Evolve has … well, evolved since we last experienced it this year.
The basic premise of Turtle Rock's sci-fi stalk-'em-up hasn’t changed: four players controlling ridiculously well-armed hunters try to bag an alien beast controlled by a fifth participant. However, the developer has tossed a few new characters into the mix and tweaked some of the content.
The human newcomers adhere to the basic class templates: Hunter, Assault, Support and Medic. Their abilities have been slightly kinked, though, so they play differently to the variants unveiled earlier this year.
For example, the new medic is utterly useless at healing other players on the fly, but he can resurrect them if they’re dead. The new Support class can’t call down an air-strike, but he can pull his own head off and use it as a UAV. Yes, you read that correctly. The new Assault class packs a Gatling gun, a Flame Thrower and a personal shield, while the new Tracker has an alien dog called Daisy who can sniff out prey for the hunters. None of these classes ups the ante significantly for the Hunter players; the balance in Evolve is meticulously maintained.
This goes for the monster too. While the creature in question we were allowed to control is the same beast from the original preview – the fire-spewing Goliath – Turtle Rock has tweaked a couple of load-out aspects. The player controlling the monster still gets a perk – consuming NPCs faster and a melee attack – but they can now opt out of Evolution powers they may never use. Instead of having to fill out all of Goliath’s abilities – hurling rocks, fire belching and the like – they can choose to boost one or two abilities to frightening levels.
The map has been tweaked, too; Turtle Rock has added more nasty beasts to the terrain and there are even flocks of birds, which, when approached, can give away the position of the predators and prey.
The most appealing aspect of this tense game of cat and mouse is that victory really can swing either way. It all boils down to knowing the terrain and, in the case of the Hunters, working as a team. Similarly to Turtle Rock's zombie classic Left 4 Dead, Evolve already looks like a shooter that players grow into rather than dominate from the get-go. This is a studio that cares about depth, pacing and balance, however games evolve, these things always matter.
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