The Evolve Beta has come and gone. Hopefully, you were able to some hands-on play time with this game. In case you didn't (or even if you did), I've wrapped up some of the main things I loved about this game in the few days we got to spend with it.
In concept, Evolve is a simple game. There is a player-controlled monster and four player-controlled hunters. Hunters seek out and try to kill the monster. The monster tries to kill the hunters or complete some objective before the time runs out. This may seem like a dumbed down version of the game, but the simplicity is one of the reasons I enjoyed my time with this game. From the start of your first game, the objective is clear and easy to follow. The controls make sense. Moving around the map feels natural. In a way, you feel like you know how to play this game even before you finish the match. This is the core of Evolve.
The Middle Layer
The maps of Evolve are an experience all of their own. The maps are all quite large: large enough that every map has distinctly separate areas with separate landscapes. Every one of these sections contains enough detail to feel unique without becoming so specific or cool that it distracts from the game. This is a really important balance because when you are in the heat of a chase, you not only don't want anything distracting you, but you also don’t want things to start looking repetitive. In addition to this, the designers did a good job of making the maps open yet challenging. There are many paths to get from Point A to Point B. They all might have advantages or disadvantages. These create a fun mental game between the monster and the hunters as the hunters try to guess where the monster is headed and the monster tries to deceive the hunters.
In addition to the terrain, there are animals all over the maps. Some are mere distractions while others are formidable opponents if you are by yourself. The ones that threw me off the most, however, were the ones that blended in with the environment or were underwater. When you combine these animals, a high speed chase, and the design of the terrain, you get a really enjoyable environment.
The different classes of hunters play a major role in this game. One of the twists that Evolve has created is that in every game, there is only one hunter from each class present. This translates into a game in which every person has a distinct role to play, and no one else can fulfill that role. This strategy goes straight in the face of the direction many games are now taking. Gaming in general has moved towards a more inclusive model where everyone can play any role they want, and any amount of players from any amount of roles can all be in the game together. While I don't think this is bad for a lot of games, it does move away from having hard roles defined and takes away from the strategy of a game. Destiny is a good example of this.. They have three classes, and most missions can only have three people go on them. BUT, you can have everyone be the same class if you want, and even if you are all different classes, you get no bonus for utilizing what makes the class unique. Classes in Destiny are about your playstyle, not defining roles. Evolve Sticks with the old school way of classes being roles.
Evolve also changed up the typical roles that can be played. They basically created roles that made sense to the game, not making a game around predefined roles. What Evolve gains by making their own roles is that every role is now critical. If any of the players slack off, the whole thing falls apart almost instantly. While this can be frustrating at times, it also makes for some really intense gameplay when the hunters and the monster all know what they are doing. I was really trying to avoid tacky tag-lines, but Evolve evolved the classic class system.
Monster evolutions are another central part of this game that was implemented very well. Each monster has four different abilities, and each ability has three tiers. At the beginning of a match, the monster uses three points to unlock/upgrade abilities. This could mean fully upgrading one ability or unlocking three different ones. These abilities are important because you are going to have to use them to first kill animals and then the hunters. Some abilities only deal damage while others have some sort of mobility attached to them. I really like this dual purpose thing that the monster has the entire game. On the one hand, it wants to kill animals so it can gain shields and evolve to the next stage. On the other hand, it wants to run and not get caught, and on another, non-existent limb, it has the long poll of killing the hunters or fulfilling an objective.
While the monster is trying to juggle all of these objectives, it also has to keep several things in mind: what kind of tracks are you leaving behind? Where are the birds (for people who haven't played, disturbing birds will alert the hunters to that position)? Where are the hunters? Let me tell you, that’s a lot of stuff to keep in your mind. As the monster, I always find myself feeling that if I make one wrong move, I'm dead. While it's not quite that drastic, my adrenaline is definitely pumping. Long story short, being the monster is a tough role, but it's also insanely fun and satisfying when you win.
The Outer Layer:
The outer layers of Evolve are what really set the game apart for me. I call them the outer layers because these things are all the random bits of the game that make it fun to play but aren’t central. For time’s sake, I'm going to simply list these with a small explanation.
- Perks: Awesome way to tailor a hunter to how you want to play that specific round.
- Characters: I can't stress enough how much I love the diversity in these characters and how they all add auxiliary roles to a class.
- Class selection: Evolve created a great system for allowing players to influence the class they play while eventually forcing everyone into a role.
- Environmental variables: Snow, rain, daytime, nighttime; they all change things in their own way.
- Weapons: There are some pretty fun and creative weapons.
- Game modes: So far, we have only seen hunt and evacuation, but they are both loads of fun.
- AI: You can't really tell if it's AI or a medium-level player. Very balanced way of solving the player quitting problem.
- Switch classes midgame: If a class is AI-controlled, you can switch to it easily.
I'm sure there are even more things here, but the important part was just to show how much care went into making this game. The Evolve Beta was a blast to play, and I look forward to seeing what the full-featured game has in store.