I have played roughly six rounds of Evolve and it's been a different experience every time. By now, many of you get the basic premise: Evolve is a cooperative multiplayer first-person shooter. You play either as one of four humans on a team of hunters going up against a fifth player, the monster. Last week I got to play more rounds of Evolve and experiment with a newly revealed team of hunters.
Every person's role is different, and every person's role matters. The second you're not pulling your weight, your team knows. This isn't a 64-player arena where you're ambushing different corners of the map haphazardly, prepared to respawn in a matter of seconds after death just to do it all over again. This is an intimate operation involving a team of hunters who have to work together to survive and kill, or they will fall apart. And they will fall apart quickly.
At a demonstration last week, I finally played as Evolve's "trapper" class. It's the most unique class to this cat-and-mouse game, specifically geared towards trapping the one main enemy. The idea is to contain the monster and force a fight, both through creating a barrier around it and your team, as well as harpooning it so that it can't gain a distance or height advantage. This new version of the trapper class -- Maggie -- is even more special: she's got a pet companion named Daisy that will seek out the monster for you at the start of the game, so long as you can keep up with her.
Daisy is basically a fifth teammate. She can even revive downed players, which is particularly useful when everyone is too distracted by playing to their individual roles. If the trapper can move quickly, Daisy will find the monster fairly early on in the game, before it has a chance to eat too much of the map's wildlife and evolve to a new, stronger stage.
Once there, Maggie can drop a forcefield to contain the monster and force the first encounter. It's in the hunters' best interest to trap the monster early on, and it's the monster's objective to stay far enough away to level up before taking the humans on.
Provided a successful containment has been dropped, it's up to the assault class to deal most of the damage. Hyde is the newest assault character we were shown. He's a brute that wields a flamethrower -- the game's most powerful, but also limited weapon. It's got a short range, so most of your monster encounters will have to be up-close. The round I played as Hyde, I found it hard to counter the monster's flame breath with my flamethrower when the monster could also easily stomp or swipe me away at such a close range. It's a delicate balance of attacking, jetpacking away, and coming back around the beast again.
Another heavy hitter in this round of new classes is Bucket, the robot. He can pull his head off to use as a UAV, but when I played as his support class I mostly used his ability to drop sentry guns around the trapped monster. I spammed what felt like 20 surrounding the monster once we'd gotten him backed up into a particularly tight corner, the trapper pinning him with harpoons, and it was only a matter of time before his health was slipping away from him. The course of the battle can change in just an instant, and it all depends heavily on your team's coordination and the monster's ability to think one step ahead of you. Or be a little lucky.
In a situation where we didn't have the upper hand on the monster, for instance, the medic came into serious play. Unfortunately, if the monster is smart, he'll also target the medic mercilessly, which is how things played out the one round I played as Lazarus, the new medic character.
Lazarus is interesting in that, as developers Turtle Rock Studios cheerfully admitted to a group of journalists last week, he's terrible at healing. He's got the medic class's special healing burst, but no other active healing abilities to speak of. Not like Val, who can target her teammates to heal them individually as needed. Instead, Lazarus uses something called a Lazarus Device to bring downed characters back to life. But hunters will go down a lot faster with Lazarus around than when Val is on hand. What he lacks in healing abilities he makes up for with a personal cloak and a silenced sniper rifle. As a medic you can create weak points on a monster by shooting at it. Lazarus is at his best when he's able to stay hidden and revive teammates back from the dead, as they will surely find themselves dead quite often.
I played as all four new characters, leading to four totally different rounds. We demolished the monster in our first round, with me playing as the trapper. We played to our roles, were coordinated, and we attacked swiftly before the monster could level up or even regroup after the first encounter. We were on the constant offence, which is how hunters should play if they can pull it off. It's the most effective way to tackle the monster class.
We died a miserable death when I played as the medic. Cloaking be damned, the monster managed to corner me second after second. I'd slip away for at most a few seconds before getting tackled again. It was clear that my friend the monster was being coached to aim for me, because without a medic class the hunting team is mostly screwed.
We struggled to stay alive the round I played as the assault class, too. We got a few good hits in, but we accidentally called the attention of the new desert map's dune beetle, an aggressive thing that can keep the team of hunters fairly distracted if they let it. The dune beetle can actually be a benefit to the hunters, though, because it will actively eat the livestock in the level, effectively taking away the monster's food source.
The new map -- called The Dam -- doesn't just come with new, living threats. The terrain itself makes things more complicated for the hunters. Caught in the random puddles and water masses strewn about the map, the hunters become practically useless. I certainly couldn't use my flamethrower while knee-deep in water, for instance. If the water's deep enough, you'll be too busy floating around like bait trying to swim out of it. The round where we spent the most time learning this lesson the hard way was a constant battle to get higher up on cliffs where we could run around on land while going back to revive downed enemies back in the water. It got to the point where I became actively aware of where water was located and to avoid it at all costs on penalty of certain death. Who knew video game water could be so scary?
We haven't even seen any new monsters or heard about any other game modes, but Evolve is shaping up to be the Left 4 Dead 3 I'm not sure we'll ever get.
Evolve will be out for PC, Xbox One and PS4 on October 21 this year.