It’s safe to say that for many gamers, next-gen hasn’t blown them away yet. They sure look pretty, but the cavalcade of fairly mediocre games to grace the shiny new consoles haven’t been amazing. What we need, ladies and gentlemen, to combat the bland nature of the games we have been given so far, is something different. Something exciting. Something like Murdered: Soul Suspect perhaps?
With the current console game line-ups being a bit threadbare, I was flicking through the release schedules and a game I’d not really come across before caught my eye.
On the face of it Evolve doesn’t seem that noteworthy. Originally coming to the attention of the general populace during the reporting on THQ’s bankruptcy proceedings; Evolve has somewhat passed under the radar in the subsequent months.
Dig a little deeper, however, and you start to uncover something very, very exciting indeed.
The game is a competitive/co-operative online game, pitting a team of hunters against a human-controlled monster that they have to, unsurprisingly, hunt down. An interesting premise on its own, the game gains even more kudos when you notice that it’s being worked on by the team behind the Left 4 Dead series. For those not familiar with the series, Left 4 Dead and its sequel Left 4 Dead 2 pits a group of survivors against human-controlled zombies in an online battle of survival. Seeing as it’s widely regarded as one of the most enjoyable and stellar online gaming experience available, the fact that the series’ developers are behind Evolve should make fans sit up and take notice.
Dig even further and things just get better.
The hunter team consists of 4 players, each with a distinct role; Trapper, Medic, Assault & Support. Each hunter has a specific weapon loadout adn 3 abilities.
In addition, while if the monster dies once, the game is over, the hunters effectively have 3 lives, where they respawn after being reduced to zero health, though it takes a full 2 minutes to respawn, a hefty time considering they’re on a time limit to complete their mission. After the third ‘death’ the players do not respawn, unless revived by their medic, demonstrating how vital the medic’s role is.
Against this array of skills and weaponry you might be forgiven for thinking the monster will have little chance, but have no fear, there’s more than meets the eye to this gremlin-on-steroids. The monster starts of at a base level, but gains energy by killing and devouring the native creatures of the environment. This energy, when possessed in high enough levels, then allows the monster to evolve in various ways, becoming more powerful, both in physical size and in skill, making new abilities and powers available. The monster starts at level one, withthe two chosen abilities picked at creation and can level up to level 3, with the 2nd level being fairly easy to achieve, but level 3 taking a much larger energy reserve.
Gathering energy to level up is key to the monster and something that is necessary immediately. The monster is spawned into the game 30 seconds before the hunters are, allowing it time to gather resources, scope out the area and hide itself before the hunt begins. This is the opportune time to gather energy for a level up, as once the hunters drop in remaining hidden will prove difficult while feeding, especially with a trail of bodies for them to follow.
The team bill the game as a 4v1 boss battle where anything can happen, but it seems far more than that. The tactical approaches and demand for team thinking are obvious, with all players needing to think carefully about what they do. This won’t (or at least shouldn’t) be a straight off deathmatch style game from the off, at least from the monster’s point of view. If the monster fronts up to the hunters early on, barring particularly incompetent hunters, the only result will be a particularly ugly new trophy above a fireplace or a surprised-looking rug. No, the game is clearly designed to be a tense cat and mouse affair, with the monster trying to remain undiscovered while gathering energy from animals, with the hunters stalking them around the map. The possibilities are vast and varied, with extended Predator-style tension-filled periods of hunting, followed by action-packed battles to the death. I’d put big money on the tracker being able to divine information from the animal carcases the monster leaves behind. Imagine staling as a team through the jungle, finding the evidence of the monster; knowing it’s out there and near, but not where. Imagine being the monster, the need to feed and level competing with the need to remain undetected.
Indeed, one big aspect of the game that really adds to this is the idea that if the monster can level up enough, they will get to a position where they can turn the tables on the hunters and start to pursue them, shifting the dynamic considerably. If the monster reaches level 3, not only do they become powerful enough to significantly threaten the hunter team, a secondary win scenario opens up, where if they destroy a power generator on the map and kill enough civilians they will win the game. Another intriguing facet to gameplay indeed.
Couple this with the possibility of environmental aspects, such as traps and landscape features affecting the game, as well as hostile animals roaming about and you’ve got yourself the potential for one hell of a multiplayer experience. Play this with 4 good friends and you’ve the potential for some of the best online experience to date.
Whether you favour the longbow of the claw, it matters little; Evolve is my tip to take over from Titanfall as the seminal next-gen multiplayer experience when it’s released in the 3rd quarter of 2014. And in keeping with the game, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for when it breaks cover, ready to home in on it.
And to Turtle Rock Studios and 2k Games; only one thing seems appropriate to say right now:
Last weekend, Z1G dropped me into what is probably the most anticipated MMORPG of all time, The Elder Scrolls Online. Armed only with a staff and a bad attitude, I set off on my epic journey into Tamriel, hungry for adventure.
We’re mid-way through February already, you know. In a week and a half, we’ll be roughly 1/6th of the way through 2014. Yet there have been no games released so far this year that I’ve been really looking forward to. Sure, I’ve bought a couple, but they’re not the sort that I’ll rip open and play immediately: experience has shown me that this is something that happens with only a select few games every year.
Sunday 16th February 2014 saw the general opening of the Beta testing of Respawn Entertainment’s upcoming online FPS title TitanFall. The much-anticipated Xbox One exclusive had previously been slated as an invite-only Beta run (one of which I was lucky enough to receive), but with the Beta access now open to all, is it worth a look?
In a word; yes. In two words; hell yes!
The above might come as a surprise to anyone who knows my general taste in games, as I normally eschew online multiplayer gaming, favouring a solo experience. Indeed, I have been known to proclaim that ‘people ruin games’, as I tend to find the small minority of gamers who are most vocal online tend to put me off.
So in many ways, I really wasn’t the ideal person to be thrust into the Frontier setting of the game, but thrust I was and, I can tell you, I was thoroughly blown away.
As you can see from my gameplay footage above, there is a robust and effective tutorial, adequately detailing the basics of the unusual gameplay and weaponry, while not labouring the point. Tutorials are an often-overlooked aspect of a game, but TitanFall’s is more or less perfect, not outstaying its welcome. Hell, they managed to render even me relatively competent in the space of a few minutes, having not consistently played an online FPS since the days of Quake 2 and Delta Force 2, which is a minor miracle.
The gameplay is split into 2 distinct segments; the pilot and the Titan. You start off missions as just the human pilot, with your standard weapon loadout, depending on what class you choose at the start. You then utilise Brink-style parkour moves (stay there, it’s actually good!) to traverse the landscape, with wall running, double jumps and sprinting combining to create a feeling of being much more mobile than your usual wandering weapons platform. Within a few minutes I was hop, skipping and jumping about with relative ease, even beginning to mount and attack a few of the larger Titan enemies (more on those later).
While the combat is limited to up to a cap of 12 a side (depending on game mode), the action is bolstered with numbers of ‘minions’, computer bots which, while not much danger, add more targets to shoot and distractions to differentiate your human opponents from. While not a major inclusion, they are a welcome addition from an immersion and action perspective (especially to newbie clodders like me!)
Gameplay takes a bit of a shift when you gain access to the titular Titan, a mech-suit in the standard tradition of giant mobilised death-machines. While surprisingly mobile, the Titan is still a different experience to running around as a pilot. The units are naturally a magnet for enemy attention and the draw a lot of fire. This, combined with their slower movement and heaver weapons, means a new approach when utilising them, something that can take some adjusting to, as my attempts above attest to. The fact they have AI enough to act semi-independently of you if you leave them adds an extra layer of tactical consideration to the experience too.
Players level up from experience gained from kills, wins and feats during their matches and this levelling allows access to new pilot and titan classes to play with, which is pretty standard fare. The Beta currently offers set loadouts, but the full game promises the option for customised loadouts for personalised killing.
All in all, TitanFall surprised me greatly. By rights I should have hated it; it’s everything I’ve professed to dislike in online gaming but some way, somehow, it’s drawn me in and I will definitely be picking up the full game. Not only that, but I’ll be looking forward to it until it does come out.
With its dynamic and energetic movement, quick respawn times, minion proliferation and all round frenetic gameplay, TitanFall is set to be the defining Xbox One exclusive to be released yet and it’s managed to convert me to the world of online gaming.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go have a shower and cleanse my soul…