The hunt begins with something simple and innocuous – a handful of startled birds, or the rattle of leaves. Alerted to their prey, four well-armed humans give chase. They open fire on the creature, dealing it serious damage before it escapes back into the jungle. The hunters follow, tracking it using their high-tech tools and visual cues. They come across the bodies of devoured animals. Then they hear the roar. The hunters have become the hunted.
With Evolve, developer Turtle Rock Studios wanted put a twist on a traditional cooperative game. A team of four faces off against a creature that can grow – or evolve – in both size and power, which can then turn the tables on its pursuers. But that’s not the twist; Hunting boss-like monsters cooperatively is nothing new. In Evolve, the monster is being controlled by another player, and they are playing a very different kind of game.
Building on the foundation Turtle Rock built for Left 4 Dead under the Valve banner, Evolve combines co-op and multiplayer elements into a single match. We recently had the chance to try out Turtle Rock’s latest, which will be available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One later this year.
Evolve or die. Evolve is a five-player game, with four players acting as a team, while one player takes the role of the creature the team is tasked with destroying – at least that is the goal in the game’s core mode, “Hunt.” More modes will be announced in the future. In order to destroy the beast, the team first needs to track it through a massive and sprawling, but enclosed area. There will be multiple maps when the game launches, but for the demo the battle took place in a jungle setting filled with lush vegetation, wildlife, and an abandoned factory.
Humans can use tools to track the beast’s movements, or look to nature for visual cues like the aforementioned birds. If they find the creature early, they can potentially kill it and end the match. But that’s easier said than done.
Evolution. The game’s title is also one of its core features. While the fleshy and tender humans are well equipped from the start, for the creature to survive and fight back it needs to “evolve” by devouring local animals. Eating the animals fills up the evolution bar; the tougher the animal, the more it fills up. At its max, the creature needs to find somewhere secure and trigger the evolution to its next, more powerful form. When it does, it grows in size, strength, and durability.
The creature can do damage to the humans in any form, but it really needs to be at its third and final, most powerful form to kill them off. Even then, the fight will require strategy on both sides. In order to win a match, hunters must kill the creature, while the creature can kill the humans or destroy generators located in the factory to claim victory.
Classics. At launch, Evolve will offer several creatures and humans to choose from, although during the demo these choices were locked. Regardless of the human character you choose, there are four specific classes:
- Assault: Your tank character equipped with an assault rifle, mines, an electric lightning gun, and a temporary personal shield.
- Medics: These characters carry a Med gun that can heal teammates, a dart gun that temporarily slows the creature, an anti- material gun that hurts the beast and creates weak spots for others to target for increased damage, and a healing field generator that creates a temporary and limited healing bubble.
- Support: Comes equipped with a Laser Cutter that emits a damaging beam, an orbital barrage that hurts the creature (and knocks back teammates), a cloak that temporarily renders the user invisible (handy for reviving downed teammates), and a Shield Gun that protects a single ally while targeted.
- Trapper: Trappers offers Sound Sensors you can plant around the map to find the creature, a Gauss SMG, a harpoon gun that can slow the beast until you let go or the cord is cut, and a Mobile Arena that temporarily traps the beast in a dome with the hunters.
Each of the hunters has their strengths and weaknesses, but they all use traditional first-person shooter controls. All also come equipped with a jetpack that features a limited burn that regenerates. You can’t quite fly, but can fight from all directions, including above. It’s vital for the hunters to work as a team and use each character’s abilities, as no one character is close to being strong enough to seriously hurt the beast. To play to that weakness, the player controlling the beast may want to target assault first and take out the person that can do the most damage, or go after the medic. Strategies will vary.
Able bodies. Before each round, players (both human and the beast) select their loadouts – for the demo these were deliberately limited, but there will be a few options at launch. These abilities reset each round; there will be experience that carries over, but that system is still under wraps. The hunter abilities include things like better jetpacks with a longer burn time, while for the beast’s loadout selects how you play. You may select a radial attack, a powerful rock throw, or a dash attack, for example; with each evolution the creature can select a new ability. It can also regain health by eating animals, while the humans can earn temporary bonuses by killing animals that randomly drop boosters.
Playing as the beast is a completely different experience from playing as a human. Even the perspective is different, switching from first to third-person. The beast needs to know the terrain in order to escape, and the attacks come from all angles. It lumbers, but takes long strides, and can climb up rock faces. A first-person perspective simply wouldn’t work. As the beast evolves, it remains a brute, but a powerful one that moves deftly. The difference between controlling the humans and the beast is night and day, but both make sense within the logic of the game, and that helps to create a balance.
Flora and fauna. Evolve takes full advantage of the power of the next-gen consoles or a PC to create lush and detailed worlds. The jungle is teeming with life. Animals run in the background, birds fly in the sky, and the odd plant may attack you. Whether you play as the humans or the beast, the object is to hunt. Because of this, Turtle Rock made sure that the world is responsive and realistic, and tracking is as much a matter as understanding the terrain as it is using a tool.
Although we only have one level to judge by, the detail looks impressive so far. Individual leaves shudder when brushed past. Grass moves with the wind. Dust kicks up when rocks are thrown. Using the environment to your advantage is important, and the next-gen graphics make that possible.
Like Turtle Rock’s Left 4 Dead, Evolve forces you to cooperate or perish. Unlike that game though, you fight someone who can react and change tactics on the fly, which makes every match different and completely unpredictable. The hunt game mode is addictive and compelling, combining the best of cooperative teamwork and multiplayer competition and offering a clever and refreshing twist on both. There’s still more to see, but Evolve is a game that all co-op fans should be paying attention to.