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Evolve Review: Monster Madness, Multiplayer Masterpiece
Release Date: February 10 Developer: Turtle Rock Studios Publisher: 2K Games Platform: PC
Every once in a while, a game will come along where the pricing, marketing and pre-release news surrounding it will overshadow the quality of the game itself. Despite the best intentions of Turtle Rock Studios (the developer of the Left 4 Dead games), Evolve is destined to remain controversial for all the wrong reasons. Your ability to enjoy this game will depend on whether you’re willing to put up with the reviled shenanigans of it’s publisher. Buried underneath the mess of pre-order bonuses and day-one DLC, Evolve is a masterfully crafted online experience.
Evolve splits five players into two teams; four hunters versus one monster. The hunters are made up of four classes (assault, medic, trapper and support) with each one taking on a different responsibility. Each class plays differently but all are enjoyable. Within every class are different characters which fill in the class role in a different way. Some characters are more effective against certain monsters and it’s a joy to discover which characters work well together.
The class abilities play off each other, in combat and while following the monster tracks like a trail of bread crumbs. For the Hunters, the thrill is in the chase and in the kill. For the Monster, it’s the empowerment of dominating the players who have been chasing you. Evolve is hide-and-seek with guns, explosions and brute force.
The primary game mode is Hunt, which has the hunters trying to kill the monster and vice versa. Hunt plays like a game of hide and seek and the experience is indicative of the entire game. The monster starts off weak, but can become stronger by eating wildlife. This is done by evolving, which upgrades a monster’s health and abilities. Once a monster reaches stage 3, it can destroy a power generator and win the game.
The other game mode is Evacuation; a five part online campaign consisting of rotating game modes and maps. The results of one game affect the next, providing an advantage for the winning team. In addition to Hunt is Rescue mode, which has the hunters retrieving AI controlled colonists and the monster trying to kill the colonists. There’s Nest mode, which places six monster eggs on the map. The hunters have to destroy the eggs, the monster has to stop the hunters. The twist here is that the monster can hatch the eggs, gaining a monster minion of their own.
The final day of evacuation mode also brings the final game mode, “Defend.” The hunters have to defend up to three power generators from AI controlled minions whilst dealing with the monster itself. The winning team of Evacuation mode is decided on the final day; the previous four determine how much XP is up for grabs. Evacuation mode provides a unique opportunity to form small bonds with your teammates/enemies. There’s a great feeling of accomplishment upon wining this mode, with other players or on your own.
There’s a consistent presence of risk versus reward guiding each player’s actions. The pacing of a game is largely depended on the skill of the monster player meaning that no two games of Evolve are alike. A single misstep from either side can potentially result in disaster. Much like other online-focused shooters such as Left 4 Dead and Payday, the incompetence of a single player can ruin an entire game. However, unlike these games, in Evolve a good enough enough player can overcome just about anything.
Gameplay is chaotic yet controlled, deliberately paced yet intense. Every hunter is equipped with a jetpack, adding verticality to Evolve‘s long list of unique features. The somewhat steep learning curve is mitigated by the satisfaction of discovering new tactics and learning effective play styles. Much like it’s namesake, a match can evolve from hiding and chasing to a full-blooded firefight in a single moment.
The presentation and graphical fidelity are phenomenal. The planet Shear is teaming with wildlife and full of personality. Wild animals flee at the sight of a monster, trees shatter from the impact of a charging Goliath. The Wraith’s tentacles stream behind him as he soars across the map. The art direction is similarly outstanding with each class having a distinct visual style. Val’s sniper rifle seems ripped straight from J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek while Hank’s laser cutter recalls the yellow and black color scheme of construction equipment.
The sound design is top-notch. The roars of a Goliath or the buzzing of the Kraken’s lightning strike echo across the canyons of Shear. Everything from the hum of Val’s healing gun to the searing heat from Hyde’s flamethrower builds this universe on a sonic level.
Evolve does have some technical issues however. While it hardly spoils the entire experience, during my time playing Evolve, there were a few too many great games ruined by a connection issue or the occasional stutter (something that never happened in the Beta). There were also a few instances where matchmaking took a bit too long. Rest assured, Evolve is a functional game and it’s occasional connection issues pale in comparison to those experienced by other games from late last year.
A more permanent issue of Evolve‘s will be it’s longevity. While it certainly boasts more replay value than other games in its genre, Evolve can’t escape that it’s an online shooter. Without a proper single player campaign mode to sustain it, Evolve will need consistent and immediate support from Turtle Rock Studios to remain relevant. Without persistent support, Evolve‘s online community will be short-lived.
Evolve isn’t online only as it also includes an offline solo mode. There’s fun to be had in experimenting with different classes before taking them online but truth be told, Evolve isn’t worth your time unless you plan on playing it online.
After playing Evolve, it feels strange to go back to other online shooters. Despite having more teammates, I feel more isolated. The only thing separating friend from foe is that one side isn’t trying to kill me. Evolve feels different from any shooter I’ve played. The classes lend themselves into helping your teammates. Evolve succeeds in many things that few shooters attempt.
Some may be turned off by the deliberate pacing, sense of team-work, and tactical gameplay, not to mention the highly controversial business practices that surround Evolve‘s release. If you’re willing to look past all of this and if you agree that Evolve shouldn’t suffer for the sins of it’s publisher, you’ll find a game that offers something different, new and wholly satisfying. I can only hope that it will be remembered for these traits and not the controversial pricing model and cosmetic DLC.
- Outstanding art direction & audio presentation
- Engaging, complex gameplay
- Plenty of gameplay variety
- Loads of strategic depth
- Minor connection issues
- Longevity may be an issue