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Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Turtle Rock Studios
Turtle Rock Studios and 2K Games want Evolve to grow the shooter genre outside of its typical space and force the player to think about both first-person tactics and third-person destruction in new ways. Specifically, the team hopes to accomplish this with uniquely asynchronous 4-vs-1 multiplayer gameplay in which one competitor has control over a powerful, Hollywood B-movie-style monster while four other players control a team of mercenaries.
These heroes come with their own personalities, combat preferences, strengths, weaknesses, and unique tools that need coordinated play to achieve the greatest effect. One will need to deploy a dynamic forcefield to trap the monster while another unloads heavy explosive damage. Another may need to persistently heal the team, though even the medic class has multiple avenues of addressing wounds in battle.
Where previously I thought of Evolve like another ham-fisted attempt at marketing first-person violence, extensive hands-on time has inevitably led to higher and higher expectations. As the game nears release, we hope to see its beta-testing community happy, finalized character designs take hold in a dedicated player’s mind and a few new monster tactics that will surprise teams of players.
Additionally, Evolve needs to prove its premise on launch day with a stable and inviting online environment. For a game offering single-player but clearly focused on multiplayer, Evolve presents one of the earliest truly next-generation online experiences, though your level of control on the action will vary depending on platform. PlayStation 4 and Xbox One owners will enjoy both cooperative and competitive multiplayer, but PC gamers can expect to dig into Evolve’s monster guts and come away with their own wild ideas.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, sit back and get ready to dive deep with another Road to Release. This occasionally-run (and sponsored) feature unveils everything you need to know about the game if you’ve never heard a thing about it, though consumers anticipating 2K’s explosive and darkly humorous cast of mercenaries or Turtle Rock’s monster designs need only wait a few more weeks. Evolve will be available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on February 10th, 2015.
When you and your team drop into alien territory, you’ll want to get down to business on objectives and rescues as monsters won’t hesitate to maul you. We won't hesitate either, and that’s why we start with the first monster unveiled by Turtle Rock Studios.
Of the monsters players will get to control, eager consumers who’ve participated in beta testing thus far will have gotten a hang of Goliath. This monster’s hulking size hides a massive leaping range and some brutal upper-body boulder lifts. Mercenaries will want to trap Goliath with an overhead dome as limiting the creature’s mobility is one of the only ways to avoid the full effect of some special abilities. Keep an eye out for fire breath at close range.
Special Moves: Rock Throw, Fire Breath, Leap Smash, Charge
With great monster variety comes great opportunity for slashing mercenaries to ribbons. Kraken may not lumber around like Goliath, but it’ll pounce about as effectively from both hovering in the air and around massive cliffside cover. Where Goliath’s special abilities give that monster range, Kraken’s tentacles and electrocution attacks will hamper aggressive mercenaries who can’t coordinate or decide when to strike with several of their own special abilities.
Special Moves: Lightning Strikes, Banshee Mines, Vortex, Aftershock
This monster’s scythe-style limbs and ghostly doubles will force players to think on their feet and react even faster to both incoming damage and spacing requirements for their own unique talents. Repeated slashes will bring down shields and health bars, but Wraith needs to play its own game in order to break a group up. I haven’t even had the pleasure of playing as this creature myself, making the series of interactive videos released by Turtle Rock Studios helpful in explaining each.
Special Moves: Abduction, Warp Blast, Decoy, Supernova
The fourth and final monster available to players has been dubbed Behemoth, though I wouldn’t go making fun of any of the creatures for their size as they’ll likely respond in kind. This monster is only available to those who preorder (perhaps releasing as DLC later) and comes with high health and armor with low vertical mobility. In fact, Behemoth may have to crouch down into a ball in order to gain more speed.
Special Moves: Lava Bombs, Rock Wall, Tongue Grab, Fissure
There’d be no need to evolve if not for the opposition’s scaly, fire-breathing, electrocuting, and general ugliness, so make sure to choose your mercenary carefully and face Turtle Rock’s monster designs well-aware of the med-bay location. All of the mercenaries available to play in-game are grouped into classes. Let’s break them down:
The Assault class has one primary ability shared between three different characters. These heavy-damage, machine-gun-toting badasses can cast a personal shield which adds a huge buffer to incoming attacks. Casting it will be a signal to the rest of your team that they should either regroup or help you out of trouble.
- Parnell grabs a rocket launcher on his way out of the drop ship, complimenting a shotgun and Super Soldier ability.
- Hyde comes equipped with a flamethrower on one hand and a minigun in the other. A toxic grenade compliments the personal shield for all assault mercenaries.
- Markov carries an entertaining and lancing lightning gun, though an assault rifle and plant-able Arc Mines add to overall damage output.
Trapper-type players will be responsible for containing or discovering the monster in the wild. They’ll have to use the Mobile Arena ability, shared between them, to create a bubble of space the monster cannot escape. This arena comes with a timer, so make sure the entire team gets to work once it’s stabilized.
- Abe has a custom shotgun with variable rate of fire, stasis grenades to slow monsters down, and a tracking dart that will keep the monster on each player’s HUD.
- Maggie is one of the more unique characters in that she gets her Pet Trapjaw to help track and revive human companions.
- Griffin can use both a harpoon gun to contain monsters and sound spikes that aid in tracking a monster throughout varied environments.
Medics are one of the most important classes when it comes to keeping a team alive, though each character offers a different means of healing. Picking a favorite will help players to become highly effective support-style characters while maintaining damage output against monsters in combat.
- Ciara has an awesome variable grenade launcher. One setting will hit enemies with fire while the other splashes a healing goo on friendly units.
- Lazarus comes equipped with a sniper rifle and Lazarus device which revives dead mercenaries from the ground.
- Val presents the player with elite weaponry like an armor-piercing sniper rifle, though her medgun acts as a continuous health supply for compatriots. A tranquilizer gun will also help to slow monsters trying to escape.
While assault characters have their role on the front lines and trapper-class characters will have to help coordinate teams, support class characters like Bucket can give the entire team a cloak of invisibility. Regardless of this type-specific special ability, each character in the Support subset comes with heavy damage opportunities.
- Cabot can issue strikes against Evolve’s monsters with a rail cannon and a damage amplifier which enables teammates to chip away at a monster’s health more rapidly.
- Bucket proves a faithful robot with a guided missile launcher and independent sentry guns.
- Hank can help effective groups finish monsters with both a shield projector to protect teammates and a laser cutter. Once charged, Hank can also call in an orbital barrage on trapped monsters.
Every map calls the alien planet Shear home, though the rock itself sticks close to corporate construction, exceedingly dark and stormy jungle-scapes, and arenas for monster combat. 2K Games promises over 800,000 different map and mode possibilities between single-player campaigns and full online competition, but get ready for rapid deployment. Every match starts with a little banter between the mercenaries as they leap from a dropship and jetpack down to the surface. Make sure to look for your first opportunities to spot and track the monster at this point.
Mobility isn’t restricted to ramps upward or cover in cliffsides and military bases thanks to Evolve’s jetpacks, which allow you to navigate to higher ground as needed. Make the most of the environment around you by leaping to high ground and firing on both monster and minions below. Using jetpacks to escape damage will prove key to each mercenary taking the battlefield, but make sure to maneuver around the monster as opposed to right up against beasts that can breath fire or shoot lightning out of their tentacles.
Rescue objectives will scatter helpless NPCs around the map while Search & Destroy game modes will decorate the landscape with monster eggs. With objectives melding into each landscape, players want to remain keenly focused on using both the Heads-Up Display and any previous map experience to hunt down their targets. If you’re looking to squash a lot of monster eggs, you’ll want to organize your path or make sure that the team splits up evenly. Don’t let the cliffs and structures standing in your way confuse thought-before-motion particularly in that a minimap can shave off minutes of searching for an objective.
Understanding the map will prove key for the Trapper class equipped with the unique electric dome ability, though using it in enclosed spaces will remain dependent on your play style. If you’ve identified an arena that will work well for your team, don’t be afraid to hold out and wait for the monster to attack. Containing isn’t about rushing out to spring one on ol-big-claws and maintaining dominant positioning has, at least in my experience, proven satisfying when you’re prepared for a teammate to spring the dome.
If you’re playing as the monster, don’t forget to feed on the wildlife, and I’m not talking about the vegetation. In each map players can find various animals and reptilian monsters, though mercenaries don’t earn anything from gunning these creatures down. At best, you can prevent a monster from adding armor by eliminating the animals it can munch in-between combat encounters.
One of the biggest factors to consider in jumping into Evolve’s adventurous and truly engaging multiplayer proves to be the fact that not everyone has the same abilities or strengths. In fact, you’ll need to understand your monster abilities perhaps better than your mercenary skills in order to succeed. It’s not unlike other asynchronous multiplayer games in that players must find a niche or rhythm to their favorite characters, but remaining open to new options will go a long way in getting your $60 out of this title.
For example, you may be accustomed to the likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield and even proven yourself an adept sniper in each of the most recent releases, but Evolve doesn’t allow for the same kind of narrow dedication. Rather than looking to the game for a hardcore sniping, run-and-gun, or demolitions experience, be prepared to tackle a challenge as one of several different powerful characters. The Trappers, for example, probably have to know how to time their special abilities better than healers.
The Assault classes may be popular, given that they come equipped with rocket launchers and flame throwers, but knowing how to deal damage with each mercenary-type will enable better team play. When connecting with others online, try to know what you want to play as but remain on your toes in order to switch roles on the fly. You could get away with Val, a sniper-healer in one match and have to immediately switch to Bucket, the robotic turret-drone-expert in the next.
When you’ve finally gotten your turn to play as the monster, pick a favorite and dominate. If you’ve looked at the other monsters and decided to continue playing competitively with your ol’ buddy Goliath, use single-player modes to practice with the Kraken. Knowing that you’re facing a dedicated team of mercenaries should get you to change up your monster-style too, meaning a failure on one map shouldn’t leave you steeped in defeat. Try a different monster and neutralize the strengths that played you in the last match.
With Evolve readied for launch on February 10th, 2015 on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, gamers should prepare themselves for landing. It represents the first major blockbuster release of the new year, but focusing on asynchronous multiplayer will certainly maintain a feeling of variety for the increasingly tired genre. We’ll have more, including a full review, soon.
For more information, go to evolvegame.com.