PAX East 2014: Two very different perspectives on Evolve
Evolve was a huge hit at PAX East this year, thanks in large part to the massive beast 2K had on display on the show floor. I mean, seriously, this thing was insane.
It also helps that Evolve comes courtesy of Turtle Rock Studios, the team who, in a collaboration with Valve, crafted the Left 4 Dead games. Their new game follows in the footsteps of their cooperative multiplayer smash hit with a new concept that feels like an evolution of L4D’s versus mode. Rather than pitting 4 survivors against 4 special infected and a horde of zombies, Evolve pits 4 hunters against a single, giant beast.
It’s a five player game where one player, as the monster, is released into a dense, jungle map (at least in our demo), and given a minute to run around, feed, and hide while they level up. After the minute is up, four more players, as a team of hunters, jump from a ship into the jungle to track and kill the monster before it grows too powerful. In the initial stages, the hunters can find and kill the monster while it’s still small and weak, but as the match progresses and the monster levels up, it becomes a matter of survival for the hunters.
In the demo we played, the monster, known as Goliath, could run and leap, slash, breath fire, and throw rocks. The hunters were divided into four classes: Assault, with access to the most damaging weapons; Trapper, with tools for tracking and containing the beast; Support, with a shield that can protect teammates; and Medic, who can heal and revive from a distance. The final game will have multiple monsters to choose from, more hunter classes, and other maps to fight in.
For the monster, it’s about choosing your battles and leveling up. For the hunters, it’s about strong teamwork and keeping everyone alive while fighting the beast as effectively as possible. That’s at least the top-level goal for the game as we gathered from the developers. But in a show like PAX, where everyone playing the demo is new to it, and may not even know each other, it doesn’t always go as planned. In our demo, I got to play as a Trapper, and Bree took on the role of the monster. We had two very different experiences:
Joe’s Take (as the Trapper)
At the outset players get to choose a buff. My options were health regen, damage resistance, and more attack power. I thought I’d be able to get ahead of Bree with the attack power so I went with that -- I really regretted that decision.
My team and I were dropped into the forest and immediately found footsteps to follow. What I didn’t know is that the hunter team lands exactly where the monster starts, and I also didn’t realize Bree had already been eating and leveling up during the first minute before we landed. She got another minute or so to level up as my team fumbled about, splitting off in random directions -- I had a bad feeling this wasn’t going to go well.
The Trapper class has three unique tools for finding and containing the monster in an area. I planted some Sound Spikes, which listen for the monster and indicates its position if it is close. We followed tracks and got attacked by the other wildlife along the way. Eventually we ran into a creature large enough to be the monster, but we took it down quick enough to know that it was just another bit of AI wildlife around the map. Birds indicated that we were getting close.
Finally, we found the Goliath, who Bree managed to level up while we wandered around. We probably should have tracked her down a lot faster, because when she started attacking I watched as my team went down one-by-one. I’d hoped the medic could keep things under control while I used my harpoon to contain her, but by that point my tools didn’t matter much -- she clearly wanted to be there, smashing my whole team one-by-one.
All-in-all, she destroyed my team so entirely that I didn’t really get a good idea of what playing as a hunter is all about. There wasn’t a back and forth between hunter and hunted, there was just a terrible butt-stomping that barely lasted two minutes. Even the guy behind us running the demo said, “Wow, that was bad...I’m sorry,” as he moved us along for the next group. Good job, Bree!
Bree’s Take (as the Monster)
Let me start off my experience by saying, as a co-op player I often spend my time trolling and making my partner’s experience as ridiculous as possible. How do you think Joe was about to write this article?
So I got a 60-second start ahead of the hunters. I also had the option of choosing a buff initially: Damage resistance, the ability to consume animals faster, or increased damage. I chose increased damage because, why not? I’m a monster, I want to destroy things quicker.
On top of the buff, I was given 3 ability points. These points could be spent on 3 different skills: rock throwing, the ability to charge, or fire breathing. I used my points on fire-breathing and charging. Rock throwing seemed too primitive for the kind of monster I wanted to be. I started in the area where the hunters would arrive in 60 seconds, so I had to get moving.
The monster not only runs, but has the ability to pounce, increasing the ground covered in a short amount of time. As you run you leave a trail of footprints, animal carcasses, etc. that can be tracked. While I ran and created an elaborate trail for the hunters to follow, I killed small, passive animals and fed. With each animal that is fed on a circle fills up. When the circles becomes full, you can evolve by holding down both triggers. Evolution takes roughly ten seconds, and during that time the monster is helpless and vulnerable.
During the time I spent running, I managed to evolve one time. There are three full evolutions that can occur. Each time the monster evolves you are awarded 3 more ability points that further strengthen the skills you have.
The monster can not only see what is around it, but can also use a smell ability. For a short time the monster’s eyesight goes grey while outlines of red mark hostile animals/people, and yellow mark non-threatening creatures. This skill is probably the one I used the most to avoid aggressive animals, and groups of birds which help the hunters figure out the location of the monster.
While I was running around killing and eating anything I could, I stumbled across the hunters. I was going to run away and level up more, hoping they didn’t see me, but then one fired his gun. Bad move.
I was provoked... honest! I charged to where the hunters were and immediately went for the Support and the Medic. A swing of my fists and some fire breathing, maybe I threw one of them a few times and BAM! Dead.
I would’ve left, but Joe put a barrier around the area I was in. I was trapped. Oh well, I guess they really had a deathwish. A few more swings of my fists, some more fire, and everyone was gone. I made sure to kill Joe last. The match took roughly about a minute or so. It was pretty short, but still awesome. At the end of the match, the guy walking me through the demo simply said, “Wow...uhh…you’re actually really good at being the monster. Great job!” I nodded and, while grinning replied, “Of course. This character was MADE for me.”
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