Whether it’s the endless world war 2 shooters we were bombarded with in the PS2 era, or last generation’s obsession with contemporary war zones – it’s pretty fair to say that the FPS genre finds a formula and sticks with it. As the current generation is starting to find its feet, huge anticipation for titles like Destiny and Titanfall shows that people are yearning for something different – and that’s where Evolve comes in.
Evolve brings something to the online FPS space that the genre has been severely lacking in recently – originality. Doing away with the increasingly large teams competing in deathmatches, Evolve opts to scale it down to a game of murderous 4 on 1 hide and seek – and that team of one just so happens to be an alien monster.
Created by the Left 4 Dead team, strands of Valve’s’s cooperative DNA are obviously present here, but what surprised me about Evolve is how refreshingly different from L4D it really is.
The first thing that made it obvious was the setting. The showcased map was set in a lush and vibrant jungle, and as you progress through, it leads to an abandoned factory. The map’s exotic tone feels unique and has a sense of danger too it, looking like the result of moving Jurassic Park into the world of James Cameron’s Avatar. A perfect setting for hunting dinosaur looking aliens, then.
Once your feet are firmly on the ground of the jungle planet, the aim of the game is to team up with three friends and attempt to take down the massive alien monster. Initially, the monster is quite weak, but it evolves by eating vegetation and wildlife it finds through the map, making it increasingly more powerful with each stage of evolution the player manages to achieve. Ideally, you’ll track the monster down and obliterate him before he has the chance, but the beast is surprisingly swift on its feet.
The genius of Evolve is that it satisfies the itch for two completely different play types – the team playing shooter and the player acting as a lone wolf. Choosing to play as the alien beast means you aren’t reliant on friends or waiting for randomly matched team mates – you just have to survive on your skill alone.
Playing as the team of hunters, you’ll each need to pick a different class in order to stand any chance of actually defeating the beast. The classes are all completely different, and each play their own distinct and complimentary role in the team. Because of their unique roles, this is one of the few online fps’ that doesn’t so much encourage cooperative play – but outright demands it. While Left 4 Dead had four players blasting through enemies with similar weapons in tandem, the specific roles each class has in Evolve gives each player their own sense of identity and purpose. The Assault class, for example, is the main damage dealer and is armed with a close-range Lightning gun. It is their role to get in close and aggro the Monster while inflicting as much damage as possible. However, a lone assault player barely stands a chance of finding the monster – let alone taking it down. While traversing through the deadly swamps and undergrowth on the alien planets, you find yourself quickly getting lost. You’ll need the team’s trapper to pinpoint the monster’s location on the map and then the medic’s tranquilizer to slow it down.
Once hit by the tranquilizer, the monster is highlighted by green outline – then the hunt is well and truly on. Now that the monster has been slowed and clearly highlighted to players, it’s time for players to give chase. Equipped with down-right essential jetpacks, the team must now give chase by flying and jumping their way across jungle, swamp and even abandoned factories until they have an opening to corner their elusive pray. This is where the trapper class comes in. Armed with the ability to deploy a massive bubble shield, the fittingly named class’ can then trap the monster – and allow the rest of the team to go to town on the beast.
As you can probably imagine, the monster isn’t completely defenseless either. As well as being surprisingly agile, the dinosaur-esque behemoth has the ability to launch boulders at you from a distance, as well as dish out serious damage with his claws.
As the player controlling the beast manages to outwit their opponents and evolve, he becomes increasingly more dangerous. This culminates in the monster having a devastating, area-of-effect fire breathing attack that you really don’t want to be on the receiving end of.
The player-controlled monster isn’t your only danger in Evolve. There are dinosaur-like monsters, poisonous plants and even larger beasts lurking around every corner of the map we played. Accidentally aggroing these beasts can be potentially fatal, and will slow you down considerably mid-chase as you’re hot on the heels of the opposing player. They can also work to your advantage, however, and when the player controlling the monster accidentally runs into a rather large dinosaur, it creates a perfect opportunity for us to trap him. These NPC beasts have other advantages as well. For instance, killing certain enemies grants you a perk, such as improved speed or the ability to drain less fuel on your jetpack.
Sadly, I didn’t get the chance to play as the alien during my time with Evolve, but judging from the player’s furrowed brows, being hunted seemed like a pretty tense, adrenaline-pumping experience. The build we got to play showcased only one map and one monster – the Goliath, but the full game will offer multiple beasts with different skill-sets for players to take control of.
The whole concept of Evolve digs into the primal nature of the hunt, and it feels extremely satisfying to hunt a beast with your pals. The class-based cooperation often feels like taking down a particularly challenging mob in an MMO, and plays unlike any other online shooter I’ve encountered before. The combination of hide and seek with the Jurassic Park-esque environments, makes the game something my childhood self would have been enamored by – though, to be honest, as a fully grown adult I am still pretty enamored with Evolve.
Turtle Rock seem to have crafted a unique and impeccably well balanced shooter, and my brief time with the game has left me itching for more. The shooter genre has been treading water for too long – and Turtle Rock’s aptly named shooter looks set to bring about the evolution it so desperately needs.