Four against one doesn’t sound very fair, does it? It sounds like the sort of childhood game that someone who wasn’t very popular might find themselves involved in (often against their will). But that’s the premise for Evolve, an upcoming multiplayer co-operative shooter that pits a team of four against a team of one. Stuff was lucky enough to be invited to a hands-on event with the game yesterday, 16 April, at Microsoft’s offices in Johannesburg and we’re able to tell you that Evolve is unlike anything that you’ve played in the past. And that is a very good thing, based purely on what we’ve seen.
Yes, Evolve is a game of 4 versus 1 but it helps that the ‘1’ in this instance is a hulking great big monster, capable of consuming wildlife in the area and evolving into the same monster but larger and more lethal than before. By contrast, the team of four (and team is the operative word here) are mere humans. Well-equipped, jetpack-toting humans to be sure but they’re still only human. And they can be deceived with a little animal cunning.
Let’s scale it back a bit however. If players are taking on one of the roles in the four-man human team, they will have a class to choose and then a role to fulfil. Stuff got hands-on time with the Assault, Medic (we’re terrible at it), Trapper and Support classes and each of these roles calls for a very different play style that nonetheless requires that players are aware of what their team-mates are up to. Lose a team-member, get separated from the group or just be terrible at your job and the monster is going to take the whole team out. Play together as a cohesive unit and the big bad beastie should be relatively easy to dispatch early on.
Present at the event was 2K Games’ international producer Iain Willows, who walked us through the various classes. Assault is your basic heavy weapons specialist, packing land-mines, an assault rifle and lighting gun as well as a personal shield. He’s the one who gets in the monster’s face, hopefully attracting its attention long enough for the other players to get their shots in. The Medic was the obvious healer but she also packs a sniper rifle capable of punching weak points in the monster’s armour and a tranquilliser gun that slows the beast for a while. The Trapper wields an SMG and a harpoon gun that is able to halt the creature, sound spikes that detect if the critter is in a specific area and a portable arena that traps it temporarily in a fixed location behind a force field. Last on the list is the Support, who carries a laser, shield generator and invisibility shield as well as an orbital bombardment attack that can knock down the monster’s health in short order. Assuming you can call in the strike accurately, of course.
On the other side of the equation is the monster, who was coached by 2K’s Erica Denning. In this case it was the Goliath, a Godzilla-meets-King-Kong creature that is nimble and quick, able to climb vertically with little effort and capable of dealing huge damage in a short period of time. Players are on their own in this position but have a wide range of attacks and a selection of strategies they can employ. Do you pick off a straggler or hide until you’ve fully evolved? Try to be sneaky or attack like a berserker? Whatever your option, there are a few things that concern you. Killing prey, restoring armour, evolving and then taking out your pursuers but it’s a tense situation. Playing as the Goliath means that everything is out to get you and there’s no backup or support. Players will run, hide, tease and track their hunters until they’re confident that they can take down the human quartet.
Evolve is skewed at various stages of play. From the outset, the monster has a 30 second head start and fortune favours the humans. If the Goliath is caught here, they’re pretty stuffed. Once the monster player reaches their second form (first evolution), the two groups are pretty evenly matched. Should the monster reach its third form (second evolution), the single player has the advantage by a long way. 2K Games and Turtle Rock have gone to a lot of effort to balance things out throughout the course of a game and while what we saw was only a portion of the whole, it looks as though they’ve nailed a sweet spot here.
That’s right, Evolve isn’t just going to comprise the weapons, environments and monsters that Stuff saw in action. Iain Willows wasn’t able to tell us what is on the way with regards to monsters, other than that they will be different to the Goliath, while the four main classes will also have a selection of perks and weapon loadouts in the final game. The way things will change when Evolve launches later this year is that player tactics will have to change based on their monster class or weapon selection. If everything is as well-balanced and heart-thumping as this preview was, Evolve is going to be heading to the top of the food chain.