Lack of variety holds Evolve back from truly shining.
Taking note of their previous and arguably most popular title Left 4 Dead, Turtle Rock Studio’s Evolve is a game that emphasizes online cooperative play, strategy, and persistence should players hope to reap in both the enjoyment and benefits that the game has to offer.
No zombie A.I. this time, instead four players will be fighting against another online competitor, one who has taken the form of a monster. While the game initially received some criticism during the time of its launch surrounding DLC and pay walls, it’s only fair to give credit where it’s due when experiencing the game with what’s available.
Evolve takes an old-school approach to its unlock system and it works well in rewarding the player’s efforts. Although the game doesn’t consist of a single-player campaign of any sort it does have a backstory. Taking place on the planet of Shear, four monster hunters are called in to exterminate an alien threat that’s disrupting the lives of human colonists that reside there.
"Where the game does make good use of it's level design however is the way in which players traverse the environment."
That’s it, nothing more, nothing less, and frankly that’s all players are really going to need to justify their meaning in this world, and to find sanity in their obsession with video game lore and backstories. Hunting the monster from a first-person perspective, each class is highly tailored to their role. The monster on the other hand plays from a third-person perspective that changes form during battle, by consuming dead animals and wildlife, Hence the name of the game, Evolve.
Releasing with five game modes across 12 different maps. each mode of play offers up enough variety, the maps sadly do not. It’s almost impossible to tell the difference when traversing each of the game’s levels as the resemblance between each one is strikingly obvious. This is a real shame as the game would benefit a great deal had it made more use of its theme. The game is crying for a map-editor. It’s almost as if each level was designed with a “cut and paste” methodology with an Instagram filter being the only differentiating factor between them.
Where the game does make good use of its level design however is the way in which players traverse the environment. Using a system of self-recharging jet packs hunters are able to fly, swim, and climb. Monsters on the other hand move slightly differently and this is specific to each monster.
The first of which is Goliath, a hard-hitting brute that attacks by throwing rocks, charging towards the enemy, and fire-breathing. Goliath is savage and is ideal for players with no plan of operation and no consequences. A stated by the game’s developers the Kraken was designed in its appearance as a “Flying cthulhu wizard” and it’s got the Cahunas to back it up.
"There is an element of grinding to the game but it can be beneficial. Unfortunately this only seems to work in favour of the Monster as progressing with the Hunters can prove to be an uphill battle, and this is where the levelling system feels too much of a unnecessary grind."
Unlike the brute-force nature of the Goliath, the Kraken requires strategy and attacking from a distance. Kraken’s attacks consist of lightning strikes, crowd control, and keeping the enemy at bay as it circles vertically making their jobs harder to accomplish. Completing this “Trio of Terror” is the Wraith.
Regarded as over-powered and unpredictable the Wraith is by all means a metaphor of its name, a demonic shadow of hovering death. Possessing the ability to scoop up hunters and allocate them to different locations, Wraith’s abilities consist of separation and decimation and is certainly the most difficult to defeat.
Upon starting the game the only actual monster that’s available is the Goliath and this encourages the player to grind and stick with the game’s progression system. Progression gives way for additional skins and characters, one that follows a fairly straight forward formula. Earn skill points for each of the creature’s attacks and the next Monster is available for play. For instance, Goliath starts out with four different attacks and the more the player uses each attack the more the creature’s skills progress. Awarded with a star symbolising progression, acquiring one star for every attack grants availability to the Kraken.
There is an element of grinding to the game but it can be beneficial. Unfortunately this only seems to work in favour of the Monster as progressing with the Hunters can prove to be an uphill battle, and this is where the levelling system feels too much of a unnecessary grind.
Playing the role of a Hunter from four chosen presets the game attempts to deliver a unique set of experiences. The Assault class is all bout high-octane action. Packing a minigun, arc mines, and a lightning gun this class are designed to deliver as much damage as possible.
"The game modes on hand are fairly straight forward within their objectives and being an asymmetrical shooter where teamwork is the game's primary factor, objectives and diversity are key to the path of enjoyment."
What some may consider as the most important position on the team is the Medic. Possessing the ability to heal teammates from far, it’s the medic’s job to keep everyone in good health as they take on the monster. While the medic is by no means more vulnerable than the other hunters, it’s critical for the other players to keep an eye out. Should the medic face permanent death, the remaining hunters are on their on.
Making use of traps, tracking darts, and force-fields to stun the creature in its tracks we have the Trapper. One character of particular interest within this class is Maggie. Ruthless with her words and the war paint to back it up, Maggie relies on her pet Trapjaw Daisy as her means of locating the monster.
Best described as a giant alien-dog, with an appearance crossed between a catfish and the pair of demonic hellhounds from Ivan Reitman’s 1984 Ghostbusters. This 400-pound creature may not have any evolutions of her own, but she does make a fine accomplice to the team. Last on the team is the Support class. Packing larger artillery in the form of laser cutters, rail guns, and an orbital barrage that strikes down from above. The support class is the next heavier-hitter alongside the assault class. While being visually distinct at the end of the day they’re just grunts, expendables, Heroes for hire.
The game modes on hand are fairly straight forward within their objectives and being an asymmetrical shooter where teamwork is the game’s primary factor, objectives and diversity are key to the path of enjoyment.
"While there is an offline component to the game it's clear that the focus here is the game's online-multiplayer. Playing with a group of friends where each player favours a particular class and has access to a headset is where the game excels."
Nest mode throws the hunters directly into the monster’s breeding ground, where they’re tasked with destroying the monster’s unhatched eggs. Alternatively the hunters have their own protection-based game mode by the name of Rescue. Searching for human survivors that must be allocated to a drop-off point for pick-up, before the monster can scrap them from its claws. Rescue is an intense experience that invokes a feeling of desperation and threat.
While Nest mode does a terrific job of making the hunters feel like the predator as they mow-down the monster’s unborn offspring, other modes such as Hunt which is essentially a Team Deathmatch, and Defend which tasks the monsters of destroying power stations, are equally fun also.
Combining different game modes into a single ongoing game, where the winner of each match is awarded a perk for the upcoming game, this mode is known as Evacuation and although it may just sound like a glorified playlist, it’s the rebalancing of upcoming matches and perks that keep things fresh. While there is an offline component to the game it’s clear that the focus here is the game’s online-multiplayer. Playing with a group of friends where each player favours a particular class and has access to a headset is where the game excels. It cannot be emphasized enough just how much of the game’s enjoyability is tied to friends and communication.
Evolve does well in delivering an exciting hunting experience, but the time it takes to actually find the enemy can feel rather exhausting. While this isn’t too often it can become frustrating. A.I. team mates do well to assist but it’s not ideal.
"Running on the CryEngine3 the game's visual qualities are nothing short of outstanding. Textures are phenomenal to say the least, particularly on the monsters where their scales, skin, and armour appear gritty and rough."
Playing as the monster locating enemy hunters, it’s a simple set of enjoyable yet repetitive rules, and it’s born directly yet unintentionally from the design of the game itself. Enter the match, stay clear off the hunters, eat, evolve and ruin their lives. Forget about the survivors and don’t threat over a few lost eggs, just evolve and eradicate. This can be pleasing for the first three matches or so but after that it becomes a system of routine that one must adhere to should they wish to have any real hope of survival.
Running on the CryEngine3 the game’s visual qualities are nothing short of outstanding. Textures are phenomenal to say the least, particularly on the monsters where their scales, skin, and armour appear gritty and rough. Packed with detail amongst the rocks and wildlife within the environment, it’s the small details that bring out the game’s best qualities.
Fairly scalable with a variety of options to tweak within its graphics menu, the game performance is acceptable. Evolve gives players fully rebindable keys and offers up a selection of preset configurations for those experiencing the game with a control pad. The only thing missing from this menu is a field-of-view slider, something that many consider to be unacceptable.
Despite the game’s minor anomalies and the controversy the game’s received in regards to its upcoming content, Evolve is a fun and compelling game that’s vastly different from other shooters. Should the game receive any additional content in the way of more diverse and interesting level design then it will have no problem in sustaining its audience. It may not have a solid single-player campaign but it does present some engaging ideas and interesting game mechanics.
This game was reviewed on the PC.
Exciting gameplay and interesting ideas in character classes.
Instances of repetition and lacking variety in level design.
Evolve is a game that perpetuates and demonstrates the fun of online cooperative gameplay. Whether it's the A.I. combatants or online friends there's excitement to be found. Since the game relies on its multiplayer as its bread and butter, it's going to have to do a lot more in the long run should it hope to sustain any longevity.