Hunt, Kill, Repeat
Turtle Rock Studios is a developer already much beloved for the Left 4 Dead series, a set of games that really pushed forward the concept of cooperative multiplayer. With Evolve, Turtle Rock looks to push cooperative multiplayer even further with an ambitious 4 vs. 1 match style. At full disclosure, I’m not very good at this type of game. Normally, I tend to stick to playing single-player titles (an option that Evolve allows). However, Evolve’s concept really excited me: a huge, nearly unstoppable monster versus a squad of hunters, high stakes, the thrill of the hunt. These ideas were enough to venture from my comfort zone into the realm of multiplayer gaming (which is definitely how the game deserves to be played). Was Evolve everything I hoped it would be? Did I have a great time? In short, the answer is yes, though a few shortcomings will likely prevent it from evolving into the most dominant game of 2015.
Where I can start laying praise on Evolve is in its character design. The hunters are a diverse group that look interesting and sound even better. The voice-overs in the game, while brief, are top notch. Some of the best moments in Evolve are quieter ones where your hunting party starts talking amongst itself. Turtle Rock has taken the time to create a unique set of personalities, and as a result, their interactions are quite often hilarious, which provides a nice contrast to the intensity that comes with the combat in the game. The monsters look appropriately intimidating, and each unlocked monster type looks more bizarre than the last. The sound design for the beasts are outstanding. Waiting at your power generator, preparing to defend it against a level three monster, only to have its arrival trumpeted by ominous, ground shaking footsteps evokes something out of the movie Jurassic Park.
The gameplay follows a simple yet addicting 4 vs. 1 multiplayer format. On one side, you have the hunters whose primary objective is to hunt and kill the monster before it becomes too powerful. The hunting party is made up of a squadron of four players consisting of four classes: Assault (the primary damage dealer), Trapper (specializing in tracking and trapping the monster, forcing it into direct combat), Medic (responsible for keeping your party alive), and Support (who comes with a host of team aiding and monster damaging abilities including the awesome Orbital Assault, which orders a missile strike on the monster, and a team cloak ability). I found all four classes to be equally enjoyable. It only takes a few matches with a particular class to get the basics of how you fit in to the team. Eventually you’ll start unlocking different characters within each class, offering new abilities to play around with while still sticking with the same class concept.
On the other side, playing as the monster starts out as a game of survival, trying to avoid the hunting party, feeding on wildlife to level up to the point where either A) you can kill the hunting party, or B) you take out the colony’s power generator to instantly win the game. As the monster you feel appropriately badass and are given a variety of methods in which to dispatch the hunting party. My personal favorite was fire breath, offering high damage in a large range.
Evolve’s matches are clearly designed to be played amongst a group of friends, or at very least a group of people working together via headsets. This created a bit of a problem for me as I did not have a dedicated group of people to play with, especially during an awkward transition period where many of my friends have yet to make the leap to the next generation. As such, I was relegated to random matchmaking for my games. When I was paired up with people who were communicating, it was a blast. We’d strategize, we’d offer encouragement, we’d share tips even if the other half of the party ignored us and proceeded to run in the opposite direction. But more often than not, I was met with wholesale silence. Without communication, it feels like the monster has a distinct advantage as that player is a party of one. In my experience, when dealing with a group of strangers, the monster almost always wins. It is worth mentioning, however, that the game features several variations on the main hunt match format, and the advantage feels a little more level between hunting party and monster (particularly hatchling mode which sees you either trying to destroy, or in the monster’s case, protecting a set of eggs placed throughout the map).
Even when I was on the losing side, I was still having a ton of fun. The controls are great. You can easily traverse through the alien world, and you have to be on alert at all times. There are plenty of things just as a deadly as the monster just waiting for you to slip up. The battles are intense and quick-paced, and there is nothing as exhilarating as being the last member of the hunting party alive trying to survive the monster’s rage long enough to bring in the next drop ship to deliver your fallen teammates. There is a leveling system in place for both sides that offers unlockable characters and other rewards based on performance using specific abilities while in combat. It adds just one more round element to the game while encouraging you to get familiar with the abilities of the various characters and monsters. The levelling system feels well-balanced to where even though we lost a match, I always felt I was making good progress towards the next benchmark.
While there is a story tying the events of Evolve together, the plot is definitely scarce. Evolve takes place on planet Shear, located in the Far Arm of space. Shear is a planet colonized by humans but besieged by brutal and vicious monsters that seek to wipe the human population from the planet. The only thing standing between the monsters and the colonists is a group of soldiers of fortune labeled as The Hunters. Storywise, Evolve has untapped potential; the premise is interesting, but the game lacks anything that really pushes the story forward in a meaningful way. Therein lies Evolve’s one major shortfall.
Similar to Titanfall, Evolve is a tight multiplayer game with a really fascinating hook. The thing that would have pushed it that step further would have been a story-driven campaign that further fleshes out the setting and the characters that also plays with and even deepens the gameplay into deeper territory. The thought of a tightly scripted battle against one of Evolve’s monsters is tantalizing. To be fair, Evolve does offer Evacuation mode, which is a strung together set of matches where each match has an effect on the next depending on who wins, but it doesn’t quite replace the desire for an actually campaign.
The Verdict: 8.5 out of 10
Evolve is a flat out great multiplayer game. The 4 vs 1 match style is novel, intense, and truly feels like something I’ve never played before. The characters are great, provide a lot of variety, and you’ll have fun no matter what class (or creature) you choose to play as. While playing round after round of Evolve is an enjoyable way to spend an evening, a main campaign would have been the thing to take this game from a great game to an amazing one. So if you are looking for a fun, new multiplayer experience, grab Evolve, definitely grab some friends, and happy hunting!
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.