Howling and twisting in a frenzy of rage, my dear monster met its final moments doing the one thing we had done best in our too-brief time together. We stomped on humans.
I controlled the monster Goliath, a King Kong-type of chap. Journos from other outlets as well as some Turtle Rock developers, playing at a bank of desks opposite me, controlled one each of the four human hunters, my tormentors.
During the hunt I had learned to run and hide from them. I had learned to feed on wildlife and had, as a result of this sustenance, evolved to a state of greater size and monstrous awesomeness.
I had also learned how to beat down on the bastards, breath fire and throw rocks at them. But it was not enough. Over the course of our ten minute game, they wore me down, with their guns and their technology. It was, I have to say, terrific fun.
Turtle Rock's Evolve, due out on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC this fall, is itself an evolution on the developer's achievements with Left 4 Dead. Once again, the game is all about four very different human classes, alien-hunters this time, rather than zombie apocalypse survivors, working together to defeat a powerful enemy.
This game is inspired by L4D's tank unit, a very powerful mutant that would relentlessly attack an individual human and deal out immense damage. It moved fast, but a well organized team could always come through. The tank was also playable in Versus mode, an aspect of L4D that makes up the core of Evolve.
It is four-against-one in a fairly large arena, in which the monster can rarely stay hidden for long. Combat is broken up by intermittent escape as the monster seeks to lure the hunters to its own advantage.
The monster can be tracked using listening posts, or via giveaways like luminous tracks and startled wildlife. Depending on the monster, it might have special evasive abilities. Goliath can climb cliffsides, which sounds like a huge advantage until you look back and see the hunters using jetpacks.
And there is always the need to feed, to rapidly evolve to a state wherein you become more terrible; more able to deal damage when the humans, inevitably, find a way to corner you, to lay down their lasers and tethers.
Playing in the monster's third person view, I did everything I could to run and hide. It felt like a great lark, like the sort of game boys and girls might play in a wooded glen on a summer's eve.
"There are a lot of those old elements of play in the game," said design director Chris Ashton. "It's like hide and go seek as well as an Easter egg hunt." He said that different monsters would provide very different strategies.
Although the popularity of the tank in L4D had provided the impetus to proceed with the plan for an asymmetrical multiplayer action game, the idea for Evolve precedes Left 4 Dead. "This has been something we have been talking about for a long time."
Of course, multiplayer matches in which teams are balanced but entirely different, with separate skills and missions, is nothing new for the developer that cut its teeth working on Counter-Strike.
"Getting the right balance is the challenge," he added. "You have the monster and the hunters all in different varieties and lots of ways for them all to be played."
I also played as the human classes, once against another reporter-as-monster who, despite putting up a gallant fight, was also defeated. Then we teamed up versus a 2K exec, eyes gleaming with competitive zeal, who managed to kill us all. Ungallantly, he also attempted to feast on our corpses.
As an assault unit I learned the hard lesson that team-work is absolutely essential. Without my big-gun baddassery and high hit-counts, my less powerful team-mates couldn't hope to defeat the monster. Later, as a tracker, I played a huge role in sighting the monster, laying down tracking gear and traps as well as firing off devices designed to keep it in one place. Likewise, the medic and support units play crucial roles.
If a player goes down, a medical resuscitation is necessary. If a player dies, the few minutes wait for a replacement is an age, as survivors fend off the rage of the creature.
Environment plays a big part. The game jungles are crammed with living things that monsters like to eat, or that can impede a human attack. The monster can seek to short-cut the evolutionary path by eating a big critter, but that plan runs the risk of damage. Big critters can also be useful as foils against those humans dim enough to get lost in swamps and river beds. Carnivorous plants await the unwary.
Anyone who loved Left 4 Dead, and isn't completely married to the idea of an multitudinous enemy, is definitely going to get a kick out Evolve. The monsters, their power and their physical impressiveness will doubtless play a big part in how this game is messaged. It seems likely that many players will want to just play as the monster.
Phil Robb, art director at Turtle Rock, said the game is "like a really big boss battle," with the significant proviso that a human-controlled boss is nowhere near as predictable, and usually a lot less dumb, than an AI. "It's never the same battle twice," he said.
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