Review: Evolve (Xbox One)
When Evolve was announced I was probably the most sceptical gamer out there. I wasn’t negative, just unsure about the appeal of an online, predominantly multiplayer game where you will have 4 guys teaming up on 1 guy. Yes, the 1 guy would be a monster and the others mere humans with fancy weapons, but I just wasn’t sure it would fly. The game released and I was happy to say I was right about it… or was I?
Evolve, if I am honest, doesn’t really have a story so much as it does a basic plot. The plot focuses on a planet called Shear which has these dense jungle areas filled with different wildlife, monsters and foliage. The planet is a place where, in the future, humans have travelled to and set up colonies, but because of all the monsters roaming they are no longer safe.
As a result, a group of Hunters is formed with which the humans attempt to rid themselves of the monsters and regain their safety. Failure to do so will result in impending doom, or lucky escape. The hunters are made up of four classes, Medic, Support, Trapper and Assault, and it’s up to these guys to save the world (or Shear at least).
Evolve features around a 4 vs. 1 online multiplayer mechanic. The idea is a relatively simple one. If you have 5 people online, 4 play as a hunter and 1 as a monster. The hunters need to use all the tools at their disposal to bring down the monster. The monster, on the other hand, needs to take out all the hunters before they can kill him. With that simple explanation out of the way, let’s expand on what are essentially two very different styles of play, the hunters and the monsters.
Hunters: Yes, the hunters are dropped onto one of Evolve’s perfectly sized maps in order to take down the ‘alpha’ monster that is terrorising the planet, while contending with numerous other aspects on the map such as massive crocodiles, vicious plants and other dangerous creatures. It isn’t quite as easy as just going for the monster as the hunters are split into 4 different classes as mentioned above.
Now, each class has a very specific job and there are 3 different characters in each. Assault is the most obvious and is required to deal the most damage on the monster. Armed with big guns, a shield, mines and other heavy hitting weapons, the Assault class needs utmost accuracy to take out that big monster. Support class is, well exactly that, a support to the other hunters. You get things like an orbital strike dealing lots of damage from above, or you can provide others with shields, go invisible (and makes others invisible as protection) or as one Support character remove your head and use it as a UAV to scout where the monster is.
The trapper class is tasked with keeping the monster at bay. He/She carries around a mobile arena which, for a limited time, can lock the monster within a dome so that the hunters can attack without the monster running away. Trappers are also armed with a means of tracking the monsters, one with a pet animal that sniffs the monster out, or with sound spikes, or using tracer bullets. Lastly there is the medic which is tasked with keeping everyone alive. Medics have two healing abilities, as well as weapons like a tranquiliser gun which slows down the monster. The Medic can also make use of a sniper rifle for damage and to create weak spots on the monster. It’s the one weapon that can penetrate through the shell and reveal an opening to be attacked.
Each class has three different characters and each has different weapons and abilities which make them so unique to each other even within the same class. While I felt the game started slowly and was a bit boring, the more I played and discovered the better it got. It was amazing to me that each class felt equally powerful and necessary in so many different ways.
For example, I was terrible playing as assault because my aim over a long period of time with an assault rifle is not very good so I felt like I wasted my time with that, but throw me in as support where I could provide shields, use rockets and scout out the monsters and I felt right at home. Medic was another favourite because I had a good knack of catching up to the monster to tranquilise while keeping others healthy if I could.
It really depends on the player, but you have to realise that each role is different and if you play one really well that does not mean you can just jump into any role and be as efficient. Most importantly, each role must be played out effectively to take out the monster and that means teamwork.
Playing as the Hunters was absolute bliss for me. At the start I felt as though I was doing the same thing over and over, one big boss battle, but after some time, when you realise how it all works, that changes very quickly and the puzzle pieces fall finely into place making a wonderful experience.
Monsters: A testament to how different the game is when you play as a monster is found within the fact that I simply did not enjoy playing as any one of the three monsters. When you are the monster you need to do a couple of things. First, you need to make sure you don’t get killed by the hunters obviously. While doing this you need to feed on the wildlife to evolve your monster. The monsters have 3 different levels gaining in power and health with each level.
As a monster you have to be strategic too. If you alert birds to your presence they alert the hunters so you have to mix stealth attacks with running away so that you aren’t found before you can evolve high enough to take on the hunters. Once you reach level 3 you will have the opportunity to destroy a power core which will also result in victory for the monster.
Playing as the monster is intense, far more intense than playing as a hunter because you are alone, and you are being chased all the time. However, that is changed when you reach level 3 and you become powerful enough to take the hunters on a lot easier. Then, you become the hunter in many ways.
The powers for the monsters are a blend of different attacks such as breathing fire, electric attacks and melee attacks depending on which monster you choose. The Goliath is easily the most balanced of the monsters, while the Kraken and especially the Wraith feel a little too overpowered. Personally I found it a bit irritating how powerful the Wraith was and mostly didn’t enjoy the games when it was involved.
Many people love playing as the monster, others as the hunters, but no matter which one you choose you will definitely have a lot of fun and a different experience. It is where a lot of the depth belongs in Evolve as you try different strategies and tactics along the way.
The visuals in Evolve are mostly damn impressive. The draw distance is spectacular and something that not only looks good but also assists with the gameplay as you try look in the distance for the monster. The player models are perhaps not as good, and are rather generic in a way, but still look pretty cool.
The sounds of the jungle are up there as some of the best I have heard. Being alerted to where the monster makes a noise when evolving, or birds moving in the distance adds to the experience and the atmosphere of the game in such a splendid way. The character voicing is decent too and while the conversations get repeated way too often it still adds an element of humour to the chase with some good quality voice acting. The monsters sound amazing and each attack has a great sound effect… so you pretty much know when you are being electrocuted.
It’s not all good
Sadly, while Evolve feels more and more positive the further I progress, it does have its issues. Firstly it is just not fun when playing alone. Yes, it is an online MP game so it almost goes without saying, but there is a single player option that probably shouldn’t exist because it is just laborious and horrible.
The modes gets old quickly too. Hunt is the main mode where you have to search for the monster and is probably the best and most played mode. Defence is my best though as it is a type of horde mode which has you protecting certain areas from waves of monsters. Nest is a seriously boring mode as it has you trying to destroy eggs on the map before the monster kills you, it feels like a nothing mode. Rescue is the average mode, where you have to protect survivors on their way back to an evacuation point. It’s far too easy to win this mode but it’s still fun. Lastly there is evacuation mode, which is 5 rounds of random modes out of the above. Depending on who wins the round the environment changes as a result. So there are hundreds and thousands of combinations of this mode but none make it feel like it is really anything more than a cosmetic difference.
Levelling up is another issue as it just takes way too long and feels like a hard grind, particularly at the start. Once you get the hang of it, it definitely does improve but still feels a bit tedious at times. Matchmaking is not fantastic and sometimes finding games takes a few minutes longer than you would hope and sometimes when you do find matches you get kicked out (not sure if this is a local South African problem or general, but that’s irrelevant I guess). Even worse than that is being paired with randoms who have no idea how to play or just don’t care, it makes 15-20 minutes of game time feel an utter waste.
I also have to note that one person who I played with online had his entire progress reset. He was back on level 1 from level 5 and had to begin again, he was not pleased. I also had my game crash 3 times sending me back to my dashboard and making me want to kick my dog (not really) (Ed – No really, never trust Jarred near your dog).
Numerous issues with game chat and connectivity meant that we often took about 30 minutes to get started by which meant on average at least 2 people gave up, it’s just not ideal.
Lastly, I am just not sure Evolve has the legs to go on for too long. It’s a fun game, no doubt, but after a few weeks I feel as though people will move on. It has a very aggressive DLC module which feels disgusting to say the least and the promise of new monsters and maps comes at a price that many probably won’t want to pay.
All in all, Evolve is a great experience. It is fun, especially with friends as you’d expect. The focus on different roles feels as complete as anything I have ever played and there is just nothing quite like taking down that damn monster at the last minute.
It has issues, but if you enjoy online multiplayer games and have enough guys to ensure that you can play online with at least one other person then it is 100% well worth the money. I can only hope that Turtle Rock Studios see the error in their ways with DLC and decide to expand the game to its loyal purchasers rather than force them to pay more when it should just be included.