Evolve Special Feature #1: Hands-on with the new Hunters!

We’ve covered Evolve quite a bit on this site over the past year or so, but nothing could quite prepare me for what the latest iteration of the game could offer.

I think many of us have heard these arguments against the game – 4 on 1 might be a novel concept, but how long will it last? Isn’t it the same thing over and over again? Is the game worth paying full-price for?

I will freely admit that in spite of my optimistic feelings towards the game, these doubts have crossed my mind a number of times. However, having played the most recent build of the game at a press event at Turtle Rock Studios itself, I can safely say this to my fellow gamers: Cast aside whatever reservations you might have about the game’s scope, longevity, and quality.

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Evolve is much bigger and better than initially thought – it easily goes above and beyond our already positive first impressions, and contains a staggering amount of replayability to boot. In fact, there is so much content, that you will be seeing multiple posts about Evolve on Geek Culture over the next several days!

But enough talk. Let’s dive in to the first of these features: the new Hunters!

Meet the New Old Crew

Here’s an interesting tidbit: According to Chris Ashton and Phil Robb, the co-founders of Turtle Rock Studios, the latest group of hunters revealed were actually the first ones they designed, back when Evolve was still in it’s early stages of conceptualization. How do they measure up against Markov, Griffin, and company?

Parnell, the new Assault class soldier, seems to pack the biggest offensive punch out of the Assaults. His Combat Shotgun is loaded with explosive rounds for up-close engagements, and his long-range alternative is a fully automatic (!) Multifire Rocket Launcher. It goes without saying that things tend to go a little Michael Bay-esque whenever Parnell is on the scene, with spectacular pyrotechnics going off all over the place.

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Formerly in the military, Parnell was a subject of scientific experimentation (the ethics of which are questionable), and as such has access to a “Super-Soldier” ability which effectively doubles his speed and firing rate for a short period of time. That fast-firing rocket launcher? It just got even faster, allowing you to lay waste to Monsters or wildlife in the blink of an eye.

However, such devastation comes at a steep cost. Parnell suffers a significant health penalty every time he activates this ability, and players will need to quickly assess the situation before using it.

Is the Monster zeroing in on Parnell? If so, should the player activate Super-Soldier for the faster movement speed so that he can get out of harms way quickly? Maybe the enhanced firing rate could allow him to go toe-to-toe with the Monster and force him to back off. Or perhaps he could play safe and not use Super-Soldier altogether, retaining full health which might allow him to survive the encounter.

It’s situations like these in Evolve that make for tense moments where split-second decisions need to be made. Throw in the fact that Parnell could have a Medic backing him up to mitigate the health penalty from using Super-Soldier, and you start to see just how the possibilities open up. As always, effective communication between Hunters is key.

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Also, I can’t say I will ever get tired of firing off dozens of rockets in mere seconds while in Super-Soldier mode.

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Time to Practice Medicine

Speaking of Medics, Caira follows in Lazarus’ footsteps by not being your typical care-giver yet again. With her Grenade Launcher and speed-enhancing Adrenaline Boost, she actually looks more like a frontline solder at first glance. Compared to Val’s and Lazarus’ sniper rifles, Caira’s grenades do much better damage.

Switch to her Healing Grenades though, and things suddenly take a different turn – yes, Caira lobs area-of-effect heals from a distance with her primary weapon!

During my time with Caira, I played against Monsters who often prioritized the Medic as a prime target. Unlike Val or Lazarus who are more reliant on their teammates on drawing the Monster’s attention off of themselves, I found that Caira can actually take care of herself pretty well by firing Healing Grenades at her own feet.

While this cannot be done indefinitely (the Monster still doles out damage at a faster rate than the grenades can heal), it can be sustained for quite some time. This puts me in the unlikely role of the “tank”, as Caira can potentially soak up enormous amounts of damage while keeping the Monster focused on herself by doing this, allowing the rest of the team to deal damage unmolested.

This synergizes well with Parnell, who now has a perfect opportunity to go into “glass cannon” mode by activating Super-Soldier, bringing the full force of his weapons to bear on the Monster without fear of reprisal… at least for a while.

Players who are good at determining the trajectory of the grenades will do well with Caira, as the ability to do damage to the Monster or heal injured teammates from an extended range is absolutely invaluable. Her Adrenaline Boost, which also affects teammates in a radius around her, is an incredibly useful buff – the Hunters could use it to chase down a fleeing Monster, retreat from a dire situation, or simply move faster whenever the situation calls for increased mobility.

If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It

The new Trapper, Abe, might be my favourite of the class so far. Along with the Mobile Arena available to all other Trappers, Abe comes with 2 other incredibly effective tracking and containment tools. The Tracking Dart Gun works similarly to Val’s Tranquilizer Dart – it marks the Monster on a successful hit and makes his silhouette visible even through obstacles for a brief period of time.

Abe’s Tracking Dart, however, has one additional feature; you can tag wildlife with it, and if the Monster kills and eats any tagged wildlife, the tracking effect kicks in! Because of that reason, I found myself tagging anything I saw, and my efforts often paid off when the Monster suddenly popped up on our screens later on in the match at a critical moment.

That’s not even the best trick Abe has up his sleeve, at least in my opinion. Abe can throw Stasis Grenades, which hampers the Monster’s movement drastically. Not to worry, these Stasis Grenades detonate based on proximity, so tossing them up into the air against an airborne Kraken works just fine.

As an added bonus, it even pulls Kraken out of the sky and back down to ground level, allowing the Hunters to really lay into him!

If anything, I found the Stasis Grenades to be a little too powerful; once I successfully landed the first hit, it wasn’t difficult to constantly keep the Monster in stasis until the other Hunters eventually brought him down. It was so effective that I barely used Abe’s primary weapon, which is a Custom Shotgun capable of rapid-fire at the cost of accuracy – nothing too fancy compared to what the other hunters are packing, but his abilities more than make up for it.

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Perhaps Turtle Rock Studios could consider increasing the cooldown time between Stasis Grenades to prevent this. Given their attention towards game balancing in Evolve, I have no doubt that they will do something about it.

You Can’t Hit What You Can’t See…. Or Can You?

Finally, we have Cabot, who in Evolve lore appears to be the de facto leader of our merry band of Hunters. As a Support, Cabot packs a very attractive suite of weapons and abilities, including what is essentially, a legitimate “wall-hack”. How so, you say?

First of all, Cabot packs a massive Railgun, which allows him to shoot right through walls and obstacles. It hits hard, has good range, and great accuracy, but comes with a abysmal fire-rate and is agonizingly slow to reload. Couple the Railgun with Abe’s or Val’s tracking dart abilities to see the monster from anywhere, and I’m sure you are beginning to see the potential applications.

That would be an extremely effective combo if you had Val or Abe on the team, but Cabot even comes with his own “marking” ability. He can call in an Orbital Dust Strike, which works similarly to Hank’s Orbital Barrage. However, instead of dealing damage in a wide area, Cabot’s ability blankets a large radius with radioactive particles, which cling to the Monster and makes it’s silhouette visible to the Hunter team for a brief period of time.

Alternate between the Orbital Dust Strike and Val’s or Abe’s tracking darts, and you could keep the monster marked for a long time, which means more free damage for Cabot! Combine that with Caira’s Adrenaline Boost to advance quickly on the Monster’s position, and the Hunters could potentially keep the Monster in their sights for the entire match.

But that’s not all! Once you do get within striking distance of the Monster, Cabot can bring out his Damage Amplifier, which can tack on an additional 50% damage to a single target. Coupled with other damage-enhancing abilities like Parnell’s Super-Soldier, or Val’s Anti-Materiel Rifle, the Hunters could potentially take out huge chunks of the Monster’s health in short order.

If all of this sounds too good, note that there are drawbacks to using the Damage Amplifier: The range of the beam is pretty short, so Cabot will be putting himself at risk while painting the Monster with it. It also has to be sustained, so he won’t be able to do any damage of his own or use his other abilities while the beam is active.

As always, there is a flip side to everything, and I really like what Turtle Rock Studios have done in regards to balancing out the Hunter abilities thus far. Stay tuned to Geek Culture for feature #2 on Evolve, where we talk about the new game modes – Nest, Rescue, Defend, and Evacuation!

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