Evolve is one of the first games to hang it’s hat on a new online only 4v1 format. Recently they debuted their Alpha and I took some time to stomp around and eat those foolish enough to hunt me!
Evolve, in a nutshell, is a you against the world or a band of friends against some other poor soul. The catch is that the lone wolf in these four versus one battles is a massive monster with the ability to grow stronger throughout the battle. In the alpha, the Monster player (or Bun-Zillah in my case) was given only the choice of a beast called the Goliath. This hulking melee focused fire breathing beast had the choice between a rock throw, a leaping ground smash, a charge attack, and fire breath (of course). Each of these attacks could be upgraded once an ‘evolution’ meter was raised high enough. This is done by killing and eating other players or other creatures roaming the map. Once high enough, the monster must find a safe spot to cocoon up and evolve to a more powerful ‘stage’. At stage 3, the monster is then considered powerful enough to damage and destroy the power core located on each map. The monster would then win the match if they killed all of the hunters or destroyed the power core.
Of course, while they are doing all of this killing, eating, and roaming, the hunters are doing their best to trap and kill the monster using their own equipment and teamwork. As a non monster player, each person could be a medic, assault, support, or hunter character. Each one has specific equipment needed to quickly dispose of the powerful monster. The medic does as you would expect along with the ability to shoot tranquilizer darts to slow the monster temporarily. The support guy provides shields and cloaks for the team as well as his own damage dealing weaponry. His special attack calls in an orbital strike to lay waste to a particular area. The Assault guy does as you would expect by utilizing various weapons to do a lot of damage including mines and a personal shield to soak up damage himself. The last character, the one I typically chose, was the hunter. More agile and suited for pinning the monster, this character traps the monster with a dome shield over an area as well as launching harpoons to anchor the monster in place so it can’t escape. Not only that, the hunter has a ugly monster-y lookin’ dog that tracks the monster as well as revives teammates.
All of this strategy and gunnery is done in FPS view (except for when you play as the monster) and is surprisingly tense and fun. You would think that the monster holds the distinct advantage and would win the majority of the time but that’s not true. Good hunting teams can take down the weaker monster early in the match if the monster doesn’t recognize they can run and leap away much faster than the hunters can.
As a monster, I took my time sniffing around for food while staying on the move. It was cool killing the aliens about the strange planet and then chowing down on them to try and ‘level up’ in the midst of the match. Occasionally I would encounter other large beasts that would be difficult to kill but the reward is worth the hunt (if you can spare the time). I quickly learned that as a monster, it is not good to run around everywhere. The monster can sneak about which leaves no tracks for the hunters to use. One other player actually set a trap for my group and waited until I was alone before leaping out and quickly killing and eating my character before the others could come and help. It was easy to see that as a monster, finding and killing the medics and hunters are your first priority.
As a hunter, I found myself having a hard time correctly placing and utilizing the harpoons. I would shoot them on the ground and sometimes the monster would get snared and most times they would not. The dome trap works beautifully though as long as you don’t mistakenly set it and have the monster escape before the dome falls. As the battles against the monster progress, you get targets highlighted around the monster’s body that you can shoot (like headshots) that do increased damage.
I didn’t get a chance to use the other classes that much so I’m not entirely sure how much (or little) fun they are to use. One thing is for certain though, the monster isn’t the only beast on the map that is dangerous! Each map has at least two other decent sized creatures that are a danger to man and monster alike! (Be careful around that water at times!)
As I played the game, I came to enjoy playing as the monster the best as I terrorized 4 other players with my Godzilla-monster. I never quite could work out the sneaking as well as another player did but once I got the hang of how to escape quickly and attack efficiently, I won quite a few matches. Upon winning or losing each match you would see progress to some unlockable character or skill that always kept me coming back for just one more match…or two. I soon became interested in unlocking other beasts for the chance to learn how they differ from the Goliath as well. The same interest was there for my class of choice, the hunter, too. I could see how DLC with different monsters or classes would interest a player sold on this game. A part of me wondered if it would be advantageous for the experience to be a little bigger with more (maybe 2) monsters and more hunters though. Matches would probably last a bit too long and the difficulty for both sides would probably be unbalanced.
The other thing I noticed is that each weapon has challenges that once met, provide a slight increase in some ability or feature of the gun. Still, I don’t remember seeing attachments or anything that suggests a bit of a shakeup in your equipment strategy or skills or anything. The issue I see here is the chance of getting a bit bored despite having the option to play a different ‘character’ under the same class. Almost like Borderlands, each character has their own groove it seems. Difference is that in Borderlands, you have skill trees that can vary according to how you like to play that character. I think it would be advantageous to Evolve if the same strategy was used for each character as well as class. It doesn’t need to be elaborate but it could benefit from some sort of customization that has combat associated benefits.
Another thing that worries me about this game is longevity. While the concept is good and the potential to unlock other characters is there, I feel as if there is a need for other modes. A plain old “beat Bun-Zilla” mode might get a bit old after a while. I’m curious to know and see if there are plans for other modes based upon the interaction shown in this Alpha. While the banter between characters is cool, it makes you wonder if a kind of story mode of some sort is planned.
As it stands, the Alpha was definitely good enough to increase the buzz around this already buzz-worthy title. The controls were tight, the action was fast, and the immersion was satisfying. I could definitely see the sound design being an important aspect of the game that could use a bit more ‘wow’ or shock factor. Hearing these beasts as well as the other lifeforms about you should and could be a trademark for a game that already visually pulls you in. The strategy between the hunters is clear without too much explanation and the balance between monster and hunters is definitely spot on.
Here’s to hoping there is a bit more or else Evolve could see the same Titanfall effect.