The most popular booth at PAX East this year was undoubtedly the Evolve gameplay demo located at 2K’s sprawling spread, which also featured a 30-foot tall sculpture of the Goliath to keep attendees in check. The lines to play this game wrapped around the show floor, and probably took 3-4 hours to get through, so Evolve’s allure was definitely the talk of Bean Town.
Lucky for me I didn’t have to wait through the massive line to get a crack at Evolve’s unique multiplayer gameplay, but even if I didn’t have media credentials I still would’ve made a point to get my hands on this game. The buzz at the show was tangible to say the least.
After watching a brief video demo to teach us the mechanics of Evolve, namely how the hunters must work together to have any chance of beating the Goliath, we were slotted into positions to determine which characters we would play in the gameplay demo. I drew the Monster, aka the Goliath, which meant that I was going to be the “1” in Evolve’s unique “4 vs. 1” multiplayer gameplay model. No other player would be there to help conquer the four hunters seeking to destroy me, my fate was in my own hands; I was the level’s boss if you will.
Five of us were ushered to our stations where Turtle Rock devs were on hand to coach us as we played our first ever Evolve match. I sat by myself with my coach, while the four other players got to sit together with their own coach on the opposite side of a large table. The setup perfectly illustrated what Evolve’s core gameplay is about, and that’s the whole 4 vs. 1 motif. Sitting by my lonesome really made me realize that I was a team of one, and that I needed to take advantage of the Goliath’s abilities if I wanted any chance of competing.
Before diving into the match, Evolve’s visuals must be discussed. The demo was running on a PC with an Xbox 360 controller, and it looked fantastic. The exotic landscape of the map we played on came to life with dark tones and deep textures that gave the jungle atmosphere a feeling of impending doom. Throughout the map NPC beasts roam wild and make calls to their own species giving the world a lifelike feel. The framerate was spot on and didn’t skip a beat, and each character model showcased personality and detail thanks to their unique gear and costumes. The sound design also helped to make the world of Evolve come to life, especially for the Goliath and his menacing roars and vicious melee attacks, which gave the monster a feeling of badassness and helped to translate his massive size.
Like most multiplayer games Evolve has a pre-match lobby where the four hunters and the Goliath can tweak their loadouts and perks. I was given three points to spread out between my Goliath’s attacks, which range from close quarters melee and fire breathing attacks, to far reaching ground pound attacks and deadly boulder tosses. Knowing how I typically play multiplayer games I opted to load up the close range attacks so I could get my tank on once the hunters tracked me down.
While playing as the monster you’re given a bit of a head start when a match begins, which allows you to begin eating other wildlife to help build up your evolve meter. The more beasts you eat the faster the Goliath can evolve, so I made it a priority to chow down on as many random NPC beasties that I could. Building up the evolve meter is crucial while playing as the monster because it allows you to regenerate shield powers, while also increasing your attack power and building up the power perks to create an even deadlier Goliath for the hunters to kill. I unfortunately wasn’t able to eat enough to kick off the first phase of evolution before the hunters tracked me down, so I had to quickly shift focus to my offensive powers to bring the pain on the players trying to cooperatively take me out.
The Goliath’s sheer size and power is made immediately clear the moment the hunters arrive to take him out. I began Hulk smashing the living daylights out of any character that got in my way, and to ensure that they didn’t come back for more I followed those melee attacks up with some flame breath. At first I thought I had things in the bag, but once the hunters started to take advantage of their classes to work as a team, I quickly realized that my tank method of gameplay wouldn’t guarantee a victory.
The hunters are broken into four classes, which are Trapper, Support, Assault, and Medic. Each class has a specific task to accomplish when trying to bring down the Goliath, and when players don’t get selfish and play as a team, the four classes work in symphony to unleash hell on the much more powerful monster. For example, I would corner a hunter and begin to pound them into oblivion, thinking that an easy kill was in store, but then out of nowhere I’d have a harpoon shot into me to coral my movements while another hunter began to heal the one I thought I surely had beat. This is all going on while the other two players are taking pot shots at me, slowly chipping down my shield and ultimately my life meter.
Once this started to happen my Turtle Rock coach implored me to head for the hills to restore some health through eating beasts, while also continuing to build up the Goliath’s evolve meter. Once I did I was prompted to hit the LT and RT buttons at the same time to kick off an evolution, which rendered the Goliath open to attack, but also allowed the Goliath’s shield to be built back up a bit, and additional perk stats to be bumped up. After the Goliath evolved I took the fight back to the hunters and had a bit more luck pounding them into the jungle floor, but once again they shifted their strategies and began to chip away at my health again.
I had to once again use the Goliath’s impressive jumping skills to get away from the hunter pack to keep adding to the evolve meter. I built it up enough to hit the final stage of evolution, which when achieved limits your ability to add to the Goliath’s shield, but puts him in his most powerful state. At this point the match objectives change a bit too, so depending on how you want to go about winning, you can either continue to kill off the hunters, or you can go for a generator that appears on the map. If the Goliath manages to take out the generator the match ends and the monster wins.
Due to my health being lower than I would’ve liked after the third evolution I chose to go after the generator. For a while it seemed like the hunters didn’t know where to find me, so I was able to slowly chip away at the generator’s health in an attempt to claim victory. Unfortunately, the hunters caught on and swarmed me in force. Now that I was in a large building I couldn’t use the Goliath’s jumping abilities to escape, so they had me cornered and on the verge of death. With only about 2 mm to go on the generator’s health bar I though I was going to pull off a come from behind victory, but alas, the teamwork and abilities of the hunters proved to be too much for my Goliath, so he succumbed to his wounds and I lost the match.
Even with a loss in my first ever Evolve 4 vs. 1 match I came away impressed and hungry for more. The whole 4 vs. 1 concept is unique to shooter based multiplayer games, and thanks to the various class abilities there’s an emphasis on teamwork that really isn’t found in any other human versus human multiplayer game. Playing as the Goliath most definitely gives you a God complex, but one must still rely on skill rather than blind button mashing to take down a team of four well trained and selfless gamers. Evolve will surely offer up some water cooler moments amongst gamers once it releases sometime this summer, so if you’ve been needing to mix up your multiplayer gaming, this is the game to give you a fresh take on class based multiplayer.
Evolve is set to release for the PC, PS4, and Xbox One sometime between July and September of 2014.
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