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Evolve: a higher state of online multiplayer

Tuesday, 11 February 2014 13:00 GMT By Stace Harman

Stace Harman tracks down Evolve and examines the DNA of Turtle Rock’s promising new multiplayer experience, with hands-on impressions and interview input from publisher, 2K.

evolve_11

“Ultimately, everyone has to have a good game as their chosen role because otherwise you’re going to get tanked pretty quickly”

When I received the invitation to attend the preview event for Turtle Rock’s online multiplayer shooter, Evolve, I was initially sceptical of just how much I might derive from it. Clearly, the developer knows its way around such experiences having previously created Left 4 Dead and worked for a time on Counter-Strike, but frankly I’ve long grown weary of shooting things in the face for points and glory. I’ve also never really been a huge fan of Left 4 Dead’s versus mode, preferring instead to play collaboratively against the AI horde, and so I was unsure of whether I’d get on with its four vs one competitive structure.

It’s with a certain degree of happy bemusement, then, that after a couple of hours spent playing as each of Evolve’s four human hunter classes and having a crack at playing as the beast of the piece, that I’m pleasantly surprised to find that Turtle Rock’s new title has the potential to be one of the most satisfying multiplayer experiences that I’ve enjoyed for quite some time. Its strengths are immediately obvious and there’s a great deal of fun to be had right from the off; even as you’re mastering the basics, you’re catching a glimpse of the longer-term strategies for both sides of the human/monster divide.

Evolve’s title is elegantly reflected in various facets of its play. Playing as a human hunter you take on the role of one of four classes: Trapper, Support, Assault or Medic, each of which has a jetpack for boost-jumping, a two weapon load-out, a unique item and a class-ability, all of which are governed by cool-down timers. There can only be one of each class in the field and every class must be represented, with AI bots standing in for any missing players or for people that go AWOL part-way through a game. Each of these classes has a clearly defined and specific role to play in hunting down the monster – also played by a human player or, again, the AI if needs be – and points and XP are awarded for fulfilling that role adeptly as you attempt to bring down the beast.

evolve_3

The better you understand and play the role you’ve chosen the more likely you are to earn the necessary points to level-up your skills and thus become a stronger, faster, more productive member of the team. This highlights another key difference with Turtle Rock’s work on Left 4 Dead; in that game which of the four survivors you chose really came down to an aesthetic choice (but obviously Zoey and then Ellis were the correct choices) as each could wield the same weapons and items.

Here, though, the four human classes play differently to one another, so while the assault class is the obvious choice for high-damage dealing, the trapper carries a more tactical feel with a load-out geared towards tracking the monster and forcing it into confrontation, ideally before the player controlling the beast feels ready to take on the hunters. The medic and support classes carry some familiar tools, such as the heal-gun and a cloaking device for stealth but also some more exotic items, too, that aim to help you play each class as a productive member of the team, rather than all trying to score damage and nothing else. Within minutes of browsing its character-selection screens, it’s apparent that Evolve is an all together more in-depth proposition in this area than its zombie-infested precursor.

“The game has been playable now for two and half years so it’s an ongoing process of refinement.”

“The guys felt like they only scratched the surface with Left 4 Dead and while they proved some things about co-op play they really wanted to push it to that next level here,” says 2K executive producer, Denby Grace.

“By giving people a really defined role – and rewarding you for being good at your role – it means that when you win as a team you really feel like it’s because everyone played their part. Ultimately, everyone has to have a good game as their chosen role because otherwise you’re going to get tanked pretty quickly.”

As the monster, it’s your job to do that tanking but initially you’ll want to evade confrontation until you’ve gorged yourself on the local wildlife to the point that you can evolve to stage two. At this point, you’re granted an additional ability to bolster your two initial powers and you become stronger but also slower. Progressing to stage 3 is really where the tables are turned on the hunters and at this, the final stage of evolution, the focus also changes from flash-point confrontation to a directed end-goal. On the map I played that meant being strong enough to destroy a generator that the humans are then tasked with defending, thus forcing you into a endgame and preventing the humans from running away once you reach your ferocious zenith.

“The game balancing is a difficult challenge but it’s something that the guys and us work very hard at,” assures Grace. “Between the multiple locations working on the game, we probably play around 300 games per week and that outputs a lot of data that we analyse on an ongoing basis. The game has been playable now for two and half years so it’s an ongoing process of refinement.”

Having survived the wreckage of original publisher THQ’s demise, the evolved state of the game’s mechanics and balancing bode well for a launch later this year. It’s already apparent that the many elements of the mechanics tie together wonderfully, with a number of the strengths and abilities of both the hunters and the monster having a carefully balanced riposte that leaves both sides feeling empowered but never unfairly overpowered nor disadvantaged, quite a feat for its four vs one asymmetrical structure.

The wildlife, too, comes into play and while smaller creatures are fodder for the monster and fuel its evolution process there’s also much larger creatures that, if agitated, can turn on either team. This then opens up tactics for deliberately leading the hunters through a heavily populated area, pissing-off the wildlife and then leaving them to deal with the consequences.

“The dynamic weather can really change the game, so if it rains heavily your tracks wash away much quicker and the sound is more muffled which makes it harder for people to hear you as the monster.”

“There’s a lot of stuff in the game for the momentum to be able to shift very, very quickly,” explains Grace. “Things like the dynamic weather that can really change the game, so if it rains heavily your tracks wash away much quicker and the sound is more muffled which makes it harder for people to hear you as the monster.
“The AI Game Director of Left 4 Dead has evolved to become this thing that Turtle Rock is calling the Zoo Keeper system, which controls all the wildlife and environmental stuff, which all affects game play and can be used to your advantage or disadvantage.”

evolve_7

The most exciting element of Evolve is that everything here forms just the basis of the game. Each hunter class will sport multiple characters who, while fulfilling one of the four basic roles, come equipped with their own specific load-outs and strengths and weaknesses. Similarly, the goliath monster is just one of several that will feaure in the final game and while his focus is on the easy to grasp melee and area of effect attacks, others are promised to have varying focuses allowing for a breadth and depth of play; some leave tracks while others don’t, some will attempt to scatter the hunters to divide and conquer while others will excel at a more head-on approach. Add in environment variety, the fact that character and monster selection is hidden from the opposing side and the currently unrevealed potential of several other game modes (all variations on this four vs one set-up) and Evolve is looking a very promising proposition indeed.

It’s rare that a major new IP should be announced and then released within the space of eight or nine months, but that’s what’s on the cards here. We’re so used to the long-tease of details being revealed over a couple of years of development time that nine months is a relative blink of the eye. However, such is Evolve’s promise that having to wait several more months for it to emerge from its gestation period already feels to me like a very long time indeed.

Evolve is slated for a Q3 release on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

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9 Comments

  1. CyberMarco

    Am I the only one who isn’t interested from all this hype?

    So the game is 4 vs 1, chasing each other around in an arena-like stage?

    #1 1 year ago
  2. Arcnail

    Ya not sure about this either. Maybe not have your co founder or whoever boring down the game is a start.

    ‘The hunters puss out, and then the monster has to go find this thing’..

    Zzzz

    #2 1 year ago
  3. mistermogul

    “It’s rare that a major new IP should be announced and then released within the space of eight or nine months”

    Not sure about that Stace, Nintendo do that all the time…

    #3 1 year ago
  4. NocturnalB

    @CyberMarco Yeah I don’t get it either. I mean it’s an enjoyable game don’t get me wrong, but I don’t get the hype.

    #4 1 year ago
  5. NocturnalB

    P.S. related to the site update, I don’t know if anyone else is having this issue but I can’t seem to load screenshots from this site anymore in an article like this one. When I click them they never load. Just bug reporting.

    #5 1 year ago
  6. mistermogul

    @5 – Yeah I have the same image issue. They don’t load up…

    #6 1 year ago
  7. Erthazus

    Yeah… a CONSOLE running and gunning shooter. Slow, clunkiy and for dumb 12 year old’s.
    you stand and shoot one monster until you have no ammo.

    So Much Fun.

    #7 1 year ago
  8. polygem

    dear devs. less is more. less wow factor. less boom boom explosions. more gameplay. more atmosphere. more magic. less mainstream. more art. in the end you shape your future. innovation is not to be found in lighting effects. sales aren´t everything. love what you do. i´m sceptical about this one. wouldn´t mind to be wrong.

    #8 1 year ago
  9. nonamegamer93

    well i’m looking forward to it always nice to see a new IP out there instead of the endless barrage of sequels like the tenth COD or Halo 5/6 could be good could be bad but it shows promise and is a more original idea than most games on the market.

    #9 1 year ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    Skyrim has been granted a new beta update – more than three years after launch! – to improve the experience for modders and those who use them. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim released in November 2011. I think that’s worth noting before we discuss the beta update that dropped today, even as Bethesda is working […]

  • Paradox’s next epic RPG is, uh, Knights of Pen & Paper 2

    Knights of Pen & Paper 2 is very serious business so please enjoy this very serious trailer. “Return to the dicey world of Knights of Pen & Paper for a new turn-based adventure, where players get to take on the role of players, and also of the game’s encounter-designing, rules-laywering GM in a fully customizable […]

  • Amplitude looks amazing in new gameplay trailer, has a team multiplayer mode

    Amplitude may have been delayed but we still get something this March: a fine new gameplay trailer. Amplitude is coming to PlayStation 3 and PS4 sometime in northern summer. It’s a reprisal of Harmonix’s classic rhythm action game, a forerunner to its later efforts with Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and was crowdfunded. Update: Turns […]

  • DayZ creator’s “crazy”, “esoteric” next game developed with Improbable

    DayZ creator Dean “Rocket” Hall has dropped the first vague details of his new game project. “I do not want to make safe games. I do not want to make games the way we have been making them. What if the most experienced video game staff in the world collaborated on the most esoteric and […]

  • Battlefield Hardline will support AMD’s Mantle

    AMD has confirmed what most Battlefield fans thought. Battlefield Hardline will indeed support Mantle. Battlefield Hardline will support Mantle, AMD has confirmed. Some players weren’t sure whether the retail version of the game will support AMD’s API, due to its absence from the recent PC beta. AMD did not say whether the feature will be […]

  • Unreal Engine 4 GDC 2015 sizzle reel shows what the tech can do

    Unreal Engine 4 is a pretty versatile bit of tech, as this new sizzle reel shows. As one of the more ubiquitous engines, Unreal will be on show at GDC this week. Developer Epic produced the following sizzle reel to quickly demonstrate what it can do – cutting edge graphics (there are very few games […]

  • Survarium’s latest patch removes limit on battle ammo, rebalances experience gain

    The latest Survarium patch has readjusted the value of experience and reputation points gained and removed the limit to the maximum amount of ammo you can use in combat. Survarium developer Vostok Games has released patch 0.27a to the public, having recently finished testing it. The patch is a major one and covers changes to […]

  • The Hunt Begins in new Bloodborne TV spot

    Bloodborne is so close you can almost smell its coppery tang on the wind – and also you can watch commercials for it. Bloodborne arrives on PS4 at the end of this month (March 24 North America, March 25 Europe, March 27 UK) so excitement is starting to build. Sony isn’t helping keep us calm […]

  • World of Warcraft: you’ll soon be able to buy game time with gold

    Blizzard will soon allow World of Warcraft players to exchange in-game gold for game time and vice versa. Blizzard has announced a new system that will launch soon for World of Warcraft. The system is called WoW Token. Using this system, players will be able to buy game time using in-game gold. Here’s how it […]

  • 3D Realms’ Bombshell returns with the first gameplay trailer

    Remember 3D Realms’ Bombshell? The isometric ARPG that was announced last year? Well, it’s back, and we get to see gameplay footage. The game stars Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison, a bomb technician turned mercenary with a mechanical arm. She will embark on a quest to rescue the president and save Earth, all while shooting aliens. The […]

  • Unreal Engine 4 is now free for everyone to use

    Epic Games has made Unreal Engine 4 available for anyone to download and use, for free. Unreal Engine 4 is now free. Anyone can download it and start using it, the developer announced today in a blog post. The download features the the full set of tools used by Epic, and includes 100% of the […]

  • Call of Duty European Championship winner announced

    The winner of the European round of the Call of Duty Championship has been announced. This past weekend, 28 teams representing UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, the rest of Europe and Middle East attended the final of the European round of the Call of Duty Championship. UK team Epsilon eSports was crowned […]

  • GOG brings back Insomnia sale with discounts up to 90% off

    GOG.com is bringing back its Insomnia sale event with even more games. GOG’s Insomnia sale is back with double the amount of games. This year, there will be two sets of games available at once. The sets are seasoned classics and fresh new titles. Each set will feature games with discounts up to 90% off, […]

  • 2K is shutting down NBA 2K14 online servers, won’t affect career save files

    2K will be shutting down the servers for NBA 2K14 this month. The publisher revealed yesterday that online servers for NBA 2K14 will be turned offline on March 31. “You will no longer be able to play ranked games/online association,” reads the announcement. NBA 2K14 relied on online servers to store save files for MyCareer […]

  • One Dead or Alive tournament organiser is proposing ban of “over-sexualised” costumes

    A Dead or Alive tournament organiser has suggested a soft ban on some of the game’s “over-sexualised” costumes, and not everyone is happy. Tournament organiser “The HuBBs” took to the FreeStepDodge forums to suggest a list of rules that other offline tournaments can follow. The list goes over stages, characters, moves, which is certainly in […]

  • Destiny: all the news from Bungie’s open house Q&A

    Bungie hosted an open house Q&A session with the community last week and lots of exciting news have come out of it. Arekkz Gaming has gathered all the information that came out of Bungie’s open house Q&A in one handy video. The list is massive, going over Exotic weapon balance, upcoming events, PVE, Crucible rewards, […]

  • Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen to honour Nimoy with in-game memorials

    Developers behind space exploration games Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen will honour the memory of Leonard Nimoy through in-game memorials. The develops of both games have confirmed separately that in-game memorials will be established to honour the memory of the late Star Trek actor, Leonard Nimoy, famous for playing Spock. Elite: Dangerous executive producer Michael […]

  • Deal: get a PlayStation 4 + three exclusives for $399

    Amazon’s latest PlayStation 4 deal is not one to miss. With purchase of a PlayStation 4 console from Amazon in the US, the online retailer will throw in digital codes for Infamous Second Son, Killzone Shadow Fall and The Last of Us: Remastered, all for the same MSRP of $399. The Last of Us Remastered […]

  • Destiny: this is how one player predicted House of Wolves details and Xur’s inventory

    The method one Redditor possibly used to leak some details from Destiny’s House of Wolves was the same one he used to predict the inventory of Xur: Agent of the Nine. Last week, Reddit user Megamanexe4 leaked a few pieces of House of Wolves expansion content. The leaks included strikes, new Crucible mode, and a […]

  • Mortal Kombat X is coming to iOS… as a card-battler

    Mortal Kombat X will be releasing on mobile devices in some form, just not the one you except. Mortal Kombat X is coming to Android and iOS devices as an extension of the main game. It will launch in April alongside the console versions. The mobile game will be part card collecting and part fighting […]

  • Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain announcement coming this Wednesday

    Kojima Productions will unveil something about Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain this Wednesday. Metal Gear Solid fans should standby for a Phantom Pain-related announcement on Wednesday, March 4. According to developer Kojima Productions’ Twitter, there’s going to be an announcement at 2pm GMT on Wednesday. The developer posted the following image. The image […]

  • Reader survey: time to let us get to know you better!

    We’d really appreciate it if you could fill in this survey about the websites you read and the games you buy. It massively helps! You can fill out the survey right here and obviously all the information you supply is confidential. It helps us build a better picture of the people who read our site […]

  • Battlefield Hardline Premium: here’s everything you get for $50

    Battlefield Hardline’s Premium membership will give players access to 4 new features, early access to expansion packs and more. EA detailed the offer today – it costs $50 in total (£40 in the UK) and gives players a whole bundle of new gear and content. Check it all out in handy list form below: Masks […]

  • Hayter’s gonna hate: the voice of Solid Snake wouldn’t answer my Metal Gear question

    Voice actor and Hollywood writer David Hayter discusses the differences between movies and games. And politely declines my leading question. “It might be fun to do a crazy, over-the-top film version of Saint’s Row.” Yeah, that headline is a bit cheap but you’re reading the work of a man who once asked the maker of […]

  • Xbox One bundle gets £100 price cut in UK

    Microsoft has knocked up to £100 off Xbox One bundles in the UK. The Xbox One with Kinect Assassin’s Creed bundle is now £100 cheaper and comes with a free £20 voucher to be spent on the official Microsoft online store. Over on the Xbox online store there’s a £70 price cut on the white […]

  • Pokemon Shuffle downloaded 1m times, free stuff given out to celebrate

    Free-to-play 3DS title Pokemon Shuffle has been downloaded over 1 million times. As a reward for playing the match-3 puzzle game Nintendo has gifted players a Complexity -1 item for free. The item reduces the difficulty of a level, according to Eurogamer. By all accounts Pokemon Shuffle is a cynical game with poorly implemented microtransactions. […]

  • Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power sure is pretty

    FrozenByte Games has revealed Trine 3, due for release in 2015 And what better way to reveal a new side-scrolling adventure than with a very pretty trailer full of gameplay? The latest in a series that has already sold 7 million copies is earmarked for PC and “other” formats. Trine 2 released on PS3, PS3, […]

  • Dying Light takes UK number one

    A month since it was released on digital platforms, Dying Light’s physical release has topped the UK charts. Techland and Warner’s zombie survival game has proven to be one of the big hits of the year so far. It was released on digital formats a month ago but has only just been released on good-old […]

  • GTA 5: that’s some seriously accurate grenade throwing

    Think you can take down a jet plane with a grenade throw? This guy can. In fact, he can do it twice. This is in a variation on the player-created deathmatch “Stunters Versus Snipers” which seem to be all the rage in GTA Online at the moment. One team has a sniper rifle (and grenades) […]

  • Metal Gear Solid 5: Mother Base turns pink in the morning sun

    The Phantom Pain looks nice even when Kojima just takes a quick pic with his phone. Look at that beauty. We get nice reflection in pink at the first gray of dawn. pic.twitter.com/aERTBoZT9z — HIDEO_KOJIMA (@HIDEO_KOJIMA_EN) March 2, 2015 The game doesn’t have a release date yet, which makes us a bit nervous for it […]

  • Dying Light: Underpant Gnomes and 9 other secrets you missed

    Dying Light still has legs – maybe because it’s crammed full of secret things to discover. Ten of those have been highlighted by TerraMantis’ latest YouTube video, including reference to the Underpant Gnomes, guitar lessons, farting zombies and well, we don’t want to spoil it for you. Even if you think you’ve seen everything in […]