Everyone loves hide and seek. Especially when it’s played out in a tense extra-terrestrial environment with big guns and bigger monsters. Remember Aliens versus Predator? Still unrivalled in its ability to make a single beeping sound make the heart race. So when we were offered a chance to try out Turtle Rock’s new game, Evolve, how could we refuse?
Turtle Rock is the studio behind the smash-it Left4Dead series of co-operative multiplayer games, which was acquired by Valve just before the release of its zombie shooters and went independent again in 2009. Like L4D, Evolve is a first-person multiplayer co-op shooter. This time, though, four human hunters are pitted against a single, powerful alien creature played by the fifth, and the hunters must work together to bring the creature down. The creature, on the other hand, must avoid being cornered by the hunters while it searches for animals to kill and eat in order to evolve. Each time it does so, it gets bigger, tougher and harder to take down.
The premise is simple, but exactly how it all plays out is nuanced to hell and back, creating many different scenarios according to how you all play.
The team of hunters is made up of four classes – Medic, Assault, Support and Trapper – and they must use their individual abilities and their awesome sci-fi jetpacks together if they want to have a hope in hell of taking the creature down. Because that sucker is tough.
At the start of the game, each player chooses a perk that gives them an edge, either in terms of health or damage dealt. The creature player also does this, but they also get upgrade points to spend each time they evolve to the next level. A level 3 monster is incredibly tough to take down so it’s in the hunters’ best interests to ensure the monster doesn’t get that far.
Each hunter has a defined role to play that the others simply can’t do, so if you’re not a team player this isn’t the game for you. Fortunately, working together in Evolve is very satisfying thanks to the complementary makeup of the four Hunter classes.
There’s a tank, a healer, a tactical guy and a support guy, each with their own distinctive look and back-story. The Assault guy is a mean-looking badass called Markov. He has an assault rifle for long-distance engagement and a lightning gun and shield for getting close and personal with the beast. He is the team’s tank, able to dish out the damage and take a whole lot more.
Val, the Medic, has a sniper rifle and the ability to heal teammates and her rifle shots create weak points on the creature’s body that can be targeted and exploited by her team for extra damage. As you can imagine, she’s pretty useful to have around and must be protected at all costs. As I found out, a clever creature strategy is to target her first, as no healer means the other three hunters become a lot more vulnerable.
Hank the Support guy can do a fair amount of his own damage with his cool laser weapon, but he’s most effective when he keeps his distance. He can deploy a shield that keeps teammates protected from damage, which is perfect for supporting other players as they chip away at the creature’s health, but his best trick is the orbital strike he can call down on the creature’s head once it has been cornered and kept in place by the Trapper’s bag of tricks.
Griffin, the Trapper, has the most complex job. He must deploy sensors to detect where the monster is, and once it has been found he must contain it so it can be shot at. He does that with an energy shield that keeps the monster in a very small area, and a harpoon gun that prevents the creature from escaping for a few seconds when it hits. Timing everything right is crucial to the team’s success, and is the game’s single biggest challenge.
Each round starts with both sides having no idea where the other side is, and the hunters must track the creature down using every trick at their disposal. They can follow its tracks, deploy sensors and keep an old fashioned eye out for it, and once it’s spotted the fun starts.
Killing the creature isn’t easy at all, and it takes concerted effort to chip its immense health bar down to zero. Of course, if even one of your team mates isn’t on his A game you’re all buggered . Since that guy was me in my time with the game, I know first-hand. In my defense, it was my first time and I hadn’t yet grasped the controls, but still. I improved a lot on my second try playing the tank.
The game’s visuals are among the best I’ve seen. That’s because it uses CryEngine 3, the engine developed for the visually-stunning Crysis 3, and every trick has been pulled to make the sci-fi setting come alive before your eyes. The creature itself looks like the lovechild of a locomotive and a T-rex, and it gets ever-meaner-looking as it evolves through to Stage 3. Simply put, Evolve’s visuals are truly astounding.
Apparently there is a lot more to Evolve than what I saw today including new levels and other unlockable monsters, and that’s fantastic because what I’ve seen so far looks incredible, and any more amazingness will be most welcome.
Evolve is out in September for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.