The big event this past weekend was the Evolve Big Alpha put on by Turtle Rock Studios (you know, the Left 4 Dead guys) and 2K Games. Back in March, I was fortunate enough to go hands on with the game at PAX East and came away exhilarated from the experience. Within the game’s “Hunted” mode, four players representing hunters go up against another player who is this towering monster character. Think of it kind of like a boss battle that is completely dictated by players rather than AI.
It’s a unique and refreshing concept and this past weekend the “Big Alpha” finally launched on PC, Xbox One, and PS4 letting a swarm of players finally go hands on with the game. I’ve been told there’s a lot more content coming but for this test, we were only shown off the game’s Hunted mode, two monsters, and all eight hunters. What follows are my thoughts and impressions after playing the game.
Full thoughts after the jump…
While I didn’t get a chance to play as any of the hunter classes back in Boston last March, I pretty much focused all of my time with them during the alpha even if it was a bit unintentional. The game lets you pick what roles you want to play from most to least and tries to slot you into that specific slot in an open game if it can. interestingly enough, most of the time, I didn’t get one of my top three choices. During my time in the Alpha, I fell somewhat in love with the medic class or the class that also serves as the monster’s punching bag. Any smart monster player will target the medic first for obvious reasons making it the most dangerous class to be. You are the target.
Evolve is certainly a spectacle, just as I remember it. The world is tense as both sides play a cat and mouse style game with the hunters looking to kill off the monster as quickly as possible before it can evolve and become even more dangerous. The maps are chock full of lush vegetation, varied landscapes, and dangerous AI creatures which can do significant damage to players who are not paying attention. When tracking the monster in one of my games, I ran into a carnivorous plant which took me out as I had strayed too far from the group. My mistake. The game is also dripping with atmosphere and tension as both sides question when the other will strike. It’s fun and different from typical games out there.
Obviously, Evolve is centered around online play with a critical focus on teamwork and communication and the biggest thing I took away from playing this weekend is that the level of fun you have depends squarely on who you’re playing with. Each game I played was massively different from the one before it, which is a good and bad thing. Communication is key so if you get people who are not talking and decide to go Call of Duty commando, you’re in for a long game. Each class is specialized for the group, having a specific duty such as healing if you’re the medic. Again, sticking to those roles is a major factor to winning or losing. I’ve found that sometimes, luck is a major factor. In one match, my group and I spent the majority of the game tracking the monster and ultimately getting steamrolled by this level three behemoth. The end game screen shows the path of all the players and as it turned out, the five of us went in one massive circle, narrowly missing each other a few times. Needless to say, the game felt like a waste of 10 minutes just running around the map with minimal to no action. Yes, it’s tense but when you’re not really doing anything for that amount of time, the levels of fun just drop off.
Then again, you could get in a match where the action is constant through either running into the monster, or you get a player feeling bold enough to attack the group early. It’s different each time, for better or for worse.
I think it’s because of these moments that I began to worry about the end product as a whole. While I had a ton of fun playing in the Alpha, concerns about the game began to creep in thinking about it’s future and also from some of my friends who were playing with me. While this could all just be hot air once the game releases, for now with the limited knowledge of what the retail product will come packed with, these are legit concerns. Evolve is definitely as game that plays better with friends and people you know.
A progression system was added in for each character with unlocks like new outfits and the alternative character for that class. While we do know there will be more monsters and hunters added making this progression system purely for the alpha, it’s a wonderful addition that really does make you want to continue playing and unlocking new stuff. Use or do any sort of damage with that particular item and you’ll gain XP for it. Gain enough and you’ll advance along the progression chain.
Overall, my feelings came away mixed. I managed to play this game once prior at PAX East as the monster and I had a great time. It looks great and controls wonderfully. That was an isolated, one-off event though so playing it when you want in the comfort of your own home felt like a wildly different thing. I came into the alpha very excited for the game due to the huge amount of fun from PAX but playing the game again managed to bring up the longevity concerns and ultimately left me unsure moving forward. Interestingly enough, the same rang true for friends who also managed to go hands on with the Alpha as well. Granted, there’s still a few months before it’s out on store shelves and there’s a TON of things we still don’t know including alternative modes and if the single player campaign they mentioned a long while back survived the cutting room floor. There’s a lot to look forward to, so I remain cautiously optimistic.
So while my feelings may have dropped a bit, I’m still interested to see what else Evolve is bringing to the table. For those of you who got some time in, what did you think? Let me know below in the comments.