It’s not often that AAA developers get the chance to take big risks. The gaming industry made an estimated US$46 billion in revenue last year, which is no doubt a ginormous amount of money, but money like that doesn’t come without equally huge financial risk. Hence it is becoming more and more rare for publishers to let developers experiment outside of popular genres and explore the realms of ‘high concept’ gameplay ideas. This makes the mere existence of Turtle Rock Studio’s newest game Evolve so startling—a game that screams “high concept” from every pixel. 2K Games allowed its developers the flexibility to try something new, to take risks. Which is why it makes me so damn happy that it paid off.
The term ‘high concept’ means an idea that can be pitched succinctly in one sentence. However, publishers in the gaming industry want not a sentence, but an acronym that sells a game to a customer. FPS, MMO, MOBA, RTS—the list goes on. In the gaming industry, ‘high concept’ means more than an acronym.
Evolve is an First Person Shooter (FPS) in which four Hunters attempt to track down and kill a Monster, who is played by a fifth player operating in a third-person action framework. No doubt much more wordy than just saying FPS—but it’s in all those extra words that the innovation and fun take place.
This original idea is brought to us by the same team responsible for the excellent Left for Dead series and is set on the planet Shear in a distant future where humans have colonised much of space. The planet Shear is a wild planet, where humans have begun to take root, but the planet is still very much untamed and occupied by dangerous and spectacular fauna and wildlife.
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Playable online or offline, you get to choose who you play as. If you are a hunter you have the choice of four classes, each of which has three unlockable characters with their own unique skill sets. Assault are the damage dealers, Medics the healers, Support the defenders and Trappers can hunt down the monsters and hold them in an area. Or you can choose to be a Monster.
The game consists of matches in which Monster is pitted against Hunters. The aim for the Monster is ultimately to kill all the Hunters or complete an objective. The Hunters’ assignment is simple: kill the Monster. Turtle Rock has done a phenomenal job balancing these two experiences. I was deeply impressed by the how equal both the challenge and the reward of playing as both a Hunter and the Monster are.
Though the game consists only of these competitive matches, it is kept constantly interesting and dynamic by 12 different maps and a litany of map conditions that change from match to match including weather and dynamic events. Every game feels so different and creates an atmosphere that is truly palpable.
Aside from the pure joy of the hunt, the game keeps players engaged through an excellent progression system whereby players unlock additional characters by gaining experience. Though it may not be the most profoundly interesting or innovative way to keep players engaged, I am a sucker for this kind of system and eagerly dedicated myself to leveling up characters to unlock new ones.
Evolve is a AAA experience, but also a very innovative, original and engaging one. It’s not often these concepts go together anymore, so I suggest you check it out.