Evolve' Big Game Alpha Impressions
A review of the limited preview Turtle Rock Studios gave to fans
Release Date: Feb. 10, 2015 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (played) and PC
Developer: Turtle Rock Studios
Publisher: 2K Games
The first few minutes of Evolve might leave players wondering why the game has garnered the amount of attention that it has. But those are just the first few minutes.
After choosing a class (trapper, assault, support or medic) the four-player team bickers a bit as the drop ship moves into position. The monster, controlled by a fifth player, is already on the ground searching for prey.
The world of Shear is full of dangerous creatures and carnivorous plants that keep hunters on their toes while they hunt for the monster. The Crowbill Sloth and other enormous creatures pose threat to the monster and hunters alike.
The creatures scattered throughout the map serve as prey for the monster that feasts on their corpses to gain armor and evolve. Its body festers and bubbles while it grows, appearing far more dangerous and the player controlling the monster chooses which of its four abilities (leap smash, charge, rock throw or fire breath) to improve. They get three points for each of the three evolution stages.
As players sky dive from a drop ship onto planet Shear, the game’s crisp, moody and meticulously detailed visuals take hold. The sound is just as detailed and full of life as the world that surrounds players when they touch down.
Maggie, the trapper, sees the Goliath’s tracks, which glow blue against the map’s detailed foliage and the hunt begins.
The carcasses of the planet’s wildlife trails behind the creature’s footsteps and birds scatter through the air a few hundred meters ahead.
Daisy, the trapper’s pet, runs forward in pursuit. The Goliath has reached Stage 2, growing stronger, bigger and more powerful and the hunters haven’t even seen him yet.
The trail goes cold.
A boulder smashes into Hank, the support. The medic begins healing him as the massive creature hurls itself forward with a leap smash, like a wrestler elbow dropping its way to an opponents submission. The Goliath smashes down sending the trapper flying.
This is the Evolve that has garnered all that press and it’s fantastic. The Big Alpha last weekend was the perfect tease for one of next year’s most anticipated releases. It gave players control of one of the final game’s three monsters and a few of its hunters.
The game is an easy sell: four players battle against a boss-caliber monster controlled by a fifth player in a game developed by Turtle Rock Studios, the creators of Left 4 Dead.
The Goliath is like Left 4 Dead’s Tank on steroids, mixed with a whole lot of rage. Its hulking mass of muscle and attrition is the perfect marriage of agility and pure brute strength – strength that’s easily matched by the firepower and abilities of the four hunters that seek its demise. But as it evolves, the tables quickly turn out of the futuristic big game hunter’s hands and into the monster’s.
The trapper throws its mobile arena, locking the monster in a small area of the map. His harpoon traps leash the creature, while Markov, the assault, shoots his lightning gun. The monster’s armor depletes and it begins bleeding, bits of its bone and bullet-torn tissue become visible.
Fire churns forth from the Goliath’s mouth, lighting the assault on fire, but the character’s shield takes the brunt of the damage.
The game is just as much about strategy for the monster as it is for the hunters. Knowing when and where to fight are keys to success for either side. Eat some prey to armor up and go for an early assault or lurk in the shadows to max out before attempting to annihilate the hunters in one fell swoop.
While monsters plot their attack, hunters communicate to plan and coordinate their abilities. The trapper’s harpoon traps, which temporarily place the monster on a leash, are perfectly combined with the assault’s mines and the support’s orbital barrage. A medic’s healing becomes a critical life thread for an assault player whose shield expired with the Goliath whaling down on him.
The mobile arena goes down, the Goliath breaks free of the harpoon traps and bounds through the air to escape. The hunt continues and the creature searches for a means to evolve and grow stronger once more.
Teamwork is key, balance is ever-present, but entertainment is king and the Big Game Alpha didn’t run out of either for hours on end.
The Goliath ravages a bigger creature, evolving to stage three and becoming the ultimate predator. It lurks atop a large rock formation, lying in wait for the hunters to pick up its trail.
As the approach it hurls another boulder at the medic and support, but this time the enormous stone almost one shots the characters. Its leap smash and fire breath all but cripple the rest of the team, as it ravages its foes with devastating melee attacks. The assault’s shield fails, the harpoon traps don’t hold the monster for long and the towering Goliath’s brute strength becomes too much for the hunters.
The Big Alpha’s crashes and glitches became a negligible part in the story of the perfect tease of the full game to come. With three monsters and more hunters, each with their own abilities, weapons, playstyles and powers, and it’ll be great to see the final game come February.
For now, thousands of players can relish in the destruction they brought down on the hunters that sought their demise or the victory they clenched from the fiery jaws of the Goliath.
Only the fittest will survive – take that, Darwin.