First up if you’re expecting Evolve to have a meaningful story, or at least to the standards of Left 4 Dead, then you are going to be sadly disappointed. Evolve does have a story …well, kind of but it’s very minimal. In the very distant future humans have colonised a planet located in the Far Arm solar system known as Shear. It’s a planet with valuable resources and an ideal new home for the human race, which was until badass monsters decided that it’s their turn to invade and take over. Shear is now in peril so a planet tamer William Cabot is called out of retirement to form a group of hardened Hunters, evacuate the remaining colonists and deal with the infestation first hand.
Reading about that plot here it all sounds pretty awesome, but sadly it’s not replicated to well into the game. The scenario is explained when you first fire up Evolve, but once it’s passed that stage, you’ll hear very little of what story the game has. Left 4 Dead may not have an award winning tale, but it did have a group of characters that I cared about. Each had his/her own back-story and lore and as well as a depth of intrigue to its universe (something that perhaps Evolve is lacking). A meaningful story may not be the ‘be all and end all’ but in my opinion it’s certainly a worthy ingredient and is one of the elements I like to see in most games. It helps me get immersed into its world and to ultimately feel invested with its cast of characters.
Gameplay wise Evolve plays very well and just about as good as any first person shooter on the market. In a nutshell, you will have four classes of Hunters. Each class then has three characters within to choose (more available later as DLC naturally). While in principle each character in each class will essentially have the same role to play, they each come with their own variation of tools and special kills.
Assault (my personal favourite) will make fans of popular FPS games feel at home as they have the relatively straight forward task of dealing as much damage using rifles, shotguns, explosives and more. The Trapper’s job is to trap the beast and necessary tools to track it. A good example of this is the first Trapper character (Maggie) has an AI companion pet dog (thing) that follows the monsters tracks, but can revive team members by seemingly licking them until they get back up. Medics primary focus is keep your team alive by healing and increasing fellow Hunters health however does have the ability to snipe and create weak points in monsters armour. Naturally for anyone controlling the Monster it would be very wise to take out this player before any other Hunter. Finally we have Support. The Support class can tag the Monster to keep track of its location, provide a shield to fellow hunters, send out UAV’s and also unleash a devastating Orbital Strikes. Though I have to say that if you are planning on unleashing an strike on a Monster, try to ensure that the creature is at least trapped or slowed down and please, make sure you hit the god damn target and try not to hit your fellow Hunters by mistake. Misplaced strikes can get very annoying, very quickly.
While each class plays very well, it is of the utmost importance that the player in that particular role does their job well (play your role) otherwise you will get obliterated by any half-decent Monster controlling player. As I’ve mentioned, each class has three characters available however they won’t be unlocked from the off-set and to do so requires levelling up by completing challenges (e.g. revive a certain number of players as the medic, or do a certain amount of damage with a particular weapon as assault). I won’t say any class is better or worse than the other, because that all comes down to personal preference however, if you like the look of a locked character, then you do have dedicate some time to levelling up that particular class (in a nutshell, you can’t unlock a Support character, when using Assault). This might be OK with you, and if so that’s great but it means that some players will have to grind through some characters that they might not like or be good at using
Out of the box for the Monsters you have three to choose from. These are relatively easy to control, but you’ll have to be on your A-game if you’re to beat the Hunters (unless they they’re not working together as a team then their easy picking). When a match starts, the Monster starts at stage one of its evolution and as quickly as possible it must by feed on the indigenous wildlife in order to “Evolve”. Once the Monster is at stage three it is now at its maximum potential and able turn its tables on its seekers. This is a great gameplay mechanic as the roles of cat and mouse have very much reversed.
The first Monster available to all is the poster-boy beast known as Goliath. He is possibly the most versatile and more all-rounded as can unleash devastating attacks. He’s fast enough to be able to make a run for it and possess the ability for long-ranged jumps when needed. Goliath can also throw huge rocks, charge at great speed and power as well as leap smash dealing damage to anyone or anything within is radius. Oh, and it can even breathe fire! The Kraken is not quite the sea monster that we’ve read about in pirate tales, but this Monster is able to fly around with increased speed and durability and able to unleash various attacks using overpowering electricity. Whether lightning bolts, chain attacks, orb like mines or a vortex strikes they will all knock any (good or bad) Hunter on their backside! If you’re playing as someone that likes to run away with the Monster, the Kraken can be a difficult beast to catch.
The Wraith is the most sinister of looking Monster armed with two huge deadly blades that are custom made to impale its prey. She is also arguably the most deadly of all the monsters in Evolve if mastered. She has the ability to spawn decoys to confuse the Hunters, can warp on an opponent with a blink of an eye to unleash furious attacks as well as abduct and separate her prey by taking them away from their team and returning back to the fight in an instant. When used right, she is one hell of a tough Monster to bring down.
Right, now let’s get on to the game modes. Firstly, Evolve does have a singleplayer mode, well kind of; it’s practically pointless if I am being honest and if you’ve purchased Evolve to play on your lonesome, then you have potentially wasted your hard earned money. Basically put, Evolves singleplayer comprises of a variation of the online mods with some fairly irrelevant cutscenes thrown together with AI controlled bots. Unlike Turtle Rock’s Left 4 Dead series, Evolves singleplayer features are very unfulfilling and all feels quite emotionless and empty.
As I’m sure you may have clearly guessed by now, online is the heart and soul of Evolve. At the moment we have four main modes, Hunt, Nest, Rescue and Defend. While Hunt may be billed as the key online mode of Evolve in most part I found it to be the most boring. On paper it sounds like it should be the best mode as it it’s the job of the Hunters to hunt down and destroy the Monster from reaching stage three of its evolution and stop it before it destroys the power relay kills the Hunters (and vice versa). More often than not as the Hunter I found myself (along with my teammates) chasing aimlessly after the Monster from one end of the map to the other and so forth. The only way that this mode could have gotten more interesting, would be to speed up the gameplay while some amusing Benny Hill music played in the background.
Now the next three current modes I rather enjoy quite equally (so long as I have enough friends to gather at the time to fill the remaining Hunter and Monster rolls). In Nest the Monster must protect its six eggs that have been randomly located throughout the map from the Hunters, who must destroy them all. The Monster can also assist with hatching eggs which then spawns a mini-me version of himself. This match has an 18 minute time limit but should the Hunters destroy all the eggs before the time limit hits, then they win. If the Monster is doing a good job at protecting these eggs, the matches can quite easily go the full distance and it can get very intense on the battlefield.
Seeing as one of the main objectives of the Hunters is to protect the colonists on Shear, Rescue is a very fitting mode. Injured colonists are dotted throughout the map and it is your simple job as a hunter to rescue and escort them to an extraction point. As the monster your task is to kill them all. The final mode we have is Defend. In this mode the Hunters must protect a refuelling station while a starship is filling up on gas (so to speak). Like a “tower defence” game Hunters must protect the two generators on the map from the attacking Monster and his team of minions. If the Monster destroys the generators or kills all the Hunters, the Monster wins the match.
Visually Evolve is certainly a looker. It features a great unique cast of Hunters, detailed Monsters (as a hunter you won’t have time to stand and admire their craftsmanship) and a very alien looking planet Shear. Shear is a character in its own right with its brimming wildlife (not friendly), vegetation (not friendly either) as well as dynamic weather that can alter the way you approach some games. Pouring rain will often obscure a Hunters viewpoint and dramatic effects such as lightening bolting down from the heavens really adds to the atmosphere. These effects really add to the gameplay depending on its conditions (something that many online shooters cannot boast).
Even though Evolve’s story is pretty much none existent the voice cast do provide a sound job at the characters in which their portraying. In particular I enjoyed the grizzly performance of Hank (played by William Salyers), the Arnie-esque Markov (Dimitri Diatchenko) and the robotic charm of Bucket (Peter Jessop). Fans of videogame related soundtracks should also be pleased to know that the one and only Jason Graves (Tomb Raider reboot, Dead Space and recently The Order: 1886 to name but a few) is the composer of Evolve. As expected, he does a good job in supporting the game with its atmosphere and much needed tension.
Depending on what you’re looking for in a game, will vary on the amount of value that you will get from Evolve. Yeah sure, you can play Evolve on your own offline, but you will quickly tire of the bots, whether it’s the Hunters or Monster. Due to the lack of any meaningful story the single player of Evolve is pretty much pointless and something that I can’t recommend. However, if you’re looking for an online experience to sink your teeth into, then Evolve could very well be your game.
Games like Evolve and Titanfall come under much scrutiny for having a next to none single player experience but when you look at the amount of singleplayer games that have no multiplayer, aren’t games like Evolve and Titanfall just an equivalent alternative? Even still, you very well may get a truly fulfilling experience from Evolve and there are no doubts the game can be immensely fun, but that all depends on two main factors. One; playing with reliable friends that are on the same page, or two; if you’re lucky enough to get into a game with some random’s that work as a team, but even then, you better hope they have a headset to use, because ‘teamwork’ is absolute key to getting the most out of Evolve.
So would I recommend Evolve to you? Sure I would, especially if you are looking for a variant of the awesome Left 4 Dead online experience. But I would also only recommend it if you have some reliable, dedicated friends that have bought Evolve. When the game is good, it’s REALLY good; it’s just the lack of consistency that causes concern which all comes down to those that you are playing with …or against.
Evolve may provide some amazing, awesome and memorable moments, however it’s likelihood of that happening which relies way too much on various decisive factors (which is perhaps why the full RRP is too much to ask in my humble opinion and too much of a gamble for your hard earned cash). When that price drop happens somewhere down the line and if enough gamers are still invested in Evolve, gather as many friends as you can to pick up this game, as there is plenty of fun to be had at the right price. I just hope that Evolve continues its upward evolution in the coming months, rather than a downward spiral to extinction.
+Great when playing with friends and gamers that are on the same page
+Can create great memorable moments during matches
+Offers great balance between Monster and Hunters (when working as a team)
+It looks fantastic, with weather effects that can alter your approach on the battlefield
-Too much reliant of friends or random’s being on the same page (or with a headset)
-Hunter games can feel repetitive when playing against a Monster that just runs away
-Lack of story