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PAX East 2014: EVOLVE – Hunt or be Hunted

RNA_PAX_2014In EVOLVE four hunters, each with unique weapons and skills, race to bring down a monstrous behemoth that is constantly growing more deadly as the match progresses. Think of the game sort of like the movie Predator, but with the Predator constantly munching on steroids to get even more predator-y. Both Scott and I played EVOLVE at this year’s PAX and had very different experiences.

My Time as The Monster (Ash):

I sat down to play EVOLVE early on Friday morning during media hour. The game looked pretty impressive from the screens I had seen, and the massive monster on display outside of 2K’s booth roped me in. After listening to brief overview of the game I was handed a bracelet that read “MONSTER” which let me know that I’d be the bad guy this time around. I was actually pretty shocked at how easy the monster was to control and I had little problem figuring out how to run around and feast on wildlife. The devs that were watching me play told me that the early portion of the Monster’s game was simple, stay away from the hunters, eat critters, and level up as quickly as possible.  After clicking around for a bit I figured out that the monster was able to track nearby wildlife (or players), leap great distances, breathe fire, climb walls, and sneak around in bushes if I needed to lay low. The monster was blast to play as and I could tell a great deal of time went into refining the creature’s abilities.

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From the moment the match started I knew the players would be searching the wilderness trying to take me down before I had a chance get bigger and more deadly. The environment was gorgeous and lush with massive trees, streams, and rock formations creating a perfect atmosphere for cat and mouse gameplay. Right after I gobbled up my 5th or 6th alien critter it was time to evolve. The transformation sequence took a few seconds, but when it finally was complete I was able to spend some additional points to upgrade my abilities, then it was time to go on the hunt.

Using my tracking ability I was able to spot the hunters at a distance and decided to get as high as I could in order to pounce on them and hopefully catch them off guard. When the Hunters unwittingly passed underneath the hill I was perched upon I lept to the ground and instantly sent them flying in all directions. My slashes and other melee attacks took off huge chunks of health from the hunters and I could tell they were starting to panic. A few of the hunters decided it was a good idea to fall back, while two tried to stay and fight. The two that remained behind were quickly gobbled up and the remaining two hunters faded back into the forest.

It didn’t take me long to catch the fleeing duo who had actually already stumbled into a nest of hostile wildlife. After a few well placed charges and ground-slams the two remaining hunters were dead and I was victorious. Wow that was fun.

My Time as a Hunter (Scott): 

Somehow Ash and I went to Evolve during the media hour, but not at the same time. Alas, when I passed through the line I was assigned the role of Trapper. You see, the key to succeeding as the hunting team is to work together, leveraging the skills and talents of the other hunters, while staying together and communicating your status. As the name would suggest, my job was to locate, slow down, and contain the monster.

The trapper has survey beacons that are driven into the ground and emit a ping on the radar map when the monster comes into proximity of a deployed beacon. Using a harpoon weapon, I could impede the monster’s maneuverability, as long as the line between the firing mechanism and target remained unbroken. My primary combat weapon appeared to be your average assault or support gun, with a high rate of fire, average accuracy, but seemingly ineffective against a formidable opponent. Perhaps the most remarkable ability of the Trapper is the mobile arena. This is a charge and toss item that, when deployed, creates an electrified Mad Max-style thunderdome, confining the monster to a small space and forcing direct confrontation, for a short time.

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Overall, the trapper is a finesse character, which I can definitely appreciate. However, while I was able to avoid trouble long enough to be the last person standing on my team, it did not fall to the Trapper to dish out the heavy damage. The Medic’s job was to keep the team upright, and expose weak points on the monster. The Assault’s job, was to… well, assault and generally lay waste. Finally, the Support class also had some finesse: a lazer cutter, an orbital barrage, a cloaking ability, and a shield (if memory serves correctly). Again, teamwork is the name of the game here, and with limited planning and communication, we could not weather the storm.

Initial impression.

Turtle Rock’s EVOLVE was a ton of fun to play with strangers and the idea of playing it with four of my real life friends had me really excited. The folks at 2k also hinted that the four hunters and single monster playable on the PAX floor were only a handful of the playable types we’d see when the game is released for next-gen consoles and PC this fall. Finally, it was great to see a AAA studio taking a risk with a truly original next-gen IP. EVOLVE has the capacity to be one of the must buy games of 2014 as long as there is a ton of depth and complexity to be found in the full game.