Evolve Review: Evolution Does Not Happen Overnight

The wait is over and the monsters of Evolve are rampaging onto PC and consoles this week. Is this a hunt worth embarking on? Our review.

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The wait was longer than first anticipated, but 2K Games and Turtle Rock Studios are finally ready to get the hunt underway. Evolve had the benefit of a couple of playable alphas and betas to take player feedback into account before launch. So just how does the final product stack up? We've had quite a bit of time with the game pre-release thanks to the Big Alpha and beta tests, and this actually doesn't play drastically differently from the most recent one--for better and worse.

Let the Hunt Begin

Evolve's concept is a novel one. Take the four-player party component of previous online multiplayer games and apply them against a human-controlled monster. The game mode that takes the best advantage of the concept is Hunt, which gives the monster a head-start to elude its captors and start the evolution process before the Hunters embark on a search for the creature. Hunters must use the various tools at their disposal, whether it's their Tracker class (Maggie, in particular, has a pet that tracks down the monster's tracks) or environmental cues, such as birds flying away in a panic or wildlife corpses on the ground. Sessions unfold at a fine pace, offering cat-and-mouse suspense leading up climactic battles… assuming the human controlling the monster has any kind of skill. If the monster has no sense of direction or familiarity with the map and winds up going in circles, it's a game that won't last long and won't end up being very fun.

Other game modes have their moments, but they often don't match the pacing of Hunt. Nest mode requires Hunters to take out monster eggs scattered across the map, while the monster can either protect them or hatch one of them to spawn a minion to fight alongside it. Rescue mode is a search and rescue mission that has Hunters searching for survivors, while the monster must eliminate them. Then there's Defend, which turns the game into more of a tower defense scenario. It feels like these modes don't take enough advantage of the 4v1 concept, taking a cool idea and applying run-of-the-mill multiplayer objectives. Played on their own, they feel like a disappointment.

The Sum of its Parts

Then there's Evacuation mode, which does a good job of bringing these modes together in a more interesting fashion. The Hunters and monsters compete in five rounds, each tied together in something of a narrative fashion. Whichever side wins a round will gain some sort of advantage for the next round. Subsequent rounds take place along a different part of the world and are voted on by the players, often going into one of the other game modes. At the end, a cutscene brings it all home, showing the winning side coming out triumphant, which feels appropriately rewarding, since playing all five Evacuation rounds can run for roughly 30-60 minutes.

Evacuation does have a couple of issues, though, and they mostly revolve around balance. If one side is already winning, giving that side more of an advantage is the quickest way to turn games one-sided. Turtle Rock does attempt to account for this, as the game will offer automatic handicaps if one side feels too dominant to try and balance out the advantage. However, some of the advantages I got were tactical radar support or additional birds offering monster location hints, something that didn't exactly help in the heat of combat. That led to the monster (and its boosted handicap) smoking my team of Hunters in the next round. These types of balance issues didn't happen often, but became something of an annoyance whenever they did.

The real issue with Evacuation is in the lengthy time investment. As mentioned, the five rounds take up quite a lot of time and it's hard to expect a party full of randoms to see that commitment through to the end. Fortunately, there's offline play available, which I'll touch on in just a bit.

Perfecting the Hunt

Evolve isn't as much of a mindless shooter as I expected. Playing as the game's Hunters requires a facet of skill, which means mastering their abilities. All Hunters have primary, secondary, and utility weaponry that each serve a specific function in the fight against the monster. For example, Assault class Markov's lightning gun is mainly used to deal out damage, which Support class Hank has an Orbital Strike ability that can rain down bombs on a concentrated area and punish anything that comes into that vicinity. Meanwhile, the monster must develop its skills as it goes along, making sure to eat enough wildlife to evolve to its next stage. Leveling up allows the monster to soup up its powers.

While the actual combat is fun and all, Evolve has more of a learning curve than I care for. Many of the Hunter's skills and perks need to be leveled up over the course of a couple of hours. Likewise, four of the Hunters are locked until the original four are individually upgraded. Same deal goes for the monsters, as Goliath must be mastered first before unlocking Kraken and Wraith. With each character essentially starting out from scratch, it means you'll play those first few hours feeling noticeably underpowered. Leveling up isn't exactly a quick process, either, and the grind gets awfully tiresome.

While this grind is mainly built for teams of four humans taking on a human-controlled monster, one of the most underrated aspects of Evolve may wind up being the offline component. Not enough multiplayer games out there have competent bot play and Evolve provides just that. All of the game modes are playable offline with perfectly capable bots, allowing a good opportunity to practice with any of the game's characters before jumping online.

Something Bigger

In a world of overcrowded shooters, I've grown to enjoy Evolve and the uniqueness it brings to the table. One item that should be noted, though, is the shakiness of the game's shooting mechanics. While I mostly embraced the Assault class for a chunk of the review, that only made the iffy physics surrounding aiming and firing that much more apparent. Aiming doesn't get much easier with the monsters and when Goliath's arsenal contains a "rock throw" ability, not being able to reliably aim is a killer. This is part of the reason I wound up veering more towards classes like Support and Medic, but those looking for a solid "shooting" experience may want to take this into account.

Overall, it's a bit of a time investment, but after learning the ins-and-outs of hunting, Evolve starts to become a more engaging time-killer. Evacuation is a keen way to mix the game's otherwise uninspired game modes and its solid bot play means that I'll still be able to enjoy it even during down hours. The table for an enjoyable multiplayer session is set, whether jumping in with friends or getting more anti-social and devouring opponents as a lone monster. But considering some of the subpar game modes, I can't help but feel this package could have been something bigger.


This review is based on a Xbox One download code provided by the publisher. Evolve will be available Tuesday, February 10 in retail and digital stores, for $59.99. The game is rated M.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

Review for
evolve
7
Pros
  • Evacuation blends otherwise uninteresting game modes in a fun way
  • Hunt is atmospheric and well-paced
  • Competent offline bots
  • Hunters are well-designed for varied gameplay
Cons
  • Character unlocks come at a snail's pace
  • Shooting can feel clunky
  • Game modes aren't as engaging on their own
From The Chatty
  • reply
    February 8, 2015 9:00 PM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Evolve Review: Evolution Does Not Happen Overnight

    • reply
      February 8, 2015 10:08 PM

      I loved The Hunted mod, will I love this?

      • reply
        February 8, 2015 10:18 PM

        nope! the publishers are doing everything they can to ruin it.

    • reply
      February 8, 2015 10:15 PM

      Hmm... kinda glad I didn't fork over the $70 dollars for pre-order. I'll wait and see how other reviewers like it.

    • reply
      February 8, 2015 10:46 PM

      Thanks for the review Ozzie, I am out, may pick it up for real cheap in half a year or at a mega sale or not at all.

      • reply
        February 8, 2015 11:23 PM

        If it lasts that long, it will have proven itself!

      • reply
        February 9, 2015 9:43 AM

        Whoa. A game that valcan_s is skipping out on!?!?!

        • reply
          February 9, 2015 9:57 AM

          CryEngine game too

        • reply
          February 9, 2015 10:56 AM

          Its too much money for what it is, I play SP mostly for I have no time for MP, and it sounds like this game requires a lot of time to invest in it like say DOTA2 or any MOBA, and there is the whole thing you really are supposed to play it with all MP.

          I would of just played with bots and the monster mode but for $60 and I have no income coming in its juts not worth it. I got to save my money for games like The Witcher 3 and Bloodborne which are to me way way more worth it.

          If I had a normal job and money coming in I probably would of gotten it(maybe the price bothers me), still it does seem over priced hard core and the MP focus is not my bag.

          Did you get it? I bet it does look super sexy graphically though on a PC maxed.

    • reply
      February 9, 2015 4:05 AM

      I'm already level 2 on all my hunters because of that mobile application. search for Evolve on the appstore.

      • reply
        February 9, 2015 9:09 AM

        I hate this shit.

      • reply
        February 9, 2015 9:45 AM

        Ugh. I did that for AC Black Flag and ME3 and kinda hate myself for it. Both terrible, terrible "games" that just involved sending resources to do shit on a timer, no skill whatsoever.

        • reply
          February 9, 2015 10:24 AM

          Black Flag was *kind* of fun on its own as a mobile time-waster game. I didn't try ME3's, though.

          • reply
            February 9, 2015 2:19 PM

            Send ships, wait, repeat. It was barely a game.

      • reply
        February 9, 2015 9:56 AM

        I really hate this trend of using separate apps to "enhance" games or unlock things within a game.

        • reply
          February 9, 2015 10:02 AM

          I love that they couldn't be bothered to put Destiny's grimoire cards into the actual game.

          • reply
            February 9, 2015 10:07 AM

            That was a horrible decision. Then there was Unity's "Use the app to unlock chests" and, while not quite as annoying was AssPirate's "merchant" app. Now Evolve...

            At least DA:I didn't force you to use the Dragon Age Keep website and it was there just if you wanted it.

            • reply
              February 9, 2015 10:12 AM

              It's an awful trend as you said, although I eagerly await the DLC Quest-like parody game that requires using different apps across a ton of platforms to do even the most mundane in-game action.

      • reply
        February 9, 2015 9:58 AM

        how about no. Separate apps to unlock stuff are dumb ideas conjured up by marketing dolts to justify their jobs.

    • reply
      February 9, 2015 5:45 AM

      Nice review. Still interested but I think I'll grab FC4 first now.

    • reply
      February 9, 2015 6:20 AM

      Did they change the character unlocks from the beta? You could easily unlock a new character in a couple rounds and it only depends on your own performance. Most require you to do X amount of damage with the different weapons available to the hunter (really easy and quick) or use the special ability a handful of times.

      • reply
        February 9, 2015 7:12 AM

        I thought they said that unlocks were accelerated during the beta.

        • reply
          February 9, 2015 9:43 AM

          That is indeed the case, because unlocks are muuuuuch slower now.

          • reply
            February 9, 2015 10:06 AM

            ah that's too bad, really hate grindy progression. really they should have everything available from the get go

    • reply
      February 9, 2015 9:28 AM

      I really wanted to love this because of needing an updated left for dead fix, but this whole thing seems heavily caveated.

      Blah. I think I'll pass. I'm also not sure I have the time currently to really coordinate this with friends, especially since hat seems like the ideal way to play.

    • reply
      February 9, 2015 10:11 AM

      Only $100 if you want the season pass, the game, the monster exspansion pack, a fifth monster, and SKINS. MORE SKINS. FOR THE LOVE OF SKINS

    • reply
      February 9, 2015 10:17 AM

      The game looks interesting, but it really doesn't seem like a $60+ game for me; and lol at $99 for everything.
      I'd jump on it for maybe $30.

    • reply
      February 9, 2015 10:20 AM

      Many of the Hunter's skills and perks need to be leveled up over the course of a couple of hours. Likewise, four of the Hunters are locked until the original four are individually upgraded. Same deal goes for the monsters, as Goliath must be mastered first before unlocking Kraken and Wraith. With each character essentially starting out from scratch, it means you'll play those first few hours feeling noticeably underpowered. Leveling up isn't exactly a quick process, either, and the grind gets awfully tiresome.

      That "noticeably underpowered" feeling was something that I hated about BF4, for example, when you got a new gun. The first 10 kills are with open-sights, then you get an upgraded optic, and 60-70 kills later (depending on the map / game mode, this could be 45 mins or many hours) you've finally got it spec'd out the way you want it. Then you grab the next gun and start over.

      I don't know if there's a good way to fix this -- you have to provide some kind of progression -- but then you don't want to make the game unenjoyable early on.

      • reply
        February 9, 2015 10:31 AM

        I can't imagine playing Left4Dead and having to master playing a Smoker before being able to even play any of the other guys. Why lock that stuff?

      • reply
        February 9, 2015 10:33 AM

        I'm not sure you "have to provide some kind of progression". We didn't have that (or need it) in MP games for a long fucking time, and we don't need it now.

        Progression in FPS titles is one of, if not the most obnoxious trends in modern games.

        • reply
          February 9, 2015 10:35 AM

          quick answer is because it's a cheap and easy way to lengthen the gameplay experience. so a game with 'just' three boss monsters becomes a longer game in which you have to master each one before playing the other.

    • reply
      February 9, 2015 10:43 AM

      It's $45 at GMG in the VIP page - http://www.greenmangaming.com/vip/
      I had a lot of fun playing it with my buds during the alpha and betas.
      Looking forward to full release,

      Monsters are goin down!

    • reply
      February 9, 2015 10:47 AM

      did they fix that massive input lag that was in the beta and alpha?

      • reply
        February 9, 2015 10:48 AM

        I didn't notice any particularly egregious input lag. (For the record, as noted in the disclosure footer, I was on Xbox One, so make of that what you will.)

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