[Mr Jimmy Dance aka @drinkrelaxplay of Loading owning fame has kindly produced this preview on our behalf.]
This was the second event held by 2K with the first behind doors pre-alpha gameplay drawing so much demand they had to hold this second chance for lesser mortals like me.
Evolve is a co-op first-person shooter which sees players either take one of four classes in the hope of bringing down an Alien creature before it fully evolves or working alone to eat your way to the top of the food chain evolving to a giant size goliath.
• Developer: Turtle Rock
• Publisher: 2K
• Reviewed on: PC (running alpha build)
• Number of free drinks consumed: 1
• Release Date: Fall
The map on show was a jungle based on ‘Shear’ the Alien planet with a power station and ship wreckage notable landmarks beautifully rendered using the CryEngine.
For the demo, I’d lucked out and been given Markov the Assault class first up with one clear instruction – cause damage! Each character has two weapons and two skills alongside the Halo style jetpack — and flashlight unused in this demo but maybe a hint of darker things to come — as well as two class abilities. As the drop ship lowers, each character skydives into a battle and sets about tracking the beast while it’s in its weakest form.
Tracking a snarling 12ft beast shouldn’t be too difficult…turns out it is! The creatures are far quicker than the ageing hunters – There’s no dash button, which to Halo veterans will be fine, but to a CoD player like me, my left stick had a few futile clicks but you can double tap A to dash forward or take to the air to scale rocky outcrops.
With a footrace out the question there are a few ways the game allows aspiring big game hunters to close the gap:
Blue markers indicate fresh footprints and will show the route recently taken by the alien unless it’s hit the water to throw you off the scent. Clusters of “birds or whatever they are” as tin-game name dialogue draw attention to them, if the creatures disturb a group they fly clear and flash a marker in the distance.
The Trapper (Griffen) is your best hope in the early game, for the demo a dev took those responsibilities, which meant the chance to unleash my inner ‘Maldoon’ would have to wait. It’s easy to see why they did as this as the role is crucial for giving you a chance to tackle the beast head on without aimlessly lapping the environment. He can place sensors/sound spikes which when disturbed, give you handy reference points to track back to, his other ability the Mobile Arena, fences of a smaller battle area and traps you all inside and is vital to keep the alien from scarpering at the first sign of trouble.
So back to the battle fresh off the ship and busy following our veteran trapper it took me around a minute to run into trouble, as someone who’s been taken down by an Ostrich in Far Cry 3 I maybe should have been more mistrusting of the local wildlife but being incapacitated by an oversized fly trap plant ranks as a new low for gormless deaths. Luckily my plight was spotted and someone shot me free to dust myself off and bring the big guns.
It’s not simply a 4v1, with other creatures running around the environment which ranges from easily downed (incoming technical term) ‘raptor things’ to creatures you’d be forgiven mistaking for the target early on, that can be killed to pick up buffs like extra damage and more than put up a fight of their own. These are the food of choice for the creatures, our showcase only featured the Goliath, the more it eats the closer it gets to evolving and replenishing shields damaged by Hunters like me, so laying waste to everything and leaving a free buffet behind isn’t the best plan of attack – even if it does try to eat you as you pass. If the solo player can eat their way to fully evolve it triggers the modes end-game where the creature has to chew his way through a generator and then munch the 12 civilians now vulnerable, he can also win if he wipes out all four of the team in one swoop before the drop ship brings back fallen foes.
As you battle the monster you begin to drain the armour with damage slowly becoming more visible and weak points being handily highlighted when tagged by the Medic’s rifle on-screen so you have something to aim at. With the monster fleeing for cover, I decided to try and head it off at the pass by taking a cunning short cut through a river. This wouldn’t have been a problem were in not for the croc-like creature taking an afternoon breather who took offence to me using him as a footpath and ate my character whole. I decided this incompetence could be passed off as research allowing me to see what happened when one of the team bites the dust. Answer a two-minute countdown begins before the next drop ship swings around with a reborn clone ready to fight again. If other players die they join the wait for the ship if everyone dies; game over. It‘s a nice mechanic to be dropped back into the action by a ship which would be even slicker were you not the same character you just saw torched alive or eaten by the locals.
Unfortunately, I was saved from being crushed like a bug by a…bug as the game crashed out leaving our team in limbo while the game rebooted, for a title which is still away from release it played well already. (They said the demo was pre-alpha)
With the reboot came a chance to lay down my arms and instead take up the task of being a support character, Hank. His class seemed to have the best toys with invisibility as an ability along with an orbital barrage which meant you can punish a camping monster (I’d imagine this ability used when stumbling across the creature mid-evolution in its limbo 10 second cocoon mode is like winning the lottery) the main job as the support is to get close enough to the action to keep firing shield to the danger men while staying far enough out not to become dinner.
This class stood out far more than the been-there-done-that assault class, as I could dish out shields TF medic style while calling in Airstrikes (limited with a cool down) while cloaking to revive teammates and still dish out limited damage so I felt more involved in every aspect of the fight.
I got a brief chance to road test the Medic, Val, who in the same way as the support can dole out health to the team as his secondary weapon, his two abilities worked well with a health mist that regenerates players within that area leading to risk and reward as players huddle up to quickly heal but run the risk of being levelled in one attack and the tranquilliser gun which I had dreams of seeing the monster slump to its knees or begin slurring its speech but it seemed to do little beyond tagging the outlined green to friendlies and slowing it slightly. What I didn’t count on was this time our enemy had a clear plan of attack; wipe out the medic first, which I wouldn’t have a problem with were it not me with the cross on my shoulder and a sniper rifle that’s as much of a threatening to a snarling stampeding titan as a pack of Jelly Tots.
For the final play through I got my chance to experience things from the alien perspective having played each of the human classes helped as I had an idea of how they’d be playing. Thankfully a dev was on hand to talk me through the best approach and how to make the most of my ten-second head start.
Your early brief as the creature is simply found food and stay out of trouble, you can track down food by stumbling across it roaming the environment or use your smell ability which makes you easier to find but highlights any nearby wildlife you can eat.
Skills are chosen with two available from the start and each additional perk added during evolutions if you’ve played Left4Dead these abilities may seem familiar with the Tank boulder throwing a great choice for punishing huddled players.
Having read the early press emphasising the size and scale I did expect to stick out from the off but the map had plenty of areas you can hide in almost plain site and use the stealth option to crouch and lurk in the shadows using flora and fauna for cover.
I love it when a plan comes together!
Like any coop shooter when the players pull together and you have everyone working in tandem with the arena and harpoon from the Trapper keeping the creature pinned, support throwing shields out, peppering the target hidden from site, Assault class throwing lightning and the Medic boosting everyone’s health and tagging the target, it’s chaotic fun. This will live and die by the people you’re playing with as without one of the team you’re going to have a hard time toppling the giants but this is where the option to change sides and go alone will help for anyone that has a trouble finding a party and AI bots offer to fill gaps in friends’ lists.
Whether the finished article has enough variety with levels, class progression trees and modes to keep player’s interested long term I’d trust the team at Turtle Rock to build on everything they’ve honed with L4D and craft a game that keeps players coming back.
Preorders are open now with some tasty bonus content if you loved L4D and want to see what the next game on the evolutionary scale becomes in its final form.