Left 4 Dead was a landmark sensation in 2008. Introduced at an era before an avalanche of Zombie-themed games, movies, dramas started to flood the market and screens, it was a simple-to-jump-in cooperative multiplayer. In various game modes, players can choose to play as humans or as the Infected. Left 4 Dead became a huge hit in LAN (Local Area Network) videogame cafes, especially when it grew in popularity among girl gamers.
The creators of that game have now put together EVOLvE, scheduled for release in late 2014. While it is also a cooperative multiplayer, the characters are significantly different from Left 4 Dead.
It wasn’t obvious at first, but I thought it was pretty clever when I read about why the logo was designed in such a way, especially when you see it being animated in the trailer. That also means that the EVOLvE is primarily 4v1 (Hunters vs Monster), although it is not necessarily so all the time (more on that below).
I had the opportunity to test out an early build which allows us to play on one map, both either as a human from one of four classes or as a monster recently. Here are my observations:
Named The Shear, the map is one typically dense and dark jungle overlooked by a huge waterfall that leads to caves and ravines. Populated with a variety of foliage and rocky formations, traversing the area is dangerous without a torchlight, but that would also giveaway your location from afar. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to slip into the deeper ends. Fortunately, each human player has jetpacks, so it’s easy to fly up back on track. The jungle is filled with other lesser creatures, probably half mutant. Bird-like creatures will shriek and fly away upon being startled, causing a commotion that can be tracked from afar. Small dinosaur-like creatures will attack the Hunters in packs, but will flee from the Monster because they are a source of food. There’s also a medium-sized creature (crocodile?) minding its own business at the waterfall bank, until it is provoked. In one corner, sits a large defenceless multiple-platform plant housing a generator that is crucial to the mission.
Collectively known as Hunters, we are introduced to four characters from each class, just like those you see from the trailer. We are advised that there could be more characters to choose from in each class, allowing multiple combination and a fresh look. All Hunsters are played in first-person view, but unlike Left 4 Dead, iron sights are enabled.
Objective players would eventually pay more attention to the class abilities, which ranges from Assault, Support, Trapper and Medic. While they each have varied arsenal, teamwork is key to defeating the monster.
VAL, the Medic will aim to keep the team alive. She has a MedGun that can be fired from a vertical or horizontal position directly to her teammates, one at a time. She also has Healing Burst, which heals those within a small radius. She can fire the Tranquilizer Rifle to slow down and weaken the monster, or use an Anti-Material Rifle to pierce the monster’s armoured skin, creating weak spots for her teammates to focus on.
MARKOV, the Assault is your heavypower. His Lightning Gun deals damage at close range, while his Assault Rifle allows him to shoot from a further distance. His electrically charged Arc Mines can be planted around the map. (Protip: I’ve seen 7 mines stacked together during the demo, believed to be amplifying its damage). For defence, he has a Personal Shield to be invulnerable momentarily.
HANK, the Support seems to have a balanced skillset. His Laser Cutter deals damage but his Shield Gun makes his teammates invincible for a short period of time. He has a Cloaking Device to make his teammates invisible, and my personal favourite is his Orbital Barrage air strike – just aim at a target and fire.
GRIFFIN, the Trapper has skills that is not seen in other games (because it’s effective against Monsters). He can launch Sound Spikes to alert the team of the monster’s movements. His Harpoon Gun prevents the monster from getting too far away, supported by launching Mobile Arena which traps the monster in one area of the map. To support the team in firepower, he has a cool-looking submachine gun.
A basic strategy goes like this: Support may want to make his team invisible while Trapper launches Sound Spikes as the team moves about together, slowly. The idea is not to give away their location easily. Once the monster is in sight, Assault would direct their firepower to bring down monster’s health to zero, with Trapper firing a harpoon to prevent the monster from going out of sight. The harpoon slows down the monster, but the monster can sever the tether if it is quick, all while taking damage. The monster may usually try to make its escape which the Trapper will attempt to enforce a force field dome, ensuring that monster is not able to go beyond a defined circumference. All these while the Medic, who appears to have a weaker armor, evades any direct contact and using a Medgun to continuously replenish the health of her teammates from afar, horizontally or vertically. The Medic is also able to create weak spots on the monster by firing through her Tranquilizer rifle. As the monster is slowed down or trapped in a corner (possibly with another shot of the Harpoon Gun), Support would let Orbital Barrage rain onto the monster.
The monster we are introduced to is named Goliath, which embodies a familiar rendition of a walking two-legged grotesque beast with powerful arms. Depending on the chosen abilities, Goliath is able to perform specific actions such as attack charge, rock throw, fire-breathing and strong leaps, along with secondary abilities such as faster feeding and armor boost. Stomping around will leave giant footprints that can be tracked but it can convert to Stealth (crawl mode) and stop leaving tracks. This can cause confusion to the Hunsters, and due to the multiple-level terrain of The Shear, there are ample opportunities to create diversion. Due to the sheer size of the beast, the monster is played in third-person view. It appears that more monsters will be unveiled and each of them may require different approach and tactic. Cool!
In the game mode available, the monster’s objective is to feed and evolve in the first two rounds, and once he reaches level 3, he can go all-offensive at the base to destroy the generator, leading to the next progress of the mission which is to eliminate a group of scattering scientists. The first two rounds requires the monster to play sneakily, and confuse the Hunters. Every time the monster attempts to kill and devour the lesser beasts, there is a danger of causing too much commotion and noise. The Hunters can scatter Sound Amplifiers to alert them of such, even if they are at the other end of the map. It may seem an unfair advantage, but the monster can lead the Hunters to other forms of distraction such as crossing the path of the quiet-unless-provoked beast by the bank. Such diversion allows the monster to escape by leaping across the terrain within seconds. Although the Hunters have jetpacks, they are limited by cooldown time.
Based on the preview of four-stage-multiplayer build, the match can either end quickly in the first round or last until the fourth stage. It depends on the teamwork of the Hunters, the skill of the monster (player) to create panic and scatter the team members and the familiarity of the players with the map and how it is used to their advantage. It is also refreshing to switch from the first person view of the Hunters in one match and then play in third person view as the monster in another.
EVOLvE will be available on XboxOne, PS4 and PC this Fall. While EVOLvE provides another reason to own the next-generation consoles, I believe it will be receive faster adoption among our PC brethren. I won’t be surprised if EVOLvE is the next title to sweep LAN cafes by storm as we approach the Fall holidays of 2014, in the meantime I hope we don’t have to wait too long for the next reveal on this game.