Evolve hands-on: playing as the medic and the monster

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Written by Tyler Wilde and Cory Banks

A couple weeks ago at PAX East, Tyler and Cory both played Evolve, the new asymmetrical shooter from Left 4 Dead creators Turtle Rock. On one team, four soldiers cooperate to hunt down and kill a giant monster in a large open map, and on the other team... you're the giant monster. In two separate rounds, Tyler played as the Medic, and Cory as the Goliath (the first monster announced so far)—here are their experiences.

Tyler, the Medic:

 
Oh, look at you guys, patting each other on the back for “great shooting” or whatever it is you murder-happy gun guys do. Sorry, I couldn’t quite see what happened because I was too busy keeping your faces from being stomped into the ground.

Medic is the most important soldier class in Evolve, but do I ever hear “what a refreshing healing beam, Tyler!” or “Nice job running away!” or anything other than cries for help? No. I’m not in it for high-fives—OK, I am a little—but playing as Medic sure feels thankless. And being the savior is stressful, especially when your team is yelling for help and you’re 100 yards away because they rushed into battle like kids evacuating class the day before summer break.

The medic is clearly the coolest of the bunch.

Evolve’s fail state works like Left 4 Dead’s, except there’s no respawning in closets. Downed soldiers wait as long as it takes to be revived by any other teammate, but if all four go down, the monster wins. As Medic for this PAX East match, it’s my job to make sure no one goes down in the first place, or to revive them while damage-dealers distract the monster. I’m fitted with a Team Fortress 2-style homing ray that heals teammates or buffs their health when they’re already filled up, a local area-of-effect healing burst with a cooldown timer, and a sniper rifle which opens up weak points on the monster.

The match starts and we’re immediately following a trail of luminescent footprints, but lose them over a ridge. We follow locational text notifications that the monster has displaced flocks of birds (it’s too bad the environmental cues aren’t obvious enough alone), and then I spot it. It’s right in front of me, no more than 100 feet down a treeless path, all big and smooth and ugly. It’s just standing there. I unload my magazine into its head while my teammates keep running ahead. What. Are. They. Doing.

Oh. It’s just one of the regular native animals. It’s a big one, but not the monster. Our guide from Turtle Rock tells me to stop shooting it, because I’m making it angry. I shoot it a couple more times, hoping everyone thinks I’m just goofing off. Yeah. Take that.

The is not the horrible beast you're looking for.

We’re pestered by other little creatures here and there, but they never do much damage. The trickiest thing on the hunt is simply staying together. We all have jetpacks, but they have limited energy and have to recharge, so when everyone sails over a ridge while I’m goofing off among the treetops I get left behind. It doesn’t help that I met my teammates five seconds ago, so when someone shouts “found footsteps!” I don’t know who to follow. I expect we’ll hear “who said that?!” often in public matches.

We follow a lot of footsteps for the first half of the match. Our monster—that is, the guy playing him—is timid, always running away to find grub and evolve. We do have a one tense skirmish, though. We’re ambushed in the forest, and the monster immediately knocks me into a swamp. I was trying to jetpack out of the way when he hit me, and I thought I was out of the way, but however hit detection works it didn’t work in my favor. I’m generally disappointed by the way the monster’s animations whack the air in front of soldiers and send them flying—I don’t sense a lot of weight or impact from it, just terrible confusion as I go tumbling.

Anyway, I’m in a swamp. Weapons can’t be used in water, so my healing ray is unusable until I swim to shore. Meanwhile, everyone’s yelling for me. It’s briefly frightening, but the monster scampers away again to evolve to his next stage and we regroup.

These promotional screenshots are carefully staged, but Evolve really is very pretty.

Once the monster reaches his final stage of evolution, he has to either kill the soldiers or complete an objective to win. In this case, he has to destroy a generator. I’m beginning to think generators don’t actually exist in the real world and are the inventions of game designers. Anyway, when we get the final evolution notice, our guide instructs us to set up camp in the generator’s warehouse-sized enclosure. We do, and we wait.

I’m perched on a catwalk while my team circles the floor. “He’s outside the door,” whispers a teammate. “Don’t go out there. Just wait. He’ll come.” Someone goes out there. Someone gets smacked into the forest. Oh good.

We all rush outside to help him. I get out the door last and I’m confused. I’m trying to follow my scattered teammates, but I don’t know where the monster is or who’s fighting him. I try to jetpack up the side of the generator building—the Trapper’s up there—but I fail the first attempt. Instead of waiting for my jetpack to recharge, I run after Support.


Above: The latest Evolve trailer shows a match from each perspective.

Now we’ve split up. Support and I are fine, but the Trapper and Assault guys have been left alone without a Medic. “He’s coming back!” says someone in the other pair. They’re back in the generator room already, and we aren’t there. Support and I start running, using our jetpacks to boost forward.

Back in the generator room, the Trapper has snared the monster with a harpoon. I sprint into the room—getting there felt like forever—and shoot it in the head with my rifle before switching to my med gun. I try to heal, but the pair is badly hurt. Assault goes down. The monster is trying to escape. I try to revive Assault but get backhanded. The Trapper drops his mobile arena, creating a shimmering dome over the generator building and surrounding forest so the monster can't escape. I get up and start healing the Trapper while Support revives Assault. I get smacked in the face again. I’m down. The trapper has the beast harpooned again. Support drops an orbital strike.

The fully evolved Goliath is a nasty fellow.

The monster, somewhat anti-climactically, crumples into a heap. He’s dead! That final moment was what I was looking for: the moment of panic you get in a Left 4 Dead Tank battle, where teammates are incapacitated and you have to choose between doing damage or trying to revive them, grasping for a little more time to score that final blow. It was a great moment, and I wanted more of them throughout the match. I foresee that there will be in matches against experienced monsters, and I really like the idea that there might be famed monster players to seek out. Going up against a monster with 20 wins and zero losses would be exhilarating.

Here, we delivered our monster his first loss in his first game. I felt a little bad. He was trying, the poor giant hell creature, and having four little humans running around all over the place has to be stressful. I’ll leave that perspective for Cory, who played as the monster in a different round.

As we stood up, the story of the game came out in smiles and nods and “nice jobs.” No one thanked me, the Medic, but we won, so I don’t mind. Actually I sort of do mind.

On the next page, Cory plays as the Monster…