2K’s four vs. one monster hunting game is now out in the wild. I’ve spent the last few weeks being the hunter and the hunted in Evolve.
Evolve’s developer, Turtle Rock, pretty much invented the concept of narrative-driven co-operative multiplayer game-play with Left 4 Dead. In pitting a group of four players in a drop-in/drop-out zombie apocalypse they created an immediately accessible game that pretty much forced players to work together in order to survive.
I’d love to say that Evolve did the same, in should, but success in the game very much depends on the calibre of your compatriots.
Whilst you can play the game solo, Evolve has been designed with multiplayer in mind. Up to five players partake in a game of cat and mouse, with four players taking on the role of the hunters whilst another plays the part of the monster.
As hunters, players choose (or get allocated to) one of four classes. Each class has three alternative characters, each with their own special weapons, which are unlocked as you progress.
The classes are for the most part pretty self-explanatory with Assault being the damage dealer and the Medic the healer. The Trapper slows the monster down with tranquilizers and traps whilst Support can shield and cloak team members.
With each player tied into a particular role, teamwork is important. If a player is unfamiliar with the class that they are playing it will negatively affect the rest of the team. Similarly, if you make for a poor monster and are being pursued by a team of experienced hunters, they will make short work of you and have you skinned in no time.
And playing as the monster is a completely different affair, altogether. Whilst hunters play the game from a first-person perspective, the monster – due to its huge size – is played third-person. Monsters need to kill and eat in order to evolve into a more powerful creature. Huge jumps, throwing rocks, flying and even breathing fire are all on the table for monster players.
Online or off, Evolve can be played a number of different ways. The quickest way to get into a game is via Quickplay (solo) or Skirmish (multiplayer) one-off match.
The game’s campaign mode is called Evacuation and can also be played solo offline with computer controlled bots. It’s a series of five matches set over five days. The hunters are trying to hold back the monsters as the colonists evacuate the planet. Apart from the last one, the match modes are random, sometimes with a choice offered in the lobby.
The winning side is rewarded with a beneficial game modifier in the next. The narrative is pretty much non-existent but does at least serve to give the game a bit of context.
Finally, the Custom mode allow players to set up their own matches adjusting modifiers like more aggressive flora and fauna, time limits and buffs, as well as map game type selection.
The game types are inspired and a lot of fun to play, once you understand how to get the best out of your class that is.
The easiest mode to get to grips with is the straight-forward Hunt. This is basically kill or be killed. The game ends with either all the hunters or the monster getting slain, or the monster – having evolved to stage three – destroying the power relay. Hunters track the beast by following footprints and animal corpses, as well as watching for signs like birds circling.
The monster must feed to evolve and gain strength all the while avoiding the team of hunters. The Defend game mode has the team of hunters defending a power source from the monster. The hunters can either go looking for the monster or lay in wait for the creature to attack.
In Nest the hunters must destroy the monsters eggs and minions whilst the monster tries to protect them. The final mode, Rescue, has the hunters are charged with finding survivors and escorting them to their dropship. The hunters must save five colonist before the monster kills five.
After each mission, online or off, players are rewarded based on their performance and extra perks unlocked, such as more damage.
The game’s use of the CryEngine, the same technology that drives Crysis 3, means that the visuals do not disappoint even on a moderately powerful PC. The maps look fantastic whether they are being viewed as a hunter at ground level or from the elevated viewpoint of a towering monster.
It’s actually a credit to the developers that as a monster you do feel huge, fighting regular-sized people, and not a man in a suit like a Japanese Godzilla movie rampaging through miniature scenery.
I found Evolve to be a good game but not great. The multiplayer arena-style gameplay is fun, but I really would have like to see a bit more story in the game, somehow.
Still it is a unique affair and one that rewards player as they improve. There’s a lot here with multiple classes and different characters to unlock and master. The monster provides some radically different gameplay that breaks things up a bit.
If you are into co-op multiplayer gaming you are going to have a blast with Evolve. If you like story-driven games, Evolve is likely not going to be your cup of tea.