When Evolve won Best of Show at E3 it came as something of a surprise. Turtle Rock Studios' Left 4 Dead follow-up wasn't the most prominent title at the LA show and it didn't make any huge announcements but it was clearly a game which made a big impression on those who played it.
Perhaps publisher's 2K Games have not done enough to get people excited, but speak to those who have played the game and they'll tell you that Evolve is well worth looking forward to. I'm one of them, having played it a few months back shortly after the game's announcement and again at Gamescom 2014.
For the uninitiated Evolve is based around 4 on 1 online multiplayer pitting a quartet of hunters with varying classes – Assault, Support, Medic and Trapper – against one of a series of enormous monsters, two of which have been announced so far: Goliath and Kraken.
For the Hunters the objective is clear, for the monster it is to kill and eat wildlife until it evolves twice into its final form before then destroying the map's power generator.
Gamescom was the first time those playing have been able to mix and match the variety of different hunters and monsters.
As the hunters the game becomes a desperate chase, a race against time, the monster edging closer to its third, final and most powerful stage with every second. Should you find the monster it's the role of Trapper to trap it within a mobile arena you can set up at any point on the map, before doing as much damage to the beast as possible.
Any character can deal out damage with a variety of first choice weapons, but Assualt will deal out the most, while Medics heal and Support supports. With an unconfirmed number of characters falling under each class, there are differences to each. Class abilities are uniform, but everything else is subject to change. Maggie, a Trapper, has dog-like pet Trapjaw called Daisy who can track the monster, while fellow Trapper Griffin can utilise sound spikes which will pick up the monster if he moves nearby.
Medic Lazarus has his Lazarus device, which can revive Hunters from the dead, while Val has a Tranquiliser gun which when shot can tag and track the beast from range. In the Support class Bucket provides sentry guns and a UAV, while Hank can shield allies from distance and deliver a devastating orbital barrage to a particular spot.
There are more variations and will be more to come, but you get the idea. On the other more scaly side of things, the two monsters presented so far offer differing options as well. Kraken can fly above the arena, perhaps making herself more obvious to Hunters but she also won't leave footprints to track either. Goliath meanwhile is stronger and more devastating up close.
Of the three games we played on new artic map Distillery, each was different. The first was as close as it gets, the hunters able to reduce the monster's health by roughly half but unable to bring him down before he reached his final form. At this point the battle converged on the power sourced where a frantic an close battle came down to the final hunter, who managed to evade the monster on minimal health before delivering a fatal blow to win the game.
For the third game I switched the play as the Kraken. Immediately I flew as far as I could across the map, picking off wildlife when I could and as fast as I was able. I evolved quickly and evaded the hunters by the skin of my teeth two or three times before evolving into the third form not far from a nearby hunter. Making a beeline for the power source, I was able to deliver serious damage to it before the hunters arrived. At full power and on full health I was able to eventually knock them all for six and finish off destroying the source for victory.
Evolve works so well because it's intuitively tactical, meaning you won't necessarily have to play with friends and have voice chat on to work well as a unit. In part this is because most of the tactical tools are fun to use. Shielding or healing an ally requires you to keep aim on a target while also evading the monster and [lacing a mobile arena needs good timing and requires you to get close to the monster.
Simply put Evolve is a blast, which is why its followed up its E3 Best of Show award with another at Gamescom.
Perhaps what has beset Evolve has been a lack of announcement. The game was announced six months ago and we haven't seen all that much to suggest the depth Turtle Rock keeps promising. Two maps, two monsters, two of each class – there will be more, and when it's announced hopefully hype will ratchet up to levels the game warrants.
2015 is set to be a bumper year for gaming, and as it stands Evolve is the shooter I'm looking forward to most.
Evolve will be released on 10 February 2015.