Evolve: The Evolution

Australia is a beautiful case study for divergent evolution the harsh, unforgiving environment gave birth to some of the most ruthlessly efficient wildlife on earth. Fish that walk on land, mammals that lay eggs, spiders that dig holes. Evolve found itself in a similarly challenging environment when a floundering THQ won the bid to publish their game in 2011 unsurprisingly, they adapted and found a way to make it work.

Evolve wouldn't be what it is if it we hadn't gone with them. Because that first year, they left us alone,” Phil Robb, co-founder at TRS told “I mean, we turned in our monthly milestones, and they were like ‘you know what guys, this is great. You’re not going to hear from us very much because we’ve got bigger problems.’ So that was a year of us just being able to explore without a lot of pressure.”

So what did they do with that time, exactly? If you played the Big Alpha or if you saw Evolve in trailers and/or at conventions, you’d know the basics on the planet Shear, four hunters face off against one ever growing monster in a battle of wits and strength. The core concept is solid, but during our studio tour we got the opportunity to see exactly how far they're going to take the idea.

Hunt is how we understand Evolve to date. A power generator, a huge map and a battle to the death sums up what we’ve seen so far. It’s the closest thing Evolve has to team deathmatch very kill or be killed, with the added element of a secondary objective to create conflict at some point. The other modes are far more interesting, however.

For example, you’ve got Rescue, which litters the map with nine civilians. The Hunters need to reach those civilians and escort them to an escape zone the Monster wants them in its tummy. There’s an added element of strategy on both sides, because the civilians don’t appear all over the map at once at first, both sides can only see a couple of those stranded, and they need to race to help them out. Because of the nature of power in Evolve, however, the Monster needs to weigh its options it knows the Hunters will be heading directly for the civilians, so it can feed and Evolve with impunity. But if the Hunters rescue five civilians they win and all that evolving will have been for nothing. On the other hand, there doesn't need to be a team of four to rescue a couple of Civilians, so if the Hunters like they can split into two teams of two and attempt to harass the Monster while it is relatively weak. It will be interesting to see exactly how teams approach the mode.

In the Nest mode, the map is littered with Monster eggs, and the Hunters need to destroy them. The Monster can hatch those eggs to create a “Beta” Monster, a smaller monster which can’t evolve but can still wreak havoc if ignored. If the Hunters can destroy all the eggs and kill any Betas, they win they don’t even need to hurt the Monster. The Hunters could theoretically kill four eggs at once by splitting up, but getting caught alone by either a Beta or the Monster is an almost immediate death sentence, so it might be too risky.

The third mode revealed (bringing the total to four) was Defend, which is a dramatic departure from the others. A Gears of War style Horde mode of sorts, the Monster in Defend starts at Evolution Stage 3 and races against time to destroy the Hunter’s main base. It’s accompanied by a never ending stream of Betas, and the Hunters simply need to keep their base intact for a set amount of time. Defend is pure risk/reward management as the Hunters need to deal with an ever-changing set of priorities  the Monster, the Betas, the Base Defences and their personal defences.
At the end of a game, you feel ruined ... like you've been through something
The big revelation during our Studio Tour was Evacuation, the game’s marquee mode. This is the main game mode people will be playing when Evolve launches. Evacuation takes place across five maps and a variety of modes as the Hunters and Monster compete to see whether Humanity can triumph over a very pissed off Mother Nature. It begins with a traditional game of Hunt, but then everything changes.

My favourite example featured a map with a Goliath trapped in a cage. If the Hunters win this map if they stop the Monster from destroying the refuelling depot and allow the transport ship to take off with the Goliath on the next map, that ship will fly around and actively spot the Monster for them. This means the Monster can’t hide, because it’s constantly being spotted from far above. If the Monster wins, however, the AI controlled Goliath in the cage gets released on the next map and this thing is no Beta... it can Evolve just like the Human controlled monster can. If they lose, the Hunters have to deal with two Monsters on the next map. As the days cascade on in Evacuation, the balance of power shifts constantly as players compete in Hunt, Nest and Rescue missions until day five, which is always a game of Defend as the Hunters make one last effort to get off Shear alive.

At the end of a game of Evacuation, you feel ruined. You feel like you’ve been through something, and because your actions directly affected the degree of difficulty you faced as the game wore on, it feels like your story. It’s a brilliant way to tie the otherwise disparate gameplay of Evolve together.

Generation after generation of TRS’s first post-Valve game has refined it into a ruthlessly magnificent adaptation, something vaguely familiar but wholly unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

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