Evolve: Closed Alpha / 13th of November 2014
The creators of the Left for Dead, Turtle Rock Studios, have aimed their development skills at a larger prey with their latest game Evolve. A cooperative/competitive multiplayer FPS that see’s four players working together as a capture and kill squad, to hunt down and destroy a fifth player controlling a monster. Set on the planet Shear, the players will trek through numerous environments filled with all sorts of animals, flora and fauna, each offering unique challenges and obstacles to the monster and the hunters. Players can select from either the monster class or four hunter classes; Assault, Trapper, Medic and Support, with each offering unique characters that have individual loadouts, skills and abilities necessary for tracking down and killing the monster.
If you were one of the few fortunate enough to take this game for a test drive during the alpha then you will probably have your own comments and criticisms about Evolve. Personally I tried to remind myself whilst playing that this was just an alpha, but you can be excused for forgetting this due to the calibre of the graphics and game mechanics already in place. When matchmaking the game lets you select and arrange your preferred classes in order, then tries to find you fellow hunters to fight with or against. ‘Tries’ being the important word here, with the servers failing time and time again, the game is still in need of a serious overhaul before it launches. My first match took me over twenty minutes to find a team. But once connected as your preferred class you’ll have the option to pick a character - with more characters become available as your progress - and eventually dive straight off the drop ship and into the hell below.
The sound during the whole alpha is a high point, really helping to create the atmosphere and mood of the game, making me feel apprehensive, and maybe even a little scared, about what awaited us. And I didn’t have to wait long, in less than five minutes a Goliath monster came charging out of the undergrowth straight at us! Thankfully a stage one monster wasn’t going to be a problem. Playing as a medic with a sniper rifle, I used it to shoot the monster’s head whilst simultaneously marking priority targets for the other hunters to shoot, and deal some bonus damage. Within minutes the monster was dead, it had taken longer to load the game than it had to find the monster and kill it, and so the first introduction to Evolve was more than a little disappointing.
As for playing as the monster, it can be fun at first but soon becomes quite tedious. For those that cracked it early on, if you want an easy win; eat animals, hide until you evolve into a stage three, and you’ll easily devastate your foes and targets. This play style doesn’t require much skill or experience and so reflects poorly on the developers. The monster class comes with two different characters, each with different abilities. Named the Kraken and the Goliath, neither of them come across as huge or something be terrified of. Many gamers might voice how ‘cool it would be to play as, or take on something that big’, but once you’ve seen something truly massive - such as the latest Godzilla incarnation - then these creatures, no bigger than a house, fail to deliver that wow effect.
Despite this, the aspect of who is hunting who still gets the blood pumping. But as I progressed and the more matches I played, that feeling diluted so much so that Evolve left me feeling beaten, bruised and unimpressed. The game is still a little broken and unbalanced, for example, if you can catch the monster during its first stage then you have a good chance to kill it, but as soon as it gets to stage three you may as well kill yourself. Time and time again, even with different squads, I never once won a match against a stage three monster, it’s faster, stronger and can beat you senseless in seconds.
The class system seems to be a bit mixed up as well, with the aforementioned medic functioning as the sniper of the team, work that one out. While you’re miles away giving support fire to your team, you’ll also have to be close enough to your teammates in order to heal and revive them effectively. Meanwhile the limp tracking skills means you’ll often spend a good amount of time running in circles tracking down the monster, who moves faster than you, and by the time you arrive at its last known location it’s rumbling through the undergrowth on the opposite side of the map.
Outside of the Alpha itself, very little information has been released regarding Evolve’s various game modes. We really don’t know a whole lot more about what’s on offer and if, for example, there is more to do outside of the Hunt mode. We do know the game was primarily made around it, but I for one don’t see the replay-ability for what’s on offer so far.
All that being said, this is an alpha, and the look and general feel of the game is appealing. In one instance I was waiting on top of a silo, staring into the rain for a stage three monster to reveal itself. Once it had obliged I could send word back to my team, and in those moments I felt tense, wondering how we would fair against the monster this time. But underpinning this are a few issues that can’t be ignored, specifically the game’s scope. I just doesn’t feel as if it has enough to reel players in and keep them playing for an extended time. In hindsight it may have been a bad idea to have had a public alpha at this stage as I, and I imagine, many others left feeling that if this is all Evolve has to offer then there’s no way it’ll become a day one purchase. In the meantime let’s just hope it evolves into more of a monster hit, otherwise it may find itself facing extinction before it’s even been released.