I took point as we tracked the monster through the dense wilderness. The rest of my team followed close behind. Our HUD blinked and alerted us of peculiar noise nearby. With my jetpack, I glided up a jut of rock, and there it was—Goliath. The brute of a creature tore apart the local wildlife below me. I called in an orbital barrage on its position. Missiles rained from above. With Goliath hit, our trapper moved in and deployed a mobile arena, preventing the beast's escape for a short time with a blue domed forcefield. Our first of four hectic brawls began.
“This is Evolve,” said design director Chris Ashton just minutes before we began our hunt. “An asymmetrical cooperative competitive multiplayer game.”
It's a mouthful, but I can't think of a better way to categorize Evolve. Developed by Turtle Rock Studios for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC, Evolve pits four players against one on a wild planet called Shear. These four players must utilize their class specific roles to hunt and slay the fifth player in control of a hulking monster before it evolves into a form too powerful to kill. The hunt plays out as a series of boss-like encounters mixed with a chase through an atmospheric, alien environment. It's tremendous fun, which shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, Turtle Rock has both Left 4 Dead titles under its development belt.
I played support, which put me in both an offensive and defensive role during the demo I played at PAX East. Evolve equips each class with several crucial abilities, and the support class is no different. It featured a powerful orbital barrage, a team-cloaking ability, and my personal favorite: the shield generator. I was able to generate a shield on a fellow teammate to block damage if I kept them in my field of view. Because Goliath can't focus on multiple players, I spent my time on high ground protecting whichever ally the monster wanted to pummel.
Three journalists from other outlets filled out the rest the team. True to its name, the medic class kept our team alive, but also wielded a sniper rifle which weakened Goliath. Our trapper used a wealth of abilities to track and slow the monster. The trapper's most effective tool was the mobile arena, an ability which created a giant blue dome from which Goliath could not escape for a short period. Lastly, the assault class hit hard with its lightning gun and even harder with deployable mines. It was necessary for every team member to pull their own weight—lone wolves won't get far in Evolve.
The fifth player sat across from our four screens and controlled Goliath. His goal was to consume creatures found in the wilderness in order to evolve into stronger forms. Once evolved fully, Goliath would become too strong for the hunters to kill, creating a sense of urgency on both sides. Goliath was faster than us but had to stop to make a kill and feast. When we trapped Goliath in the dome, the monster defended itself with pure offense. Thrown rocks, flame breath, and massive fists kept kept us on our heels despite our goal.
Rain poured down amongst the tall trees and cliffs as we tracked and met Goliath on four occasions during our demo. Each time our trapper confined the beast within the mobile arena, and after it dissipated Goliath fled out into Shear with a little less health. Perhaps it was a trick of well designed backdrops, but the level we played in appeared massive. An abundance of both hostile and apathetic alien creatures helped bring Shear to life, along with some great tone-setting sound design. Despite the goofy character models—the character I played wouldn't have been out of place on an episode of Duck Dynasty—I was immersed into the game world and the task at hand with surprising ease.
Our final bout with Goliath came as we chased the creature into a sunken pit. Rash, all four of us jumped in ready to finish it off once and for all. Big mistake. Massive crocodile-like creatures, fierce and ready to tear my team apart, lurked within and joined the fray. Our trapper and medic died quickly, but the crocodiles did, too. Goliath still had a fifth of his health and neared his final evolution. I activated my cloaking device to get out of the way, pulled out my shield generator, and protected my assault teammate as he let loose everything in his arsenal. It was close, but Goliath fell. Our team jumped up in our seats, cheered, shook hands, and gave our condolences to the man behind the monster whom, despite his loss, was grinning ear to ear with the rest of us.
Part of me wanted Goliath to win. The unpredictability of a human-controlled boss enemy is at the core of Evolve and what made it such an exciting experience, not my team of four trackers. Goliath was the star, maybe even the hero, despite its grotesque appearance. Ashton promised more game modes and maps when the game launches this fall, so I'll eagerly await my chance to play as Goliath and taste monstrous victory sometime this year.