Robotics research has led to creations in the real world that supplant the human variable in everyday situations, making us look quaint and inefficient by comparison. On the other hand, human intelligence encompasses immeasurable factors that engineers can't yet replicate and, to be frank, probably shouldn't. Therefore, humans and robots work best in parallel, with complementary skill sets that make the most out of their respective strengths. In Bucket, the latest support hunter in Evolve, you get a robot whose chassis was designed to do things that the human body will never be able to. This includes detaching your head from your body and sending it on recon missions to survey enemy territory, and birthing gun-toting sentry drones from your gut.
The advanced nature of Bucket's UAV-like head, which you pilot around a map in search of the monster of the match, is only as effective as your ability to judge when it's safe to temporarily abandon Bucket's still-vulnerable body and where you should focus the brunt of your search. You also have other responsibilities to your team: you have to be prepared to cloak nearby allies at the drop of a hat and place sentry bots at strategic positions. To top it off, Bucket also has a slow yet hard-hitting laser-guided missile launcher to man when he isn't busy surveying the land or protecting his mates.
For a first-time player, it sounds like a lot to manage, but ask Stephen Oakley, Concept Artist at Turtle Rock Studios, and he'll tell you that Hank, Bucket's human counterpart, is the more complicated hunter within the support class. "Hank has a high mastery curve if you try to use all of his abilities. Bucket is a lot more straightforward, but the UAV is definitely--if you don't have Daisy in your party--very useful, as well as the turrets that he lays down. If he gets enough of those laid down, he can out-damage the assault [hunters]. He turns any area that the hunters choose to fight in into a kill zone. He's very damage-oriented, while Hank is more [about] mitigating damage."
Lead animator, Dave Gibson, agrees, but he also acknowledges that Bucket comes with a bit of a learning curve. "I feel like Bucket is more about managing his own items. Hank is a lot more about managing his teammates, and trying to shield and protect them, or to use the orbital barrage to push the monsters off in certain directions." Bucket's most challenging item, according to Phil Robb, Creative Director and Co-founder of Turtle Rock Studios, is the UAV. "Certainly, the UAV is a little more advanced in and of itself, because Bucket's body will stop, right? It takes some coordination from your team so that they know that 'hey, my body's hanging out back there."
He turns any area that the hunters choose to fight in into a kill zone.
"For the longest time, internally, we didn't really know how to use the UAV," says Gibson. "We wondered, 'How does this work and what's the best way to use this?' Just recently, there have been some strategies, where you know the monster's about to run and his health is about to get taken down, and he's losing whatever battle that's happening right then. Bucket players, that's when they pop their head off, and they mark [the monster] so that the team knows exactly where he is after he bails from that fight. We were even seeing some new tactics at E3, with the UAV, that we hadn't seen before."
After talking to various developers on the Evolve team, the mix of distinct classes and the squad-based gameplay are among Evolve's greatest strengths. "That's one of the great things about the game: there's a lot to learn, right?" says Robb. "It makes you want to go back and try different stuff." We only know of two out of the three variations of every class, and already it seems like there's plenty of ground to cover in terms of exploring the potential of every hunter, let alone class. Gibson thinks Bucket's skill set may end up surprising them the most once more players get their hands on the game. "Bucket's items are so unique that there are probably some strategies there that we haven't seen just yet, like with his sentry guns...and the UAV? Who knows what people might come up with that one."
Gibson points out that Bucket's design is the product of the Evolve team's desire to do something different, and being a robot, Bucket opened a new set of avenues for the design team. "I think it shows the potential that we're aiming for. We don't just want rehashed guys with guns; we want to try as many different things as we can.Bucket has been the more challenging [hunter], because he's so unique, especially his first-person stuff. After making Bucket's items, he could have his own game.
"Bucket was one of those ones where everyone sort of geeked out," agrees Robb. "You know, a human can't pop their head off, but wouldn't it be funny if that's what he did? The idea that he's got this belly barrel that opens up and pops out drones. We had a lot of fun with him. Of all of the characters, I think he's the one that has the most personality."
Bucket will probably surprise a lot of players once they get their hands on Evolve. He's able to fill so many roles that it may take time for people to get the most out of him, but once they do, it's possible that he may become one of the most useful hunters on the roster. After all, he can passively fight with his sentry guns, assault monsters head-on with his laser-guided missile launcher, protect his allies with an invisibility cloak, and remotely survey a fleeing monster in the distance. It wouldn't be fair to call him a jack of all trades and a master of none, because really, when and how he flexes his superior robotic capabilities is up to you.