Available on Xbox One (version tested), PS4 and PC.
Evolve release date 10/02/2014
Open Beta preview – 16/01/2015
In most online fragfests, teamwork isn’t a given. Sure, you have your clans, your regulars and the players who know that working together as a team boosts your chances at victory. But as anyone who has ever ventured into the online lobby of a shooter knows, you’re likely to encounter myriad lone wolves who have no interest in covering your back, and are more than likely to charge around the battlefield Hoovering up all the extra ammo and health.
On the last gen, the Left 4 Dead titles threw a curveball at these players. In Valve’s four-player zombie apocalypse shooter, teamwork wasn’t just a good idea: it was mandatory. Faced with a seething mass of bloodthirsty undead – with the odd powerful mutation thrown in for good measure – players soon found out (usually the hard way) that survival depended on teamwork. It was a brutally simple conceit: if you didn’t work together, you would all die.
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Turtle Rock Studios, the developer behind Left 4 Dead, has made the necessity for teamwork one of the principle draws for its latest co-op shooter, Evolve. In it, four players take on the roll of futuristic big game hunters tasked with eradicating a collection of monsters who’ve invaded some space colonies and started eating the local inhabitants. The fifth player takes on the role of the gigantic beastie the other four players are tasked with killing. Hilarity ensues.
Each of the hunters has a specific role in the team. Assault class is the tank, the Medic provides healing and sniping, Trappers specialize in containing, tracking and herding the team’s quarry and the Support class is a multi-purpose tool that has the principle aim of providing aid to their teammates. While all this sounds simple in theory, Turtle Rock has dug deep to make the experience of being part of the hunting pack a more varied and enticing experience.
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While each class has a basic function, the open beta offers three variations on each template. Each class has three characters assigned to it and while they share certain abilities that dictate their use within the hunting pack, they’re different enough to offer a unique approach with each character. For example the Support class characters – Hyde, Bucket and Cabot – all possess the ability to cloak both themselves and other members of their team. But while Hyde has the ability to shield teammates and call in an aerial strike, Bucket is able to detach his own head and use it as a UAV – which comes in handy if the monster manages to lose the hunters tracking it.
The monster classes are also varied enough to prompt players to adopt a different approach in every match. The Goliath beast is a gigantic mound of muscle and hatred, which favours the most direct approach to combat; players are encouraged to get up close and personal with their attackers, using charge attacks, fire-breathing and timed smashes. The only distance attack Goliath has is the Rock Throw, which does what it says on the tin. Kraken, on the other hand – a beast that bears a startling resemblance to HP Lovecraft’s Cthulu – is a more distance-based affair; the key here is to keep the hunters at bay with walls of static, targeted lightning strikes and proximity mine attacks. The Wraith is all about stealth; it’s hard to master at first, but once you work out that its strength is in a hit-and-run approach, Wraith is easily one of the most satisfying classes in the game.
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The beta allows players to pick out their preferred role in each match – they can opt for the monster or their preferred hunter character – and it does its best to slot them into a class they’re comfortable with. They don’t have access to all of the variations on each class or all off the monsters until they’ve put some serious work into levelling up their profile.
This makes sense in a way – Evolve is not your average shooter and it takes a rather lengthy period of time at its controls to work out both what each class of character – and each beast – has to offer how each player takes to it. I started off plumping for the Support Class – since I’m generally rubbish at shooters – but found that I was more of a hinderance to my teammates than a help, until I switched to the Tracker. Apparently my shooter skill-set is optimized if I’m herding and corralling rather than trying to help out other players.
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At the beginning of each match in the beta, the hunters have the edge. The poor lone sod controlling the monster has little in the way of options except to hide and evolve – a mechanic that involves consuming NPC animals in their environment and then unlocking or boosting innate abilities. Monsters have three stages of evolution to complete, and once that happens, they’re tasked with taking out an objective within the map. Hunters for their part are best served by killing their quarry as soon as possible. Once the beast is fully evolved, it becomes a much more difficult prospect to take down.
Impressively, all the action in Evolve exists on a knife-edge; the hunting team has to hit the ground running in order to maximize the damage it can inflict on its target and the player controlling the monster has to beef up as quickly as possible. Every firefight between these two camps is a taught, visceral affair and the three stages of evolution for the beast are a vital component to both sides. Once a monster is fully evolved, tactics and timing (on both sides) dictate a win or a loss.
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If Evolve’s open beta proves one thing it’s that Turtle Rock are masters in the testing department. Evolve must have been an absolute pig to balance. Given how many variations on each class exist and how many abilities have been stacked for each creature, 2K’s new sci-fi shooter warrants kudos for the simple fact that each match doesn’t descend into a one-sided bore on each match. The fact that it’s rumoured more features and creatures are in the pipeline ahead of release makes the package look even more stunning.
What really sells Evolve is the fact that it has been sired by the DNA of Left 4 Dead, in that working together as a team is a mandatory expectation for anyone who enters its lobbies. Here, you only ever win if you’re prepared to work well with others, adjust your expectations based on your abilities within a shooter construct and cover the backs of complete strangers. It’s a world apart from most other shooters out there.
Unless you’re the monster, in which case, you’re on your own, stud.
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E3 preview – June 2014 by Evan Kypreos
Ever wondered what it would be like to control a 40 foot monster being hunted by a pack of your bloodthirsty mates? Well wonder no longer. Evolve, from Turtle Rock Studios, creators of Left 4 Dead, lets you do just that. We got to play the action-packed co-op game as both a monster and hunter at E3 2014.
The plot is thinner than a bread stick on Atkins, but, like Titanfall, this is a multiplayer-only game so that’s not a big problem. A team of four hunters is tasked with taking down monsters in the
inhospitable planet of Shear. The map we played was a dense jungle with
rivers, valleys and mountainous passes.
There’s more to Evolve’s maps than just four hunters and a monster. The trees act as cover and hiding spots while other flora will attempt to take you out. Huge Venus Fly Trap type plants can encase a hunter whole and slowly digest them, with only swift assistance from your teammates will set you free.
Fauna plays an even bigger role in the game as it is both an adversary to the hunters and vital food and genetic material for the monster.
Just like Left 4 Dead, each hunter has unique abilities, strengths and weaknesses. Teamwork is vital for taking down the powerful behemoths. Fragment, or forget your responsibilities and you’re toast.
There are currently four classes in total with two characters to choose from for each class. Trapper, Support, Assault and Medic and each performs a vital role for the team. As you’d expect the Assault class performs heavy damage, but you’ll need to get up close and personal with a flamethrower or lightening gun – depending on whether character you like the look of, sociopathic Hyde or warrior Markov.
The Medic is perhaps the most important member of the team. Not only can they heal teammates, the medics Lazarus and Val can resurrect the dead and use stealthy techniques like cloaking devices and sniper rifles to stay out of danger.
Evolve’s Support class characters come in the form of Bucket, a robot armed with sentry guns, UAVs and a ludicrously camp British accent and Hank, a gruff hunter with a laser cutter and a beard ZZ Top would envy.
Finally comes the Trapper class. Griffin is a mutton-chopped hunter who uses harpoon guns to pin the monster down. But the star of the Hunter class is undoubtedly Maggie, a character reminiscent of the Walking Dead’s Michonne, who comes with a massive alien dogbeast called Daisy.
Daisy chases down the monster by smell and runs off after it. Procrastinate too much and the monster has a chance to evolve into something far tougher and nastier. Daisy has another trick, though. She can heal incapacitated hunters by licking them back to health. Yucky, but useful.
A total of 12 hunters will be available when Evolve launches, three per class.
Evolve plays like a first person shooter if you’re a hunter. As hunters
you and your team need to stick together and speedily track the monster
down using the tracker’s abilities. Once found you need to protect your
medic and start dealing as much damage as possible.
The actual fights are frenetic. Pressure must be kept on the monster so it cannot run away, lick its wounds and evolve. This leads to a game of cat and ginormous mutated mouse. Monsters are fast, have a variety of abilities and some can fly, which means hunters need to keep up. To aid this each hunter is equipped with a jet-pack that lets them access high ledges or make long jumps. This can only be used for a limited amount of time, but the time is generous and it recharges when not in use.
Currently, Turtle Rock has shown off two monsters, with one more to come before Evolve is released. The first is Goliath, a hulking horned gorilla-like brute. He can climb quickly and jump huge distances to get away from hunters. Goliath’s unique abilities include spewing fire from his mouth and using its strength to tear up Evolve’s maps and throw massive chunks of rock at hunters.
Since Goliath doesn’t have too many ranged attacks he needs to get close to the hunters to cause damage. He can pounce onto hunters and ground and pound them.
The Kraken monster unveiled at E3 plays very differently. The Cthulhu-like beastie can fly and has a number of ranged attacks, but can’t withstand as much punishment as Goliath. This means it needs to keep its distance from the hunters as it cause damage with a lightning strike, mines or vortex ability which scatters the hunters far away if they get too close.
As the Kraken we couldn’t resist getting up close and whipping the hunters with huge tentacles. Kraken is a hoot to play as.
Turtle Rock has opted to make the monsters a third-person experience. It’s a good move. The monsters are huge and beautifully detailed so you want to be able to see all the damage you’re inflicting on the pesky hunters.
As a monster you enter the arena first and have a 20-second head start to get as far away as possible from the hunter’s landing site. It’s a crucial time. The monster starts off relatively weak and needs to feed on the local wildlife to get enough genetic material to evolve.
By pressing the right thumbstick the monster can sense its surrounding and track down prey. Once enough have been killed and consumed you’ll need to find a quiet spot to evolve, a process that leaves you totally defenceless for 10 or so seconds.
There are three stages of evolution and each allows you to add points to your skills, making them even more deadly.
Whether you opt for a monster or a hunter Evolve is a blast. The hunters are varied enough to likely keep the game fresh for a long time although we’re sure there will be plenty of arguments between friends about who gets which class.