PAX Prime 2014: Evolve Shows Intelligent Design in Action

I fully admit that I’ve always been a bit skeptical about Evolve’s seemingly epic potential. To date, we’ve only seen content from the standard four-on-one hunters vs. monsters mode; there’s been no footage of single-player content or additional multiplayer gameplay modes. After seeing Titanfall captivate the gaming world for roughly a month before fading into oblivion, we’ve hopefully learned our lesson. For Evolve to succeed, its gameplay has to provide constant variation, captivating downloadable content, and dynamic worlds that players desperately want to experience again and again. And if my hour with Turtle Rock’s asymmetrical shooter is any indication, Evolve is clearly on its way to being a truly fantastic multiplayer experience.

I spent time with each of the four classes (Assault, Support, Trapper, and Medic) and the Cthulu-esque Kraken, allowing me to figure out which play-styles I enjoy the most. While the brutal Assault class and the responsibility-heavy Medic class are exciting, I felt right at home playing Support and Trapper. Being able to cloak nearby Hunters with my special Support Ability allowed my team to both get the drop on and run away from the bloodthirsty Goliath. I felt extremely valuable as a Support character, as my actions made every person around me better. The dynamic goals that arise based on one’s class choice are a testament to the talent of those working at Turtle Rock, as each class feels much more unique than the class types we see in most first-person shooters.

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As awesome as my time with Bucket the Support Robot was, I found that Trapper was easily my class of choice. During the first of two Trapper matches I experienced, I was able to trap the player playing as Goliath within ten seconds of spawning. I tossed my Dome Shield off into the distance, forcing the Monster to run straight into the edge of the giant blue bubble. Because the Monster didn’t have the opportunity to forage on some of the surprisingly intelligent wildlife found in the arena, we were able to end this match in thirty to forty-five seconds. Using the Trapper’s abilities and items correctly enabled me to turn the tides of a battle in an instant, making me feel like the most important person in the room. This sense of importance is rarely felt in the numerous shooters found on today’s market, since most titles expect players to gain gratification simply through killing others over and over.

The transition from that sub-minute match into the following showdown proved just how different each round can be. My biggest fear was that I’d play two matches, feel like I’ve seen everything, and desperately wait for my appointment to end while halfway paying attention. This concern was quickly eliminated throughout the epic twenty minute match that ensued, as the constant game of cat-and-mouse was about as gripping as anything I experienced at PAX. My team of Hunters would whittle down the health of the Goliath, only to find him running away to re-armor, forcing us to begin the tracking process from scratch. We fought on the shores of an ocean, inside a massive canyon, and inside what appeared to be an abandoned research camp. Every encounter was deeply immersive, with both sides hoping to gain the momentary advantage necessary to win the round. For those of us playing as Hunters, this hard-fought victory was just as rewarding as the trouncing we put the Monster player through mere minutes before.

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As exciting as Evolve’s Hunter gameplay was, I was captivated by the time I spent as the Kraken. There was something oddly exciting about having a third-person view in a game where my counterparts all had first-person viewpoints. The sense of scale that one gets from playing as the monster allows each and every movement to feel monumental. Throughout the majority of the battle, I took to the air, circling around the miniscule Hunters three stories below. I made the calculated decision to take on the opposing team after evolving once and leveling up my lightening attack all the way. This strategy allowed me to take them on sooner than they expected me to, forcing the Hunters to instantly become Prey. The incredible balancing work that Turtle Rock put into making the Monster gameplay fair allowed Evolve to feel like two completely different games in one package. I never felt completely overpowered, though I never ceased to feel like the unquestionable King of the Jungle

It’s hard not to tip one’s hat to the folks at Turtle Rock and 2K, as Evolve is an absolute blast. Every ounce of fear that I felt when discussing the potential of the highly anticipated four vs. one shooter has all but disappeared. There is a small part of me that wants to see what the promised mode variations will look like, but I’ve seen enough to believe that Evolve will have legs long after its February release. As someone who vastly prefers single-player experiences, I was blown away by how enjoyable my time with Turtle Rock’s newest title was. Evolve shouldn’t be looked at as a game that will make for a fun month; it’s a title that has the potential to conceptually change multiplayer experiences.