Xbox One – Evolve – Hands On Preview

Events Xbox One

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Yesterday 2K and Turtle Rock Studios, the genius’s behind Left For Dead, held an exclusive event to give a hands on preview of their latest game, coming to Xbox One autumn 2014. For those who may not have heard of Evolve, it is a game that blends both competitive and cooperative multiplayer experiences as a team of four player controlled hunters  have to hunt and take down one monster also controlled by a player. This unique 4 Vs 1 gameplay is both the strength and the soul of Evolve, and during the hands on preview, I got to play as both hunter and monster!

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My first experience with the game saw me taken on the role as one of the four hunters. Each hunter has a particular role which is key to survival and victory when taken on the monster. They represent the classes of Assault, Medic, Support and Tracker. Lets take a look at each character and their roles before I share how our first match went down:

  • Markov – The Assault Class: Armed with a Lightning gun for up close damage and an assault rifle for long range attacks, Markov is the heavy hitter of the group and the main point of attack for the hunters. Markov has a two special abilities. First is the ability to lay down mines, really handy once the monster has been trapped or for defence if a retreat is needed. The other is a personal shield which will make him invulnerable for a short time allowing Markov to get out of tricky situations.
  • Griffin – The Trapper Class: This character is responsible for tracking the monster and capturing it. His two special abilities are critical to success. First is the ability to drop Sound Spikes which will pick up movement of the monster across the map. Next is the Mobile Arena, when the monster is found, Griffin can drop a forcefield that will trap the monster under its dome preventing it from escaping. Armed with a submachine gun for dealing damage and a Harpoon gun that can slow down the Monsters movements once landed.
  • Val – The Medic Class: Val really has one purpose for the team, keeping everyone alive. Val has the special ability to Burst heal the group but it has a small radius but also has a med gun that can heal a team member from distance but only as long as that character is in view.  Combat wise, Val has an Anti-Material Sniper rifle capable of firing rounds which can pierce the armoured skin of the monster which creates weak spots that the other team members can exploit. Like Griffin, Val can also weaken the monster by use of a tranquilliser gun that will slow the monster down and weaken it.
  • Hank – The Support Class: Hank for me, is the backbone of the hunter team. Capable of both defensive and offensive, Hank is pivotal to the success of a hunting mission. Armed with a Laser cutter to deal damage, it is his abilities that make Hank so important. Defensively, Hank has a shield gun that works similarly to Val’s Med Gun. The shield gun will place a shield around a team member as long as they are in visual range making them momentarily invincible and very handy once the battle against the monster has become upclose and personal. Hank also has a cloaking device which can make him and the rest of the team as long as they are in the same small blast radius, invisible to the monster, allowing for a strategic retreat if the battles turns ugly. Offensively, Hank has the special ability to call in an Orbital Barrage on the monster, this can cause large damage to the monster.

It was finally time to put the team to work. Sitting down we were told that we would be playing against an experienced Monster player so the challenge was already going to be a tough one. I selected Markov as my playing style is very much the assault class way, so with each of the characters chosen, it was time to drop down into the map and get to hunting!

The map itself was a forest area, high trees and pathways leading around a human base area. Taking in the visual and all the sounds of the map was a little disorientating at first because you do not really have the time to do a bit of sight seeing, you have a monster to find and kill. Moving our way forward, we came across the other wild life on the map, small creatures like lizards and alien ape life also live in this area and not all the wildlife is friendly as we soon discover as the hunt progressed. Our tracker placed his sound spikes and we hoped to get an idea where the monster was hiding. We made our way through the forrest and the adrenalin was flowing, watching for any sign of the monster with every sound making you look in all directions as the fear of suddenly being attacked by this monster really takes over you. It felt like we had navigated around the whole map and no sign of the monster at all before an on screen message alerted us that the monster had evolved to level 2. This means that the monster will have more abilities, be stronger and have better armour. The genuine fear of attack was now on us as a team. Clearly the roles of hunter and hunted had now switched and we were the ones being hunted by an ever increasing threat of monster attack.

Evolve just gets this element so beautifully and deliciously right. You start off with a team of four quite confident that you can take out the monster but the game so elegantly allows for the roles to be reversed and if you face an experience player controlling the monster as we did on our first time out, you will have the feeling of dread and that you are being watched, stalked and it is a very unnerving feeling which the game has no remorse instilling into you.

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Not long after the warning about the monster evolving to level 2, then we got the message that the monster had evolved to level 3. This means the monster was now in its ultimate form, with access to all  its abilities, maximum armour and nothing else to do but come and kill us. Which the monster quite happily chose to do, it found us and all panic kicked in on my team. It was was nothing more then the best example of a team not working or communicating, the monster attacked us. I charged in and let rip with my lightning gun and assault rifle, our tracker trapped the monster in the mobile arena, which for our team work pretty much trapped us where the monster wanted us more then stopping the monster from escaping. The combat was fast and frantic as we tried to take the monster down, each screaming at the relative classes to use their abilities to tranquilliser , harpoon the monster to try and slow it down whilst begging the medic to heal us as the monster let rip with rock throwing and fire breath that took me down quite quickly as I just went head on with the monster which is an experience all by itself when it it comes in close and is just clawing at you.

Sadly, one by one our team fell. The monster first took out our medic. the first team member to die will take two full minutes to be “dropped” back into the game, but if a second falls they will only have to wait the length of time remaining from the first character’s death to drop so you get them both back at the same time. So without our medic it was simply a case of trying to regroup but the monster just had us cold and we fell soon after and the Monster was declared the winner. This first encounter with Evolve was fast and full of all different emotions all in the space of one match. It was a buzz being hunted and then in combat with the monster. It was panic when our team started to fall about because of the lack of communication which split us up and weakened us as a team. I have never played a game which truly relied on strong teamwork and the need for players to stick to their respective roles and do their jobs no matter what.

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After a brief moment to get my senses back to normal, it was then my turn to be the monster. After being so utterly destroyed before, I wanted to experience that for myself. So lets take a look at the monster, Goliath:

  • Goliath – This monster is a blend of Doomsday from Superman and Godzilla. Like the hunters, the monster has special abilities, two of which the player can choose before the game starts with the others available through evolution; Rock Trow, Charge attack, Leaping attack and Fire Breath.
  • Goliath is all about physicality in attacks and in movement around the map, able to climb any surface, leap great distances to move around

It was great to see this game from the other side of the mirror. I learned that Goliath gets a ten second headstart, this is the time it takes for the drop ship to drop the human hunter into the map. The trick is to get into a location away from the hunters so you can feed on the local wildlife, by killing them then eating them, so that you can begin to evolve into your next level. The animals you feed on will leave a carcass behind which the hunters can discover and learn where you have been. Simply going high is also not as strategically simple as you would imagine as being a large hulking monster you can be easily spotted. The pressure to evolve but also to remain out of sight from the hunters is just as adrenalin filled as being a hunter trying to track down the monster.

The agility of Goliath is amazing, leaping across the map and climbing any object really gives you a sense of mastery of the environment, which with practice will be an essential talent when going up against four other players. This talent, was lacking from my first attempt playing as Goliath, and my mistake of trying to feed in order to evolve combined with a very quick hunter team meant it only took a few minutes before their tracker had trapped me in their Mobile Arena and I was harpooned and tranquillised. Harpoons can be broken by attacking their cords and once the fighting started I had no choice but to just go all out using the only two special abilities I had, chosen before the game had started of Rock Throw and Leap Attack.

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Being attacked by four players and trapped in the mobile arena is quite something to behold. The need to defend yourself but also need to get away in order to survive all becomes a blur under the barrage of attack by the hunters. But it was a true joy and powerful feeling as the imposing monster just bashing away at the hunters. There was a moment of real joy for me as I managed to get away to high ground but the hunters were on my trail fast but I managed to do a leap attack on their medic which despite wearing a gaming headset, I could hear an audible squeal and scream from across the room as the player using the medic cried out in sheer panic at the sight of me crashing down on them. Above all else this was a very satisfying moment and goes to show how brilliantly Evolve sets the atmosphere for both the team of players as hunters and for the player as you get lost in the moment of that match, with such amazing visuals, audio and map design I can say that even though the hunters tracked me down quickly, I literally made one of them jump out of her seat. Win!

I took a great deal of damage, and despite the excellent advice from the Turtle Rock helper to “run, just run away and keep running”, I was cornered again and fighting valiantly and with all the passion of a dying monster fighting for its life, I soon fell hearing the rejoicing team of hunters clapping and cheering from across the room.

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Evolve is more then just something the monster does and the name of the game. It is also the benchmark of what a team based game on new generation consoles like the Xbox One need to be like going forward. The emphasis on team work in Evolve is something I have not experienced in a game quite like this in a very long time. As a hunter, you must work as a team and communicate at all times whether its during tracking of the monster or whilst in combat with it. So many different emotions grab you during play that for the length of the match it is genuinely a battle of will between the four hunter players and the one sole player as the monster that is is a breath taking experience to track and find the monster or have the monster track and find you first.

As the monster, there is a real sense of power and with practice and map knowledge, taking on four other players will be more then just a challenge, it will be a true joy to break their team down, pick them off one by one, see them panic and run as you bring your Goliath down with your fire breath scorching them and the environment.

What Turtle Rock have with Evolve is the very definition of what new games should be as we move into new gen gaming. Everything in Evolve is about the experience and it can do it in very subtle ways like moving around the environment and full on in your face “boom here it is” when you get into combat with the monster. The game plays amazingly fluid and with some of the best visual and audio I have seen yet on an Xbox One title that this will be a game that if you have a good team of friends, will test every inch of your gamer core to perfect the skills required to do well in this game. I loved each moment of my time with Evolve, and with more months to go before release, this is a game that will only Evolve into something truly monstrously good.

http://youtu.be/zlaPT08Tmxc

Gamer, Gooner, Whovian, Spartan, Son of Batman, Assassin and Legend - Merc with a Pen (keyboard) Gaming Journalist and Events writer for thisisxbox