Release Date: February 10, 2015Platform: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, PCDeveloper: Turtle Rock StudiosPublisher: 2K GamesGenre: First-person shooter
I first played Evolve, Turtle Rock Studios’ 4v1 multiplayer shooter, at last year’s PAX East and was amazed by the game’s tactical prowess. The importance of each team member’s specific role in the hunt is at the forefront of the experience. Playing as the trapper is completely different to stepping into the shoes of the medic. Going in guns blazing as the assault is nothing like providing those much-needed shields as a support. And the monster, well, the monster, whose role it is to outsmart and destroy the other players, using the environment to its advantage, is the reason to stay in this most dangerous game.
After playing through the Big Alpha and open beta, I found that the developers had only made Evolve better, and now, almost a year after I first went on the hunt, I’m happy to say that the final version of the game is a fun, fast-paced, and unique multiplayer shooter that is not to be missed. Although it has a few shortcomings, which we will get into in moments, Evolve delivers its 4v1, story-lite gameplay with style.
Armed with crazy weapons and gadgets, you and your team of hunters set out to the planet Shear to stop an ever-growing flock of monsters from destroying the planet’s remaining colonies. Using the tactics at your disposal — mainly tracking through changes in your environment — the best matches turn into deadly situations that get your heart pounding and your palms sweating. Ever seen that final battle in Predator? The best moments in Evolve are like that:
It’s unfortunate that all matches can’t turn out that way. So much of Evolve‘s primary match type, Hunt, depends on who’s playing as the Goliath, Kraken, or Wraith. Someone experienced will give you a run for your money, absolutely, but put someone who prefers to be stealthy or reckless behind the controls, and things can become a bit repetitive and stale. If you have any table-top RPG experience, then you’ll recognize the monster as the dungeon master. Your prey, logically, drives how fun the hunt is.
Killing things, rescuing survivors, blowing up eggs, and defending relays on many of the same maps I’ve been playing since last April did become a bit strenuous at times. I would like just a little more variation, especially in Evacuation mode — Evolve‘s version of a “story” mode, which is quite lite on story but also encompasses all of the other modes besides the standard Hunt. The game’s progression system doesn’t help either, as elements such as weapons and skills that would make the game feel a bit more varied and surprising can take hours or weeks to acquire, depending on how devoted to the game you are. It’s the grind at its most annoying.
When you get into a rhythm with the rest of your team or in Solo mode, dropped into the same pattern of maps and match types, it can become a bit difficult to immerse yourself in a meaningful way. You know when you’re doing something, but you’re not really thinking about it or paying attention, you’re just kind of in reflex mode? Evolve can become a bit hypnotic that way, as you climb cliff after cliff and unload bullets on your targets.
So what keeps me invested in a game that some would call “repetitive?” The sci-fi intensive setting and characters. Beautiful visuals and sound that push current-gen consoles to their limit (only a few instances of minor glitching and lag to report). Ridiculous weapons and gadgets that help you get the job done and can prove to be the turning point at a pivotal moment in a match, whether you’re attacking your prey or coming to the aid of your team mates. And, most importantly, how unpredictable the game can be when facing a seasoned opponent, how quickly the stakes are raised and scales tipped at a second’s notice. One minute, your team is unleashing its fury on a Goliath, Kraken, or Wraith, and the next, you’re running for your life, heading for greener (less monster-infested) pastures while your team mates respawn.
You will suffer more than a few of these twists and turns in these average-length matches. A lot of the time, they’ll come down to the wire, a battered team defending the power relay (think tower defense) from the monsters. Evolve is a masterpiece of balancing and suspense at its very best, and only a dreadful bore when the dungeon master isn’t quite up to par with the rest of the players.
One final note on the monsters, who I must admit aren’t my favorite class in the game. I prefer to play a support or trapper, who hold vital roles on the team, even if one’s importance is a bit more obvious than the other. (Seriously, playing as a support is awesome.) Playing as the prey-turned-predator is unique, as you feed off the environment to gain power, evolving into a final form that can kill an entire team of unprepared hunters in a couple of hits, and you’ll become addicted to the full fury of these behemoths. Speaking to many other players, including the ones on the Den of Geek Games staff, the monsters are always their top choice. Each monster comes with its own devastating set of abilities that will rock the hunters across maps or turn them into dust. Maybe I’m just weird. Or the feeling of being hunted just makes me uncomfortable.
John Saavedra hopes to evolve into something way more intimidating one day. Follow him on Twitter!