When I heard that Turtle Rock Studios (the talented guys and gals behind the excellent Left 4 Dead) were bringing their upcoming title, Evolve, to PAX East in Boston this year, I knew that would be my first stop on the show floor. Arriving earlier than normal to get a better position in line, the Evolve booth was larger than life complete with a 20 foot statue of the monster in the demo, the Goliath. Even though the wait to play was a bit longer than I anticipated, getting to go hands on with Evolve was well worth it.
For those of you wondering what Evolve is, the best way to describe it would be a human controlled boss fight. Four hunters, each representing a certain class (Assault, Trapper, Medic, Support) are sent out to hunt down and eliminate a monster who’s out to grow stronger and destroy the human characters. While the full game promises to feature more game modes, we only got to try out “Hunt” where the four human characters tried to hunt and kill the 1 monster character before it can level and destroy a generator.
For the sake of transparency, I played as the Goliath (Monster) during my demo time so what follows is perspective based around that. I can’t speak to how the four human characters play as I didn’t actually get any time with them. The full Evolve experience can be read after the jump…
Before handing over the controls, we were ushered into a mini-theater to see the game in action and get a better understanding of the classes, how they play, and also a better look at the Goliath, the monster character playable in the demo here. The video had a number of great tips but only served to tease and make everyone want to rush out and play that much more.
Once the short video was over, we were sent out into our respective class line queues and waited our turn. As will probably be customary for this game, I was on the receiving end of some good natured smack talk from the four hunters I would be facing off against, all obviously friends prior to the show. Little did they know, I had been speaking with Anaoshak “Shak” Khavarian, an Associate Product Manager from 2K who had given me some invaluable tips to dominate as the Goliath.
As the game begins, you’re given three skill points to use on four abilities for the Goliath. You can use them however you like, placing all three on one ability or spreading them out as you see fit. Each time you evolve, you’re given three more points to use. Following Shak’s advice, I placed two points in Rock Throw, a wonderful AoE and high damage attack and one in Fire Breath which would allow me to quickly burn the native creatures of this planet. A goliath’s got to eat right?
You’re given about 20 seconds to run off into the forest before the hunters come in to track you. Thankfully, the Goliath can climb just about anything (except trees) but during this time, unless you’re a complete badass, you’ll want to put as much distance between yourself and the hunters. This time should be used to kill and eat the wildlife on the map which will fill a meter and help you evolve into a more powerful and harder to kill monster. It’s during these initial phases that I felt the most tense as outside of a “sense” ability, you really don’t know where or how close the hunters are to you. On the flip side, the tracks you leave behind (when not sneaking) can be tracked by the hunters along with the remains of the animals you’ve consumed. It’s an interesting dynamic. It should also be noted that not all of the wildlife on this planet is friendly and is capable of attaching both the monster and hunters if they get too close.
Unfortunately for my opponents, they sent one of them to scout ahead alone, which is never a good idea. I managed to clobber the lone hunter and seriously derailed their plans. The setback allowed me to not only slow them down, but escape and evolve to level 2. Hunters that are out of hit points will go into a downed state similar to Left 4 Dead until a timer ticks down to zero at which point they’ll be put in a respawn queue. As long as one person manages to survive, the team can come back after about a minute and a half but if the monster wipes out the team, they lose.
After another failed attack and with more time to myself, I had managed to evolve to stage 3 (the final stage). At this point, not only am I a hulking beast complete with spikes on my back, but the main goal then shifts from survival to destruction as I now set out to destroy a nearby generator which would negatively impact the human stronghold in this area. The hunters gathered in this smaller space to stop me but thanks to targeting the Medic first, throwing rocks, and dropping smash attacks, they were no match for me and the game quickly ended. Smack talk indeed!
There’s such an interesting and unique dynamic going on with Evolve that it’s really hard to compare to anything else. You can feel the DNA of Left 4 Dead under the surface, but Evolve really takes it a step further introducing the competitive and cooperative aspects. In my opinion, the real game changer is in the fact that the “enemy” character is not an AI controlled boss, but actually controlled by another human which allows for such unpredictability each time you pay. It’s tense, exciting, unique and some of the most fun I had all weekend.
What I found interesting through it all is that Turtle Rock still has a ton of secrets they’re holding back including more game modes, more hunters, more monsters, and more maps to learn. I’m already infatuated with just the tiny slice that I played and I can’t wait to get my hands on the final product when it releases for the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One later this fall.