Turtle Rock Studios, with a background that involves the creation of the Left 4 Dead franchise, unleashed a playable version of their next-gen cooperative shooter Evolve. Turtle Rock knows how to to make a unique co-op shooter with lasting appeal so you can imagine how excited I was when I got some quality time with the title.
Evolve grabs four players and puts them in the roles of four Hunters on the planet Shear. Their job? Hunt down a giant monster that’s been causing trouble. Oh, and I should mention that that giant monster is actually a player who’s only goal is to consume, evolve and kill.
We were treated to a short presentation giving us a general overview of the roles and skills of the Hunters and the Monster. Basically those playing as Hunters need to stick together and communicate like a team. The monster needs to feed on the nearby wildlife in order to evolve which will allow the monster to become stronger, making its confrontation with the Hunters a no contest. The Hunter’s play as they would any first person shooter while the Monster plays in third.
Hunters come in four classes: Trapper, Assault, Medic and Support. Trappers can use harpoons that slow the monster down and then trap them in bubbles, leaving the Monster exposed to player attack. They are also the only class that can track the Monster down, via sound spikes. Assault classes do insane amounts of damage with their sexy lightning guns. Medics heal other players but also come standard with sniper rifles. Their rounds can expose weak spots in the Monster. Finally, Support can cloak and call down air-strikes. Hunters also come with jet packs that lets them traverse short gaps like angels.
For a Hunter Team, the dream scenario is the following: Trapper finds and isolates the Monster, Assault mops fires hot lighting at the beast while the medic heals and the Support bombards the area.
When asked what class I wanted to play for my demo, I almost immediately shouted “MONSTER!” I went off with a dev who was essential my coach. The Hunter team, which included our very own Community Manager Dianna Lora, had their own coach. He explained to me that Goliath (the monster I was playing) has three evolution stages.
At the very beginning, I had three skill points I could put into either leap attack, rock throw, fire breath and charge attack. Since Goliath is so vulnerable at Stage 1 I focused on abilities that could get me out of early encounters. Abilities like rock throw and fire breath would have to wait. Coach said “The early stage is when Monsters should be most aggressive, focus on eating and growing more powerful.”
Early in the match I did just that. Goliath can scale any wall and combined with the ability to “smell” my nearby surroundings, I was able to tell whenever the Hunters would get close. I used my leap to jump over the Hunters and used charge to create difference. I was able to eat a bunch of small critters fairly quickly and got to my stage two evolution with no problems.
When you’re ready to evolve you need to find nice a quiet spot, pull the triggers and then you’re taken back to the skill screen where players could spend another three points on abilities. This time Rock Throw and Fire Breath got some love, then I maxed out Leap Attack. Leap Attack to target the area your giant beast will land on. It was great as an escape but even more effective for an ambush.
I wasn’t the only thing the Hunters had to keep eye out for. There are different level beasts that populate the map that hold allegiances to neither Hunter or Monster.
My second evolution involved a lot of quick attacks against the Hunters. I would use my leap attack to open and breath fires on the entire area. My coach said if I could take out the Medic the match would be mine. If I couldn’t kill the other team by the time my health was its median, I should make a hasty retreat.
I enjoyed how quickly roles changed from predator to prey on the dime. Whenever I ran off I could hear the Hunter’s coach shout “Harpoon him! Trap him!” A harpoon slows you down and limits your ability to leap until you turn around to rip the harpoon from your back by merely swiping it. I narrowly escaped being trapped in some sort of bubble thing that would made me a giant dead monster. I still had the Hunters at my back in relentless pursuit.
My coach then suggested a new route for me. After leaping over canyons and dropping into a ravine we came across a ravine with an elite monster that could easily kill. Coach assured me if I just ran past without engaging it I’ll be okay but my pursuers now had a new challenge: a giant four legged creature with a taste for flesh. This left time for me to feed in order to regain some health and also finally hit my third evolution phase.
As you evolve the Monster changes in size and appearance. I was now a 30 foot bipedal spiked covered monstrosity with a chip on my shoulder. I maxed out my fire breath and rock throw as per Coach’s suggestion. I no longer needed to run and hide because I was in full Godzilla mode now, puny humans be damned. I used my scent and environment cues to find my prey. A flock of birds flew off in the distance, which indicated hostiles in the area; I got to the highest perch I could find and surveyed the threat.
The Hunters were inseparable for the majority of the map, not leaving many opportunities to take out any stranglers. In my final stage, it was the Hunters that needed to be smart now. I came at them from the air as if I were Doomsday crashing down to Earth to destroy Metropolis.
After the landing I set my sights on the Medic. I devoted all my flaming breath on the healer. As soon Goliath finished its hot exhale, the Medic was down for the count. Like in Left 4 Dead, downed teammates can be revived by a buddy before they expire.
The Trapper managed to bring the Medic back to life only momentarily before a flurry of angry claw attacks put him down for good. The Hunters were now trying to retreat, in order to rethink their professions most likely, but I had something else in store for them. A well-aimed rock throw stop them dead in their tracks (a fully upgraded rock throw is essentially tossing a truck sized boulder at ants).
With my leap attack recharged, I continued to lay into the Hunters. Trapper fell quick since no one was around to heal him. The Assault and Support players managed to briefly alluded me. They tried to double back and catch me off guard but I already had fed and recharged my health. I made even shorter work of the duo when my trusty flame breath burned them alive.
Evolve is pretty much a constant boss fight for both the Hunters and the Monster. The predator-prey dynamic is thrilling and rewarding. It was hinted that the Goliath won’t be the only Monster type available at launch. Personally, I’m hoping for a Mothra-inspired Monster to swoop down on some unsuspecting Hunter fool. Playing the Monster is a power trip, and I’m hoping the Hunter side of things will be just as exciting. In either case, Evolve will definitely be a game to keep an eye out for.