Evolve from Turtle Rock Studios was one of this year’s more highly anticipated games. Asynchronous gaming where not everybody is doing the same thing is becoming a bigger and bigger, and the unique 5 v 1 multiplayer aspect of the game had everyone hooked from its first announcement. Well the wait is finally over and while Evolve is no doubt a solid game, it suffers from a few problems like bugs and connectivity issues that considering its status as a multiplayer-focused title, really let it down.
Asynchronous gameplay is the hip, emerging thing in this day and age and now Turtle Rock are trying to tap into it with Evolve. Gameplay is pretty simple; four players operate as a team of hunters who are tasked with taking down a monstrous beast. The fifth player controls said beast, and their aim is to grow stronger and devour the hunters. Simple concept, tricky execution seems to be the case here as Evolve offers some really new ideas, but a lot of them get muddled up and lost in the confusion.
There are four monsters (only three playable unless you preordered the game) and each moves and attacks differently. For example the Goiliath moves a lot like a gorilla, climbing up walls and leaping long distances, while also smashing down with its fists, and breathing fire at its enemies. In contract the Kraken can fly and shoot blasts of electrical energy to zone and pick off the hunters. The variations between the monsters is impressive and allows you to play to your own strengths as a gamer. The hunters themselves have a similar variety in their characters, all of which have to work together to fell the giant beasts. The game features two support classes Medic and Support, and two combat-specific classes Trapper and Hunter. Once the team starts losing its soldiers, then it grows weaker and weaker.
With the hunters separated into two attacking and two support classes, it is simple for the monster to wipe out the team by simply eliminating the support characters first. Without a medic the team is unable to heal downed players, and without support they lose their shielding. With those two gone it is a matter of just steamrolling the two attacking units and the monster would emerge victorious. There is a lot of team work required from the hunters and sometimes it is beyond the capabilities of four random strangers on the internet. Not only that, but the classes themselves feel like watered down versions of the old Team Fortress classes, which makes the whole game feel a lot less unique than it outta be.
So I don’t think this will come as a shock to anybody, but Evolve is a mostly online, multiplayer experience. While the single player campaign is present, it is far from the focus. This puts Evolve squarely up against some series competition with the Call of Duty’s and Battlefields out there. However, Evolve suffers from a very similar problem that the Halo: Master Chief Collection had, and that is the fact that online connectivity is tedious, and downright broken in parts. I shouldn’t have to wait 5-10 minutes in between round while the server tries to find me another game to join. More than once this issue took me straight out of the mood to even keep playing, being forced to sit and just wait for almost as long as I was playing does not lead itself well to holding my attention.
When I actually managed to get a round going, I actually enjoyed myself. Playing as a monster offers those who are less than stellar at FPS games to have a good go of it (and probably even win a few rounds) while those who are more classic CoD or Team Fortress players will find themselves right at home as a hunter. The problem with all of this comes down to the variance. Each round felt completely different and while that was an amazing and refreshing feeling at the start, being unable to plan or coordinate made everyone look and feel like headless chickens running around (except that one player was a much larger chicken). Admittedly though, a lot of the confusion and variance is eliminated if you are playing with people you know as opposed to strangers on the internet, and if that is the case then you will likely be having an absolute blast of a time.
Visuals & Audio
Credit where it is absolutely due – Evolve is a beautiful video game. The monsters are all incredible detailed and look like horror-movie creatures come to life. The character models on the hunters all look as equally impressive, with little things like facial hair and movement animations really standing out. I was legitimately impressed with just about everything I saw in Evolve.
When it comes to the game’s presentation, it is the little things that matter. The Goliath’s fire-breath attack is one of the most impressive depictions of fire that I have ever seen in a video game. The way that it erupts from the beast’s mouth and bends and twists through the air on the way to its targets is amazing. However for every bit of good, there is some bad, as some of the game’s textures look a little flat or pixellated. It is hard to tell if these are the cause of bugs, connection issue causing textures to lag or just poor rendering times, but on more than one occasion I found myself staring at a rocky outcrop that was blurry or impossible to make out correctly.
Audio-wise, Evolve is very toned down, allowing you to get into the zone and the feel of the game without being bogged down by large musical numbers or over the top sound effects. What there is though is sublime, the monsters all have their own individual growls and snarls that serve not only to make the player feel powerful, but to alert the hunters as to how close their prey is. The vice versa is also true, as the sounds of a hunter’s rifle or talking too loud over Kinect can alert the monster to its victims.
There is one thing I want to really touch on with regards to Evolve, and that is the way that the game has been marketed and distributed. We live in a time where there are two distinct types of games – full priced games, and free to play titles that feature in-app purchases and microtransactions to account for the lost revenue. Sadly, Evolve tries to fit itself right in the middle of the two business models, and is a $100 game that still locks out some of the content unless you pay. Sure, more of the content are cosmetic changes, but there are some character classes that are completely locked away behind a pay wall. Not only that, but some of the game’s skins are exclusive to those who buy the season pass and the Behemoth monster class is reserved only for those who pre-order the game meaning that 1/4 of the game’s monsters are simply blocked off from the majority of players (until a later date). This is a frightening precedent for full-priced games and is a business practice that absolutely should not be allowed to grow. As of publishing, Evolve has 54 pieces of DLC available on the Xbox Live store, and this is a game that has been out for just under three weeks.
Frightening business decisions aside, Evolve is a solid game. While not necessarily reaching the heights of excitement, it differs enough from the regular FPS-shooters out there. However, while its differences are novel, they aren’t exactly memorable and the lack of consistency in gameplay sadly works to the game’s disadvantage more often than it works in its favor.
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