Platforms PlayStation 4/Xbox One/PC
Developer Turtle Rock Studios Publisher 2K Games
Genre Action/First Person Shooter Platform Played PlayStation 4
Evolve can be a tremendous and tactical online multiplayer experience when four hunters work as a cohesive unit to take down a skilful monster. Evolve produced some of the most nail-biting, heart-pumping and unpredictable battles I have experienced in recent memory. Unfortunately, the key statement from that previous praise is “can be.” Finding a cohesive unit online and a skilled monster to hunt (especially for those without friends playing Evolve) can be a tough challenge, meaning that the excellent experiences Evolve can produce are few and far between.
Evolve is a 4V1 online multiplayer game, where four player-controlled hunters face off against a player-controlled monster. These odds may seem unfavourable to the monster at first, but it doesn’t take long to realise the Hunters are the ones at a disadvantage. Many games over the years have toted being team-orientated, requiring a cohesive team to become victorious, only to see a team reach victory due to one highly-skilled player. This isn’t the case in Evolve. One weak player within your team can cost you the entire match, and one highly skilled player cannot take down the Monster, single handedly. At times, Evolve demands you to swallow your own pride and back down from a fight in order to await your team’s return; those unable to understand the idiom “live to fight another day” will struggle to succeed.
This is where reviewing Evolve becomes tricky. On one hand, bringing along three friends to hunt a monster as a strong team can be riveting, but being randomly matched up with players online can be hit or miss.
When your team doesn’t work, instead of heart pumping battles, a majority of your time will be spent scratching your head as a Medic ignores a downed team-mate to battle the Monster one on one, or frustratingly waiting for a Trapper to remove the Mobile Arena it used to capture the Monster…and missed. But, surely, I can’t be criticising a game due to its community? I don’t think I am; I’m merely stating that, if you don’t have some friends who want to hunt by your side, or some team mates that are willing to risk their own lives to save yours, Evolve can be frustrating. Playing with friends, or even other players that possess a microphone can create an excellent experience, although not every player online wants to work alongside their fellow player. This is a shame, because when all of the planets align, Evolve can produce some excellent cooperative gameplay; the problem is this isn’t always the case.
Hunt Mode is Evolve’s standard multiplayer match type, pitting four hunters against one lonesome monster. The Monster begins the match on the surface of planet Shear. At this point in time, the Monster is at its weakest form. In order to successfully battle the four incoming Hunters, the Monster must scavenge the arena for wildlife that can be killed and eaten in order to gain strength and evolve. Each Monster can evolve twice, increasing their health, armour capabilities and upgrading or acquiring new abilities that can be used against the Hunters. In order for the Hunters to be successful, the team of four must hunt down the Monster, quickly, before it has a chance to evolve and become a bigger (literally) threat. Hunters can follow the Monster’s footprints and head towards birds it has startled, but simply following the player-controlled creature doesn’t always guarantee you will reach it fast enough.
What I love about Hunt Mode is the unpredictable nature of each battle. As the Hunter, my group could catch the Monster in its original form and deliver a lot of damage, but if we didn’t successfully kill the beast and allow it to evolve, it could return stronger and more dangerous than ever. If the Monster is able to take down a Hunter, this could mean catastrophe for the team, as a downed teammate can take over two minutes to re-enter the fray. Two minutes without your Medic healer, Assault damage dealer, or the Trapper class can be the difference between sweet victory and an embarrassing defeat. One moment, you could be the dominate hunter, while the next you can become the fragile hunted. Like the tide itself, the shape of a battle can be altered fast.
Hunt Mode isn’t without its own problems, though. A majority of each Hunt Mode round is spent searching for the Monster, meaning you will be spending a lot of time simply running around the map in hopes of finding your target. This certainly isn’t the type of mode everyone will love, since for the most part, not a lot is going on. If your team isn’t the most cohesive unit, you can spend almost 90% of your time hunting the monster, only to suffer a devastating and instantaneous defeat when you finally meet. Playing as the Hunter does offer some variety due to the 12 characters on offer (more on that later), but playing as the one of the three Monsters available lacked much variation. Despite each Monster being visually different and each having their own unique abilities, the process was the same: hide, eat, evolve, repeat. Though I did love the initial Hunt, after over a dozen hours, I found myself yearning for something different, as the repetitive nature of Evolve’s online premise began to sink in.
Evolve does offer a story-based mode called Evacuation, and I use the term story-based as loosely as possible. In Evacuation, players will compete in five random matches, which can include the aforementioned Hunt Mode; Nest, where the Monster must defend eggs that the Hunters aim to destroy; Rescue, where the Monster aims to kill survivors that the Hunters must save; ending in Defend, where the team of Hunters battle a Stage 3 Monster and its minions, as they defend a cargo ship. The outcome of each mission will have an effect on the next match. For instance, if the Hunters win one round, they may be given turrets to help defend themselves against the Monster, while a win for the Monster may provide extra wildlife to make evolving easier. Evacuation Mode boasts that over 800,000 variations can be produced, but for the most part, these are very minor. In almost every play-through of Evacuation, my team of Hunters were given turrets to help defend against the oncoming Monster, delivering very little variation in my half a dozen excursions through Evacuation.
Defend Mode is Evacuation’s shining light, which tosses a Stage 3 Monster against the Hunters from the beginning. This throws out the need to constantly hunt down the Monster for the Hunters, or constantly killing wildlife for the Monster. Experiencing Defend Mode actually made me wonder why a condensed Hunt Mode isn’t included in Evolve, which would throw the busywork of Hunt Mode to the side to instead produce memorable 4V1 encounters.
When choosing a Hunter, players can choose between four classes: Assault, Trapper, Medic and Support, each containing three varieties. Impressively, each character for each class feels useful in their own way, and it’s obvious some have been built to tackle particular Monsters, easier than others. After experiencing every character on offer, I found each one can provide useful attributes within a fight; there isn’t one all-powerful character within each class, and power comes from knowing how to utilise each tool in their arsenal, effectively. Once learning how to utilise your character efficiently, working out the best means of combining abilities from multiple characters becomes priority. Hank can deliver a powerful Orbital Drop, but it takes a while to arm, utilise Maggie’s harpoon traps to hold the Monster in place and deliver huge damage. There are many other powerful combinations that can be delivered, if you know what each character is capable of producing.
The variations on each character are slight, but different enough to provide a unique gameplay experience. Let’s take the Medic; Val is built around keeping players alive and healing, as the battle goes, while Lazarus is all about getting players up as quick as possible. These are two slight variations that alter how you play the class drastically; while Val may not find time to utilise her sniper rifle due to proficient healing, Lazarus has time to pummel the monster until a team-mate is in desperate need. Getting to know how each unique Hunter ability worked and mastering its effectiveness were some of my favourite moments throughout Evolve. The fact each character within each class can be unique and extremely balanced is a testament to Turtle Rock Studio’s attention to detail.
Unfortunately, that same amount of detail can’t be said about the selection of maps on offer. There is the rocky one, the night-time rocky one, the forest one, the darker rocky one, and many others. Needless to say, throughout my time with Evolve, none of these maps felt memorable, and each one felt like it blended into the last. Though I understand every map is set on the planet Shear, I was astounded by the sheer (yes, I went there) lack of variety when it came to location. The same can be said with the audio delivered before the Hunters drop into each match. The pre-match banter is determined by who is in your party, with various lines delivered from different Hunters giving the briefest of glimpses into their background. Despite the number of different combinations available and playing as every single character multiple times, I was stuck listening to mostly re-runs after my first six hours.
The words “online multiplayer” have struck fear in many hearts recently, with game after game of online focused titles providing a sub-par online infrastructure. This isn’t the case here. Evolve runs incredibly well, even during hectic 4V1 battles with multiple abilities going off in every direction. I rarely suffered from any poor connection, nor did I experience any drastic framerate issues throughout my time with Evolve. Aside from the handful of minutes waiting for the next match to begin, Evolve boasts a smooth online experience which will put many a gamer at ease.
When Evolve works well and you find yourself accompanied by competent Hunters, chasing down a challenging Monster, Evolve can be an excellent experience. It’s unfortunate that those playing Evolve through the random online pairings may find this experience few and far between, because Evolve is best when you have a strong team by your side, hunting an even stronger Monster. Despite that fact Hunt Mode certainly isn’t the ideal mode for every gamer, those wanting a more action oriented experience may find Evolve’s main mode lacking. If Hunt Mode doesn’t satisfy, there isn’t much else to keep you interested.
Evolve’s lack of memorable maps and reused dialogue may hurt the longevity of Evolve’s community, but the excellent array of Hunters on offer and stable online infrastructure will hopefully keep many gamers playing.
Evolve isn’t a ground-breaking experience, and it won’t revolutionise multiplayer gaming, but there are memorable moments to be had, even if those moments don’t occur as frequently as I’d like.
- Unpredictable nature of battles
- Extensive amount of Hunter choice, impressively balanced
- Defend Mode offers an action orientated experience
- Evolve is only as good as the players in your match
- Visually boring and bland maps