Delivering on the Promise of a Hunt
One of the most anticipated games from last year’s E3 was Evolve , the newest project by Left 4 Dead developer Turtle Rock Studios. For those of you who missed out on our E3 coverage, Evolve is an asymmetrical 4 v 1 monster hunting first person shooter. Our takeaway from E3 was that this game was great. It was fun, innovative, and interesting to play in a way that really breaks the current shooter mold. Now that it has released in full we can honestly say that it’s still great, and playing the game feels a lot like it did at E3. There’s just more of it now.
In Evolve , four players take the role of hunters, each with a different class that aids the hunt in unique ways. Meanwhile, one player takes control of a monster who is quite vulnerable at first, but can eat and, appropriately enough, evolve into more powerful versions of itself. The hunters’ goal is to take out the monster as quickly as possible, when it’s still weak. Level 1 monsters are easy pickings, but level 3 monsters can easily take out a whole hunting party with their huge life pool and dangerous attacks.
The key here, as was the key in Left 4 Dead , is teamwork. No hunter can take out the monster on its own, but if all four hunters work together and use the strengths of their class to their advantage, the beast will go down. So aside from team coordination, knowing the strengths of your class will get you far.
If you are a straight-up shooter player, you are likely interested in the assault class. This class is your DPS and is usually focused on keeping their guns on the monster at all times. I wouldn’t call them boring, but they are straightforward. Find the monster, shoot it, lather, rinse, repeat.
The support class is all about helping out your teammates and attacking the monster indirectly. This is the sort of class that gives you access to turrets, UAVs, orbital strikes, rocket launchers, and all those other good things that you usually would only find as Call of Duty perks. Support classes are kind of fragile, but when used effectively, they make every other character’s job easier.
If the support class is still too active for you, then the medic may be more your speed. As you would expect, medics heal the team or resurrect them from the dead. Their abilities are also somewhat straightforward: a couple for defensive healing, and a couple for attacking the monster. However, no medic in Evolve is as straightforward as, say, the medic in Team Fortress 2 . You’ll have to attack just as much as you heal to be able to survive.
And finally, we have Evolve ’s most unique class, the trapper. Trappers have abilities suited to finding the monster and slowing it down. Without the trapper, you would basically just be wandering around aimlessly, or chasing birds that fly away when disturbed by the monster. Each trapper has its own method of tracking, from setting literal traps to setting its loyal bloodhound-type alien things on the monster.
There are multiple characters in each class, and each character has his or her own unique abilities. However, these characters need to be unlocked over the course of play, and this is actually one of the things I dislike the most about Evolve . At its core, Evolve is about teamwork, but the things you need to do to unlock new characters tend to make the team go off on their own to do their own thing, and this almost always results in a loss. All in all, unlocking new characters feels more like busywork than a reward for playing the game well.
Playing as the monster is a task for more lone wolf types. You’d think that you would basically just search for things, kill them, and try to kill the other players, but you’d be wrong. In order to survive as the monster, you’ll have to spend just as much time covering your tracks as you do sowing destruction. You HAVE to be crafty in order to survive, taking advantage of the environment, avoiding things that will give away your location (like scattering birds), and finding a good hidden place to evolve, as you are a sitting duck when you do so. You can unlock other monsters the same way you unlock characters, and it’s a little less frustrating considering no one is relying on you.
But by far the unlock system is the most problematic thing about Evolve. Aside from the busywork feel the system has, in my opinion the most useful, and most simple characters are unlocked from the get go. When trying out new characters I quickly felt like I did just as well if not better with the old ones, and so I stuck to them most of the time.
Unlocking monsters is less problematic, because it feels like the complete opposite of unlocking hunters. Each new monster you unlock gets increasingly better, with the Wraith, the last monster you unlock, apparently being borderline broken. Of course, this is no less problematic as your early game monsters will become obsolete rather quickly, and there are only three monsters to choose from, which can make the game feel dry after a while.
Another thing that makes the game feel dry is the one-sided feel of the hunt mode. If the monster does well, the whole match feels like a futile game of tag, and then an absurdly unbalanced boss fight. Evolve is a very mobile game, filled with jet packs, climbing, and hovering, and a sklled player can run the hunters in circles for the majority of the match, which isn’t quite fun. If the hunters do well, the monster dies in the first few minutes, which is better than taking a half hour or more to find nothing and then lose to a level three monster, but is still very anti-climactic. Games in which there is a crafty back and forth are rarer than you’d think, but are satisfying nonetheless.
To fix this, Evolve has included a variety of other modes that change up the formula a bit. In nest mode, the hunters are tasked with destroying all of a monster’s eggs. While this gives the hunters another win condition, it also gives the monster another tool. It can hatch the eggs in order to spawn a minion that will attack the hunters alongside it, making it less of a death wish to attack while unevolved. It also means that the monster has to be more careful about evolving, as it leaves all of its eggs open and vulnerable.
In rescue mode, the hunters have something to protect: fallen colonists that the monster is seeking to eat. This turns the tables and puts the hunters on the defensive, as they use their tools to ward off powerful monster attacks rather than simply trying to kill it.
Defense mode is perhaps the most interesting mode. Here, minions spawn on the map and head toward generators that need to be protected by the hunters. The monster acts as a sort of hero unit, pushing through your defenses and attacking when you are weakest. This is one of the most fun game modes, but also one of the modes that’s least like the game’s original conception.
Finally, there is evacuation mode, which is in my opinion the most fun mode in the game. This is essentially Evolve ‘s “story” mode, though it’s still all multiplayer and online. Here, you are tasked with playing a number of different maps in a number of different modes. Each time you win a match, you get a perk for the next match that aids your side, and the whole game is rapidly balanced and rebalanced between matches in order to even things up. As a result, you’ll see a lot of map variation and plenty of interesting gimmicks that you wouldn’t see in normal match play. At times it feels like whatever algorithm that is balancing the game has no idea what it’s doing, but the fact that each match you play feels attached to the last is very enjoyable. Just be sure you have a lot of time to blow on playing five matches at once.
Then again, even if you have to leave it’s not the worst thing in the world, because Evolve has bots. Yes, bots! You know, that thing that we used to have in shooters that somehow went the way of the dinosaur when everything went online? Just like in the Left 4 Dead games, if a player drops mid-match, they will just be replaced by a bot, meaning you aren’t immediately dead in the water. The bots are actually pretty good, all things considered, and while you’d rather have an experienced player on your side, having your medic or your assault class replaced by a bot isn’t the worst thing in the world.
But with the lack of any real single-player campaign and only a few characters and monsters to choose from, Evolve absolutely leans on its online play, which means it also leans on you being able to find a group that you can play with normally. Pickup matches work fine, but you’ll run into the same things that plagued pickup matches in other co-op games, from drops to trolling to flat-out toxic behavior. With a dedicated group of friends, though, monster hunting is an absolute treat.
It’s also worth mentioning the DLC considering it was such a scandal recently. Yes, 2K Games is charging way too much for DLC, and yes, you are probably going to want to purchase this DLC just to increase the number of options you have available. But the game is actually fun without the DLC and does stand on its own merit. Chalk this up to a bad business decision for an actually good game, and don’t let the DLC scandals turn you off.
Overall, I’ve had fun with Evolve for the time I’ve had it so far, and I’ll probably have a lot more fun as time goes on, as much or more fun than I had with the Left 4 Dead series. If you are looking for a new shooter that is like nothing else on the market right now, it’s definitely worth giving Evolve a shot.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
The graphics are clear and run at a crisp 60 FPS, but it’s another example of a game made up mostly of browns and grays. 5.0 Control
The controls are tight, responsive, and also innovative. When you realize you can do things like leap to attack your enemies, you’ll start using your abilities in interesting ways. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The banter between hunters is cute, but is mostly ignored. The sound design is decent, but sometimes it’s hard to tell when you’ve hit your target. 4.5 Play Value
Don’t be dissuaded by the DLC scandal, this is a very good multiplayer game. 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best