Evolve, the newest offering from Turtle Shell Games and 2K Gaming, is an asymmetrical cooperative shooter out now on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC. Evolve pits four players of varying classes (more on that later) against an epic monster in a pitched battle in different environments across the planet Shear. Players will battle in several game modes with the humans trying to defeat the monster while the monster seeks to overcome his human opponents.
Evolve doesn’t waste time with things like an expansive story or drawn out single player mode, it cuts right to the meat of the game. In this case that means monster meat. Evolve puts you through a short tutorial, complete with its own achievements for completing it quickly, and immediately shows you how to wreak havoc on the humans of Shear. If you have any interest at all in playing the human characters, there’s tutorials for each of those classes as well. Since the game introduces it first, I’ll start of with a quick overview of the monster and its various abilities. you’ll start off with just one monster, Goliath. Goliath has four offensive abilities designed for quick dispatching of his human opponents. Rock Throw, which allows Goliath to hurl a rock at the humans, dealing significant AoE damage. Fire Breath, which sees Goliath spitting destructive fire. Leap Smash is a powerful attack initiated from above, dealing a large amount of damage and knocking back any targets. Finally you have Charge, another powerful attack that allows Goliath to quickly close the gap between himself and his target, knocking aside anything in his way. At the beginning of a game as Goliath the player has 3 ability points to spend in these 4 categories, meaning that at the start you’ll only have at the most 3 different abilities to utilize. This leaves your monster slightly “squishy” at the beginning of the game and attempting to immediately engage the humans, usually ends poorly. you’ll gain more abilities, health, and power by leveling up Goliath. Eating the local fauna will provide Goliath with the energy necessary to “Evolve” through his 3 stages. At the first stage Goliath is powerful but vulnerable, but upon Evolving to Stage 2 Goliath can consider a face to face fight with the humans. Stage 3 of evolution for Goliath transforms him into a powerful monster on the hunt for the humans with nothing on his mind but destruction.
If you’re not inclined to play a monster bent on the destruction of the human race, you have myraid choices with the human faction in Evolve. With four classes and varying core abilities to choose from, Evolve offers something for most any game style. Those that enjoy an in-your-face damage fueled play style will be most suited to playing Markov the assault class. Players more interested in a support role will find just that in Hank and the support class. Val fills the role of healer on the human side, with Maggie player a unique maneuverable class called the trapper.
Markov is a large man as one might expect of the assault class. His abilities and weapons deal a lot of damage, with the drawback of less mobility. Players new to this flavor of team shooter will find themselves most comfortable in the role of Markov, as he’s the “point weapon at baddie, destroy baddie” kind of character that FPS fans are used to. With that being said, Markov is not entirely one dimensional in his ability to contribute to the survival of himself and his teammates. Markov has the ability to drop mines to do damage to the monster, or the local critters, and also the ability to shield himself for a short time.
Hank is a short squad man, bearded and cigar toting, fulfilling the role of support. Players that enjoy sitting back in a support role, dealing damage while still making a large contribution to their allies survivability. Hank has the ability to shield his teammates from damage through the use of a line-of-site shield projector. Using this ability to buff your assualt class while they deal damage to the Monster is particularly necessary, in addition to throwing out a shield on any other teammate that finds themselves in a spot of trouble.
Val the teams medic is equipped with some seriously cool weapons and despite not dealing a major amount of damage makes a significant impact on every battle. First in Val’s toolkit is her Salveron Medgun, which allows her to project a beam of healing energy to any of her teammates within her line-of-sight. She’s also equipped with a armor piercing sniper rifle that allows her to make a dent in the Monster’s armor and amplifies the damage done by the rest of the team. Her Tranquilizer Rifle can slow the Monster to allow the Markov and Maggie to do their jobs all the better.
Maggie is the team’s trapper, a unique class with several interesting abilities. Maggie comes along with Daisy, a dog-like Trapjaw which allows the team to track down the Monster and provides support in the form of reviving downed team members when the fight heats up. Daisy will track the Monster with bloodhound-esque accuracy, but will never venture too far from Maggie. Equipped with a machine pistol capable of doing heavy damage against the Monster, Maggie’s other weapon the Harpoon Mine Launcher allows her to tether the Monster to a fixed spot. The Monster can only escape her harpoons by meleeing them, forcing the Monster to halts its attack and deal with the snare.
Much like Turtle Rock’s previous offerings, Left 4 Dead, and Left 4 Dead 2, all the different abilities of the various classes (and these are only the initial character and abilities available) gameplay can vary depending on the players skill with their particular class and the skill of those around them. Turtle Rock did a great job balancing the classes so that no one character is overpowering and all require the assistance of the other players to take down the Monster. Teamwork is essential to the humans or a good Monster will quickly separate players and exploit its strength to overwhelm them. With each of the playable characters in the game, the ability to level up your weapons and skills is available through hitting certain milestones. For example, doing a certain amount of damage with a skill, or performing a certain amount of healing with a particular weapon, will upgrade that weapons ability and eventually unlock new characters.
While I have touched on the abilities of the players and the Monster, it is important to note that you are not in a barren environment void of other life. Players, regardless of role, will be faced with environmental dangers from man-eating plants, to wildlife that can either alert the other team where you are, or will outright attack you. Shear is not a friendly planet and at no point will you feel as though you’re out for a pleasant stroll in the woods. In this, Turtle Rock has succeeded in creating a tense, edge of your seat atmosphere, where the player finds themselves going through tense moments punctuated by tight, sometimes chaotic bouts of combat. Hunters are constantly challenged by the local wildlife while hunting the Monster and often times will find themselves in a battle on two fronts, one to keep from being eaten by the local critters and another with a hulking monster bent on their destruction.
Evolve can be played in two modes, multiplayer or solo, either online with other players or against bots on your own machine. Turtle Rock has solved the problem of looking for lobbies and wait times with the ability to fill in holes in any role during multiplayer with a bot. This allows for quick queues to play the game, and no interruption should a player drop during play. Bots perform surprisingly well, sometimes a player would drop and our team wouldn’t notice till the end of the match. This is a strong testament to the amount of effort Turtle Rock put into this particular feature. With all the classes and skillsets available multiplayer could be daunting for the beginning player, however the players that I encountered in Evolve were helpful, polite, and well mannered throughout gameplay. There seems to be a sense of community with this unique game, and their community, at least on PC, is incredible.
Evolve has a depth of play and complexity that fit together seamlessly. Players have to work together as humans, or be cunning and sneaky to succeed as a Monster. With the ability to unlock two more characters in each human class, and 4 Monsters, all unlocked in game through various types of progression, Evolve offers a lot of content to get through, even though it may lack in a myriad of game styles or maps. With DLC already scheduled for the game, players can expect many hours of satisfying game time in the future.