Dropping into Evolve for the first time is a pretty disturbing experience. Four hunters bound from a ship onto an alien world teaming with hostile life. Groups of aggressive beasts large and small attack if players aren't caution enough moving around them, but that's nothing compared to your first run-in with Goliath. If you're lucky, your team will be able to pick up on the monster's trail, leaving huge footprints and flocks of brightly colored birds escaping its wake as a sign of direction because as a team you must keep the pressure on or risk the beast getting even stronger; evolving.
Evolve is the newest title from Turtle Rock Studios, the same developer that blew gamers away with it's sweating in the dark frantic gameplay of Left 4 Dead. This time around the developer got to complete a long-dreamed of idea to create a truly unique multiplayer experience. Set to drop later this year on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 its approach of 4 vs 1 offers a fresh look at team multiplayer. Turtle rock brought an early demo of its latest title to San Francisco courtesy of publisher 2K Games to show off the high-tension shooter.
Evolve is like one huge boss battle. The only difference being that the boss is player controlled. It becomes quickly apparent that to have the slightest chance against the gargantuan monster you have to work as a tightly-formed and high-communicative team. So really it's like playing a 1 vs 1 but in the this case those not playing the monster must be incredibly well organized.
Humans are separated in four different classes. In the build of the game I played they were represented as individuals, Turtle Rock says that while there are only four classes, there will me multiple characters with unique buffs to fill them.
Griffin the Trapper: Trappers drop sound spikes to detect enemy movement, a harpoon gun that can grab and hold onto the monster to keep it from escaping and most useful a “mobile arena” which is a force field that drops around a location that can trap a the monster for a timed period. This however can be a mixed blessing, since trapping the monsters also means you're trapped with a monster.
Hank the Support: Support units project a shield onto other players, keeping them out of harm as well as a cloaking field to get out of bad situations or sneakily revive downed comrades. Hank also sports an Orbital Barrage that can be tricky to aim but deadly if you can lure the monster in its path. He also sports a Laser Cutter for a bit of damage.
Markov the Assault: Marov is the main damage dealer of the team. He comes packing a lighting gun for close quarters and Arc Mines to spread around the map. He also sports a personal shield and a longer range assault rifle. Lose the Assault and it's best to turn tail and run.
Val the Medic: The Medic represents the key feature of your team. Medics can quickly heal the entire team and revive them from afar while also being able to tranquilize the beast to slow it down and make it viewable from behind cover but also an Anti-Material Rifle that can pinpoint weak spots in the monsters armor.
The hunters pick buffs before each round to give them an extra boost such as faster weapon change or faster jet-pack recharge, yes you get jetpacks. When hunters hit the ground they need to get on the monster's trail as fast as possible. The best way to do this is to find footprints, flocks of AI birds flying away from where the beast disturbed them, or corpses of animals the monster has already eaten (more about that later). If hunters give the monster too much breathing room it can evolve and get even more powerful. But the player controlling the monster could possibly doing the same thing looking for the direction of the hunters.
The player controlling the monster, in this case a Godzilla-esque beast called Goliath, has one priority in the early round, to evolve. While in my hands-on it was possible for some player controlled monsters to take on the hunters at a low level, evolving both grows the stature and powers of Goliath. Evolving is the key to victory as the monster and its done by eating the local animals. Goliath uses his sense of smell to detect animals, smashes them and enjoys. Once you've killed enough beasts and stored up enough energy the monster has to find a quiet place and form a cocoon and gain extra abilities. With Goliath he could throw rocks, breathe fire, preform a flying ground pound added to the normal ability of incredibly long leaps to get out of hairy situations quickly.
Once the monster has maxed out at level three – three evolutions – the hunters are now the hunted. A match plays out in multiple encounters, like a huge boss battle hunters and monster engage and retreat in turn as each sense they have the upper hand. The monster has a huge amount of health even at the lowest levels and while hunters can be killed they will respawn but not in short order. Sometimes waiting up a minute leaving the rest of the team to retreat until it's at full strength again.
Evolve blends together the intimate necessity of co-op gameplay with multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) themes of in-match leveling and buffs to create something unique. The gameplay as a hunter can be stressful, not wanting to let your team down and finding the best way to support them to victory. While the monster can play aggressive or hidden, biding its time to be fully evolved and raining down fiery terror on the tiny humans. I was impressed with Evolve and feel it offers a fresh take on multiplayer shooters and while the player count might not be high - bucking trends - it promises some of the most exciting mutliplayer coming in 2014. Stay tuned to Complex for more deets this week.