This year is quite exciting for fans of multiplayer games. Titanfall has already arrived with a brand new take on the traditional multiplayer FPS and with Destiny coming later this year Bungie are offering their own challenge to the multiplayer status quo.
Evolve is very much another title that hopes to disrupt the Call Of Duty mold of online multiplayer. Developed by the guys that created the Left 4 Dead series, Turtle Rock, it offers a blend of co-op and competitive multiplayer that builds on the ideas that made Left 4 Dead such a treat to play.
The basic idea behind Evolve is that a team of four specialized hunters must trail and take out a single very powerful alien called a Goliath. At this point Turtle Rock has only revealed one monster but it looks like there will be more. We've already been introduced to the four classes of hunters (Assault, Trapper, Support and Medic) and you can read more about them here. Time is an important factor as the alien can roam the map feasting on its wildlife and gaining energy that will allow it to evolve (hence the name) and become more powerful, and crucially, more difficult to kill.
New footage released recently shows a match in action and the game does have some really compelling components that have the potential to elevate Evolve and allow it to offer something beyond traditional multiplayer experiences.
Evolve's maps are alive. Turtle Rock's Chris Ashton describes them as a extra player in the game. In the map that features in the footage the jungle is filled with wildlife. There's food for the alien to hunt to allow him to level up to a point where he can tackle the hunters head-on. There's also plant-life and we see early on one of the hunters get swallowed by a carniverous plant needing to be rescued from. Another potential danger comes in the form of a Tyrant monster which hides in a river. One hunter (Griffin the Trapper) gets caught by the Tryant beast and is out for two minutes.
This idea of dynamic maps is not a new one as this is something that both Call Of Duty and Battlefield have been toying with but it really adds another element of strategic depth to Evolve's matches. Good alien players can learn the maps and take advantage of these dynamic elements to slow down the hunters, giving him enough time to consume enough of the local fauna to evolve to a more dangerous state.
Goliath can only incapacitate the hunters but victory for him depends on being able to incapacitate all four of them. They can revive each other but this is a tough thing to do in the face of a heavy onslaught from8 the alien. On the flipside the Goliath cannot regenerate health but it can evolve more armour again emphasising the urgency of the hunters' mission. There is an impressive damage system in place as well with the damage sustained by the Goliath manifesting itself in bloody wounds across its body that get worse as more damage is sustained.
During the footage we switch between the individual hunters who play in first person view and the Goliath which plays in third person view. The first person perspective of the hunters is deliberately limiting forcing players to really try and be aware of their surroundings and know their specialized role inside out to make the most of it.
Conversely, the Goliath's third person view gives the alien player a far better awareness and he even has a ping ability which can highlight the hunters if they are within a certain radius. This makes it very easy for the Goliath to set up an ambush for the enemy team.
The match shows of one of the tactics that the studio's test players have developed with the Trapper breaking away from the rest of the team of hunters to try and set up an early trap for the Goliath by securing it in his arena dome-shield. It doesn't work out so well for the hunters though as the Trapper is immobilised by the Goliath and then he falls foul of the Tyrant knocking him out for two minutes.
In the intervening time the Goliath manages to evolve enough to take on the remaining three hunters and the Trapper's return is too late and most of the hunters are down. The action cuts out just as the Goliath looms in on the sole Assault player.
So far it all looks very good with the CryEngine handling the visual duties with its usual aptitude. The gameplay in this segement swings between a tense game of hide and seek and really pacey combat. It looks like it is balanced fairly well although this match seems slightly weighted in favour of the Goliath at the moment.
All in all, this early match does demonstrate that Evolve holds a lot of promise and it definitely looks like it will offer something completely new to multiplayer gaming fans.
Evolve is in development on the PC, PS4 and Xbox One and is due out in the autumn of this year.