Four hunters push through the thick of the jungle, muttering warnings and checking their Sound Spikes for activity. The beast has been feeding, and the burst cocoon littering the dark jungle floor betrays the monster’s recent evolution. As the hunters trace the monster’s footprints, it watches them from above, snarling and seething and ready to strike. High tension moments like these are often relegated to cutscenes in video games. But in Evolve, it’s all just part of the game.
Developed by the team at Turtle Rock Studios (Left 4 Dead), Evolve is scheduled to launch later this year on PS4. The developers brought an early test build of Evolve to San Francisco to show off their latest creation. Much more than just a multiplayer shooter, Evolve’s high-tension, asymmetrical design promises an experience quite unlike anything that’s come before it.
Evolve is founded on the fun and thrill of the boss battle. In most games, boss battles are visually enthralling moments where players study patterns and exploit them to survive. But in Evolve, that dynamic has shifted. Four players work cooperatively as hunters to take down a fifth player who fills the role of “boss” — a gargantuan monster. With human players powering both sides of the conflict, Evolve ruptures into heated, richly strategic fights that require serious teamwork.
Players on the hunters’ side select between four classes. Each class is vital to the success of the team, in varied ways. To that point, every match must include one of each class — hunters can’t roll into battle with only two or three members.
In the test build on display, four specific characters belonging to each of the four classes were shown. More hunters (and more monsters) will be available in the final version. But the first lucky hunters introduced include…
- Griffin the Trapper: Pinpoints the monster’s location and keeps it from escaping. Sound Spikes planted in the ground will ping the team when the monster’s movement is detected. Once found, the Harpoon Gun keeps the monster from jetting. The Mobile Arena encases a section of the stage in a colossal dome to keep the action focused and the team together. Griffin’s submachine gun gives him moderate firepower when needed.
- Markov the Assault: Distributes extreme volumes of damage at a high rate. Markov’s Lightning Gun deals tremendous hurt at a close range, while his Arc Mines provide more tactical punishment around the map. A Personal Shield keeps him safe during particularly close encounters. His Assault Rifle enables him to attack from afar.
- Val the Medic: The angel of the introductory team, Val heals up the other hunters with a mid-range Medgun. This device can also revive downed teammates from a distance. Val’s Anti-Material Rifle pierces the monster’s armor to expose weak spots, while her Tranquilizer rifle slows and weakens it. She can also pop a Healing Burst for fast healing in a small radius.
- Hank the Support: Good ol’ Hank! The Support’s Shield Gun is an invaluable asset to the team, protecting a fellow hunter from harm. His Cloaking Device provides temporary invisibility for stealth tactics, and his Laser Cutter deals a bit of damage. For those
desperateopportune moments, Hank can call an Orbital Barrage down to obliterate the unfortunate matter waiting below.
Certain abilities are shared across all members of a class. Trappers, for example, will always have the Mobile Arena. But Trappers other than Griffin may bring different tools to round out their kit of four abilities.
Players taking the hunters’ side play from a first-person perspective. The four teammates must track down the monster — ideally, before it evolves — and also deal with any AI-controlled wildlife that gets in their way. These assorted critters provide an additional layer to the team’s strategy. They pose a real danger to the hunters, but elite versions of the wildlife can be killed for perks. But every moment not spent chasing down the monster is another moment for it to evolve.
Evolution is key to winning as the monster, which is played from a third-person perspective. In the test build shown, only one monster was playable: Goliath. This intimidating brute begins with two player-selected abilities, and gains another with each level of evolution gained. Goliath is relatively vulnerable when each match begins, but once maxed out at level three, he becomes a terrifying threat to the hunters. For monster players, careful navigation and battle management are required.
Goliath evolves by consuming wildlife in the area. Once satiated, it can enter a cocoon state to finalize its growth. Evolving also enables Goliath to reclaim some of its lost health, while devouring wildlife adds to an additional armor meter that supplements its health gauge. And those elite creatures mentioned earlier? The monster can ingest them for stat-boosting perks, too.
It might seem as if the hunters have the advantage in this competition. They’re four strong and armed to the teeth. But Goliath has his own abilities to employ, such as a devastating rock throw and a fiery breath attack. More importantly, Goliath can stealth through shrubs, climb sheer cliff faces, and “smell” the hunters from a distance (through objects). The big baddie is also startlingly fast. If it can catch a hunter straggling behind, it’s one step closer to victory. Dropping all four hunters will result in a monster win.
Evolve blends a number of multiplayer game elements together into something wickedly unique. It has both cooperative and competitive components. It has MOBA-like ability management and character growth. It has insane action set pieces. This unusual cocktail of play types has a refreshing taste that promises to bring new life and new strategy to multiplayer shooters.