I’ve never been hunting — not that I really have a yearning to, since I’m from the east coast and like my meats packaged and sealed. But I guess this particular preference doesn’t have any bearing on the team of hunters in Evolve, Turtle Rock’s upcoming 4v1 FPS monster hunter, who are simply out for blood. You might best compare this ragtag squad to the space marines of films such as Aliens and Starship Troopers. They’re here to kill some beasties.
How fun is it to hunt these particular beasties? Tons. I played the Big Alpha from Thursday to Sunday, swimming up to the surface of real life in order to get some air, before diving right back in for more of the hunt. The Goliath and Kraken are formidable opponents and require different tactics to take down each. While the Goliath does most of his mauling by land, you’ll most likely find the Kraken flying directly over you, electrocuting you to death.
The hunt goes both ways. 4v1 might seem like a bit of an unfair advantage for the hunters, but the tables can turn very quickly. Every confrontation with the monster introduces a new situation that you might not have encountered before. The fact that the matches don’t get stale after three days of tracking the same two monsters is a great sign for Evolve.
Out of my several rendezvous with the Goliath, I found that my team was able to take him down most of the time. But when the Kraken shows up on the map, you’re really asking for a quick ass-kicking. I died and lost A LOT while fighting the Kraken. In some way, it turned the monster into legend. I was Ahab trying to catch Moby Dick. I can’t even remember if I took down the monster in the end, but I have a feeling that’s not really what matters. Because you don’t want the hunt to end. That’s the fun part. Otherwise, the final confrontation with your prey, who will evolve to level 3 in most matches, is pretty conventional.
Pump the monster full of bullets, call in a missile strike, create traps for it to land in — do these things successfully and you’ll have yourself a dead monster. There wasn’t anything in particular in this alpha test that strayed from bullet sponge formula.
I can’t stress enough how much more important the monster is to the experience than the four guys trying to hunt it down. Like the game master in a tabletop RPG, it’s the monster that really sets the stakes and creates the situations. If you have a newbie at the controls, you can bet that your match will be over much faster than anticipated. On the other hand, there were cases where (and I can’t prove this for sure) the monster would slim the team down to one in an instant
I played as the monster a couple of times, all to varying results. Most of the time, I was killed before I could get to power relay. I tried to avoid being the monster as much as possible, though, because it wasn’t really what I was into. Some of my friends loved playing as the Goliath and were always the first ones to choose the class. You really have to decide what class you’re into and stick with it in order to master the skills of your particular hunter. Luckily, you can choose a preference before jumping into matchmaking, providing you with the best results when finding a match. Doesn’t work every time, but it was pretty accurate.
Although I tried every class, I found myself choosing Support (Hank) the most. Support carries the big trench gun, provides extra shields for his teammates, has camouflage, and can call in missile strikes at crucial moments in a confrontation — e.g. sending missiles flying into the monster while it’s evolving (it can’t move for a couple of seconds). Support really feels like the backbone of the team, which, in a sense, isn’t true at all.
No matter what class you use, you always feel equally as important as your teammates. Any of you could turn the tide in a match. One well-placed battle arena from the Trapper could trap the monster so that the rest of your team can zoom in and deliver the killing blow. The Medic can insta-heal the others so that they can finish slaughtering the beast. Assault, well, that guys just gonna shoot the crap out of the creature — the most important objective in a match. Depending on who you choose, the experience will be different, but you’ll always feel just as vital.
After playing the Big Alpha, I do wonder just how varied the experience will be in the final product. Three days isn’t enough to be bored with the different classes and pair of monsters, but I do hope there is a lot more to reveal come February. I feel that things could definitely grow stale after several days of the same match. After a while, could you really care less about the power relay?
Speaking of power relay, stakes really bear mentioning. Without a single-player campaign or solid storyline, why should you care about the hunt? To my knowledge, Evolve is taking the Destiny approach to delivering what little story the game will contain: little snippets of conversation between the hunters before reaching the landing zone. It’s a little alarming since the latter game has proven that we still want to be given a reason why we’re shooting at things. Otherwise, it’s just a race to protect a power relay that does what exactly?
I’m getting ahead of myself, though. There are still a couple of months left in the game’s development. We’re not sure how many more monsters, classes, maps, and/or set pieces are yet to be revealed. But let’s keep this discussion topic flagged for later.
The maps are also cause for concern. While they are SPRAWLING with life, filled with creatures that will either run away from you or attack you, they all kind of look the same to me. Large cliffs, small bodies of water, shrubbery, caves, and buildings — if you’ve seen one map in the Big Alpha, you’ve seen them all. Done with a very gray palette, the maps didn’t really stand apart from each other or offer anything interesting beyond the things living inside of it. Again, the creatures living in the wilderness are fantastic. When you drop into a match, you get the sense that you’ve entered a real ecosystem — a terrifyingly, hostile ecosystem. The AI is very effective.
Your surroundings complement the physics engine perfectly. Movement is dynamic, a mixture of jetpacks, jumping, and free-running, and each map offers several ways of getting from point A to point B. They’re really pretty big.
All in all, the Big Alpha is a fulfilling experience. It’s fresh, fluid, and exciting. It took over my weekend as it probably did yours. Most importantly, it made me very excited for what’s to come in the full release. When this game hits open beta in January and releases on Feb. 10, I suspect you’ll be hunting the most dangerous game, too. Of course, if you got into the Big Alpha, you have until Tuesday to play!