Microsoft are promising the most powerful console of all time, but is the Scorpio really worth getting excited over?
Evolve Big Alpha Impressions
After playing the Evolve Alpha for ten hours the word I keep coming back to is different. Yes, Evolve is a shooter, but it’s a different kind of shooter. It’s not just a multiplayer game, it’s a different kind of multiplayer game; an asymetrical online-only 4 vs 1 class-based shooter to be exact. Different can mean many things and the split between a game being unique and a game being weird is measured by quality. I can safely say that Evolve is a unique game.
Playing Evolve is akin to playing a high-tech game of hide and seek. You either play as one of four hunters or the monster for a total of five different classes. Each of the hunters takes on a different responsibility: the assault deals damage, the medic heals teammates, the support protects teammates and the trapper tracks and holds the monster in place. The hunters goal is to kill the monster. The monster’s goal is to kill all the hunters or destroying the objective (which can only be done after reaching level 3). Every single class has unlockable characters that play differently to emphasize class strategies. For example, Val, the default medic character is equipped with a medigun and traq-rifle while Lazarus, the first unlock, has a cloaking device and a silenced sniper rifle.
The hunters have to work together to succeed and a lot of work has gone into making this feel as natural as possible. For example, every game begins with the hunters chatting for a bit before skydiving to the map below. It’s very evocative of the movie Predator when Dutch’s team rope-descends from the chopper at the beginning of the movie. This is also how dead teammates respawn which builds up the act of a teammate coming back into the game. I immediately gravitated towards the medic and assault classes and I found the other classes weren’t to my tastes. I asked around in the chat and on forums and there doesn’t seem to be a general preference for one class over another.
Playing as the monster is the most stand-out feature of Evolve. While the comparison to the tank from the Left 4 Dead games (Turtle Rock Studios previous work) seems inevitable, what makes the monster more interesting and by extension, more fun to play, is how the experience changes (or evolves) over a 20 minute game. The monster starts at level 1 and is very weak. It has to eat wildlife until it’s ready to evolve to the next level and become stronger. All the while, you’ll be fighting the feeling of paranoia gnawing at the back of your mind. When I played as the monster it felt like the hunters were always right behind me and it drove me forward to succeed. There’s even a bit of customization as the monster has four abilities but you can only upgrade three of them. Evolve is bursting with variety and it boasts an incredible longevity.
Every single game of Evolve feels different and this is easily the game’s biggest strength. The attention to detail is phenomenal. Every character has a backstory, every weapon and tool seems to come from a different corner of the galaxy. Evolve has some very clever design choices behind it. At the end of every game, you get an overview of the map with all the player positions throughout the game. You essentially get to see just how close or far you were to catching the monster and vice versa.
Keeping in mind that it wasn’t a finished build, there were some problems I had with the Evolve Alpha. There were some severe balancing issues that need to be addressed, mainly with the Kraken monster, which was severely overpowered. In the many games that I played, I never saw a single instance where the Kraken was killed. A skilled enough player could decimate an entire team even with a level one monster. My problem isn’t that Kraken is too hard to kill, it’s that learning to kill it is too difficult or is simply unintuitive.
Conversely, the Goliath seems perfectly balanced. It’s easier to kill at level 1 but it’s fast enough to get away. A level 3 Goliath is pretty hard to take down and it requires the type of coordination you won’t get through normal matchmaking. A huge goal for the hunters is to prevent the monster from getting to level 3 and failing that, it gives the monster a chance at sweet revenge. When Evolve is firing on all cylinders, it becomes something far more engaging that than the high-tech laser tag that many first-person shooters have turned into.
Is Evolve worth playing? All things considered, let me put it this way. After the first few days I wasn’t so sure about Evolve, then after a night of playing I look at my alarm clock and realized that six hours had gone by. I had a lot of fun with this game and it’s rare to see such a vivid combination of diversity, originality and creativity in a multiplayer shooter. Barring a few setbacks, Evolve is set to be one of the best pure gameplay experiences of 2015. I fully recommend this game to anyone who’s on the fence about it.
Version Played: PC (on highest settings).
Total Playtime: 10 hours.