It’s not often you come across a game that breaks the genre mould. Evolve initially seems like your standard shoot-‘em up game of kill the monster before it kills you, but once you play it, you realise what Turtle Rock and 2K are trying to do. Evolve is part shooter, part strategy, and part co-op game of violent hide-and-seek where one wrong move on either side could mean game over.
Evolve takes place on the planet Shear, a hostile world with some pretty vicious fauna (and flora). Humans have attempted to settle the world, but the world decided to resist, and the game revolves around the last few days of human habitation and the colonists’ attempts to escape the rampaging lifeforms. As a hunter, you’ve been brought in to facilitate this “tactical retreat”, to take down as many of the aggressive animals as possible, to buy as much time for the evacuation teams. Your job is made harder by the appearance of the Monsters; intelligent, two-story killer titans hell bent on your extinction. No-one knows where they have come from or whether they are even native to the planet, but either way, it’s you or them.
Before we get on to the gameplay itself, I have a word of warning. If you are looking for an in-depth story or a campaign to while away the hours, then I’m afraid this is not the game for you. The entire back story of the game is explained in short cut scenes before each game as a hunter, although this amounts to only slightly less than the backstory in Destiny, and it actually gives each of the hunters a decent individual personality. The 12 hunters (8 men, 3 women and a robot) are split into 4 types; Assault, Medic, Trapper, and Support. Assaults, unsurprisingly, are the damage dealers. They have 2 different types of weapons; 1 short range and 1 long range, as well as a class specific personal shield to make them invincible for a short time, enabling them to go toe-to-toe with Monster. They also have weapons such as flamethrowers to rapid fire rocket-launchers, allowing them to keep up the damage output and constantly inflict pain on the monster when they can see it. Medics are there to keep the party alive to fight on. They all have a healing burst that gives all nearby hunters a top-up of health, and another gadget to keep the team at full strength, including healing beams and a glove that literally bring hunters back from the dead.
Trappers have one of the most useful class perks; an energy dome that traps you and the monster, allowing you and your partners to put some serious damage down on the monster while it can’t escape. Monsters have a naturally faster movement speed than the hunters, so a timely deployed dome can make all the difference in a game. Trappers also have a way of tracking or detecting the monster, allowing the party to keep up with their target, and a tool to slow their quarry down making it easier to hit. Finally, we have the Support, which as their name suggests, support the team in tracking, protecting and assisting the team as well as being able to deal damage in a firefight. They are probably the most varied bunch with devices such as a localised cloaking device, shield beams, damage amplifiers, a rail cannon (which can fire through walls!) and one can even remove his own head to act as a mobile UAV to help track down the monster (fortunately that character is a robot). Getting around for all the hunters is pretty similar, as all are equipped with a jetpack to help scale the cliffs and terrain, and also to avoid getting torn apart by the native creatures and man-eating plants. Although the fuel for the jetpack runs out relatively quickly, it replenishes almost as fast as you lost it. The jetpacks can also be used to dodge in any direction, allowing you to attempt to avoid any incoming attacks, or dash forward to close down the gap when chasing a fleeing monster. Being able to use teamwork to track, trap and kill the monster is key to winning as a hunter. Playing with friends or random players who are willing to communicate helps a fair bit, and is great fun too when the comms are alive with chatter as you attempt to slay the beast.
This brings me on to the hunters main opponents; the Monsters. Most of the wildlife on Shear can defend itself in some way, often aggressively, but all of it is potential food for the Monsters, which is important to note, as eating the local fauna is your only way to get stronger. The effect is two-fold; it both increases your armour and gives you energy, allowing you to evolve. Evolving gives you points to invest in your abilities, as well as giving you more health, but with the small downside of making you larger and seemingly slightly slower. Even with the small downsides, evolving is easily the best way to take on the hunters; a level 3 monster, which would still have most of its health, is more than a match for 4 hunters. On the other hand, if the hunters can track down and trap their target before it evolves at all, then the match could be very short indeed.
The monsters currently come in 3 forms; Goliath, Kraken and Wraith (with a 4th, the Behemoth, released next month). Each has its own individual playing style, with the Goliath being the tank and the least mobile of the group, although certain attacks let you quickly close down the distance between you and your target. The Kraken acts like a mage, being able to attack from range or up close, and it also has the ability to fly and hover, giving it a more 3 dimensional playing style and method of moving around the map. Finally, the Wraith is like an assassin or glass cannon, as it has the least amount of health and armour out of the 3 monsters, but can also do the most damage, including creating a Decoy, distracting and attacking the target while you sneak in for the surprise attack. Only the Goliath is playable at the start, and like the hunters, gaining experience with each one of their abilities allows you to unlock the next monster. In addition, XP that you gain from matches goes towards your overall level, granting you perks that you can use to augment your hunter or monster, including increased movement speed, greater damage, health regeneration and many others. There are also additional perks gained from killing certain Albino creatures in each game. Their buff only last a minute or two, but if picked up at the right time, it could turn the tide of a fight in your favour. Moving around the map poses its own challenge. Normal movement leaves a glowing trail of footprints for the hunters to follow, making it easy for them to see where you’ve been and stay hot on your heels. You can sneak, which leaves no trail but slows you down significantly, or you could head through rivers and pools to mask your movements.
The main game type you’ll play in is the standard Hunt; take the monster down before it gets strong enough to take the hunters down. The monster can win by killing all the hunters or evolving to level 3 and destroying a power relay, whilst the hunters win by killing the monster or rarely by the monster getting to level 3 and not attacking the relay. There are 3 other game types, but these are only usually encountered in what’s known as an Evacuation; 5 games strung together where the outcome of the previous one has an effect on the next. Evacuations always conclude in a Defence game where the monster and its regularly spawning minions must take down a couple of shield generators one after the other before moving on to the power supply for an evacuating ship that’s fuelling up, causing it to crash. The hunters job in this case is to cause enough damage to the monster to kill it or delay it enough so as the ship can escape.
The 3 games in-between the initial hunt and the final defence are either more Hunt’s, Rescue (escorting downed survivors to evacuation points before the monster kills the majority) and Nest, where monster eggs lie around the map and the Hunters need to destroy them all before the time runs out and they hatch. The twist with this map mode is that the monster can hatch an egg to spawn a minion to assist in fighting the hunters. This is as close to a story mode or campaign as Evolve gets, and gives on average more XP than playing skirmish mode continuously, which seems to be what most Twitch streamers do, although both serve their purpose quite well.
This area, I think, is Evolve’s weakest point, as the maps are really rather similar to each other. There are some themes such as desert, or jungle, acid, or winter types, but even then most leave you failing to distinguish between them, especially early on. The only one that is truly apart from the rest in my opinion is The Aviary, a series of bio-domes separated by doors and tunnels forcing choke points (and therefore ambush opportunities) onto both sides in a game. The other maps, more than 10 in all, seem to blend in with each other and could do with more definition to set them apart. The general map design is based on very steep terrain, with impassible mountains acting as the arena boundaries. The maps themselves are generally large enough with a variation of rolling paths and vertical cliffs to traverse. Sometimes it’s possible to get a decent vantage point to survey the terrain and you may be able to use that view to look for signs that the opposition is in a certain area.
Evolve can be played offline alone with AI bots, or online with either an AI monster or all human players. You get similar XP either way, with the solo offline mode allowing you to get a little practice in before heading online to do battle with the great unwashed masses. Overall, the game comes across as quite polished and complete, which is refreshing compared to the recent trend of shipping games seemingly half-finished. There is a natural space for extra characters, with the Behemoth already confirmed, and a hint in the game of 4 more hunters, although these will likely cost real money. The graphics are polished and similar across all 3 platforms, with virtually no graphical issues and decent frame rates on PC, and 1080p resolution on both consoles. I have come across 1 audio glitch whilst playing which stopped within a few seconds, which for over 20 hours gameplay, and with the audio playing a significant role in the game, isn’t all that bad. A headset with surround sound (or a similar system) is recommended, as being able to distinguish the direction of where certain sounds are coming from can definitely give an advantage in game. The other downside is the ingame VOIP is very poor (at least on the PS4) so finding an alternative way of communicating with friends is highly recommended.
As I said at the beginning, Evolve fits into a gap in the gaming market that most people didn’t know existed, and the game could become pretty popular if promoted and supported correctly. I’ve already heard of people talking about e-sports in streams and interviews, and the game could go that way as it would be easy to add more hunters and monsters. Televised matches are plausible as games rarely go on for longer than half an hour. I think this game has some serious potential, and I’ve had a blast playing it so far as, for me, it mixes the right amount of tension interspersed with periods of intense action. I think I will be fighting for survival on Shear for good while yet.
All images are property of Evolvegame.com and used with permission
Hide and seek with big guns
Online co-op with friends
Limited map design
Now, or wait for a sale if on a budget
For details on release dates and other related info, head to Evolve’s game page.
** When is it worth the price? — In lieu of review scores, we opt to give our opinion on whether the game is worthy of it’s release day price, or if you should wait for a patch or a sale. **
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