PAX East is a great convention, but it is very much about the long lines as you wait to try the latest and greatest titles. You can usually judge a game by how long the lines are for their booth, Riot and Blizzard always have huge lines, but it was telling that the booth for Evolve by Left 4 Dead developer Turtle Rock Studios was instantly full each day. I had a chance to visit the 2K booth, which was guarded by a huge statue of Evolve’s main Creature, The Goliath, to try the game out for an extended play through, and I was very impressed with what I saw and it is well worth the long wait.
In Evolve, you are matched up as Hunters versus the Creature, with four players in each round as the Hunters and the fifth playing as an evolving Creature called The Goliath. I was first presented with a video outlining the game and what roles each of the Hunters have. We were all given bracelets which denoted our role, in my case I had Support, but there was also Assault, Medic, and Trapper. Each class has very specific and unique abilities that are designed to feed off each other to lead to success, which in the Hunters case is to bring down The Goliath as played by a player.
The classes are very well defined and all offer an interesting play style. The Support class can generate a shield around someone, cloak the team if we are not firing, and drop an orbital strike. The Assault class has a shield, lightning gun and rifle. The Medic has a healing beam, healing burst, sniper rifle and tranquilizer gun to slow down creatures. Finally, the Trapper has sound spikes to track the creature, a harpoon gun to slow it down and the ability to make a temporary barrier around the area. All of these skills are necessary to stop the evolving creature that has a jump attack and can breathe fire and hurl boulders, all the while eating animals and evolving to a stronger form. While the Hunters are trying to kill the beast, The Goliath’s only goal is to survive long enough to evolve to its final form, triggering an end game as it eats the Hunters.
As all of this was being explained to me, I worried that the game simply might be too complex to jump into and enjoy, but if you communicate and work together, the game flows in an incredibly enjoyable way. As the Hunters, we started by trying to track the beast and were alerted where birds were startled and it left distinctive tracks in the area as it passed. The Trapper laid down sound spikes to notify if the creature doubled back as we pursued its tracks. Once we found the beast it became time to attack. As Support, I tried to shield whomever was taking the most damage. If someone was knocked down, I told everyone to stop firing and cloaked us, allowing someone nearby to revive the downed Hunter. All the while, the Assault was firing barrages at The Goliath as the Medic and Trapper circled around trying to heal and contain the beast. At opportune times, I would call down my recharging air strike and break away as the creature turned on me.
Ultimately, in this round, the team was a little weak and communication wasn’t all it could be leading to the Medic dying, followed swiftly by the Trapper. The Goliath turned to me and I RAN for my life trying to cloak or gain higher ground. Eventually, I fell to the huge beast and the Assault was left trying to buy time until our dropship arrived sending us back as reinforcements. Unfortunately, The Goliath was too strong and with 20 seconds left until we returned, the Assault was taken down and our round ended.
After this play through, I stayed and watched Turtle Rock staff play as the Hunters against a skilled player taking the role of the creature, and I could see how teamwork really pays off when each class pays attention and works to its strengths. This round went very differently than mine did, the Hunters quickly found the beast and the Trapper and Medic circled it and quickly slowed it down with harpoon and tranquilizer shots. The Support and Assault kept pounding on the Goliath as they all danced around. The Goliath, in the end managed, to take out the Trapper, but was defeated by the remaing Hunters.
Evolve was a great deal of fun to play, and I was very impressed with the look and feel of the game. Focusing only on a next gen and PC release has allowed Turtle Rock Studios to get the title right where they want it. The developer told me that this is just a slim slice of the game and now that the core mechanics are polished, they will be continuing to work on many more environments, Creatures, and even Hunter variants. Evolve will be a game to follow and certainly one I am looking forward to picking it up once it is released this fall on PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4.