Although Turtle Rock Studios' new cooperative/competitive FPS Evolve draws some inspiration from the development team's previous work on the Left 4 Dead franchise, it is a decidedly different game. In fact, it may be one of the most unique games releasing this year, and as a result it ranked pretty high on our must-play list for E3 2014.
We had several opportunities to play Evolve throughout the show, both at 2K Games' booth and at other promotional events, which is important because Evolve is not a game that is easily digested in one sitting. There's a learning curve to the game if players want to be successful, which could be its greatest triumph or could be its biggest flaw.
For those who might not be totally familiar with Evolve, the game pits a team of four players (the hunters) against a single player (the monster). The hunters' goal is to track and kill the monster, while the monster's goal is to take out its opposition.
For E3 2014, Turtle Rock brought along the four new characters (so far there are two characters per class) introduced not long ago, the new monster, type called the Kraken, and the Hunt mode that has featured prominently in all Evolve promotional material. We got to play the game in several different settings, both as members of the hunter team and as the monster, and what we saw was promising, but with a huge qualifier.
Although we're sure Evolve will undergo plenty of balance changes as the game nears its October release date, the matches all seemed to heavily favor the player controlling the monster. It didn't matter whether we were watching a nearby match or playing ourselves, the monster almost always came away with a victory. And the few instances where the monster didn't win, it usually was because the opposing team had played several times before.
And the one time we did get to play as the Kraken, it felt like the monster was unstoppable, even if you were reckless. His abilities, which include a devastating lighting AOE attack and a forceful wave blast, are hard to contend with, and at higher evolutions can make quick work of the hunters.
It might sound like a knock to say that experience will be the key to success in Evolve, but it could also be the games' greatest strength. Unfortunately, for a first look demo it wasn't always fun.
The expression "play your class" gets thrown a lot online, but for Evolve it's nearly essential that players stick to their respective roles. If the trapper isn't focused on containing the monster, and the assault is not dealing out damage early on then the team has no chance of taking out the monster. Similarly, if the medic doesn't focus on managing their team's health and the support class isn't alternating between buffs and debuffs, the monster will evolve to stage three quickly and take out the entire team.
Obviously, understanding the importance and utility of each class will come with time, but despite all that the game feels like a fresh take on multiplayer. Every match is different — some monsters are more direct while others try to keep out of sight — and it's easy to see hopping online with a group of buddies for some extremely tense matches. In essence, every match is a giant boss fight where playing on either side of the coin, as monster or hunter, is exciting.
As a result, we're of two minds about Evolve coming out of E3 2014. It needs some balancing, but we can't wait to play more, especially with players who have had time to adjust to each class's intricacies and who will work together. We also have no idea how the other four characters play or how the Goliath gameplay differs from the Kraken. With all that in mind, though, Evolve stands out as one of the more unique games coming to next-gen (so far) and it could be a huge shot in the arm for the multiplayer genre.
Does Evolve sound like a new twist on co-op/competitive multiplayer? What would you like to see more of from the game?
Evolve releases October 21, 2014 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
Follow Anthony on Twitter @ANTaormina for more E3 2014 updates.