Geek Preview: Evolve

2K Games and Turtle Rock Studios look to have a solid title on their hands. The successful Left 4 Dead series that Turtle Rock had left into the hands of Valve was one that needed fresh ideas. The second wasn’t as impressive as the first. Evolve, in all sense of the word, takes this genre to the next level.

The concept is simple: On the planet Shear, four hunters are on a mission to take down a giant beast, the Goliath. Teamwork is paramount for the hunters to eliminate the Goliath. Each hunter brings a different ability to the table, and effective application of these abilities will determine if they can bring down the beast before it becomes a nigh-indestructible force of nature.

The Goliath has a very different set of objectives. Indeed, this is where things get really interesting. On the map that we previewed, the beast must first evolve into a literal juggernaut by killing and consuming indigenous wildlife (or unlucky hunters), before having to destroy a generator.

Disabling this generator will result in some security forcefields going offline, allowing the Goliath to go on a murderous rampage on some hapless civilians. Once the last civilian falls, the Goliath will be declared the victor. We were told that the final game will contain a variety of different objectives to suit the map and game type.

If you have ever played Dungeons & Dragons or any modern day MMO, this is an excellent adaptation of “adventuring party takes down evil monster”.

Having spent a good afternoon trying out all the classes and the monster, there is a large amount of strategy when it comes to playing all roles. Hunters have to stick together and use all their skills are their disposal or the beast will have a field day taking them apart. Hunters will have to rotate between their skills constantly and there’s little pigeonholing. The Medic, has to cycle between healing her allies and slowing down the beast. Naturally, the Goliath would definitely want to place the Medic on top of his threat list.

Making a beeline for the Medic class will see the Goliath being snared by the Trapper with his harpoon while the Support provides much needed breathing space for the Medic to escape the Goliath’s wrath with his shields. In the meantime, the Assault hunter would be steadily chipping away at the Goliath’s health bar with his complement of heavy weapons and proximity mines. Don’t forget that each class has jetpacks that help them boost away when the Goliath closes in for the finishing blow.

Alone, each class is very weak against the Goliath but as a unit they are potentially invincible.

Gamers who have played Left 4 Dead would immediately draw comparisons to the Tank. But size is where the similarity ends. The role of the beast is by far the most strategic position that players would play within the game. The player behind the beast will have to employ plenty of cunning to turn the tables on the Hunters. Unlike Left 4 Dead, there are no allies to help you set up a wave of pressure. Early on the Goliath is a weak individual who must move around stealthily and avoid engaging the Hunters. Feeding on the wildlife will eventually allow the Goliath to evolve. If the Hunters give too much space to the beast, the Hunters will eventually set up themselves up to become the hunted.

This form of assymentical gameplay is rarely seen in this day and age in the realm of video games. With the Hunter and beast each playing differently, a big emphasis on game balance has to be a priority. The balance in the hands-on preview of Evolve was pretty much perfect. In all the games that took place, there was a constant power tug-of-war that rotated between both the beast and hunter’s favour. It was not surprising that in all the games played there was a 50-50 win rate between the hunters and the beast.

The closest comparison that Evolve has right now in the gaming market would be a mix between Resistance 2’s co-operative multiplayer and indiegame Dungeonland. Throw in a bit of horde mode elements and you would have Evolve.

There is plenty that can still be said by going into the classes and the beast but the preview, we were told, is merely a scratch on the surface. With more beasts, apart from the Goliath, yet to be revealed, the Hunters look to have alternative loadouts that they too can bring to counter the beast. I can foresee that Evolve will have constant updates as the metagame changes due to the inguiniety of human players. Such emergent game play generally can be found in real time strategy games and would be a first for a first person shooter.

While the preview really blew me away, there was one area of concern that might affect PC gamers like myself – dedicated servers. I foresee that PS4 and Xbox One players wouldn’t have much of an issue but if Left 4 Dead is any indication, purchasing a server to play together with your buddies might be a consideration. Details are still sketchy at this juncture so we would see how it turns out eventually.

With EvolveTHQ’s and Valve’s loss is indeed 2K’s gain.