FORGET FOUR VS FOUR OR SIX VS SIX; THE MULTIPLAYER OF THE FUTURE LOOKS SET TO BECOME INCREASINGLY ONE-SIDED. AND NOWHERE IS THAT CHANGE MORE OBVIOUS AND EXCITING THAN WITH EVOLVE
 Change doesn't happen overnight. When it does happen it tends to be ugly, gradual and fiercely opposed in some quarters. There are always going to be people that want things to stay exactly as they are; after all, preserving the status quo can provide a sense of stability, security and safety.


It can also be boring. And the first person shooter genre finds itself in something of a state of flux as it struggles to claw back the slowly eroding levels of respect that were so high only a few short years ago. That’s what happens when you sit on your laurels and expect your audience to be happy with the most minor and mundane annual iterations.

It’s because of this multiplayer shooter stagnation that Evolve represents such a breath of fresh air and gives genuine reason to get re-excited about hopping back into competitive, first person combat. One side plays as the monster a loner of overwhelming power and strength capable of overrunning the opposition entirely if the right situation arises. The other players are hunters, a four person squad made up of strictly defined class roles where teamwork is essential .

What was perhaps the most impressive feature of the seven or eight matches we’ve played so far is the quality of the balancing, with the majority of matches coming right down to the wire and climaxing in a dramatic finale. That’s not an easy thing to get right when one side’s strength is in numbers, the other’s in force.


Asymmetrical multiplayer is not unique to Evolve, of course. Spy Party is seeing significant success right now with its brand of deadly hide ’n’ seek, the tension created by opponents that are assigned very different skill sets attracting a consistent stream of Twitch viewers. Later this year will also see the release of Fable Legends, in which one player controls a villain from a top down perspective and attempts to kill four heroes running around on ground level. Turtle Rock itself has prior history in this space, with the ‘small team versus zombie horde’ that was Left 4 Dead.

“CONTROLLING THE MONSTER FEELS MORE LIKE AN ACTION GAME THAN A SHOOTER, ADDING ANOTHER FEATHER TO EVOLVE ’S DIVERSITY CAP”
However, Evolve is different in that its systems and interactions are so immediate in terms of excitement and reward, and so accessible in terms of our pre-existing understanding of popular videogames. If you’ve ever played a first-person shooter before then you’ll be able to pick up and play Evolve, no problem. Similarly, however, and this is its masterstroke, it doesn't feel like any shooter that you’ve ever played before.


On the hunter side, you must play as one of four classes: assault, medic, trapper and support. You cannot alter the blueprint to suit your pre-existing tastes; you must play with one of each. This is because each one is a specialist in a very similar way to the most hardline of MMOs, with certain essential skills and abilities lost unless all four are present and working together.

Brilliantly, this specialisation makes you feel like an indispensible cog within the team as well as a valued individual. Not only do you have to do your job properly in order to serve the greater good, but no one else is replicating your job. You’re not just a team member, you’re the only one that can do what you do.

This stands in stark contrast to the likes of Call of Duty, Halo, Battlefield or any other popular competitive FPS you’d like to name. In those you can easily become invisible within your squad as the more experienced players take up the most coveted positions on the map and embed themselves until they die. At which point they’ll repeat the process. Not exactly a direction that encourages all that much in the way of cohesion or communication.


Staying static in Evolve is, in fact, wildly counterproductive. In an attempt to consume the wildlife that roams the large maps, playing as the monster forces you stay on the move and avoid the hunters early on before enhancing your strength and eventually ‘evolving’. Better players can remain ‘unevolved’ and attack hunters through stealth, but that really is an approach for experts.

To counteract that, hunters should do everything they can to track and attack the monster during a match’s opening moments backing off and playing more strategically if the monster manages to evolve. This turns Evolve into a game not only about shooting, healing and trapping, but also about stealth and misdirection. If you can throw the hunters off your scent long enough to achieve the maximum evolution of tier three then you’re going to have the power to come out of hiding and charge right into their faces.


Controlling the monster feels more like an action game than a shooter, adding another feather to Evolve’s diversity cap. Thanks to this differentiation it’s likely that, after some curiosity-driven early experimentation, players will find themselves gravitating to one side or the other some enjoying the teamwork of the hunters, others the potential for isolated destruction offered by the monster.

At this point we’re not sure which side we prefer. Our match to match preference has tended to come down to our mood at the time, opting for hunters if we’re feeling social and the monster if we’d rather brood in our own personal world of pain and unyielding death.

Rarely does a game feel so very welcoming and easy to understand, while also being so confident in its complexities and modernity. As far as next-gen shooters go, it’s Evolve that promises to provide something genuinely new and give a glimpse into a more varied future. Evolve’s monsters are not pretty, but they’re oh so attractive.

MELEE OR RANGED?


There’s more than one monster to choose from, with play style changing dramatically depending on who you choose. So far we’ve played as a Kraken and Goliath, the former requiring a deft touch and the latter sheer force. The Kraken can fly and launch attacks from afar, but it’s much more susceptible to damage and can become overwhelmed in close combat. The Goliath is the opposite, all about getting as close as possible and attacking with fists, rocks and fire. Clearly the two appeal to very different kinds of players and it’s entirely likely that you’ll find one especially rewarding and the other completely unnatural.

It will also be very interesting to see how each one thrives (or not) across the different maps, with this kind of environmental and ability balancing being a key component in providing a game that will satisfy over the long term. There are going to be other monsters included in the full game, but information on them is being kept under wraps for now.