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DoubleTake: Evolve

Posted on April 19, 2014 AT 09:00am

Hunting the hunter

Coming on the heels of Josh’s hands-on report on Turtle Rock Studios’ Evolve last month, you and I had the chance at PAX East to get to play the same segment he did. So, we thought we’d do a different take on what’s being shown so far. We all know the premise by now: Four hunters try to take down a giant creature before said creature is able to power up and destroy the hunters. I wanted to try a role I feel is often done poorly in games such as these: medic. Meanwhile, you decided to go a very different route. Eric
Chris If tapping into my more predatory, primal nature as a 10-foot alien entity that can hurl boulders and breathe fire that, after feasting on other alien fauna, transformed into a 30-foot armored berserker beast while you and the saps you saddled up with to pursue me is “going a very different route” then yes. Yes, I did. But it’s also a matter of perspective, I suppose. Yours limited, locked behind your eyes. Mine pulled back, aware of my surroundings, allowing me to turn hunters into the hunted. See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.
I didn’t want to hurt—I wanted to heal. Medic/healer classes are often messy, because they end up more like “someone with a weapon who also heals sometimes.” For Evolve, however, it seemed that nearly every time I tried to pull out my sniper rifle, I had to hurriedly switch to my healing gun to get back to supporting my teammates. I loved it—I felt like I had an actual job in the game, something that nobody else could do. It’s something I both worry about and look forward to in Evolve: the real need for human beings to work together. Unfortunately, I know how that goes too often. For you, though, the only person you had to count on was yourself. As a team-based first-person shooter, Evolve provided some interesting situations, but how was it on the single-player-focused end? Eric

Chris To be clear, in this instance, “single-player” means just that—being the “1″ in Evolve‘s 4-on-1 multiplayer. There is some sort of traditional single-player component to Evolve, but Turtle Rock has yet to touch upon that aspect of their next-gen debut. What we played was Hunt mode, an asymmetrical multiplayer offering in which one person controls the alien monster—the Goliath—in third-person while four class-based player-characters try to take it down in first-person. As for what it felt like to be the lone wolf (albeit a rather hulking one) against you and my other three pursuers? Well, it felt surprisingly lonesome. Not so much in a “left out from the fun” sort of way, but rather in a vulnerable way. The size and scariness of the Goliath exists somewhere at the intersection of empowering and exposed.
I really do have to wonder what division of people will want to play as the giant monster, and who will want to fill the role of the hunters. There was a thrill and fear being a hunter, knowing that, at any moment, you could’ve shown up and totally decimated me—that was captivating on some level. For us, the scale and design of the world felt intimidating and overwhelming, so that even though it was 4-on-1, we felt just as much the hunted as the hunters. Would I want to swap sides and play as the Goliath, though? I’m really not sure. I don’t know that I’d want that, but I’m certain that some people would. It’s interesting how you’ve got two totally different sides to the same game, and that you might have two divided player bases. It’s almost like you’ve got a game that can cater to the team player, and one that can cater to the lone wolf, and it just so happens they’re the same game. Eric
Chris It certainly is an interesting dynamic. When we chatted about our respective experiences after the hands-on demo, I mentioned thinking that the map struck me as somewhat small. Until you expressed the opposite sentiment, the obviousness of my scale factoring into the equation hadn’t occurred to me. One problem I had, though, was a sense of detachment from the world at large as a result, especially when throwing down against you and other hunters. While I’m glad the camera’s pulled back when playing as the Goliath (and whatever other alien monstrosities Turtle Rock has yet to reveal)—it makes it easier to scale vertical elements in the environment, like rocky outcroppings, and I think it would be a nightmare to try and take on four attackers at once and keep track of them elsewise—it also left me with a weird sense of detachment as opposed to immersion. There’s a floaty-ness to how the Goliath handles that left my attacks and interactions lacking any “oomph.” For lack of a better, less tired and played-out videogame term, hurling boulders at you, clawing at you, even breathing fire on you never had a “visceral” feel to it.

Yeah, and if they don’t get that right, I think it’s going to be tough to make playing the monster fun. You want to feel like Godzilla smashing through the real-world city, not a guy in a Godzilla suit stomping around a model city. I don’t know that I have the exact same complaints on the hunter side, but I did walk away worrying about if this can be a fully fleshed-out game. I hate to say it, but Evolve—at least what we played of it—felt like a mode that comes as part of a much bigger game. I loved playing the Medic for that match, but there wasn’t that much depth to the character. Nor any of them, it seems, at least in our time with the demo. There are going to be more hunters along with the other monsters, but how much variety and expansion will come within each class? If they’re all too basic, it could end up with similar problem to what you had: a game that just doesn’t have that connection it needs in order to be fun over countless matches. Eric
Chris Not unlike how the Goliath exists in the space between the intersecting circles of empowerment and vulnerability, Evolve is both brimming with potential and uncertainty. And I mean, I suppose the same could be said of any game prior to its release. I’m hesitant to pass any judgment without knowing more about other modes, other monsters, and whatever form the supposed single-player will take. Still, without finding a way to anchor the Goliath and its ilk to the world a little better, Evolve‘s most crucial character role might, for many, be a matter of drawing the shortest straw as opposed to something that’s a desirable, “disadvantaged” challenge to test your skills with.

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