Would you believe it's been just under a year since 2K Games and Turtle Rock Studios announced Evolve officially. Of course, we'd heard about it as part of the THQ bankruptcy, but it still feels like we've been writing previews, doing interviews and playing the game for much longer than just twelve months.
The concept for Evolve is rather ingenious. Asymmetrical multiplayer isn't a new thing, but the way Turtle Rock go about it sure is different. In a way they've switched out the AI Director of their Left 4 Dead series and replaced the horde of zombies with one massively powerful player-controlled monster for a four-player team of hunters to take on. Hunters come in four classes, but it doesn't stop there - there are 3 (at launch, anyway) characters in each class and they play very differently and their various synergies with other characters is one of the main draws of Evolve.
For a more in-depth look at the various game modes and the latest batch of hunters, read up on our findings from a recent visit to Turtle Rock.
The base game comes with three monsters in the box - Goliath, Kraken and Wraith - with a fourth one currently in development and meant to launch at a later date (included as a free bonus with pre-orders). The fourth monster is still shrouded in mystery, but it appears to be something even bigger than Goliath and it looks like it'll have crab-like claws. Down the line it's reasonable to assume that more monsters will be made available as DLC - adding a new monster pretty much revitalises all the other content in one swift stroke - unlike say a few new maps that, while nice, don't really alter things that much.
Let's take a look at the monster then. The first one we learned about was the Goliath. A natural choice for the first reveal. A hulking beast capable of taking a lot of damage that offers up a fairly straight forward fight with the hunters. He's deadly when up close and personal, and hunters will want to spread out a little to make things difficult on the Goliath, but not too far.
Kraken is a different beast altogether. It's not very strong and feels most at home from a fair distance. But there is close range electricity attacks to balance that up and the Kraken also has the ability to hover, which will challenge the hunters in very different ways (compared to the Goliath).
And that takes us to the Wraith - a monster that certainly mixes things up. If the Goliath is a tank and the Kraken is ranged, then the Wraith is a rogue (with some mage-like abilities). Or as Turtle Rock puts it: "She's a space alien ninja Monster who warps around the battlefield, ripping into her enemies with her blade-claws. She can hit - then run - before you even see her coming." Sounds delicious.
During Gamescom we sat down with game director Phil Robb for a chat about the road ahead: "We're confident that we have a game that is fun," said Robb. "I mean we play it every day, we have been for over three years now. It would be hard to get people to play if it wasn't fun."
"Ultimately, we're going to release the game and when we put it into the hands of gamers it's not our game anymore," said Robb. "It becomes the community's game. We have our own ideas for DLC and stuff like that we think are going to be great, but ultimately I think it's going to be us watching what people respond to. You know the game modes that people like. What kind of characters they like. Once you start getting a hold of that, that sort of information, it really allows us to plot the future course for the game."
"Initially we've made the game we want to play, but one you sort of throw it out there... gamers are resourceful, they're smart, right. They're always going to find stuff that you never really thought of. Sometimes that's bad and they find stuff that's broken. But I think a lot of time it's good and I think it's our responsibility to look at the things they respond positively to and say 'okay, we're going to do more of that'."
We recently had ample opportunity to capture gameplay from Evolve, so here's a selection of some of our favourite clips...
Evolve - Medic Class Caira & Rescue Mode Gameplay
Evolve - Kraken Monster & Nest Mode Gameplay
Evolve - Support Class Bucket & Hunt Mode Gameplay
Evolve - Trapper Class Abe & Rescue Mode Gameplay
And soon enough we'll all have a good chance to sample what Evolve has to offer as the Xbox One open beta is set to kick off on January 15. It won't include the full scope of content, but neither will it be a thin slice of the game that we'll be treated to. We'll be able to play "Hunt" across 12 maps using 8 hunters and two monsters (sadly not the Wraith) and later on in the beta the campaign (Evacuation) will be made available.
Evolve is shaping up to be the multiplayer experience of early 2015, and one that you cannot afford to miss. There's tremendous potential here - let's hope it all comes together as planned.
There are different ways to look at the competition that Evolve faces. One way to look at is from an asymmetrical multiplayer perspective. Lionhead's Fable Legends on Xbox One certainly has the same 4vs1 concept, where one player assumes the role of a dungeon master and attempts to put an end to the adventures of a team of heroes. Bioware's Shadow Realms is very similar. But to be perfectly honest there is probably more that differentiates Fable Legends and Shadow Realms on the one hand, and Evolve on the other. Perhaps it has more in common with co-op focussed titles like Dying Light and Dead Island 2 - but then this is a purer arena experience without diversions and open-world elements. Perhaps it could have been compared to Titanfall, if the Titans had been a little more overpowered. It does come with a similar sort of multiplayer campaign. The fact that it's not so easy to compare Evolve is a good sign; Turtle Rock are cooking up something unique and exciting, and we can't wait to play more in the coming months.