The online gaming world right now is all a buzz with Turtle Rock Studios new title Evolve. The studio that brought us Counter Strike: Condition Zero, Half life 2: Death-match and the Left4Dead series have created a brand new cooperative experience. Evolve is a new science fiction experience with assymetrical cooperative gameplay.
Though the Evolve Big Alpha started off pretty rocky due to some matchmaking issues and people struggling to join games, it is now finished and was worth the wait. While playing there was no downtime on our end, being able to get into matches quick-smart after that the hot-fix had been deployed. We can say it was worth the wait. Here's what we gleaned while playing Evolve!
Evolve is set in a rainforest on the planet Shear. You and your team will have to work together in order to hunt down the Monster. You'll be using all the skills available to you to help keep team members alive, trapping and hurting the monster as well as tracking and killling it before it grows large enough to take out the nearby power relay.
You are able to select your class preferences in Evolve, by way of choosing 1 through 5 of the classes you want to play as. The highest priority is number 1, then ranging to 5 with 5 being the class you'd least like to play. Upon entering a game you will usually be able to get your preferred class but occasionally you won't so it's best to get to know all four classes, as well as the monster. All classes in Evolve have unique abilities, including different characters within the same class. The abilities can be accessed through the buttons numbered 1 to 4.
We will start Evolve with the medic, "Val". Val has several handy tools at her disposal but sadly not many weapons. Playing this class means you will be supporting the team most of the time through. Her first weapon is a sniper rifle that can pierce the creatures armor temporarily, allowing the heavier hitters like the Assault and Support classes to inflict major damage. The healing gun is the second tool at her disposal. It has a fairly large range, but doesn't heal particularly fast. It is inadvisable to use it on teammates when the Monster is pummeling them as it instantly makes you the monsters target. Instead of healing in an instance like that you should use her third weapon, the tranquilizer gun. The tranquilizer gun slows the monster down if you manage to tag it. It also emits a signal that allows the team to track the Monster through walls and underbrush. It doesn't last long though so keep an eye on it! Finally Val's last ability is somewhat of a panic button. Hitting 4 will release a burst of healing energy to the time if they're within range. This will often heal them to roughly about half hp if it hits them. You also get healed too which is a handy bonus, but that cool-down is killer.
The second medic of the team is Lazarus. He's more about preventing your team's death rather than healing. He no longer has the healing gun and instead has a silenced rifle that rapid fires, the Lazarus device which revives people from death, a personal cloaking device to hide himself and the healing burst as a last resort. He's designed for more long range combat and support.
Hank, the next hunter is an interesting character. He is one of the support class variants. His first weapon is the laser cutter. It is a sort of mini gun that fires lasers and deals out decent damage. His second tool is the shield generator. With it he can provide protection to teammates nearby if they are under attack. Evolve has used this to great effect much in the same way the medic in Team Fortress 2 could use his gun to protect the heavy. The third ability Hank has is the orbital barrage. This thing calls down an airstrike on the monsters head but can be awkward to use as by the time it's called the monster has usually moved. I generally found it best to use this when the monster is stationary, wailing on a friend. It will knock the friend to safety and damage the creature. If he's not stationary then trying to lead the target by a bit can work also. Lastly he has somewhat of a panic button of his own in his fourth ability. He can instantly cloak all members of the team in his vicinity as well as himself, allowing them time to escape while being pummeled by the monster. Timing this can be tricky but also important.
Bucket, as in Bucket-o-bolts is the robotic companion of the Evolve team and the second support class. Because he isn't human he has a plethora of incredibly useful gadgets. His guided missile launcher can deal a rather large amount of damage to the creature to offset his lack of an airstrike. The missiles can be guided around corners too, handy if the monster is seeking cover from hunters. Bucket can also plant sentry guns around an area, limit of 5 like all the other hunters. The sentries hover around and can provide handy cover fire as well as damage dealing potential if bucket wants to assist via long range. Replacing the orbital barrage of Hank's load-out is the UAV. Bucket can detach his head and float around looking for the monster. This allows him to tag it from afar, when other hunters might possibly miss it. He is a welcome addition to the team and fun to play as, as he can be used to trick the monster into some rather tight positions.
The next member of the Evolve team is Maggie. She is the trapper. Armed as her primary weapon with a small sub-machine gun, her second ability lays down harpoon traps that ensnare the monster should he get too close. Like all hunters, she can only lay down 5 of these traps at a time. Interestingly her third ability is non-existent in favour of her trapjaw (sort of like a dog) companion named Daisy. Daisy is helpful as she will track the monster's footprints, allowing you to pick up the trail far faster. Another added bonus with Maggie is that if the entire team is incapacitated, as long as they are not already dead and Daisy herself isn't incapacitated, she will eventually revive them. Hunters themselves can only be incapacitated two times before dying, much like Turtle Rock's last game. For Maggie's final tool she has what is called a trap arena. It is a wire mesh dome that encloses a rather large space of the map. While it is in effect, the monster is trapped in the arena with you. Be warned though, you are trapped too until Maggie is either incapacitated or she pulls the arena down. Some areas are better suited for trapping, while others can be a downright nightmare for the hunters. It is best to be aware of the map layout as much as possible.
Griffin, like Maggie's focus is on trapping, however he has some different tools up his sleeve. His Gauss sub-machine gun is quite accurate and can help the team with damage dealing. The harpoon gun, easily the most useful item in all of Evolve, can stop a monster in it's tracks. This only works if the monster is trying to get away from where Griffin in however. If the monster goes after another team mate or is trying to climb away, that is the perfect time to use the harpoon. If said team member then starts running towards Griffin that will cause issues as there is no tension to prevent the monster reaching them. The harpoon is very situational and can be used to great effect. Hard to master. Sound spikes, Griffin's third tool allow him to place 5 sensors. When placed in strategic locations, these can give the Evolve team a lot of help if they lose the beast's track. Should the monster be within the vicinity of the sensors, the hunters will be alerted. The downside is the monster can destroy them. Griffin's final ability is identical to Maggie's with the mobile arena requiring measured use.
Now we finally come to the main damage dealers of the Evolve team's ensemble. Markov is the assault class and essentially the tank of Evolve. His lightning gun deals extensive damage to hostile signatures, and will also chain to other enemies who are nearby. His second weapon, the assault rifle is for more accurate, longer ranged fire, while the arc mines are immensely useful for crowd control, guiding the monster, damage dealing as well as keeping the monster from laying chase. Markov's shield ability keeps him safe from all harm for roughly about 20 or so seconds. The monster can wail on him without it hurting him. It wears out quickly though, so it's still not advised to take the monster on by one's self while playing as assault.
The final member of the hunters in Evolve is Hyde. He is the highest dealing potential in all of the Evolve Alpha. His flamethrower is insanely powerful, however he has to be really close in order for the range to reach what he is frying. When used in conjunction with Hank's shield generator he is a force to be reckoned with as he turns all of Shear into crispy critters. His second weapon is a mini-gun. Unlike the flamethrower, this weapon is for more mid-range use so Hyde doesn't have to get up close and personal with the "ugly motherf**ker". In case Hank isn't around, Hyde also has a personal shield which allows him to soak damage for a short while, as he burns through the monsters scales.
They are the hunters. As you can see, not one of them is really designed to play the game alone. Much in the same way as Left4Dead played out, if you decide to go alone in your quest to be a solitary hero you will learn the lesson of teamwork very fast. The interesting thing about the hunters is the progression through each character. You need to fulfill certain requirements within a class to unlock new class hunters, on top of just basic leveling up the normal way.
If we take Markov above as an example then there's a few things required in order to unlock Hyde within the assault class. Markov Must use both his lightning gun and assault rifle to deal out a certain amount of damage. The next requirement is dealing out a certain amount of damage through the use of his mines. Once these three requirements are met, then in the assault class you will unlock Hyde who then has his own specific set of requirements to unlock things further. as you can see from the above image there are perks you acquire as you level up. These can range from increasing reload speed, to movement and fuel consumption on the jet pack. You unlock these with normal progression of the levels. it is worth noting that experience outside of the class requirements is only gained if the hunters win. Should they lose by failing to prevent the monster from destroying it's objective after it evolves to stage 3, or dying from the monsters of Shear then experience is forfeit. No special requirements to level up, you just have to play Evolve and win!
On that note we should probably mention one or two things about the antagonists right? Can't leave out the main attraction of Evolve now can we?
The Goliath. A creature looking somewhat like a cross between Godzilla and Predator has several abilities. His flame breath is straight out of the aforementioned Japanese franchise and deals considerable damage. His leap smash allows him to get the drop on his foes from great heights, as well as providing him with an interesting method to quickly escape harm if used right. Like the Tank from Left4Dead, he has the ability to big up a chunk of ground before hurling it at the hunters. This will often drop their health down to roughly half hp and can be used to great effect to quickly deal with a nuisance Evolve hunter.
His final ability, the charge can be used to great effect. Especially if trapped, you can charge through the hunters, quickly putting quite a bit of speed and distance between you and your pursuers. Out of combat it can also be used as a traversal skill, much like the previously touched on leap smash. Another handy method of avoiding the hunters is surprisingly stealth. It's slower granted. You must hide and traverse slower, but the bonus to that is it's nigh-on impossible for the hunters to track you, unless they have Griffin or Bucket. It also makes you feel somewhat like the Predator. The main aspect of Goliath is knowing when to run and knowing when to fight.
Should you fulfill the class requirements for the Goliath then you shall unlock the undeniably powerful Kraken. This beast uses long range attacks and flight to devastate and confuse the team of hunters chasing it. The lightning strike is an interesting ability. While it is the most damaging of all the Kraken's attacks, it's also easily telegraphed when charging up so it's best to use when the hunter is caught unawares. This ability leaves the Kraken vulnerable so if they see you, you'll take damage. The next ability, banshee mines are basically sticky mines that attach to nearby hunters. They can be planted much in the same way as Markhov's mines however will attach to anyone of anything that walks near it. They can also be used while playing as sort of an early warning sign. Place them behind you, and if they go off while you're in another part an area, you will know they're nearby.
The Kraken's next ability, aftershock has a couple of uses. Firstly it works much like Markhov's lightning gun in that it chains from one enemy to another and can easily reveal hunters that are cloaked by the support class or Lazarus's ability. Great to locate hunters if you're disoriented by combat. The final ability of the Kraken's, besides flying is vortex. The vortex is a force of energy that knocks enemies back. While not dealing a lot of damage, it is handy for keeping hunters from attacking you, however like Griffin's harpoon it is situational. One of the handiest uses of vortex is to prevent hunters from reviving incapacitated hunters, as well as preventing them from keeping chase.
On top of all the abilities the two revealed monsters have they can also sense. Sense is an ability that allows the monster to see where the hunters are in proximity to them. Sense's effective range seems to be roughly 50 metres, so you can't see the Evolve team from across the other side of the map. It is however handy if you need to throw them off your track or want to know if you've time to feed. Feeding is essential for the monster. You will need to kill some of the fauna situated on Shear. Beware, some creatures in Evolve like the mighty Tyrant can fight back and deal a large amount of damage. Should you manage to kill another creature they will often drop a buff. Buffs boost certain abilities and can be used by either monster or hunter.
The monster can feed on the creature and build up evolution points. Once the bar is full it can then Evolve, growing larger ad faster and stronger. Gameplay wise this gives you more points to put into your abilities the monster has. To start a game the monster only has access to three of it's four final abilities. The player is given 3 points to distribute to any of the creature's skills. You can waste all the points in one skill if you like or spread them out evenly for more diversity. This aspect dares players to experiment and figure out which combinations work for them on their path to perfecting their monster and playing. Once they evolve to Stage 3 the game really begins. A stage 3 monster can easily wipe out the entire hunter team quite quickly. Of course if you so choose to go for stealth ad subterfuge, you can also complete a secondary objective of destroying the nearby power relay. Either method ends the game with the creature winning and let's people play the way they want.
What is our impression of Evolve so far? It is intriguing. Evolve seems to work around the idea of experimentation, with both the monster and the hunters. This is evident through the building up of a character, the multiple perks hunters and monsters have access to as well as the environments themselves. Some areas are better to trap the creature in, others aren't. Some creatures of Shear are worth the fights to get the buffs and some aren't. Evolve is a game all about finding what works. Abilities have multiple uses, and methods of deploying. Much like Turtle Rocks previous titles the emphasis is on teamwork. Experimenting in combination with team members seems to provide many just rewards and while there's still some issues with certain monsters being a tad overpowered it's a solid game. One of the major concerns we saw arise from the Evolve big alpha is the lack of server lists. If the start of the event is anything to go by, it would be detrimental for Evolve to not have any. We can only hope that Turtle Rock studios have gotten a lot of feedback and complaints regarding this particular aspect. Left4Dead didn't have any dedicated server list and it too suffered somewhat from that fact. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiufP40Efxo?feature=player_detailpage&w…; Evolve looks set to be an interesting title. Currently the alpha hints at far more depth with the idle banter hunters possess, as well as conversations regarding alien dialects and the world of Shear. It certainly looks like the studio for Evolve has a lot more up their sleeves than what we have already been shown. Time will tell whether this becomes an instant classic or an effort in experimentation and hard lessons. Some aspects of the game seem to be lacking currently but perhaps the full release of the game will soon assuage them. We at TechRaptor are very excited for such a possibly groundbreaking title in the world of cooperative shooters and hope that Evolve will deliver. We'd also like to hear people's feedback regarding Evolve. What else would they like to see implemented in Evolve? Any ideas and suggestions are appreciated. Also from our readers who were right there beside me hunting the monster on the Alpha feel free to mention if we've left anything out. Evolve will be released February 10 next year for PC, PS4 ad Xbox One, and we look forward to going even more in depth for you with a review of both single and multiplayer in the coming weeks.