Tuesday, February 11, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

I have a problem with asynchronous role driven multiplayer.

Part of this has to do with that fact that the dynamic is fairly new and hugely uncommon. It’s easy for me to sink into a role of another human character. Aim, pull the trigger; got it. Anything different feels cumbersome. Running around as the little demonic children from Dead Space 2? Clumsy. Even lumbering around as the Tank from Left 4 Dead felt oafish.

But the word is that in Turtle Rock’s new shooter, Evolve, the Monster has become the press favorite.  

With the concept of L4D’s Tank battle, former zombie co-op shooter developer Turtle Rock nails this in as the foundation of Evolve’s 4v1 battles. Four hunters, filling in each of their roles as the Medic, Assault, Support, and introducing the Trapper, have to face off against an ever evolving monster. And by nature, the Monster does indeed sound to be the most interesting role to play as.

From what I’ve come across, though no one has actually explicitly pointed it out, the Monster role allows the player to “evolve” (heh) their acclimation and strategy as the beast. A ten second head start allows the Monster to run and hide as a level one beast in these massive levels. To me, this sounds like an opportunity not only to pin point (or at least get a good head start to) a safe vantage point, but this also seems as if it’ll lend a small window to map surveying.

When I initially heard about Evolve, somehow I ignored the MOBA elements of it. AI beasts and hazardous plant life independently stand between you and your pursuers, keeping them busy while you calculate your next move. This gives me the inclination of offering additional time to digest your surroundings, and move around in it, as well as feast on the same (and occasionally dangerous) wildlife to fuel your 15 second evolution.

This is just me, but I place so much emphasis on distance away from the hunters because I felt that previous games like this (including Left 4 Dead) threw players into engagement too quickly. I never really felt like I could get a chance to master a foreign control scheme before having to utilize it in battle against who I felt were advantageous human opponents. It’s important to remember that the Monster’s footprints leave glowing clues behind (unless it’s in stealth mode I believe) and movements around birds can cause them to panic and fly away, offering more clues to your location. Smart.

But this distance is also important as once you evolve through the ranks up to level three, the Monster is said to have a colossal upper hand in strength, offensive ability, and armor that the hunters begin to run away from you.

Seeing is one thing, but the Goliath (the Monster class revealed to the press by Turtle Rock) looks agile, looks responsive, looks satisfying to control. I’m just curious as to how the action will manage when you’re in the thick of it against the hunters. And it looks like I can find this out relatively risk free as Evolve also offers bot matches as well.

The traditional 4 (well… except for the Trapper) sound vitally distinct. I imagine many gravitating towards the Assault class has they’re always the most basic and familiar – with short and long ranged weaponry along with mines and a personal shield on top of massive health, but thankfully the game is strict in only allowing one of each class member.

The Medic seems to be my second choice and fits my backseat style. I’ve always loved the idea of a med gun, but highlighting and weakening the monster – either by the its weak-spotting Anti-Material weapon and the slowing Tranquilizer are enough to make me feel accomplished.

The Support to me sounds to have alternative effects on the team and the Monster than the Medic. His shield gun offers invulnerability to allies, and the laser cutter can both deal damage and make the Monster’s location more obvious. Airstrikes can’t be anything other than being effective at the right time, and I’ll hold off my judgment of his invisibility technique until I read more about it.

The Trapper sounds interesting and skill-mandated. Armed with his grappling gun, I’d love to see for how radically tethering myself to the Monster to keep it within reach will change the behaviors of both the Monster and allies. The mobile arena – a massive erected dome deployed by the Trapper which capsules the Monster within a certain radius – sounds satisfying and intense.

While watching footage of Evolve, I couldn’t get over how massive the forest map is. It makes sense for such an agile beast, but I love how each of the hunters are equipped with jet packs to allow for more mobility.

Evolve is looking to be one of the best shooters of 2014. It’s a co-op shooter like none other, offering a brilliant alternative to other offerings from the genre this year. 

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