Dune beetles and other desert dwellers hunt the hunters in our latest look at Evolve

Turtle Rock Studios has something special in Evolve. That much is apparent after spending just an hour playing the game. The team still has a lot more to reveal — more maps, more monsters, more hunters — but the heart of it, an asymmetrical competitive multiplayer game that pits four player-controlled human hunters, each with a different role, against an armored alien monster, is locked in.

Our latest hands-on with the game revealed four previously unseen hunters and the same satisfying gameplay that left us impressed after our first preview.

Story/Concept

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New world, same hunt. In Evolve, the monster being hunted recovers armor and levels up by killing and eating any flesh-and-blood beings it can find. Turtle Rock showed off a new map for its pre-E3 demo, and the fresh location brought with it a new bestiary to contend with.

Most indigenous wildlife can’t threaten the monster directly, but there’s one beastie on the desert map that qualifies as a competitor. The Dune Beetle is a large, insect-like creature that’s roughly the same size as the monster. It’s essentially an apex predator, aggressive to all, and with enough health to qualify as a bona fide tank. The danger isn’t so much that it can push the monster around — though it can do that too — but rather that it thins the monster’s supply of food. A marauding Dune Beetle kills and eats the same prey, which in turn slows down the monster’s ability to level up.

There are also new dangers to the hunters, such as a lumbering, hippo-like creature with a giant mouth. If one of the humans strays too close to the resting alien, it gobbles them up and keeps them trapped until health runs to zero or another teammate shoots them free. Really, nothing and nowhere is safe in Evolve; we knew that already, but the new desert environment proves that a change in setting doesn’t necessarily mean there’s less danger.

Gameplay

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Fresh faces. The four hunter classes in a given Evolve match are always the same — Assault, Trapper, Medic, and Support — but, as we learned from this latest demo, there are multiple hunter variations in each class. Turtle Rock introduced an entirely new foursome, all of whom bring a distinctly different flavor — and a new set of strategies as a result — to the game’s hunting grounds. Let’s take a look at each one:

  • Hyde / Assault: Just like all of the newly introduced hunters, Hyde heads into battle with the same temporary invulnerability-granting personal shield that the previously introduced assaulter does, and the same jetpack as everyone else. That’s where the loadout similarities end. Hyde is a big, beefy, eyepatch-wearing fellow who totes a chaingun for ranged encounters and a brutal flamethrower for close-up showdowns. He’s also got a gas grenade that is very useful for forcing the monster out of a defensible corner. Activating the shield and letting loose with the flamethrower when the monster is stuck in a trap amounts to instant devastation.
  • Maggie / Trapper: Maggie brings along the all-important Mobile Arena that temporarily constructs an dome that traps the beast, but she trades the previous trapper’s harpoon gun for a machine pistol. Maggie can still slow the monster down, however, with the help of harpoon traps. They work like mines, tethering themselves to the monster when it gets close, preventing it from moving until it destroys the trap. Maggie’s biggest help, however, is Daisy. Essentially a fifth team member, Daisy is a dog-like Trapjaw that sniffs out the monster in a much more direct path than its winding tracks allow. The AI-controlled beastie also helps out the team, reviving downed teammates automatically if she’s close enough.
  • Lazarus / Medic: Lazarus only has the medic class-specific Heal Burst ability for health restoration. He ditches the previous medic’s heal beam in favor of the Lazarus Device, a glove that occupies his secondary weapon slot and is used for bringing downed characters back to life. He’s also got a personal cloak — handy for getting close to downed teammates — and a silenced, semi-automatic sniper rifle that doesn’t do a ton of damage on its own, but successful shots create temporary weak points on the monster (highlighted by small boxes) that all the hunters can shoot at for extra damage.
  • Bucket / Support: Bucket is the most unusual of the newly revealed foursome. He’s a robot, and his class-specific group cloak ability — while a great panic button for when the monster takes the upper hand — is the least of the advantages he brings to the team. Bucket’s powerful rocket launcher makes him a potent offensive weapon, but he’s also got the ability to craft sentry guns inside his body and deploy them as point defenses. Even better, he can actually tear off his own head and toss it into the sky as a player-controlled UAV. The flying head isn’t as effective as the trapper’s Daisy, but it’s handy for being able to “paint” the monster, which keeps it visible in the HUD for a short time.

Presentation

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A fresh battleground. The jungle-like setting of Evolve‘s initial look was replaced in this latest demo with a new desert setting. Less Sahara, more Jawa-infested rocky region of Tatooine, the new map is a surprisingly lively place. It’s more lush than most would expect from a desert setting, and there are some signs of civilization in the form of towering metal structures, but the environment is much more open, less claustrophobic than what we saw previously.

The new setting doesn’t change up Evolve‘s gameplay in a significant way, but much like the new hunters, it creates fresh opportunities to interact with familiar game elements in different ways. With more than a dozen maps planned for the final release, as well as multiple modes of play, we’re getting a sense from these two maps that the game’s going to offer a whole lot of variety.

Takeaway

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Turtle Rock promises that we’ll be seeing more monsters, hunters, maps, and modes prior to launch. In short, more everything. Evolve has all the makings of being the rare new IP that makes a major splash when it first launches, which we now know will be happening on October 21. That time of the holiday season is usually dominated by established franchises like Assassin’s Creed, Battlefield, and Call of Duty, and it’s an indication of just how much faith 2K has in the quality of the experience Turtle Rock is crafting. We’re sure to see more soon enough, but color us excited to see what’s next for Evolve based on what we’ve been shown so far.

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