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Evolve offers a refreshingly robust and devious co-op experience

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I'm gonna have me some fun

There's been a lot of buzz surrounding Evolve, the new co-op shooter from Turtle Rock Studios. Helmed by the same developers of the original Left 4 Dead, fans have certainly been chomping at the bit for more information. After a successful closed alpha, the developers took a lot of notes on how players experienced the game to make a better title.

Set on the colonized planet Shear, players take on the roles of hunters seeking to eliminate powerful alien creatures that are attacking the human colonists. If that sounds a little boring, then players can inversely control the malevolent beasts to wipe out the human invaders to reclaim the planet. Though it's often seen as a mash-up between Monster Hunter and Left 4 Dead, which is a totally fair and accurate description, Evolve certainly has unique traits of its own.

At a special press event, we got the chance to get some hands on time the game, while learning more about some of its additions.

Evolve (PC [previewed], PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
Developer: Turtle Rock Studios
Publisher: 2K Games
Release: February 10, 2014
MSRP: $59.99

"It's given us this extra push, that extra motivation," said Chris Ashton, co-founder of Turtle Rock Studios and design director of Evolve as he recalled the general reception from fans. It's been about a year since its debut, and the fans have certainly taken to the game. After two alpha test periods, and its wildly popular station at PAX Prime -- I tried playing, but the line was ridiculous -- Turtle Rock was keen to show off more of what the game has to offer.

"I think all the good and positive reception has added to the pressure, y'know, but I keep telling a lot of the guys that's it's the hardest thing we've ever done in our careers," said Ashton. "But I keep telling everyone 'great pressure makes for great games sometimes.' Though everyone is tired and worn out, seeing the news stories and positive reviews has made it all worthwhile."

One of the new bits to share was the reveal of the new monster class, the Wraith. In addition to the Goliath and Kraken, essentially different takes on the warrior and mage archetypes, the Wraith is very much like the assassin class, except it's a twenty-foot-tall monster with massive claws and tendrils. Despite its size, the Wraith is the fastest thing in the game and can easily make quick work of the hunters, though it'll definitely take some time to master.

Unlike the other classes, the strength of the Wraith lies in its stealth tactics and speed. The creature can warp in and out of danger with ease, and can use sneak attacks to quickly defeat the hunters and lesser prey. Its decoy ability allows it to summon a Wraith clone to attack nearby enemies, leaving the player in an invisible state, and the Supernova move gives a massive speed and power boost to the creature.

Though the other classes were fun, I had a real blast with the Wraith. During the rescue game type, I stalked the group of hunters while they were struggling to find survivors to take back to base. Using my decoy ability, I sent my clone in against the group. As they scattered trying to take it out, I found the medic straggling behind them. At this point I used my Abduction move, which allowed me to warp to the hunter and drag him back to where I came. Alone, the medic was downed rather quickly by the Wraith's attacks. After they found the wounded medic and attempted to revive him, I swooped in like a hawk and used my Supernova ability to wipe the party in a frenzied flurry. It was awesome, and hearing the opposing team shout "He's on us!" felt oh-so satisfying.

One of the most impressive things about Evolve is how well it was balanced. Even though the monsters are extremely powerful, the hunters are well equipped to handle the beast. Turtle Rock took a lot time refining and fixing issues with the game in order to maintain the balance and consistency with the asymmetrical multiplayer.

"We playtested the crap out of it, iterating and finding what works and what doesn't -- and we forced our way through that idea of four vs. one gameplay to shipping the game now," said the design director. "It always seemed like a straightforward idea to us, like four quarters equals a dollar, right? In our minds, it always made sense. For four hunters who work together, and they use their teamwork right and coordinate, then they could be as powerful as this two-story monster."

Though the Hunt mode offered quick and easy fun, the recently unveiled Evacuation mode will no doubt offer the most comprehensive and epic experiences that Evolve can produce. Referred to as a "grudge match across five maps" by its design director, five players are brought into a multiplayer campaign that shifts and alters depending on which side wins. For Turtle Rock Studios, this was an opportunity to up the ante on their previous work with the Left 4 Dead series.

"We wanted to have a campaign in Evolve, but we wanted to do it in a different way," said Ashton as he described the genesis of Evacuation mode. "In Hunt, you can have a fifteen minute experience, and that's a good time for a lot of people.  But there's another scenario where me and you want to get online tonight and we want to play roughly an hour, and have an experience that has a beginning, middle, and end. That we all felt like we saw really cool things and that it all wrapped up nicely. We wanted to focus on replayability, to potentially have thousands of different possibilities."

With four players taking on the role of the hunters, and one as the monster, you'll have to secure, defend, hunt your enemies to expand your power. On the final round, Evacuation reaches its crescendo as both sides must use all their acquired resources and skills to finish off the opposition. Spanning different game types spread across several maps, each round feels like a real struggle to succeed. If the hunters win a match, then they can acquire teleport machines that allow for easy travel or armor plated turrets for stronger defenses, but if the monster wins a match, then the environment will become corrosive to the hunters, and new beasts will come to assist your side.

It's incredibly dynamic, and no campaign will feel the same. I played games on both sides, and the two felt incredibly different. I was impressed with how balanced it felt. Initially, I worried that being pitted against a skilled opposition would make the game unpleasant and result in a string of losses, but the mode also includes an auto-balance feature that will sightly boost the strength of the losing side, just to keep things interesting. The developers at Turtle Rock Studios wanted to ensure that the game is still winnable, despite the odds.

Sometimes matches can feel like they can drag out, especially if both sides know what they're doing, I still felt the urge the pick up another game upon completion. Moreover, there's plenty of content that covers almost all the bases. Don't want to play with other players or deal with matchmaking? Then you can stick with bots offline that are just as competent as real opponents. Bots are an often overlooked feature, so it's reassuring that the developers are giving players options.

As a huge Left 4 Dead fan, I found Evolve be a real evolution of the formula. You remember those moments in L4D where you just knew that the enemy was toying with you? Well, this title certainly brings those moments back in a big, and even more devious way. I found my time with Evolve to be incredibly fun, and it brought out the best of what co-op play is all about. There's a signature moment that's constantly happening, and I'm just dying to see what I can expect from the full release next year.

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Alessandro Fillari
Alessandro FillariStaff Writer   gamer profile

A San Francisco native, he's an admirer of the city's diverse culture and lifestyle. Prior to joining the staff, he was a contributor and an editor for his college newspaper where he wrote articl... more + disclosures


 


 


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