trapper, leaving the pesky Support as the last foe I needed to vanquish. As the shield barrier went down, he made a mad dash for the jungle with the hopes of cloaking his way out for another regroup in two minutes. Thinking fast, I led my lightning strike attack out in front of the support as he was slipping into stealth, landing a nail in the coffin with a perfect blind strike that even shocked the developer behind me.
I had made a statement, cracking the whip down hard on the enemy team, and it made me smile from ear to ear in satisfaction at the destruction I had caused.
My time with Evolve was a pleasure all around, making me feel the anxiety of being hunted in the early goings and the thrill of being something like a badass fusion of the Predator, Cthulhu and a Jurassic Park styled Velociraptor later on. I, like many others, still am leery that the game may grow stale without more perks and monsters to dabble with, as only two monsters and eight hunters have been revealed. Luckily, Evolve has been delayed to 2015, and will get extra time for the folks at Turtle Rock Studios to give it the necessary tender loving care to make it all it can be. I’m sold on Evolve’s experience of being the hunted and hunter, so here is to hoping that the developers will evolve this game into something truly memorable.