If you’re reading this by now you probably already know about Evolve a little bit, but what you don’t already know is “should I invest time in this?”. Allow me to help – the answer to this question is ‘yes’, however how much time you might want to spend on it is going to depend on your personal preferences… let me explain.
So the real basics. A team of four humans face off against a single monster. The monster gradually evolves (yep that’s where the name comes from) becoming a bigger force for the hunters to hunt and the first to die loses. That’s the concept that underpins the game, and much like Turtle Rock Studio’s earlier work (Left 4 Dead) the simplicity of the concept is barely the surface of a gaming experience that goes as deep as you care to take it.
The main mode is called Hunt and simply the hunters must kill the monster, or he must kill them. Once fully evolved the monster has another option which is destroying a power relay facility. The plot is wafer thin and goes little beyond this concept but it doesn’t matter hugely. There are a few other modes such as Rescue (where hunters must save survivors before the monster kills them) and Nest where the monster must stop the hunters from destroying all its eggs. These all boil down ultimately to the same concept so I have much preferred sticking with the more classic Hunt game type.
The monster’s role evolves through the match along with its size. To begin with the monster should be running away, feeding on small prey and avoiding other monsters in the environment until it can safely evolve. It is then time to move onto larger creatures before finally turning the tables and the hunters become the hunted. This is generally a “can’t go wrong” strategy but which becomes varied depending on the strategy of the hunters. From there, the monster must adapt.
The hunting team of four always has an Assault, Medic, Trapper and Support class. Communication is key as the strategy deployed may need to chop and change as the game plays out so teammates must let each other know where they are and that their intention is to avoid an early death (there’s nothing more embarrassing than a team of hunters beaten by a level one monster). Generally the names give away the role – a standard match goes as follows…
The trapper is the lead hunter. They are tasked with following the monster’s tracks and ultimately trapping him in a bio-dome mobile prison for the others to take him down. Depending on which trapper you elect to play as you might be following a sniffer dog or relying on tracks and wreckage that the monster leaves. Core utilities remain across characters within the same class, but your play style might favour Griffin’s sound spikes to help trap the monster using a harpoon gun, whereas Maggie has Daisy to lead the way and harpoon traps to slow the monster. Once located, the mobile arena goes up trapping the monster in a sphere with the hunters. Depending on his level it could be bad news for one side but get there early enough and it’s showtime for the hunters. Bring on the assault class.
Markov has an assault rifle as standard but the big damage comes from his lightning gun. A portable shield gives him enough protection to get in close and juice the monster with ark mines to lay in case of a chase. Hyde is similar but with a minigun, flamethrower and toxic grenades and Parnell has a shotgun and rocket launcher.
While the trapper and assault are taking care of business, Medic and Support are keeping them ticking. Medic is an obvious role, with varieties of healing abilities among the characters but Val also has an armour piercing sniper rifle which marks the beast and creates a weak spot – 2x damage for the rest of the team. She also has a tranquiliser to slow down the monster. Other characters have abilities able to revive dead buddies or accelerate the rest of the team with enhanced movement speed.
Finally, the Support is just that. Able to inflict serious damage, a cloaking ability can turn the support and any nearby team members invisible for a short period of time. Missile strikes, shield guns, UAVs, railguns and tracking dust make up the rest of the support arsenal.
With all of this it’s almost as if the monster is disadvantaged. Thankfully he has a series of special abilities which help even up the odds but can also stealth through the wilderness. This slows the monster but helps him avoid leaving tracks (aside from broken trees – and anything he deliberately smashes into). This also avoids setting off scare birds who can alert hunters. Going through water also can avoid leaving tracks so any Rambo minded monsters can have some great fun with this – from the start I’ve sneaked off, hit a stream and been away from all hunters completely until I’m fully evolved. When I finally stumbled across them at the power relay the wilderness had not been kind to them and I demolished them easily. They had also done a lot of damage to various other creatures making an easy meal for me.
This is Evolve. How one side plays affect each other and the ability to adapt determines the success or failure of the game. With three monsters available and three of each class of hunter there are a lot of various combinations available. There is also a good variety of different map types with their own unique choke and vantage points but the variety is the big question. Ultimately how long you’re willing to stick with it to unlock the other characters (and it does take a while) might impact your enjoyment slightly, along with access to a number of friends to play with. Playing with randoms is obviously a mixed bag and always being the monster may not do it for everyone. Similarly the lack of a ‘story mode’ might be a turn off.
Single players can play vs bots but going up against human opponent is the real idea of this game. There is a 5 round game type where each team tries to build up ‘credits’ in the style of Crystal Maze which help either team for the round five face-off in which the monster and AI monster buddies must get past all the hunter defences. This is a neat twist but hardly a deviation from the core game type.
So – how much will you enjoy Evolve? If you’re interested then you’ll probably get a fair bit out of this. Will the community still keep at it down the line? A promise of free DLC which won’t exclude anyone who doesn’t pay for premium content might help however time will tell. In the meantime you can do a lot worse than checking this out.
Reviewed on PS4