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Hands-on with ‘Evolve’ – A Situational Adventure

Now that the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have been out for over a year, we’re finally starting to see games that are indeed “next gen.” Keep in mind that the phrase “next gen,” which is now current gen, was just a marketing term at the end of the day. It’s not about a technical leap from cartridge to DVD or from DVD to Blu-ray, but rather a simple hardware refresh. As games got more complex so did the needs of veteran gamers.

Those who sat on the periphery, playing fan-based brawlers like Batman: Arkham City once or twice a month or those who solely play Street Fighter probably won’t notice a difference – or even care.

However, gamers that love spending endless hours playing console games online or diving through rich cinematics and story will start to see the difference this year. 2015 heralds games that are designed for the Xbox One and PS4 – not games that had to keep X360 and PS3 owners in mind.

Sure, you might see better textures in environments. And you’ll see more companies push their mo-cap sessions so that your lead heroes won’t have those eerie, glossy dead eyes.

But the real benefit will be behind the scenes and how we interact with the game. We can look forward to improved AI, more enemies, complex level design, better technical management of multiplayer sessions and more dynamic environments.

Evolve from Turtle Rock Studios, the studio behind the Left 4 Dead series, is kicking off 2015’s new wave. The game pits four hunters against a savage monster. And since we all love playing the villain and getting our dark side on, Turtle Rock has given us the option to do just that.

Instead of being a medic, all-around soldier, heavy arms fighter or a sniper, we can be the boss. Gamers can become a Goliath that leaps long distances to pounce on humans, a Kraken that shoots lightning and drops banshee mines or a Wraith that can create decoys in order to lure and abduct individual hunters. It’s a fascinating experience that forces you to think differently.

As a monster, instead of relying on teammates to help you, you must rely on instinct and the terrain.
We really got a sense of this dynamic by playing the Evacuation mode of Evolve. While most shooter games give us a single player campaign and a multiplayer smorgasbord of deathmatch and other objective modes, Evolve does something a little different. Instead of a single-player campaign, Evolve gives us a situational adventure.

Gamers battle as part of the hunter team or as the monster over the course of five days. The missions change as do the environments. And each win or loss affects gameplay over subsequent days.

For instance, we started off as the Wraith, who feels very similar to an Alien Xenomorth in tactics. The Wraith is the kind of monster that sneaks up behind you, attacks, then disappears before his next move. This monster is a little tricky to use since he’s also a weaker class. You have to pay close attention to your shields and feed on lesser monsters to build you power back up after an attack. If you feast on enough monsters, you can evolve into a level 2 monster, power up your abilities and then wreak even more damage.

We played the Nest mode first, which puts the monster into defensive mode. You have to protect eight eggs from getting destroyed. After hatching one of the eggs to serve as a decoy – I felt ashamed of myself for using a baby like that – I was able to run around and feast on a few lesser monsters and evolve. Then, I rushed over to attack the hunter team. The goal is to either protect the eggs for the given time or kill all the hunters. As the Wraith, time was my friend.
Unfortunately, I lost. Here is where the game changes. Since the hunters won, they received additional boosts during the next day. For instance, they either got a satellite that attacked me with a laser from above or additional turrets that surrounded their power generators. Plus, they got more XP than me.

The game encourages players to stay involved by rewarding XP, whether you win or lose. If you lose four days in a row, you’d expect the other team to be ultra powerful. However, Turtle Rock Studios had added in some balancing that gives your team or monster a boost so that you can still compete without feeling overwhelmed.

The style of this game is what really made me feel like I was in the start of a next-gen adventure. The hunters were computer players with better AI. I could really see them take advantage of their unique abilities, especially in the Rescue mode. The hunters fought tooth-and-nail to protect their VIPs. As the monster, it was good to see my hatched monster act independently from me. Unfortunately, you’ve got an extra benefit as a hunter. If you’re playing as a single-player, you can take control of different members of your team – just in case the AI medic fails you. As a monster, you can’t control your minion, whose basically bait.

Evolve looks like it will be a good option for gamers who love multiplayer as well as those gamers who don’t work well in team situations. For the latter, they can play as the monster. This is probably the most challenging experience, but definitely the most satisfying.

Evolve comes to Xbox One and PS4 on Feb 10.

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