On paper, Evolve might just sound like the most ridiculous, nonsensical multiplayer experience ever conceived. A 4v1 setup that combines co-op with asymmetrical multiplayer? Of course Turtle Rock Studios would be crazy enough to take on such an unconventional project, after earning some serious stripes in creating Left 4 Dead and some of the most impressive enemy AI we've ever seen.
Our time with Evolve brought together the recently-revealed Kraken monster (get those "RELEASE THE KRAKEN" jokes out of your systems) and four new Hunters introduced during E3, creating that 4v1 matchup we've heard so much about. Four players step into the shoes of well-armed game hunters, and the fifth person gets to play as their terrifying quarry. Think of it as a small team going into a boss fight of epic proportions; this is the kind of dynamic Turtle Rock hoped to create with the asymmetrical multiplayer.
When you're first looking at the numbers, Evolve seems to really favor the Hunters. Fortunately for the one person stuck on their own team, the player-controlled monster comes outfitted with deadly abilities and sheer size, making it more than capable of taking out a group of puny humans. In the end, neither side is particularly disadvantaged compared to the other, and winning really comes down to how smart the monster is versus how well the Hunters work together.
For anyone who knows how Left 4 Dead works, Evolve should be pretty familiar. The two share an emphasis on teamwork, where players are really encouraged to stick together in the interest of survival. Wandering from the rest of your team could lead to swift death by monster or any of the other wildlife loitering about (as our Support learned), and potentially screw your entire team in the process. Never be selfish, and never try to be a hero unless it's strategically sound to do so.
Hunters are armed with a variety of weapons and special abilities determined by their class, and all four classes each have two separate characters to choose from. Beyond the obvious aesthetic differences, characters also possess unique perks or weapons that a counterpart would not. For instance, the first Medic we were introduced to, Val, can continuously heal her entire party. Lazarus, on the other hand, has very limited healing capabilities but can actually resurrect dead teammates -- as his name already suggests. Maggie the Trapper comes with her own lizard-hound named Daisy, who can help players track their target and act as a fifth party member, which is beyond convenient when a team-wide KO is usually a loss. Griffin, the other available Trapper, tracks targets using his special Sound Spikes skill. You get the idea, right? Classes aren't necessarily confined to a single role, either, and perks can be equipped before matches to better suit a certain play style.
Similarly, monsters follow their own progression system that spans across three different evolutions, including the starter form. By consuming various forms of wildlife around a map, the beast can eventually level up, as it were, and learn new skills for an easier time at pulverizing the Hunters. While the Goliath (seen in the first photo) can breathe fire, the Kraken monster (above) may learn a lightning ability more in line with its ranged superiority. Certain passives waiting to be unlocked may provide less direct but incredibly beneficial effects. Really, the monsters are surprisingly customizable, at least from a gameplay perspective.
In the end, Evolve is hardly a complicated game. Hunters need to work together in order to take down a formidable opponent, and everyone can, to some extent, customize their characters to suit personal preferences. Just because everyone thinks the Kraken's lightning strike doesn't mean you have to unlock it too, and you're certainly not going to be judged by your three nonexistent teammates.
The quality and thought behind Evolve is obvious in just about every aspect of every match, especially the balancing that's keeping monster and Hunters in check. The influence from Left 4 Dead is certainly present, though without encroaching on what Evolve is trying to do and the identity it seeks to earn. Clearly, this is a game most of us need to keep an eye on.
Evolve will be released on October 21 for Xbox One, PC and PS4.
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