My (Extra) Short Time With the Evolve Big Alpha

Little Big Alpha

Tuesday marked the official end of the Evolve Big Alpha, which I happily participated in. Unfortunately the PS4 had its 2.00 update which somehow destroyed the Alphas functionality, and while I did play Evolve on my PS4, I'm not here to groan about not being able to play more.

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The Basics

I'm sad to report I didn't get to play monster. Over the course of the 20+ matches I got into, I didn't even manage to end up playing medic. I played Trapper and Assault class a lot, with the occasional match as the Support.

Once a game is joined, roles are doled out by the CPU. The player is given the chance to rank the roles he wants to play from most to least, and that is factored in somehow, but the player never gets to directly choose his/her role.

As the player levels up, you unlock perks (that appear to transcend class). I unlocked the quick-switch perk, 200% jump perk, and the 25% faster jetpack recharge perk were selectable for every class I played. Also unlocked are different characters for each class, each character with varying abilities and loudest.

Each match begins in a dropship with the four-person team. Your team chatters among each other (and the chatter varies every time, also between character select) while you wait for the bay doors to open.

While this happens and you wait to drop, the monster is directly under you. The idle chatter and waiting acts like a sort of "Ready or not here I come," that gives the monster a chance to get moving.

The hunter team parachutes down to the ground and usually end up following the Maggie the Trappers companion, Daisy. She is an AI controlled character that can track the monster to some extent, and as long as she is alive/near you can see the footsteps of the monster flash blue above the ground. Supposedly she could sniff the monster out, but she mostly points the way. She has the ability to revive players and saved my team more than once from our certain doom.

A Man/Woman/Aliens best friend.
A Man/Woman/Aliens best friend.

The monster has to "evolve" to stage 3 before it can attack the levels power grid and win--OR, the monster can monkey stomp the hunters to fucking death and win that way.

Class of Characters

Maggie the Trapper

Despite choosing "No Preference" for class (in an effort to find games), I tended to get roped into playing the first two classes on my pick list, so I'm not positive hitting "No Preference" actually did anything. I got to play Trapper quite a bit (a woman named Maggie accompanied by a sort of space dog named Daisy) which turned out being maybe my favorite class. That was a pleasant surprise because it's potentially the most passive role. Maggie is armed with a light machine gun, which is pretty self explanatory. Not useful at all against the monster, and only worth wielding when encountering hostile wildlife/foliage, and I did! Especially when the monster had perks that made the flora and fauna hostile to the hunters.

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Maggie has a gun that shoots spike traps, and when the monster runs over them a tether will latch onto the monster and restrict its movement. It doesn't lock the monster down for more than four of five seconds, but it does its job and gives the hunters a quick second to plant a trap, descend on the monster, or regroup.

Daisy, who I covered earlier, takes up an ability slot as well.

Lastly, the trapper has a deployable dome that creates an arena of sorts around a small area. The hunters can travel in/out of the dome, but the monster is stuck inside until the time expires. As far as I understand, this dome is maybe the most imperative part to destroying the monster.

The Trapper feels good. One of the biggest challenges of a game like this is making the classes that aren't doing the killin' feel fun to play, and I think I preferred the trapper.

Hank the Support

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Hank is an interesting character because at times he seems more powerful than the assault, but not as clearly balanced for forward-attack. His primary is the plasma cutter (pictured), which has a little bit of a wind-up to it, like a mini gun. I can't say definitively, but I think this was the most damage-heavy weapon in the Alpha. Additionally he sports a device that cloaks himself and the entire team for a short time, which I found useful when making daring escapes. He also has an Orbital Barrage, a missile strike that you mark with a little target for from first person view. While extremely powerful when resulting in a direct hit, this device is cacophonous in nature. It serves to scare the monster away from trying to jump players rather than being a damage-dealer.

Lastly he has an Energy Shield that you can lock onto another hunter and shield him while said hunter escapes/charges.

Markov the Assault

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Markov looks like a cross between the Heavy and the poster for Twelve Monkeys. A semi-refreshing take on the heavy class, Markovs main weapon is a short-range rifle that electrifies the monster in a continuous stream. It can feel pretty vicious sucking the life out of the monster while floating over the helpless monster with your jetpack.

Markov also throws mines, and if the monster gets stuck in a confined space, mines can be a near-immediate undoing of the big bad.

Additionally, Markov has a standard assault rifle that only really comes into play when the lightning rifle is recharging and/or fighting wildlife. It's a nice secondary, but I never caught myself using it because it was useful. It's more of a panic weapon that is used best when screaming "Oh, shiiiit!" when the other options are nil.

He has a personal shield in his last slot that is a long-enough invincibility proxy.

I enjoyed my time as Markov (and I ended up spending most of my time with him), but out of the classes I played, he felt the most boilerplate. His assault rifle isn't useful nor is it different, and while I can't deny the personal shield is super useful, it also feels pretty obvious. I'm definitely more interested in Hyde, and even though he sports a rather rote minigun, I have to imagine that will see more use.

Goliath, and Val the Medic

I don't really want to dwell on these two because I didn't play them, but I would be doing a disservice by omitting them completely.

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She comes equipped with:

  • Armor-Piercing Sniper Rifle
  • Tranquilizer Rifle (temp. slows monster and temp. tags monster on map)
  • Medgun, which both heals players and revives them (although all players, and Daisy, can revive)
  • Healing Burst, which gives all surrounding hunters a boost of health.
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Goliath really looks great. Rampaging around the map, foliage and tree branches snap off and fall to the ground. Even more impressive is how natural the monster looks when climbing up giant rock walls or leaping across the map. With a monster that big, I expected it to lumber and clip through everything, but it looked like it was truly traversing the environment. This was maybe the thing I was impressed with the most playing the Big Alpha, and I'm excited to see how the other monsters look. Goliath has:

  • Fire breath
  • Leaping smash, a sort of ground pound that deals massive damage and knocks hunters backwards. Also can be used to away from the hunters, covering a lot of distance in no time at all.
  • Charge attack, which again has the latent function of closing the gap between predator and prey.
  • Boulder throw, in which Goliath rips a giant piece of rock/earth out of the ground and tosses it at the player.

Playing the Game

Coming into Evolve with only mild interest and after suffering a really shitty overall experience at the mercy of update 2.00, I really had a great time! Uniting the hunter classes against the same common enemy makes the necessity of playing whatever class really fun.

Another impressive feat is how often the dynamics of the game shift. The hunter is always becoming the hunted and back again, multiple times per match. I had matches where we encountered the monster right away and won in less than three minutes. I had matches where we wouldn't even see the monster until he was evolved to stage three. Speaking of, when the monster does evolve to stage three, a marker appears on the HUD that points to the generator. On several occasions my team would rush to the generator, but we never ever lost because the monster successfully destroyed it. We lost once or twice getting killed right by the generator, but that is all.

Playing Evolve, I felt like I was on a team. Playing PvP stuff online, you belong to a team probably a lot more than you don't, but instead of running off on my own and not-shooting at the guys whose screen names I can see, I stick with these people. Not only that, but I care about them. The Trapper deals almost no damage, but I'm obligated to protect that person, because if that mobile arena is lost, the match mine as well be. If I lose Assault, then it's up to Support to deal damage. Etc, etc. Nobody feels superfluous in Evolve, and the different classes all feel fun and different than the others.

I don't know what the full game will be or much about other game modes, but I really enjoyed Evolve. The features that make it a full-price game are still sort of shrouded in mystery, but playing Hunt mode gave me a lot of hope.

I'm excited to see what Evolve is.