Evolve Big Alpha Impressions
Evolve is an online only, 4v1 squad-based cooperative shooter from Turtle Rock Studios. It’s set to release in February of 2015, which is just a few months away. In an effort to make sure the game is prepared for the masses and working properly, Turtle Rock has decided to release an Alpha on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, though at the time of this video, the PlayStation 4 version has been delayed due to compatibility issues with the latest PlayStation 4 firmware, 2.0. (UPDATE: The PlayStation 4 version is now available, and the alpha has been extended through Tuesday, November 4th) Thankfully, everyone involved in the Xbox One Update Preview program was granted access to the Alpha, so naturally, that is the build we used for this video. I’ve accumulated just over three hours of playtime since the Alpha launched just a few days ago, and considering that the Alpha contains just one map, it was more than enough to get a pretty good grasp on what the game is all about. Seeing as this is an Alpha, any issues I have with the game shouldn’t be considered; a lot can change between now and the game’s official launch.
The premise of Evolve involves four players acting as hunters trying to track down, and kill, a large beast, which is controlled by a fifth person. The hunters are comprised of four different classes — including Trapper, Support, Medic, and Assault — all with unique abilities specific to their class. To say each class is important in their own right is a massive understatement. Should the beast kill any member of your four-man team, you better believe it puts your group as a whole at a serious disadvantage. While each class is equipped with offensive abilities to both protect themselves and inflict damage on the beast, it’s still pretty obvious that each class has a role that should be played properly in order to give the team the best chance to defeat the monster.
”While each class is equipped with offensive abilities to both protect themselves and inflict damage on the beast, it’s still pretty obvious that each class has a role that should be played properly in order to give the team the best chance to defeat the monster. "
The medic has the ability to heal the team and revive a fallen teammate from a distance, which comes in handy when the beast is still nearby. Equipped with a sniper rifle and a tranquilizer gun, the former allows you to shoot the creature, creating a weak spot for your team to focus its fire on, while the latter will slow the creature down and reveal its location to the rest of your team— but only for a short period of time. When playing as a medic, it’s best to keep yourself out of the skirmishes and provide health from the cliffs above or a short distance away. If the medic goes down, the battle won’t last much longer.
The Support class is similar to the Medic class, albeit with a bit more focus on the offensive side of things. You have the ability to shield one member of your team (I tried to keep my assault class protected as much as I could), as well as cloaking yourself so that you can sneak and revive a fallen teammate without giving away your position to the beast. On the offensive front, using the laser cutter does a fair amount of damage to anything you aim it at, but it’s the orbital barrage that makes the support class so deadly. Like most of the abilities featured in Evolve, there is a cool down period until you can use it again. I like that because it prevents spamming and requires a lot of thought on the players’ behalf when deciding if it’s an opportune moment or not to utilize these abilities. The orbital barrage does heavy damage, but it’s limited to a small, precise area. It’s best to make sure the beast is restricted to the Trapper’s arena, or better yet, their harpoon trap, which anchors the beast down momentarily. While the beast is only immobilized for a moment, it’s enough time to aim the orbital strike and call it in.
The Assault class is pretty self-explanatory; you will be expected to be in the thick of the battle, inflicting as much damage as possible when the beast is contained. Equipped with an assault rifle and the heavy damage Lightning gun, you are the most lethal of your teammates. Your specials include arc mines, which deal massive damage, but take some time to activate. You want to make sure you’re placing them in strategic positions in the hopes that your team can lure the beast over them. The person shield is your other ability, and is extremely invaluable when you’re face-to-face with the beast.
The final class — and in my opinion the most exciting — is the Trapper class. The Trapper is tasked with helping locate the beast, as well as limiting its movement so the rest of your squad can do its thing. That’s not to say the Trapper can’t get in on the fun of killing the beast; your SMG does a fair amount of damage up close. The best aspect of the Trapper, however, is well…trapping the beast. When you are in close proximity to the beast, utilizing the mobile arena is your first step in restricting the area that the beast is able to traverse. Once you have the beast confined to a small area, leaving the player with very few options other than to attack the hunters until the arena goes offline. In an effort to keep the beast locked down further, the Trapper can fire harpoon traps into the ground that will attach itself to the beast once it’s close enough, and will keep the creature from climbing or running away. It’s incredibly rewarding when you see your squad unleashing hell on the creature because you were able to lock it down.
”It’s incredibly rewarding when you see your squad unleashing hell on the creature because you (the Trapper) were able to lock it down. "
Then there is the beast itself, which is the deadliest of the classes and features a pretty steep learning curve in terms of its controls. The beast available to players in the Alpha is equipped with four abilities including breathing fire, hurling rocks, leap smashing, and power dashing. Learning all of these abilities, understanding the importance of killing and eating local wildlife, and mastering the ability to climb and quickly evade the hunters will definitely take some time. That being said, I’ve encountered a few people online that have gotten quite good as the beast, and it provided a much more exhilarating experience overall for everyone involved. I hope to improve my skills while playing as the beast when the final game launches, but as of right now, I enjoyed playing as a hunter more so than a monster during the Alpha.
When it comes to “negatives,” which again are expected in an Alpha, there are just a few concerns I have. Most obvious are the load times, which are incredibly long — and if no one is using a mic in the lobby — they can become painfully long. Seeing as Turtle Rock is using this Alpha to improve server functionality, I fully expect these load times to be greatly reduced by launch. The only other minor complaint I have is how your character feels a bit “floaty” when moving around. It seems unnatural considering all the gear you’re carrying around. The jetpacks you use to reach higher points of the map work fine and all, but when you’re running it just seems a bit light. I don’t know if adding more weight to the Hunters is the answer either, because with the beast moving so fast, it would seem like a bad idea to have the Hunters moving at a much slower – albeit realistic – speed. It’s not a game breaker; no two games are the same and that applies to Evolve as well. It may be in the best interest, at least in terms of game balance, that the hunters do move quickly. The only other concern I have is that seeing as this is an online only game, content is king. Just how well Turtle Rock supports this game after launch will ultimately decide whether or not it lives or dies.
”Just how well Turtle Rock supports this game after launch will ultimately decide whether or not it lives or dies. "
Overall, I’ve enjoyed my time with the Evolve Alpha; there is a lot of potential for this game. Working together as a team never gets old, and because each class is important in it’s own right and integral to the team’s success, everyone plays a big role during the hunt. The level design of the map featured in the Alpha is extremely impressive, featuring all sorts of verticality and multiple paths; even the local wildlife must be a point of concern for the hunters and the beast. Dynamic weather — including fog, rain, and snow — will hamper your vision and create added tension for everyone involved. While the beast class takes some getting used to, the better you become controlling it, the better the overall experience is for everyone playing. I was intrigued by Evolve before the Alpha, but now I’m legitimately excited for its launch only four months away! Stay tuned to Short Pause for more coverage of Evolve, as well as all your gaming news and reviews.
Were you fortunate enough to participate in the Evolve Alpha? If so, let us know in the comments below what your thoughts were on the game!