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Evolve – Evolving beyond Left 4 Dead?

Turtle Rock Studios has been under Valve’s ownership for years now. No wonder they also follow their „parent’s” unwritten rule: you do not create a game in your franchise numbered 3. So, after Half-Life 2 Episode 3 and Half-Life 3, don’t expect Left 4 Dead 3 either. Instead, the guys from California have brought a very surprising concept…!

These devs haven’t been in business for decades – but it can’t be labeled as a problem. Porting Counter-Strike to the classic Xbox aside, they did Condition Zero and the aforementioned Left 4 Dead as well. The surprisingly revealed Evolve – nomen est omen – can be looked at as a way to continue the tradition that L4D has started.

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Using the latest iteration of CryEngine, Evolve was originally part of the now dead THQ line-up back in the end of 2012. Already back then, you could have pointed this together with the 2011 comments mentioning an unnamed (and unannounced) first person shooter… however, back when THQ folded, Evolve was basically a name to us. We didn’t know what it had behind the cover. But 2K Games has scrapped together the cash to keep the project going, so we can taste the results hopefully by the end of the summer.

Playing in a team – as usual

In short, without cooperation, we all are meant to die. To describe it properly: four players are in a jungle, all with one reason to play – to survive. This is what the fifth player (or fifth wheel? your choice) will try to spoil – unless the team manages to successfully hide in the industrial segments of the level(s). You read that just right, player number 5: with this possibility, we can rule out the incompetent AI (which still happens nowadays – just have a look at Aliens: Colonial Marines… you can literally walk right up to them Xenomorphs on the level where you have to get through unarmed and not die!) – because let’s face it: who likes a computer-controlled team-mate in a party, who is essential in order to open a door, but instead, you have to backtrack to find him… only to see him running into a wall, or in worse cases, clipping into the wall right next to the door you just came through? Also, if a player takes up the villain role, you can’t just learn the AI style… and therefore, the unexpected is bound to happen at any given time! This is fundamental in order to have a decent gameplay experience. We’re off to a good start then, right?

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However, Turtle Rock has said that they are developing a single player campaign too. As we have close to zero information about that, we might just end up seeing a quickly slapped together campaign, but if it turns out to be decent, we should be in for a surprise…

But back to the gameplay: the five players will all have unique skills, but the hunters (this would be the four-player squad) and the monster (…the Goliath as of now; no other monsters have been revealed yet – this is the fifth player’s role) will have different capabilities. The name of the game hints to what the monster can do. For example, he can buff himself up (or itself? Since we’re talking about a monster after all, might not be having a sex…) by going into a cocoon like caterpillars do. This is dangerous, because while the evolution goes on, nothing can be done as defense… so the evolution might downspiral into death, if badly timed. There’s an other way to get the monster stronger, and that is devouring wildlife. Eating smaller animals gain skills (like new attacks).

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Let’s talk about the hunters too. In this squad, four roles are available… or should I say, classes. There will be a medic, an assault, a support and a trapper, all having a different task in the team to maintain success. There could be a chance where the medic stays unprotected (this is another unwritten rule in games: a healer is usually the weakest link in terms of strength) and the assault has to cover him, while backtracking to the traps that the trapper has set. And it’s just one simple example – there can be possibly thousands, if not more possibilities in gameplay style.

Monstrous

If we take up the role of the monster, we should quickly learn the basics: we leave footprints behind. That can help the hunters find our spot, and if the tides turn, this could potentially mark the loss for us. But if we evolve by eating a lot while staying mainly hidden, the game can be „rigged” towards our favour. But what if we try to hide our steps… – and you, dear reader might already catch my drift here. Creative game style is victorious. We can go into stealth (and don’t expect Predatorish levels… and especially forget about Schwarzy!), shooting out waves to see the pride’s outlines to find our way there in the shortest – and of course: most safe – way possible.

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In a sense, I’d describe Evolve as a waiting game: we can’t just rush down the hunters, because 1 against 4 in vanilla can easily mean defeat – instead, playing defensive is important. Just like Starcraft: you don’t really see the players immediately attack down the other in the beginning – they also prepare up big time. The same can be brought over here: the hunters can hack up traps here and there, the monster can evolve… and both teams can use pickups. That sounds a little arcade-y… but this can work out. HP, bullets and so on…

Can it be revolutionary?

Evolve will not be epoch-making. It tries to pass over the style of Left 4 Dead – it succeeds in doing so in one way, but in another, it stays there. The cooperational play can guarantee promising gameplay; CryEngine’s capabilities mixed with the brute force of the PlayStation 4 might result in beautiful graphics, and about the sounds: there shouldn’t be much of a problem with those. I can’t recall any Valve games having weak audio aspect.

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Evolve’s success relies on three factors:

– on the proper balance. As it’s a squad-based game, it’s essential to have it as perfect as it can get, otherwise the game can get rigged because of one weapon or skill… and whoever has it can change everything;

– on the release date. If they can get the game out in September (or earlier), they will get it out before the annual Call of Duty game, and Destiny’s September 9 release should be their benchmark;

– and on the level design. They must create such levels where creativity shouldn’t be hindered by program coding. If a player as a monster wants to get on top of that hill, LET HIM DO IT. Spice things up with nice hideout spots, and helpful stuff for both halves of the players.

If they can jump the bench on both three, the Blu-ray disc will quickly sell in stores. But if they fail to do so… then Evolve will be just another 8 point game playable for a year or two, then the servers get shot down, then bye Evolve, you’d be devolved…our time to evolve is not here yet.


Pro:

+ Interesting ideas
+ Looks great so far
+ Teamplay

Contra:

– Balance might be an issue
– Doesn’t look revolutionary
– What about the level design?


 

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