Turtle Rock Studios game Left 4 Dead changed a lot of gamers expectations of a co-op shooter. Through clever use of scripted sequences and an AI “Director”, it successfully created a multiplayer game that felt like a unique variation of the campaign every time it was played.
After what seems like years in the making, their latest game Evolve has finally hit store shelves via publisher 2K. Fully aware of what makes their style of game tick, the developers have crafted a game that is unique but unmistakeably shows its strong heritage.
Planet Shear is in trouble; megafauna in the shape of some big arse monsters have caused major havoc to the colony and the population is in need of evacuation. To assist in the process, teams of hunters have been brought in to curtail the threat until everyone has escaped.
The game itself plays as a series of four versus one face-offs. Four players take of the role of hunters, one of each class type (assault, trapper, medic and support) who sport abilities specific to their purpose and through cooperation they have a decent chance of winning. This side plays much like the traditional FPS with the benefit of a lot of verticality thanks to each character having a jetpack available.
The last player takes on the role of the monster of which there are currently three types; the Goliath, Kraken and Wraith. Each has it’s own distinct set of abilities. Due to the increased size of the character in comparison to the others, it plays out in a third person perspective. Key to the monster winning is the player’s skill in evasion, opportunity and leveling up by killing the level’s wildlife. For those players who are closet griefers, this one is for you.
The game modes included (Hunt, Nest, Rescue and Defend) provide both offensive and defensive scenarios for both sides. These can be played individually or grouped together in a five mission mini campaign called Evacuation.
Thanks to better use of cutscenes and inclusion of AI, this plays out better than Titanfall‘s equivalent and offers some variety in mission choices but it is also a tad shorter too; it can be played through in less than an hour. Players will want to play through Evacuation a lot but it remains to be seen if its repetitive nature has legs in the long term.
All game modes can be played both multiplayer and solo. To speed up the multiplayer side, the game allows you to prioritize the classes (including monster) that you prefer to be assigned when jumping into a game. It’s a nice touch. For those who prefer to play by themselves, you won’t feel left out as the game’s AI is more than effective in providing a similar experience when playing by yourself.
During completion of scenarios, use of a class’ weapons and abilities will help the player gain the equivalent of XP that over time unlocks additional bonuses and characters. Maximising the benefits of this system will require a fair amount of grinding through each class; something which could be daunting to players initially.
Visually, the game is excellent – there is a lot of detail in the characters and the environments are massive. But you hardly get a chance to admire it because you’re going to mostly be looking at things from a distance either as a hunter keeping away from your prey or the creature looking down at the tiny squishy humans. Of both, players taking on the creature might have the harder time due to your opponents being harder to see but thankfully the HUD helps to identify them.
The audio hasn’t been ignored and benefits a lot from the banter that each character uses during the course of a mission. Having unique conversations based on who is in the hunter’s team is a nice touch that fleshes them out in a simple but effective way.
Gameplay itself is very solid. Playing as a hunter will make L4D players feel right at home. The weapons and abilities will take some time to get used to but starting off in the assault class will make the process a lot easier. When in the midst of the action it can be both fast and furious, especially when your trapper has got the monster cornered, but the times when you’ve lost your prey can involve a LOT of trudging through the map trying to find them.
Playing as the creature will take a little more time because of its third person view and change in scale but I can imagine that those who master it quickly will relish the chance to play it against friends. Evading the hunters whilst doing enough to upgrade to the next stage of evolution is key; being as big and nasty as you can might be key to your survival and winning.
That’s not to say that you just have to worry about your direct opponent/s; the environment itself has enough nasty plants, animals and terrain to cause you moments of grief too. Having a carnivorous plant chomp away on my hunter is not my idea of a good way to die. Though these things aren’t major obstacles, they can be enough of a distraction to benefit each side. All of this adds to the personality of the stages and makes the point that you (hunter or monster) are just one of many nasties in this world.
Evolve is a natural step forward with what Turtle Rock began with Left 4 Dead. It takes the core concepts of that game’s versus mode but mixes it up in a way that at face value may seem unbalanced due to numbers or abilities but over time it shows that careful thought has been made to ensure that success is not something either side can take for granted.
With a handful of friends, I think you could expect to keep yourselves occupied with this game for some time. The prospect of upcoming free maps should go a long way to extending its value even further.
Reviewed on Xbox One. Evolve is also available on the PC and PlayStation 4.