Tom and I attended FanExpo (Toronto, Canada) this year and we were able get our hands on some upcoming games. FanExpo covers a gamut of genres from anime to sci-fi to horror across diverse media – comics, games, movies and books. We eventually covered everything but first-things-first we made a bee-line straight to the gaming section.
The darwinistic time pressures of my adult life are increasingly selecting out games with extreme prejudice. With radically less time for gaming, my bias is towards novel, contained experiences. Gaming is an important psychological anchor for me for which I purposefully create the time – but I just can’t play everything I want to.
While undoubtedly gorgeous in their new iterations, my attention to is waning for gaming experiences I’ve already had – I skipped COD, Halo Anniversary and the various racing games – and glanced, but ultimately continued walking past the Order 1886 and Shadows of Mordor. Bland colour palettes, and seemingly repetitive gameplay are not survival traits in my gaming ecosystem.
With so many games competing for my limited attention, is Evolve fit to survive?
Tom and I played on Xbox One controllers – likely on PC hardware hidden in the cabinets. We wore comfortable Evolve-branded Turtle Beach headphones with logos that corresponded to our class.
Immediately Evolve differentiated itself by having 4 players x 4 monitors on one side of the table facing off against 1 player opposite
Asymmetric gameplay is the term and it’s basically exactly what it sounds like: we were not all having the same experience.
I, singly, played the monster, while Tom banded together with 3 other gamers roughly half his age to try and take me down.
It’s relevant to know that they group high-fived before they started and actually made a stirring speech about brotherhood and teamwork, eye-roll barf.
They of course needed to die.
To start, I chose my monster – The Kraken! – from a choice of 2 (presumably more on launch)
The other monster you may have already seen in pressers, the fire-breathing Goliath.
I was given 3 points to allocate to offensive skills from 4 available attacks, each with 3 levels of power – i.e. diversify your attacks or concentrate power into one; then 1 passive perk.
Presumably map selection next, but this was a controlled demo with only 1 map available (I forget the name – the swampy map that you imagine when you think of this game with abandoned Halo-y buildings).
Then, a quick tutorial video explained some basic monster strategy, flight etc, and we’re off…
This is the official E3 gameplay
I was immediately goaded to RUN. Contextual cues were excellent and the smell-o-vision (think generally any enhanced vision mode) guided me towards prey I could attack,
then consume in order to fill my ‘evolve’ meter. This also allowed me to quickly get accustomed to my attacks, traversal (flight in the Kraken’s case) and to earn a few modifiers (increased damage, etc.).
Prey takes on a few different sizes with corresponding rewards, so like my time in prison, I immediately shanked the biggest motherfucker I could find.
The hunters caught up with me a little too fast, so despite having a full meter I wasn’t able to evolve right away – I threw some lightning then ran for the nearest dark corner to get some breathing room to evolve.
Evolving is relatively quick and feasible just outside of combat without feeling like you have to be constantly on the run to buy enough time.
It allowed me, among stat boosts, to add points into my original attacks to beef them up, or to select the remaining attacks I hadn’t picked before in order to diversify. I picked up the homing mines I hadn’t grabbed earlier and increased the damage of my lightning attack.
Each attack is bound to a key, which is presented along the top of the screen with an icon, the corresponding button and a cool down meter, making it easy to know which attacks to mash.
The hunters had caught up to me by now, but I felt prepared this time and went on the offensive.
Let’s just say I… released the Kraken!
I immediately and purely unintentionally killed the medic (he can respawn/revive his teammates – so I lucked out there), then it was just a matter of spamming melee, specials and ground stomps to ruin the rest of their days in very short order.
From what I saw and played – team work is absolutely, fundamentally critical in this game. I didn’t see a team of hunters win once while waiting in line and I don’t believe it’s a balance issue – I think it’s simply that it’s a different kind of game to wrap your mind around – skills honed in typical FPS’s will get twitchy Rambo-types (and their teams) pounded.
Incidentally, with its arena-based versus gameplay I immediately saw interesting potential for E-Sports – with skilled teams and tactical gameplay competing against human-controlled single-player monsters, Evolve would make for some dramatic (and media-friendly) battles…
Evolve was a fun, contained, experience lasting around 15-20 minutes end-to-end. It was easy to jump into and gave me lots of cues to get me going right away – yet it still had an (apparent) depth of tactics to master. It’s smart gameplay and unique experiences across different human classes and monsters makes me want to come back.
Evolve does stand out as a different next-gen experience – people will point to it’s 4vs1 model (which will very likely be cloned ad naseum), but Evolve also subtly captures an illusive element that rewards intelligent gameplay (in the form of group tactics and teamwork) over typical reaction-time quick-scoping. Evolve has all the right traits needed to survive and differentiate itself across the camouflage of sequels, franchises and bland offerings of current next-gen gaming.