Evolve (PS4) Review
- A truly innovative core with which to build on
- Looks great and runs well
- Good variety of levels to play over
- Solid network code
Not So Much?
- Not all monsters were created equal and the later beaties just feel disconnected from the action
- Experience is dictated by the players you play with and their ability to play their class
- Repeated play could become hollow and longevity might be a factor
Evolve has a pure concept at its core – hunt, or be hunted! Turtle Rock Studios, the team studio that brought us the Left for Dead franchise, have risen from not only the ashes of splitting with Valve, but from the smouldering mess that was THQ. Teased way back in 2011 when it was named […]
Evolve has a pure concept at its core – hunt, or be hunted!
Turtle Rock Studios, the team studio that brought us the Left for Dead franchise, have risen from not only the ashes of splitting with Valve, but from the smouldering mess that was THQ. Teased way back in 2011 when it was named Wild, the road to release might not have been the smoothest but it appears to have been worth it.
Evolve is an online only game of cat and mouse. You play as either one of four hunter classes (Medic, Trapper, Assault and Support) or as a ferocious monster lurking in the shadows. There’s no real story to speak of other than a paper-thin veil thrown over the action – this is all about stalking your prey.
With no real plot to speak of the game quickly becomes about how you play your class and who you play with. Knowing your role is essential to both understanding and enjoying Evolve. Each of the four class roles has a specific job to undertake. The medic is fairly self-explanatory for the most part. Your job is to keep the rest of the team alive long enough to trap and then kill the monster. As well as your healing ability you also get an armour piercing sniper rifle. This is not necessarily that much use against the beasts, but it does light up an area where you’ve just cracked the enemy’s armour allowing your team mates to plough a copious number of rounds towards it in a bid to do extra damage.
There are three variations of each character class giving you a total of 12 playable mercenary characters each with a slightly different skill set and load-out. For example the second medic class ditches the healing beam in favour of a resurrection device. Coupled with a cloaking device you can toggle and you can sneak your way around and revive dead team mates when the beastie isn’t looking.
Each character is something of a videogame and action movie cliché, cigar chewing mercs and all. Whereas this should really be something you roll your eyes at it instead fits in with the game well and forms an interesting rogues gallery. Levelling is, at least at the start, a slow and thankless task. Small steps are made as you scrape through level 2 – 6 barely gaining anything useful from completing the in-mission objective to level up your equipment. And extra 2% damage on a weapon is hardly and exciting reward for hours of slogging through dense forestry trying to hunt a savage beast.
The three monsters on offer show both the brilliance and the flaw in the armour of Evolve’s otherwise rock solid core. The initial monster on offer is the Goliath. A hulking beast that you get to grips with right out of the gate. The Goliath feels fast, robust and deadly. It can make huge leaps, unleash furious attacks and soak up a lot of damage. It’s the ideal predator, feels amongst the action and exactly what you want to play when you come to Evolve.
The Kraken is more divorced from this immediacy with more distance based attacks and feeling far less robust than the Goliath. Further divorcing you from the action is the Wraith. A small, floating monster that is an expert at hiding and stealth. The trouble with the Wraith is that the game as a whole does a great job with allowing the initial monsters to hide, the extended abilities of the Wraith just make is so much harder to track when you’re a hunter. Playing against a Wraith usually involves tracking it around and around until it’s finally eaten enough to evolve to a stage 3 monster and then it kills you! It just makes matches feel hollow and boring early on then unfair and tedious at the end.
Using the skills at the various monster’s disposal is solid enough fun though. With the hunters tracking you it’s imperative you blend with your environment, kill easy quarry so you can feast and “evolve” your monster. Powering-up this way offers a great risk v reward dynamic. The more you chase down the creatures on the planet the more noise and more evidence you leave for the hunters to track you. Sneaking will make it less obvious where you have gone and leave none of those pesky glowing trail prints behind that the hunters use to track you.
Evolve, like so many other online titles, including the Left 4 Dead series, lives and dies by the people you play with. Initial week or so of pay was incredibly hit and miss and part of the reason I was not quick to judge. The game works perfectly when you get together a team you know or just good mates. When you have people that are communicating and playing their class everything fires on all cylinders and you see the pure kernel of what Turtle Rock were going for. When you get randoms that don’t know what they’re doing or who just won’t play their class then it starts to fall apart more rapidly than most.
That’s both a criticism and a back-handed compliment for Evolve. The game is designed to work in a certain way and when it’s played that way it’s unique, fresh and fun to play. Its design just can’t cope with improper execution is all.
My other concerns are that the game feels very hollow at times. With repeated pay over a number of weeks I think boredom could creep in very easily leaving this title gathering dust on the gaming shelf.
Evolve is innovative and great fun. It has some significant caveats levelled against it though as it not only requires you finding people that want to play a class well it also has only one great monster that you get at the start.
The central platform that Turtle Rock have built Evolve on is rock solid and a masterful core design. The additional items they’ve attached to that have felt unable to meet the bar set by the initial core of the Goliath and the hunters and that beautiful core cat & mouse mechanic.
The game looks great in most places and runs well with some stable netcode at its heart. The 12 maps and varying game modes will keep you amused for a while but I do feel Evolve could feel shallow and repetitive after a lengthy play.
Evolve is a solid experience that might not necessarily appeal to everyone. If you enjoyed the team play aspects of Left4Dead or Team Fortress 2 then this will likely be your next jam. Others might take a while to see the brilliance in the design and be less forgiving of the shortcomings. Either way