Evolve rises above its pacing and character progression issues to give us a fresh, exciting new co-operative and competitive multiplayer experience
Here’s an admission: I had no interest in Evolve before actually playing it. In fact, I was going to pass on it entirely given my video game backlog at present. It took over an hour of persuasion by a friend who had bought the PS4 version of the game for me to even consider giving it a shot. I’m glad I did. After spending the better portion of an hour installing the game (which came in not one or two, but four DVD9s) and several hours since playing the game on PC. I can honestly say that Evolve is nothing like anything else I’ve ever played.
Kill or be killed
What’s immediately interesting about Evolve is the tutorial, which puts you in control of a Goliath, the first monster you will have access to in the game. You’re shown the ropes about the basic mechanics—killing and feeding on wildlife to well, “evolve” into something bigger, badder and harder to kill. I can’t remember the last time a game put you in control of something so Darwinian—the monsters (and by association, you, the players) aren’t really concerned with anything other than their own survival at any cost, whether it is running away in the early stages, and once powerful enough, survive by killing everything else in sight.
The perfect opposite of individualistic monster behaviour is the complex teamwork required to hunt it. Playing as one of four hunters who sport a variety of skills, abilities and weapons, it is your job to track, trap and eventually eliminate the monster or survive for twenty minutes in the game’s signature ‘Hunt’ mode. There are other modes as well, but it’s the Hunt that offers the quintessential Evolve experience, managing to capture both — what is interesting and innovative about it, as well as inadvertently highlighting some fundamental issues with the game.
Patience and time
The four Hunter classes (Medic, Assault, Support, Trapper) all have three characters each who can be unlocked by grinding XP on the previous character and three playable monsters are available as well, requiring a similar grind before they’re playable. Most games appear to have embraced dangling the seemingly unattainable carrot in front of players and Evolve is no different, granting limited access to playable characters and monsters at the outset as a possible way to both diminish the learning curve as well make players grind more hours before being rewarded with a piece of pie. Bear in mind though that this game is not even close to being as grind-y as, say, Destiny or Dragon Age Inquisition.
It would only be appropriate, therefore that the actual gameplay itself will require you to take your time. Whether you’re playing the hunter or the hunted (believe me, this equation changes numerous times during a single twenty-minute game of Evolve), the Hunt requires patience. For the monster, it’s about staying one step ahead of its hunters, finding higher ground, preying on lesser wildlife and survival, waiting for the opportune moment to strike. For the hunters, it’s about working together as a unit, using gut instinct and investigative abilities to predict the monster’s position rather than simply follow Daisy the “dog” (the first tracker’s pet who sniffs out a monster’s position). Encounters can pan out in multiple ways, but there’s always a constant: every battle is epic. If it wasn’t for the sheer organized chaos of each battle, the downtime in each Hunt would have been more of an irritant.
Evolve truly feels like the year’s first proper triple-A release. The much touted asynchronous gameplay certainly lives up to its hype, and there’ are some really innovative ideas here. Developers Turtle Rock Studios have also done a stellar job bringing the world of Shear (Evolve’s battlegrounds are all set in different parts of the planet) to life. There’s so much going on in the environment that contributes to immersion that it’s easy to forget you’re playing in a map with boundaries. It is held back by pacing and character progression issues, but the rest of it is good enough to more than make up for it.