Big boots to fill: E3 hands-on with Evolve

Hunted in the lush jungles on Shear, our protagonist  flees blindly into the wilderness, trying to find his way in the dim light. Sniffing the air, he smells food close by. Knowing it is brings him strength – power enough to face his cruel pursuers he seeks it out. Sneaking past a flock of birds which would otherwise give away his position, he narrowly avoids encounters with mindless beasts who hunger for flesh, and falls upon his own prey.  Precious time wasted in eating, he hears the villains approaching too late.

Leaping up into the sky, his black form melds into the sky as he exerts all of his energy in evading capture. Almost free, he’s stopped by a giant blue dome that materializes above and around him. Flying up higher and perching against the jagged rocky bluff and snuggled against the edge of the portable arena, he waits for what feels like an hour, heart racing as he stares down watching for the hunters. Suddenly the dome evaporates and gives ample room to escape, and not a moment too soon.

[singlepic id=19339 w=620 h=350 float=center]Using a combination of flying, dashing, and sneaking, our hero manages to evade immediate detection. His work is not done, and needs some privacy. Ducking through a cavernous ravine and laying down globs of electrical energy as mines, he sneaks off behind a cave wall to finish his final metamorphosis – a stage 3 Kraken with fantastical powers.

At this point, the hunters turned back – now that the Kraken was fully evolved, the roles are reversed where the monster is given a goal – in my case it was to destroy a power dam. While I managed to kill several players, the medic eluded me and was quick to heal. The Turtle Rock employee assigned to help me play said I did well, but in the end I fell in what was a chaotic battle.

There is an intensity to playing the monster in Evolve’s Hunt multiplayer mode, one which is unique in the modern gaming world. You are bigger, stronger and far more powerful than any one creature, however a well-balanced team of four can make short work of the un-evolved. Therein lies the crux – an experienced monster against the inexperienced doesn’t need to run, but a veteran crew can easily take down the unwary monster.

[singlepic id=19343 w=620 h=350 float=center] My introduction to Turtle Rock’s upcoming game was with little fanfare over at the Microsoft booth other than a hefty line-up.The set over at  2K Games was simply bananas with crowds and massive displays. Throughout the event there was always something going on, like games being played on giant screens with announcers, tournaments, and a a gigantic statue of the Goliath monster.

While not all of Evolve has been revealed, there is a lot to look forward to. At E3 it seemed that skill-based squad combat was truly the front-runner for AAA titles and there were many games vying for the audiences’ attention. Thankfully the developers working on Evolve are not new to the concept – in fact, they were responsible for the much-loved Left 4 Dead and we’re betting the final experience for Evolve will certainly be compelling, well-balanced and fun.

[singlepic id=19341 w=620 h=350 float=center] There are four playable monsters – Goliath was revealed before E3, who’s hulking mass, flamethrowing breath and powerful jaws are clearly aiming at close-range combat. The Kraken is the second – a Cthulhu-inspired flying beast who prefers ranged blast and lightning attacks to getting up close and personal. There will be one other included with the full game release, and a fourth available exclusively through pre-orders for an undisclosed time. Each monster has a different set of traits and skills, and has been balanced against the humans who hunt them.

Speaking of the vermin low on the food chain (aka the party of hunters), there are four classes with each having three subclasses that provide a range of skills and combat styles to suit. Hunter can plant cable traps, and has their own beast to help track down the monster. Assault is a straight-up damage-dealer with a flamethrower in tow. Medic class is pretty straight-forward, though he also can do damage. Last is support, who’s role is there to help weaken the monster and help bring down the beast. All can revive teammates, so it becomes important not to let the monster divide and conquer.

But really, does it matter? The four … They’re simply there to die.

[singlepic id=19342 w=620 h=350 float=center] One thing that struck me (besides the cable traps, let me tell you, no fun when they come from different directions), was that this was not the first time I’ve played a monster against other people. In fact, one of my favorite games was Giants: Citizen Kabuto. While Giants had Planet Moon Studios almost comical nature attached, Evolve came across as a no-nonsense delve into the one-versus-many.

I found that my time playing a support person carried with it some challenges, but it is to be expected with random E3 attendees. For starters our medic decided to break the one rule we were given before the match started : Stick together and work as a team. There is no Duke Nukem here, and his shrink-gun is also not present. Just traveling in the world is plenty dangerous – the environment is even more hostile to the humans than it is to the monster – and the monster clearly had some experience as we were quickly dispatched.

[singlepic id=19344 w=620 h=350 float=center] The mode we were shown is certainly fun, though we are also interested to see how other modes are going to play out. AI has been confirmed as being available to flesh out parties, and you can swap into roles not taken by another player. Considering it’s pedigree, Left 4 Dead’s campaign was engaging regardless if you were alone or with a group. We certainly hope that any single player experience they bring doesn’t follow in Titanfall’s footsteps, where one might hear a bit of storyline chatter in the background and that’s it.

We’re anxiously looking forward to what more Evolve offers up, including the balancing of classes and their little nuances. We’ll have more coverage in the coming months leading up to its’ October 21 release on PS4, Xbox One and on PC.

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Canada, at a young age I was forced to decide whether the harsh northern winters were going to claim my fingers, or to turn to the safer pursuits of indoor activities. Little did I know that a little game called Ninja Gaiden would bring my digits more pain than frostbite ever could. Starting with Vectrex and C64 games and moving forward through the era of electronic entertainment, I sampled as much as I could in the different platforms, and began my interest in PC gaming from wrestling with DOS memory management.

While console games were a part of my earliest gaming memories and I certainly had played on most platforms including 3D0, all things Nintendo, PS1 and the like, truly the PC was my domain until the Xbox. As an old PC gamer, I ever chased the cutting edge technology. Eye of the beholder with CGA 4 colors was my first step down the the path of blowing thousands of dollars on PC upgrades over two decades. Ultima 7, with the Guardian talking to me through my monitor, still haunts my dreams and keeps me ever hoping for a decent Ultima 8 and 9. From the 3DFX SLI VooDoo2s and Aureal to today's GPU driven DirectX games, the new and shiny pictures seem to keep me going. My PC gaming has slowed down with the market shift though, and although I have choice games that will ever be on PC, I have found myself in console gaming with a bit of portable gaming in my life.

Back around the turn of the millenium (and long before fatherhood), I had fired off an email offering to help Ron with a little-known site called ConsoleGold. Little did I know it would be be a part of my life to this day. While I've seen my fair share of shovelware (thanks Ron!), I manage to try and find the fun in most games. Leaning towards sandbox and action titles, I've grown to love games for their potential to reach art. Console agnostic and excited for the progress of tomorrow, I fancy the latest and greatest, but still enjoy the good old classics ... as long as they've been revamped from their 8bit graphic roots.

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