Since we last looked at Evolve, Turtle Rock has basically doubled the content on show, with a new squad of hunters and a new monster - Kraken - thrown into the mix. Conceptually it's still the same; one team of four armed-to-the-teeth hunters with very specific roles to play, are trying to chase down a monster who, over the course of a match, levels up and grows in size and power. In the early game the advantage lies with the hunters, but come the monster's third evolution, the advantage shifts and the beast has the edge over its bipedal opponents.
The new monster, Kraken, plays very differently to the Goliath that was revealed along with the rest of the game earlier this year. This creature - which has a distinctly Lovecraftian feel to its design - has an aerial presence, and instead of leaping huge distances it can glide up into the air. While Goliath is more focused on brute force and can soak up huge amounts of damage while it delivers close-quarters blows, Kraken leans more on ranged combat and mobility. It's faster and can evade enemies with comparative ease, but it's also not as rugged. Like Goliath it comes packing four abilities, and at the start of each match you can add three points to up to three of its skills (three more points are made available at every evolution, allowing for either a broader set of abilities or more specialised powers, depending how you want to play).
Lightning Strike is a powerful attack whereby streams of lighting strike the ground and then come together before exploding with devastating effect for anyone unlucky enough to be caught in the epicentre. Banshee Mines are explosives that hover, and that can flung out during battle, or left around corners as traps for hunters as they explore the maps. Vortex is a ranged attack that sends your enemies crashing into the scenery behind them, taking a chunk off their health bar in the process. Very handy if you're taking damage and you need some alone time. The final ability is Aftershock, a powerful attack that hits nearby enemies with deadly bolts of lightning.
As it is with Goliath, upgrading the attacks involves eating the local fauna; creatures of varying sizes that are strewn across the map. If the monster can reach the third stage of evolution, it then has the option of destroying an objective to win the match. There's timer that puts the onus on the monster, because should it run down into stalemate, the hunters automatically win the match. While the monster has the option of trying to move stealthily, staying out of sight and emerging towards the end of the match when it's at full strength, it's a risky game to play.
Just in the interests of being comprehensive, there's also the special abilities of the Goliath. While the Kraken may be better at dispatching enemies from range, and is more adept at traversal and escape, Goliath is best used in close proximity. Rock Throwing is fairly self-explanatory, as is Leap Smash, Fire Breath and Charge. Like the names of its abilities, Goliath isn't very subtle.
Facing off against the monsters is a team of four new hunters, who like their colleagues from the first demo we played, fit together to form a cohesive unit. Once again they all come packing limited-use jetpacks to aid in traversal and movement across the maps, and each class has a specific ability that's standard across all characters of the same class.
Hyde - described in his bio as sadistic, sociopathic and deeply disturbed - represents for the assault class, and comes packing perhaps the most powerful weapon in the game, a flamethrower (that has hardly any range). This is accompanied by a long-range mini-gun, and he also has toxic grenades that leave a cloud of deadly green smoke. Like all assaults, he also comes equipped with personal shield to soak up damage in battle. Hyde's job in the team is to dish out as much damage as possible, but he can't do that if there's nothing to shoot, which is where Maggie and Daisy come in.
Maggie is the team's trapper, and like all trappers she can throw down a mobile arena, a giant energy-dome that keeps the monster in a confined space and gives the team a chance to take it down. Maggie - who is said to be "a quiet woman with a past shrouded in mystery" - also has harpoon traps, and can drop up to five in an area, which are then activated when a monster passes nearby, shackling it for a short time. Then there's Daisy, Maggie's pet Trapjaw, a 400-hundred pound "dogbeast" that can help the team track their prey, as well as lick incapacitated characters back to life.
Bucket, there in a supporting role, brings guided missiles to the party, which are as fun as they sound. From his robotic chest he can produce and drop sentry gun turrets (handy when the trapper's mobile arena has been dropped and the monster is confined), and his head is detachable and can be used as a UAV, allowing the team to scout ahead and potentially track the Kraken or Goliath. Bucket is normally charged with flying the ship for the rest of the team, but he's most definitely handy on the ground, and we enjoyed his particular repertoire of tricks.
Finally, the new team is complimented by the medic, Lazarus. He has a silenced automatic sniper rifle that doesn't deal any damage itself, but does mark multipliers onto the monster for others to target. All characters can revive an incapacitated player, but doing so counts as a strike against the revived player (and after so many strikes, you're out), unless it's Lazarus who does the healing. He can also revive players who are dead, a handy skill as you can imagine, and he has a cloaking device that allows him to reach downed teammates via stealth.
Of course, there's also the four hunters that were announced a while back. Griffin with his gauss SMG, harpoon gun, and sound spikes, trapping beasties so Markov can blast them with either his assault rifle or his short-range lightning gun, and the arc mines. Hank, the original support, has a devastating laser cutter, and can call in an orbital barrage (which, incidentally, can also take out his teammates), but his most interesting tool is the shield projector, which can place a protective field around an ally. When used in conjunction with Val's medigun (which fires a healing beam at an ally from range), an assault class can be very well protected, so much so that a monster may well want to target the supportive classes first, before worrying about the damage dealer.
Obviously there's more hunters to be announced (there'll be twelve in the final game, along with twelve plus maps), and we wouldn't be surprised to see even more coming online once the game has been released, by way of DLC (there's also going to be more monsters added this way). What's really interesting about the hunters - those we know already and those we've yet to see - is that they can be mixed and matched. This is most certainly going to change the dynamic of each game, especially as certain skills/weapons will more naturally compliment each other, and be more or less effective against different monsters. We can't wait to find out which combinations are the most successful, and when we're playing as monsters, which combinations make for the weakest teams so we can better exploit and destroy.
As we're reminded at the end of the tutorial video that precedes every match we played in this demo; when you're playing as a hunter "the key to success is teamwork". There's not been many games where this has been truer, and Evolve's strength most certainly lies in this aspect. Co-operation, skill, a dash of luck; all of these things will have to come together if the hunters are to have a chance of victory. After an extended play session with all the hunters and both monsters, the only question we're left asking ourselves is what platform we'll be playing the game on when it launches in October. Evolve is shaping up to be a very promising title indeed.
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