Evolve Alpha Impressions
While watching the E3 stage demo of ‘Evolve’ on YouTube I was thinking only one thing, “God I hope this demo is the actual game…”. I’m happy to report that at the time of playing the Alpha, this was the case. This isn’t surprising considering that developers Turtle Rock Studios was probably using the same build of the game they’ve been showing off around the world since E3, but my god was it fun.
For those who don’t know Turtle Rock are the developers of a few little games you may have heard of, like Left 4 Dead and its sequel Left 4 Dead 2 and all DLC’s in between. Their latest project Evolve is something I’ve been following since way back when their game was to be published under THQ (Rest in peace), and they were hinting at something “Big” and “Wild”, and I’ll be damned if they haven’t delivered. Using all the knowledge they’ve gained from creating the L4D games, Turtle Rock have given us an asymmetrical class-based shooter the likes of which I’ve never played.
The overarching concept of the game-mode I got to play, hunt mode, is that the monster spawns with a thirty second head-start on the hunters to go hide and/or eat to evolve. The hunting party, comprised of a Trapper, Medic, Support, and Assault classes, drop out of a ship onto the monsters spawn location to pick up the trail and begin the hunt, while surviving whatever beautifully hellish landscape they’re knee deep into.
Hearing about the hunters being divided into four different classes left me feeling skeptical, as good as Left 4 Dead is, it really didn’t enforce teamwork outside of “We have guns and there’s things to shoot” kind of way (unless you’re with a group of friends over Skype, and even then…). The fact that most other “class-based” shooters always reward direct action more, so playing any role that means barely using your gun is hardly worth it (Battlefield 4, I’m looking at you…), but the game seems to have succeeded where most others fail; Rather than fighting a whole team of players with the same skills and loadouts, you’re fighting one 20-30 metre tall player who moves faster, hits harder, and takes more damage than any of the hunters combined.
Evolve forces it’s teamwork in an ingeniously organic way, and playing the supporting classes (Medic and Support) are rewarding and most of all, fun. I never got tired of playing the medic and using my heals to give the team just that little bit of extra time to hit the monster once we engaged it. Though as good, and as fun as the teamwork is, having someone new who doesn’t know what they’re doing is made all the more painful. After playing the medic for most of my time as a hunter, watching someone else play the way the class isn’t intended only to die, is cringe-worthy, so I hope that come beta or release the devs do a better job of informing people how to play a class (maybe an interactive tutorial?) other than an infomercial that plays over the loading screen only on the first time you play a given role.
I wasn’t able to get any time in as a monster but had some friends playing with (and against) me, who told me of their experiences (one of whom rather comically died to a lazy swipe from an AI creature during his time as the monster), and how it was as exhilarating as it was frustrating. Where the penalty for being a slow learner as the hunter is that your team-mates have to shoulder the burden, as the monster you can only rely on yourself. It took quite a few lost games before my friends knew what they were doing, but once they did, they were terrifying to fight (seeing a giant Cthulhu monster jump out of a river at you induces many a train of swearing).
As good as it all may seem, there was one nearly crippling factor, severe lag in most matches induced by a Peer to Peer matchmaking system. This is something I really hope is just in there from the Xbox demos and such, because the Left 4 Dead games run their multiplayer on servers through steam, and so finding a good, lag-free match is as simple as filtering for the lowest ping-count. As it stands, my game would often become more and more of a slide show with max player counts (playing a game against AI was entirely lag free, though doing that required finding a game and then everybody else dropping out).
Graphically, it looks as great as it did in the demo videos at E3. Being that the game is rendered in CryEngine 3, and the existence of the CryEngine sdk (and also that Left 4 Dead 2 has a huge modding community), that evolve will receive Steam Workshop support on the PC. Playing with user generated characters, monsters, and maps would be too damn good.
All in all, I really enjoyed my time with the alpha of Evolve and was genuinely sad when the event was over. Provided that the stated issues are resolved in time for release, I eagerly await the beginning of hunting season on February 10th, 2015.