Recently I had the privilege of being among some of the first people to play Evolve, the upcoming FPS from Turtle Rock Studios. For those unaware of the studio’s name you’ll probably recognise their last two titles – Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2. Springing forward from their time under the supervision of Valve Corporation, Turtle Rock have now reclaimed independence, ready to unveil their long-gestating FPS.
In essence, Evolve retains the same mechanics as its zombie infected brother: play in a team of four and use each other’s skills in perfect harmony, conquering the battlefield. However, instead of the undead filling your sights, this time you have one enemy, and that is a monster known as the Goliath – meaning 4v1 matches.
Whereas the Hunters remain in a traditional a first-person view, the one player-controlled Goliath is navigated in third-person. In order to take one of these down, you’re going to need an expert level of team work. Don’t worry though, there are a handful of classes to choose from and a number of weapons at your disposal. In the two and a half hours of playtime I managed to try out all the classes, as well as the monster, and came away with a very different feeling for each of them.
First let’s start with the Hunters and their unique abilities:
Markov “The Assault”
As expected, Markov encompasses the best of an Assault class, especially when it comes to dealing the damage. Making up a large chunk of your arsenal are two main weapons, including a Lightning gun for dealing a high amount of damage at close range, alongside your typical Assault rifle, which of course handles a much farther distance with a reduced amount of damage. Move onto his accessories and you have electrically charged mines and a personal shield – this will protect you from incoming damage, such as boulders, but not barrage attacks.
Val “The Medic”
Probably the most important class in the team, the Medic is vital in keeping all of the team alive and on their feet. Aiding Val’s rescue attempts are a Medgun, which can heal any teammate from a distance whilst pointed at them, and a Healing Burst, which releases a pulse of health in the immediate area. Make sure you remember to use this ability should you and your team get huddled together and start to receive devastating blows. The Medic isn’t at a total loss when it comes to a firefight however, as you also have use of an Anti-Material rifle for chipping away at a Goliath’s armour. Failing that, you can use your Tranqulizer rifle, which will help slow the monster down as well as tag it a bright green colour for you and your team to follow.
Griffin “The Trapper”
Another important part of the team, Griffin’s job is to limit the monster’s movements and track it down in a safe and secure manner. Your first point of call will be laying down Sound Spikes, something that comes in particularly handy should you have trouble tracking down your prey over a large area. Offering a more ‘hands-on’ approach, the Harpoon gun will allow you to tether to the Goliath by firing it and holding down the back right trigger.
Be careful though, if the Goliath manages to gain a direct line of sight with your tether it will be able to break free. If you manage to keep the monster in a centralised location, then your best move would be to ready a Mobile Arena trap. Throwing one of these babies will put a virtual dome over your surroundings, allowing you some personal one-on-one time to riddle your fellow behemoth with bullets. Like the Medic, you’re not completely at a loss should you need to deal some damage, as a submachine gun is also be tucked away in your backpack.
Hank “The Support”
Pretty self-explanatory, Hank provides much needed support on the battleground. Obtaining an Orbital Barrage capable of a dealing a huge amount of damage, and even a Shield Gun, Hank’s main priority is to back up his teams’ relentless fire power. With Orbital Barrage you may want to pick your timing carefully, because your Goliath companion won’t stay in one spot forever and the attack homes in on one location once initialised. Your Shield gun comes in handy once one of your team are close to death, or furthermore, if they decide to kamikaze the monster in an all-out mindless attack.
When you get ready to deal your own damage, you can get to grips with your Laser Cannon. This beast of a gun carries many of the same qualities as the Assault’s Lightning weapon, as it will provide a large amount of damage at close range. Last but not least, you have a cloaking device. It may seem like a small feature, but if a fellow comrade needs reviving and the Goliath starts to get territorial over his fallen prey, you’ll definitely have the upper hand by providing a sneaky revive under cover.
There may just be one of you, but it’s enough. As the Goliath you play in a third-person perspective, meaning you have a much wider view of your environment. Just as well, because it’s up to you to traverse each map as delicately as possible, without attracting attention – all the meanwhile tracking your prey. From the offset you have the choice of choosing two of four attacks. These include the ability to throw a boulder, breathe fire, ram your opponents or perform a devastating ground attack. You also have the ability to evolve into three different stages.
In order to do this you’ll need to kill the local wildlife and give yourself time to feed. Slowly, but surely, your blue evolve meter will begin to fill. Once you’re done, head off to somewhere quiet and evolve. Over the course of stages two and three you gain a lot more armour, but are also capable of dealing an even greater amount of damage. To help you make the most of your extra strength, you can then get an extra attack, allowing you to have all four move sets should you reach level three. It’s not all easy though, you have to be weary of your tracks. Plus once you do finish evolving you’re much more vulnerable to damage and need to regain your shields.
Once it came down to laying my own hands on the game I started off as the Assault class, which I felt would mark an easier way of getting into the game. At the start of each match you’ll be greeted by a short cutscene, before being dropped off by a shuttle, skydiving to the ground below. The Goliath will always have a small head start in the exact same place you arrive, so it would be wise to check your surroundings as soon as you touch the ground and keep an eye out for foot prints.
As we had an experienced member of the game on our team, we followed him in pursuit of our prey. If you spot something or wish to make a way point, then just hit the right stick in and a small marker will land onto whichever object you point at. It was apparent we were having trouble finding the creature, as by the time we met it, it had already levelled up to two of its three evolutions. Clearly we were going to have a tough time in our first battle, but if we worked together we might have a chance. I sprinted ahead and boosted up above the rocks, surveying the area and readying my Lightning gun.
Each member of the team has a jet pack, but they can’t jump on the spot. It’s up to you to manage your jet packs’ energy wisely, letting it recharge automatically once you’re grounded. I landed on the ground and met the monster head on, unleashing the power of my gun directly into its face. Not a lot of good it did me though, as I was quickly met by a boulder to the face. Whilst my team scattered around our foe, I began to lay down multiple land mines in preparation. The map we were given mostly consisted of harsh jungle terrain, filled with dangerous animals and featured a large mechanical complex in the centre. Perfect for the monster to hide in. It didn’t take long until we were bested, but we didn’t go down without a fight.
Next up I played as the Medic. Throughout our match I was entirely focused on my teams’ health bars, ensuring they don’t die. Once we encountered the Goliath once more, I made sure to keep my distance. This time I chose to perch on rocks, guiding my Medgun and aiming it at whoever needed more juice. Every now and then I’d fire a Tranquilizer to drastically reduce its speed, while also allowing my fellow hunters to see him tagged in a glowing green marker. I hardly made use of the Anti-Material rifle, but when I did, I tried to keep my shots to the chest to allow my team the best weak point. At the end of the match we won and I felt pretty pleased with my performance. It was rather satisfying to fill up your friends’ health meter and keep them in the game. That’s why the role of the Medic is unmatched. If a team member dies, then it will take up to two minutes until they’re is air shipped in, so make sure to revive them so you don’t risk losing the battle.
Now it was my turn to provide support. In a familiar approach to the Assault class, I ended up charging off to find the Goliath with the intent of making the most of my deadly Laser Cutter. Unfortunately I was a bit too reckless and ended up falling in some water, getting devoured by the local mutated crocodile. Hardly a few minutes in and I was down for the count, this was not a good start.
In a short amount of time I jumped back into the game, Laser Cutter at hand, looking to deal damage and chipping away at the Goliath’s armour, one piece at a time. Further into the match we managed to set up a dome shield, which helped me perform an Orbital Barrage. Since the area the monster could cover was greatly reduced, it made it easier for my rockets to home in. I did find myself forgetting about my cloaking ability, but can see it coming in handy in lots of situations. As for my Shield gun, I also found myself sorely missing out on its use. Instead I focused on my barrage attack, though I think I should assess the situation for threats more in the future. We did end up winning that match, however.
Rounding out my play through of the hunters, I came to the Trapper class. Out of all of the classes this was probably my least favourite, but it was mostly due to the fact I found myself unable to deal much damage. It took me a bit of time at the beginning to get the hang of the harpoons, as I unfortunately didn’t realise you had to hold down the trigger after you fire it in order to keep it latched on.
Once again we had trouble finding the Goliath, but my teammate reminded me to place Sound Spikes down, which soon helped us locate it. When we finally caught up with our now levelled up Goliath, I immediately threw a Mobile Arena down, luckily netting our prey and keeping him in close quarters. It was here where I felt most vulnerable, even compared to the Medic class. I mostly stuck to harpooning, but quickly found myself getting caught in the middle of a firefight. Unfortunately for us the monster evolved up to level three and was headed straight to the generator – more on that in a bit. Nevertheless we ended up losing.
After more than enough time shooting through a scope, it was now time to take lead as the beast itself. I was told a few important things upon starting: try not to run, keep to jumping and if you come across wildlife, kill it and eat it to fill up your evolve meter. Even after the expert advice, it’s fair to say I was quite cumbersome when it came to controlling the Goliath. My biggest problem was having to wait a moment after jumping, as I couldn’t immediately make another jump. What you have to remember is when you stomp around as the monster, every one of your footsteps can be seen. If you jump, then there won’t be any to track. It doesn’t mean there aren’t other hazards to watch out for; such as flocks of birds which give away your position should you startle them.
Soon I began to get the hang of it, looking to level up to the maximum third tier and face the hunters head on. Once I finally managed to level up to the max, I dealt damage to my opponents with devastating effect. Throwing boulders and breathing fire, I was unstoppable, dealing out multiple critical hits in the process. I won the match, but could’ve have easily lost it if I wasn’t careful. I thoroughly enjoyed playing the part of the Goliath and can’t wait to play on different maps with varied terrain. Aside from killing all the hunters, there was another way to win. If you manage to level up to your third evolution, that will allow you to destroy generator in the middle of the map. Once destroyed, this will release the humans held in captivity nearby. Then, if you do manage to kill all the prisoners, you can win the match that way.
I was thoroughly impressed by Evolve, but then again, I was expecting to be. Providing a formula that’s both addictive and tactical, regardless of whether you’re a Hunter or the Goliath, there are plenty of ways to win and a lot of fun to be had. I imagine that once the game is out all of the Start Replay team will be banding together to play online matches on a regular basis. I look forward to seeing what other characters and maps will be available, as we slowly build up to its Autumn 2014 release for PS4, Xbox One and PC.