Evolve, the new shooter from Turtle Rock, is without a doubt ambitious. Everything about it from its presentation to its game modes is unlike any other shooter out there. It’s a whole lot of fun for the first 30 hours or so, but after the initial enjoyment and adrenaline of monster hunting has worn down what remains at its core is a title that doesn’t seem to have much more to offer than an elaborate game of tag. Its progression system is weighty and unnecessary, and though the characters are well flushed out and interact with one another dynamically through scripted dialogue I didn’t think any of them were memorable. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the time I’ve spent with Evolve, but I doubt I’ll spend much more with it unless something new and truly compelling comes along.
Hunt, Evolve’s main game mode, is an interesting take on co-op combat. Giving one player control of a hulking beast and allowing them to roam a wide-open map teaming with wildlife is a breathtaking feat at first. Pitting that monster against four other players that exist only to hunt and kill the monster offers a nail-biting, tense element to the game that deserves commendation. Unfortunately after you’ve experienced a few dozen matches, seen all the maps, and played all of the monster and hunter types there’s not a whole lot left to engage in.
"Everything about it from its presentation to its game modes is unlike any other shooter out there."
The dynamic element in each standard Hunt match is the evolution of the monster. Over time the monster must hunt, kill, and eat as much wildlife as possible in order to evolve into its strongest form, and how quickly all of this happens depends entirely on the skill of the player. Hunters don’t have any sort of progression during a match and start and end with the same skills and abilities. This offers monster players no incentive to engage with the hunters before evolving to level three; in fact doing so is almost suicide. Because of this matches feel drawn out and turn into an elaborate game of cat and mouse with length and fun-factor depending entirely on the competency of both sides.
I found myself having much more fun playing as a hunter. The interactions and teamwork required, especially when you have to bring down a level three monster is truly the superior experience. The way the classes work together is also very well done, with each class presenting a vastly different play-style than a totally different experience that feels unlike any of the ones played previously.
"I found myself having much more fun playing as a hunter. The interactions and teamwork required, especially when you have to bring down a level three monster is truly the superior experience."
The hunters feature four main classes: medic, assault, trapper, and support. As previously stated each class is totally different, and each one takes a significant amount of time to learn to play correctly. When used properly in sequence with one another the intricate layers and abilities reminded me distinctly of taking part in a WoW raid group, with each character having to play their role in their intended way in an effort to contribute to the greater good.
The medic is the lifeblood of the group, healing and reviving players from a distance and offering ways to tranquilize and slow a monster’s retreat. The assault is the team’s tank, dishing out consistent damage while maintaining the monster’s interest. The trapper is the team’s initiator that forces the monster to stay and fight with a mobile arena ability. The support offers a shield that can prevent damage to whomever is targeted and drop a devastating air strike that deals massive damage upon impact. Each of these pieces must seamlessly work together in order to succeed.
I found that I had the most fun with Evolve when playing with friends. Though random groups offered a great way to jump into some action, the chances of finding a competent group were iffy at best. This may have been due to the fact that the community is still figuring out the best way to play Evolve, but games were much more consistent when engaging with companions that I could speak openly over a microphone with and I knew would respond immediately to my pings and communications.
Hunt isn’t the only game mode that is offered, there are a few other modes as well, but they’re not quite as distinct: nest, evacuation, defend, rescue. Though these modes vary slightly from the standard hunt game mode, the basic principle of hunt remains the same, except for defend which forces the hunters to go on the defensive while a monster charges in to destroy a target.
"Evolve’s graphics, atmosphere, and sound are what really steal the spotlight. Everything from the howls of wildlife to the thumping of monsters lurking in the distance is captured perfectly."
These other modes shine brightest when incorporated into Evolve’s “campaign” of sorts. It’s not a campaign in the traditional sense, but it’s a series of five missions played back-to-back with the outcome of each mission determining how the next plays out. It’s an interesting approach that adds some dynamic to Evolve’s basic hunt-style gameplay, but much like Titanfall’s campaign it falls a bit short and doesn’t offer what a traditional campaign normally does in terms of story and background.
Evolve’s graphics, atmosphere, and sound are what really steal the spotlight. Everything from the howls of wildlife to the thumping of monsters lurking in the distance is captured perfectly. The worlds feel full of vibrancy and life, and the art direction, while exaggerated, feels like a realistic sci-fi adventure. The character animations and witty banter are all expertly included and allude to a hunter’s past offering up some intriguing stories for those with a keen ear. Though there are some design choices I feel would have benefitted from further tweaking – why is there no FOV slider on the PC version, and why does every gun take up HALF of the screen?!? – there’s not a whole lot to complain about when it comes to Evolve’s presentation.
Overall Evolve is a bit of a mixed bag. Initially it impresses and lives up to its potential, but after some time spent with it I can’t help but feel like it could have been so much more. I’m pretty burnt out on it already, but if you take Evolve at face value I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic time running through the world, hunting, trapping and killing. Only time will tell if the game can hold true to its name and evolve some new game types that will add longevity.
Review Note: A code for the retail version of Evolve was provided to us by GamersGate. Check out GamersGate's 10th Anniversary Sale, where you can get titles like Ridge Racer: Unbounded for 75% off. Also, don't forget to check out their Facebook and Twitter pages where you can stay up to date with their weekly deals!
Review by: Palmer Sturman | Reviewed on: PC