Come one, come all to the greatest show out of this world. Evolve is the latest and perhaps most ambitious project that 2K published in recent years. Although a promising one given that it was being developed by Left 4 Dead developer, Turtle Rock Studios.
The basic idea for Evolve is to pit four hunter characters against a giant monster. Each of the characters can be controlled by a player – even the monster. Each hunter is an essential part of the team. A specific role is assigned to each hunter and they have to rely on each other in order to survive. What is shocking is how well it actually works when playing a match. Even the dreaded medic role is useful, since it’s the only character that can actually do any healing. Additionally, each type of hunter is required when playing a match – meaning that each class is represented in every match.
But what makes this strict class system work so well is the fact that players aren’t restricted to actions traditionally linked to their chosen roles. The medic character Val can use a tranquilliser gun to slowdown monsters and a gun that creates weak points for other classes to take advantage of.
Sticking together and keeping the team alive is essential, but it’s not the end, since hunters are brought back from the dead after about two minutes. The trick is to not let the monster kill all four hunters at the same time or the hunt is over.
It might seems daunting at first, but playing as the monster against four players isn’t so bad. In fact, what is so tempting about being the monster is finding out weaknesses for each team. Some might prefer to go for the medic, others will just want to cause mayhem and there are those who might want to just evolve before attacking.
As the monster, it’s possible to initially use three skill points to either unlock three powers or focus on one or two powers. The monster can then evolve and earn three more skill points. Doing so requires eating creatures and even dead hunters. The real challenge comes from ensuring that hunters are not nearby when doing such actions. Eating also means building up a shield and gaining extra health after evolving.
Reaching the third stage of evolution also means the monster can end the match by destroying a generator.
The controls are quite easy to learn since each weapon or power is assigned to a different button. All it takes is pressing it and then using it. The hunters can make use of jet packs to cover higher ground and monsters can climb up. Weapons and powers usually have cool-downs periods, so players don’t rely on just one of them. It’s clear that a lot of thought went into making sure that matches were balanced, if the players tried to learn how to make the most of weapons/powers and the environment.
Those looking for something different will definitely enjoy what Evolve has to offer. The concept is simple enough that anyone can grasp the basics. Those that really get into matches will find plenty of opportunities to deviate from the typical way to play as each of the characters.
One of the strangest decisions when playing online matches is being dropped into a match that is under way. It’s quite difficult to try and get a feel for how the other hunters play. This only tends to happen more when setting the character preference to random. When playing online, there an option to set it so there is a higher chance of playing as a preferred character.
Turtle Rock Studios made the wise decision of including a small selection of modes to play. Some of the objectives to complete include rescuing colonists from the planet or destroying monster eggs – which is hopefully a clever nod to Alien.
Whilst each of the modes provides an entertaining different take on the basic formula, there is no denying that a good old fashioned monster hunter is the main course.
The story hasn’t been mentioned much since it’s almost non-existent. But those hoping to find out more about Shear and the characters will enjoy the small talk between the hunters. Some of these conversations touch briefly on what happened in Shear and that makes it very hard not to imagine what a short single player story focused campaign. Not even the bits of story shown in the Evacuation mode are enough to satisfy this curiosity.
Against all odds, this lack of proper story focused content isn’t entirely missed. This is due to the fact that the real meat of Evolve is the thrill of never knowing what challenge awaits. Every match online feels different because human beings are unpredictable and tackle situations in different ways. The sheer size of each map makes it possible to come up with different strategies. Each map offers multiple paths and environmental hazards to take advantage of. Also, what makes all the difference is the smaller details like bonuses earned by levelling up or killing certain enemies.
For those looking for something more than a brainless shooter, Evolve is just what is recommended. The general excitement that comes from discovering or unlocking something new with every match is still there after a few matches.
The Evacuation mode has a rather interesting idea where the outcome of each mission will have an effect on next mission. One such effect involves harmful toxins being released if a factory gets destroyed in the previous mission.
Playing with AI controlled characters doesn’t always offer the best of experiences. The AI either seems to end up being too passive and wander off or be too aggressive in the case of the monster. It just makes it all the easier to try and stick to teaming up with players and fighting a human controlled monster.
If all Evolve offered were scary monsters and mean looking hunters, then it would probably not be as interesting. Little quirks such as Daisy, the pet that the trapper Maggie owns, are a welcome sight and one that makes for amusing matches. Even more so since Daisy not only can revive players, but she does so too by licking them.
In fact, the maps themselves are almost like characters because each of them reveals a different part of Shear.
Finding a match is a straight forward process and there wasn’t a moment where slowdown spoiled the many online matches that were played. The only slight hiccup comes from whenever the monster evolved and that lasted a couple of seconds at most.
The decision to make it so characters are only unlocked when unlocked character powers/weapons are mastered may seem unusual. Yet it just highlights how complex these characters are that there’s still new skills to uncover hours after playing with them. It makes it far more interesting to wonder what it’s like to play with other characters and monsters. Having a goal to strive towards is necessary and that is exactly what Evolve provides.
On the surface, it might seem like Evolve is lacking in content. But like everything else, quality really matters more than quantity. The amount of content Evolve provides will leave those that spend hours getting to know it, with a multi-player experience that other online titles launched launched can only dream of.
Not even the rather baffling controversy surrounding its abuse of paid for superficial content, like character skins, can spoil Evolve. Ignore all of this and Evolve is easily one of the best multi-player games in recent times. One that truly knows the meaning of teamwork and also caters for those who prefer to go alone with the use of the monsters. It certainly has more depth than what some may think. Hopefully the promise of additional free maps and other content like new characters will ensure the Evolve online servers remains popular for months to come.
It would has stood out above all else with some focus on the story. But still, Evolve provides a rewarding experience that will surely still be as riveting in a few months as it is now during its launch period.