Feature Article

Can Evolve Reinvent the Co-Op Shooter?

There can be only one.

No one is going to want to play as the monster. Or at least that's what I thought when I first heard about Evolve's four versus one combat. After all, when you're given the option of playing as a hunter with superior firepower and a spiffy jetpack, why would you want to be lumbered with just a set of fists and some sharp teeth? But I needn't have worried.

Coming from Turtle Rock Studios--the same studio behind the original Left 4 Dead--Evolve takes the four-player co-op experience and turns it on its head. Instead of fighting off hundreds of zombies or taking on an alien horde, here there's just one player-controlled opponent for you to tackle--and boy, what an opponent it is. The monster is tough, and brutal, yet elegant. You can just as easily play a strategic, stealthy game as you can an aggressive one, and either way, it's a hell of a lot of fun.

Evolve will feature different types of monster, but in my demo there was only one: Goliath. As his name suggests, Goliath is no shrinking violet. His physical attributes are impressive, letting him rip boulders from the ground to hurl at hunters at range, charge attack through them, and unleash a stream of fiery death. But he's quick too, an all-rounder of sorts, so he could sprint his way around the environment, and swiftly leap up the tall hills that populated the jungle level I was playing in.

Unlike, say, playing as the zombies in Left 4 Dead 2, there's no real struggle to get to grips with how Goliath moves. It all feels very natural, and viewed from the third-person the sense of scale as he leaps thunders through the jungle is striking, and thoroughly empowering--but it gets even more so as you play. Initially, Goliath has just a few abilities, including simple swipe attacks and one special move that you choose at the beginning of the round.

At this point, Goliath is relatively weak, making him easy prey for hunters. That's not to say you can't go on the offensive, though. In one particularly gruesome round, a Turtle Rock Studios developer took control of the monster, and using some of Goliath's stealth abilities that allowed him to move through the jungle quietly and without leaving footprints, he snuck up on our hunter group and proceeded to slaughter us without a seconds thought. Within minutes the round was over.

More fledging players will want to make Goliath stronger, and it's here that some really strategic play happens. Scattered around the environment are various animals, which, when eaten, regenerate some of Goliath's armor. Eat enough of them and you can choose to evolve Goliath, which gives you access to another special power, and makes him bigger and stronger. The thing is, all those leftover animal corpses don't go unnoticed by the hunter group, and for every one you stop to eat, you're giving the hunters a chance to catch up, and find clues about where to find you.

You leave footprints too if you're sprinting around, while disturbing a flock of birds gives your position away in seconds. If you choose to evolve, you also put Goliath at his most vulnerable. During evolution, Goliath becomes cocooned and unable to defend himself. It's only for a short while, but if you're suddenly discovered by hunters and attacked, those are some agonizing moments.

The increased power is worthwhile, though, and if you get Goliath all the way up to level three, he's a terrifying prospect for hunters to deal with. While there's a cooldown period for each special power, at level three you've enough of them to make juggling between them relatively easy, particularly, as I found, when they're mixed up with some meaty standard attacks and leaping acrobatics. Smashing through the hunters, now a much smaller part of my screen, and watching them tumble with each mighty swing was incredibly fun.

I went into Evolve thinking that the monster would always be on the back foot, at a significant disadvantage to the weapon-wielding hunters, and it certainly felt that way taking control of Goliath for the first time. But it was that very feeling of vulnerability that made that made evolving and getting the drop on the hunters feel even more awesome. It was evident that an awful lot of thought had gone into balancing the two opposing forces, and that became even more apparent as I took on the role of a hunter. There are four classes of hunter in Evolve, each with their own set of skills. In my demo there was Markov the assault class; Griffin the trapper class; Hank the support class; and Val the medic.

Each has a clearly defined role to play within the team--and you really do need to to play as a team in order to take down the monster. Markov is naturally the strongest of the bunch, his job being to inflict as much damage as possible to the monster with his assault rifle, lightning gun, and personal shield. But he's also able to herd the monster with his arc mines, luring it into enclosed spaces, or away from them, depending on how well your team is doing.

His natural ally is Griffin, who can snare the monster with his harpoon to keep it locked in place, deploy sound spikes to detect its movement, and a erect a Mobile Arena (a kind of temporary giant dome) to keep the monster enclosed. The latter also traps anyone and anything else in the dome with it, though, including some of the more ferocious species of wildlife scattered around the environment. There was more than one occasion where a hastily deployed arena trapped us in with a level three monster and some particularly vicious creatures, resulting in some vicious, expletive-filled yelling at the trapper over voice chat.

Evolve's other hunters are there to lend a helping hand to the first two. Hank can block attacks against his fellow hunters with his shield gun, activate a cloaking device and sneak up on the monster with his laser cutter, and unleash an Orbital Barrage, which is essentially an airstrike. The latter only hits a relatively small area, though, and displays a big red column on screen that the monster can see, meaning it's best used when the trapper has the monster on a leash. The medic, meanwhile, has a gun that can heal from a distance, similar to the medic from Team Fortress 2, but it's her other additions that make her more interesting than your typical medic class. There's a tranquilizer rifle that's ideal for using in conjunction with the trapper's harpoon to keep the monster incapacitated, and another rifle that lets her create weak points for bonus damage.

While the six rounds I played weren't enough to come to definitive conclusion on the balance between the four hunter classes, I came away impressed; trying to go it alone as any of them won't get you very far. The assault class needs to shielded and healed to land his attacks, the support and medic classed need the offensive firepower of assault to keep themselves protected, and they all need the skills of the trapper to help find and incapacitate the monster in the first place. Voice chat seems all but essential to get the most of the game.

If that balance had been off, even by a little bit, then Evolve wouldn't have been nearly as fun to play as it was. This is the sort of game that people are going to tell stories about, like the time we my team chased the monster through a tunnel and chucked up an arena, only to get the sinking realization we'd just trapped ourselves in a swamp with the monster and his giant lizard friend, and hearing the screams of "get the hell out of there!" over the voice chat.

Or the time I played as a Hank, when--with some neatly executed shielding--I helped lure the monster into a deadly a trap of arc mines, watching as each member of the team played their part and gradually whittled down his health. Or, playing as a monster, waiting those nail-biting seconds to evolve to level three as my cocoon was attacked, only to emerge and decimate the overly-confident hunters with a flurry of flames.

Four versus one is a simple idea. But the level of depth that Turtle Rock has extracted from that idea, even in this early demo, surprised me--and with more types of the monster on the way, I can only see it getting deeper. A shooter it may be be, but Evolve is one of the most unique ideas I've seen in a while, and a well executed one at that. Definitely one to watch.

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Discussion

139 comments
Buck_Swaggler
Buck_Swaggler

"No one is going to want to play as the monster."

That's about the exact opposite of my first thought.

"Holy shit I want to play as the monster!"

Hyped me is.

uchihasilver
uchihasilver

made by the team behind left 4 dead >.> *starts throwing money at monitor* . . . guys its not working? 

cowenlang
cowenlang

Does the monster (or hunter/s) have an auto-balance just in case the hunters lacks a few members, say 3on1, 2on1, or even 1on1...btw is the monster player-controlled only or does it have a Ai for the multiplayer (PlayersVsAi)?

wilhelmalexis
wilhelmalexis

but what about gamers who don't believe in evolution.

anab0lic
anab0lic

Not sure why there isnt more hype for this game.

dipdish
dipdish

"A shooter it may be be, but Evolve is one of the most unique ideas I've seen in a while, and a well executed one at that." Same thing was true with Left 4 Dead, when it was released. It was groundbreaking when it comes to co-op. I still miss the characters of that game. I'm patiently waiting for Evolve now. 

devilzzz2014
devilzzz2014

It better be free to play if it has no single player aspect to the game.

Djwolfram
Djwolfram

I think this game looks great,can't wait to get it

Fine_TableLamp
Fine_TableLamp

Now when they say co-op do they mean actual co-op like the good days of co-op where I can just hook up four controllers and play with friends in the same room or do they mean Online only co-op because there is a difference and I find playing with other people I don't know to be 50/50 on actual cooperation because everyone gets a sense of lone wolf and you find yourself mindlessly wondering around trying to stay together and I would rather it be where me and my wife can both play together as a team with split screen cause that would be more fun to me. I guess what I'm trying to say is the least they could do is make split screen co-op online (like COD ghosts) so me and someone else that I know can play with 3 others online.

aargo1
aargo1

I'm really curious about how the matchmaking will work.  I imagine there will be a large part of the playerbase that wants to play as the monster (I know that I already do!).  With there being 4 hunters and 1 monster, will we be queuing as either a monster or a hunter?  If so, won't that lengthen the queues for matchmaking?  


An idea that I think could work is have matchmaking pull together a group of 5 players then allow them to take turns being the monster.  You could opt out, of course, if you wanted to only play as a hunter.

ewjiml
ewjiml

Damn.  A lot of negativity on these forums.  "Oh, this has already been done.  Blah blah blah."   While I look forward to this unique game, all the naysayers can keep on whining. 

swimbearuk
swimbearuk

I hope there's more to this than just the vs mode. I probably wouldn't keep coming back to what seems like quite a limited game mode.

RockoW
RockoW

This game has actually already been made (well kind of) back in 2000. It's called Giants: Citizen Kabuto, and it was an awesome LAN game.

OtherFabbros
OtherFabbros

NO, I hope only it become like Left 4 dead, not like Sh*t fotress

speckledknob
speckledknob

nice article, and it looks like a good game... although if I'm constructively honest about it the vocal delivery isn't nearly as enthusiastic as the written version - speaketh from the heart, my homie.... (is it even the same person doing both?)

AmbiguousAlias
AmbiguousAlias

This looks pretty interesting... I don't play shooters often, but this looks more fun than the run-of-the-mill Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch.

lorider25
lorider25

wow this is weak as hell, make a full fledged 4 player co-op game then get back to me.

BlackBaldwin
BlackBaldwin

If this comes to the ps4 ill be the best monster guy ever!!

VR_Verdugo
VR_Verdugo

Nice article. I like co-op games but I would have preferred they went with 4 vs AI instead of 4 vs 1. As soon as you make it a pvp competition it changes your mindset, and I don't like small-scale pvp. So I'll probably skip this one but I hope it's successful anyway.

ali_manslayer
ali_manslayer

someone had to capitalize on resistance 2 co-op idea, happy about this

anhonestfanboy
anhonestfanboy

The Division will destroy any next gen for the next 2 years.

SirFiddler
SirFiddler

When I read the headline I though ' oh boy, another shooter, count me out' but the more I read the more interested I got right to point of putting this on my watchlist ... either Mark is a master with words ,described a terrible game and is soon to work for Take Two marketing :-) or he is really on to something...

Wintermist
Wintermist

Nice coverage there, great article. This game really sounds promising!

Heisenberg1
Heisenberg1

Looks like really cool gameplay and it's beautiful to boot. Curious on replay value though but this looks great! 

RobDev
RobDev

Oooooh. me likey!

g1rldraco7
g1rldraco7

This game is getting deeper and I like how intricate and detailed Mark described what he has played so far. This  game will redefine multi-player shooters.

MatthewSnyder86
MatthewSnyder86

Heck yes it, far more innovative then, TITANFALL, TITANFALL looks like fun, but, Evolve is on a whole new level.

Buck_Swaggler
Buck_Swaggler

@uchihasilver it takes time my friend, continue the ritual everyday and eventually it will be yours

Buck_Swaggler
Buck_Swaggler

@cowenlang Everything is player controlled unless there aren't enough players, then it uses AI bots

trugs26
trugs26

@wilhelmalexis  Creatonist DLC. Where instead of evolving the Goliath, a new one just appears and you start to play as that one. 

Buck_Swaggler
Buck_Swaggler

@anab0lic there isn't?


my hype meter exploded...


Might need to do some tweaking, thing hasn't worked right since Diablo 3.

Chaos_Dante_456
Chaos_Dante_456

@ali_manslayer  I loved that mode. It's a shame they didn't bring it back for 3. I actually think that might have been my favorite part of the game.  Resistance really was an underrated series.

dhindes
dhindes moderator staff

@Heisenberg1  There are multiple maps, multiple modes, and a full progression system, so I think content-wise there'll be enough variety.

trugs26
trugs26

@Buck_Swaggler  Ohhh, sorry , my bad, just re-read what you said. I just always have in the back of my mind how "evolve" is used incorrectly in games like Pokemon or this game, so I'm quick to react to that lol.

Buck_Swaggler
Buck_Swaggler

I was mostly trying to be funny. I think i failed.

I agree tho.