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Evolve Hands-On

On Wednesday, a number of journalists and gamers gathered in the Microsoft Bryanston Office, Johannesburg, for several hours of 2K Game’s ‘Evolve’, courtesy of Megarom.

While the monster title retains the core foundations of its Left 4 Dead (L4D) predecessors, Evolve plays out like one large boss fight where instead of four players taking on a horde of mindless zombies driven by an AI director, a fifth player assumes the role of the monster who is driven by the basest of impulses, the most basic of needs.

The need to feed.

The first four players assume the role of the four Hunter classes: Medic, Support, Assault, and Trapper. These classes come packed with their own special weapons and tools, designed to execute their specific roles in combat or rather ’the hunt’.

The Medic can heal others from a great distance, while an accurate tranquilizer dart slows the mighty beast and grants vision of the creature, which is perfectly befitting the dense jungle environment.

The Trapper can tether and contain the monster within a spherical dome while combining with the support to unleash a devastating aerial bombardment. The Support at the same time can offer a protective shield to endangered teammates.

The Assault, true to his name, is equipped with both a long distance assault rifle, and a close range, high intensity shock weapon, coupled with a personal shield to round off the group as a sort of high-damage tank figure.

Meanwhile, the fifth player takes the role of the monster, or ‘Goliath’, who bares uncanny spiritual resemblance to L4D’s Tank unit, and serves as a powerful alien creature that deals out massive damage to individuals or an entire team.

The Goliath begins life as a fairly sizable brute and has four abilities: rock throw, fire breath, leap smash, and dash (with more monster classes to pick from upon release).

Though considerably dangerous, the monster is rather ‘ill-equipped’ to tackle a squad of versatile hunters early on and must instead run, hide, and feed off the native wildlife (eating animals fills up the evolution bar; the larger the animal, the more it fills up) until it can ‘evolve’.

From this point on, the beast presents a deadly and imposing force, easily capable of picking off isolated or straggling hunters but less-than-perfect against a coordinated attack.

Luckily, like evolution, there is always room for improvement – evolve again.

Hunters must attempt to track, trap and kill the Goliath before it can reach the height of its evolution, a nigh-unstoppable behemoth capable of decimating the entire team.

Using traditional first-person shooter controls and jetpacks (limited to short bursts) hunters must navigate their way through the lush, dense jungle environment, while the trapper lays down special sensor arrays or sound spikes, crucial to monitoring the creatures movement and protection against a possible flank on your unsuspecting medic.

The medic, as with most squad-combat games, is a little more invaluable than I would like. While death is not permanent (players will re-spawn, eventually) no one character is close to being strong enough to bring down the beast, and without a medic, the squad virtually crumbles beneath the might of ‘Stage 3’ evolved Goliath.

For the hunters, success lies in teamwork as emphatically put by the 2K team, while for the monster it hinges on being able to pick your fights and bide your time.

As the Goliath, you play in third-person, so you can better see your melee attacks while taking massive leaps around the map. Upon loading into the matchup, you are given a minimal head start as you scamper off to hunt but as you run you leave an abundance of evidence in your wake, visible-glowing footprints and flocks of distraught bird-like fauna.

This fauna, partnered with the rich, almost ‘avatar-like’ map environment, takes full advantage of next-gen graphics and power of the PC. The game-world is responsive and realistic, but optimized for speed and consistent frame rates which is to be expected from a fast-pace, high intensity, game of cat-and-mouse or mouse-and-cat, depending on what level the beast has evolved.

Evolve is the perfect example of a ‘team’ game but will inevitably leave the door open to ‘trolls’. Every match is different, unpredictable, addictive and compelling, combining cooperative and competitive play to produce a refreshing take on ‘survival’ combat, while defining the 4v1 genre, if there was one?

Evolve is an upcoming sci-fi themed, co-operative first-person shooter being developed by Turtle Rock Studios for the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One later this year.

The game will also feature a single player campaign although specific details have not been revealed yet.