Evolve Alpha…our thoughts

‘Turtle rock’ studios unleashed their latest game upon an expectant crowd this weekend past. ‘Evolve’ caused a stir when it was opened for public consumption and not all for the right reasons.

Evolve-Details

Let’s get this out of the way at the beginning, the launch was an unmitigated disaster for the players on PS4…at first the game did not work, ‘Turtle Rock’ stated that it was a compatibility issue with the newly released PS firmware. Needless to say it was unplayable on PS4 for the entire first day of the “Big Alpha”. Even after the patch I was still unable to play it on PS4…this is not the end of my thoughts…

…I was lucky enough to get a code for the PC version as a sorry for the PS4 mess up. And I played this game quite a lot.

For those who don’t know; ‘Evolve’ is the natural evolution (really sorry, but this is genuinely the best word to use here) of Turtle Rock’s previous co-op series ‘Left 4 Dead’. It features asymmetrical game play in which 4 hunters pit their wits against a single monster’s brawn. The catch here is that all the characters are player controlled, this ensures that every match is unique and replaces their “director” A.I system.

The monster will have a set objective (in the alpha it was to destroy a power station); this can only be achieved once the player has evolved into it’s level 3 form (its most powerful stage). The players job is to find the monster and stop it from getting to that stage.

There are aspects of RPG in there too! The monster player will have certain powers (picked in lobby) and they’ll have to exploit the advantages these powers give them, while avoiding giving away its position (via scaring birds or leaving tracks). The gameplay is deep, rewarding and exciting; although it is very daunting for the new players…lets get stuck into the detailed analysis…

The good.

There are a lot of things that ‘Evolve’ does well and we’ll adress the most obvious thing first..the graphics, ‘Evolve’ is an absolutely stunning looking game. Even better than it merely looking good is that the optimisation; even at this early stage, is incredible too!

I experienced high frame-rates even while streaming with minimal tinkering of settings. While I have a good PC it is hardly the most powerful in the world, I was still able to enjoy 60fps on high settings in 1080p with the following PC:

PC Specs

i5 4460

GTX 750Ti 2 gb

8gb RAM

Windows 8.1

In order to stream at 30fps I merely had to turn down the graphic settings to medium. In the aftermath of ‘Dead Rising 3’ and other poorly-optimised (if they can be called that; some may argue they are unoptimised) games this was refreshing and Turtle Rock deserve to be applauded on that. In saying that though; my favourite thing about ‘Evolve’ wasn’t it’s graphics, nor it’s gameplay but it’s very cool replay system.

If you are familiar with ‘Football Manager’ then you’ll know what it looks like. The game tracks every movement the players make and will produce a top down representation of the map in which the players are represented by colour dots. The replay will show you every move made by every player and it is an exceptionally cool feature. It is also incredibly useful for spotting where you made mistakes – it also makes it incredibly difficult to continuously use the same tactics as everyone can see everything! This feature alone will keep players on their toes and ensure they use the full range of powers/weapons/classes at their disposal.

And this aspect of individuality is one that Turtle Rock have spent a lot of time! let’s begin with their character classes.

Every class feels completely unique; you’ll need to learn a very specific set of skills and utilise them in perfect harmony with your team in order to take a monster down. Not only this but the classes are all perfectly complimentary to one another and perfectly balanced with the monster.

If you take these points and pair it with the impressive map size and expert layout this game is perfectly suited to the strategists out there. I fully expect to see major tactical battles occur in the full release; expert monsters versus clans of hunters…this game could fully become an E-Sport! When played at a high level…

The bad.

…the flipside of that is true also however; it is frustrating when you don’t know what you’re doing or when your teammates don’t (i was on both sides of this coin). If you’re playing in a team with a person who doesn’t have an intimate knowledge of their class it is a real handicap and makes victory much more difficult to achieve. When teamwork is so fundamental it creates a high barrier to entry; ‘Evolve’ is no exception to this rule, however I hope that it’s viewpoint and solid gunplay can make people much more likely to persevere.

Although the fundamentals of the gunplay are exquisite there is one big bug bear that I have with it…there is absolutely no feedback from the weapons. There is no weight to the guns, they do not recoil, making contact with the monster is represented by a red reticle and that is all. The same can be said of the ‘Left 4 Dead’ series so i’m not sure if this will change much before release. I feel that it is an are that needs addressed as it leads to the player feeling disjointed and disconnected with the action on screen and it is very hard to adjust to this.

Speaking of the action on screen; while it isn’t very satisfying at the moment it is certainly impressively frenetic. There are particles everywhere, guns going off, the hunters screaming at each other over the riot of noise, wildlife  flying around and the monster hurling fire/rocks/itself through the air! It can get very hard to see what the hell is going on at times.

Typically of this generation the loading time is crazy long and although it is not a fault of the game coming across a team that are willing to communicate with one another was a rare occurance. This will be circumvented in the real world by playing with friends – which will showcase ‘Evolve’ at its finest.

While these issues are serious (some more than others ‘compatibility’) I for one have no doubt in Turtle Rock’s ability as a developer and I am incredibly excited for ‘Evolve’ and have already pre-ordered it in anticipation of February.

I just wish the BETA was cross platform…but it’ll make the improvements seem all the more impressive to me!

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