Evolve (Xbox One)

By Chip Tamplin

Published on Sunday, February 15, 2015

As someone who reviews games, certain games can pose a much more substantial challenge to review than others. For example, you could love a game that you know the majority of people won’t like or perhaps you dislike a game that you think others will like. One of the biggest challenges – and the practice undoubtedly differs from one reviewer to another – is how to convey your review to your readers. For me, I try to convey not only a personal opinion on the game, but also general thoughts on how I think others will perceive the game as well. So, just because I didn’t particularly like a game, I try to convey the fact it might still be a good game for someone else. Evolve has been one of those challenging games for me.

Over the last year, there have been many high-profile AAA games that have launched with substantial hype only to fall a bit flat once they’re finally release. Whether you’ve got major functionality issues (Assassins Creed: Unity), lack of content at launch (Destiny, Titanfall) or they’re just disappointing all around, it’s becoming all too common for gamers to get burned when they buy a game on release day.

To make matters worse, developers (and/or publishers) are taking bigger and bigger chunks worth of content out of the game and forcing consumers to buy it on top of the $60 price tag for the original game. While I’m not inherently against DLC, I can’t help but feel shafted when I pay $60 for a game and am expected to pay more for content that was ready when the game went gold. Sadly, Evolve is one of these games. As of launch, Evolve’s available DLC (which consists of forty-four different items to purchase) totals more than double the games original retail price, per Gamespot. I understand the need to have content being worked on side-by-side with the game to release post-launch, this type of DLC needs to be gone from gaming.

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Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s delve into the world of Evolve.

While Evolve’s got a marginally more drawn out story than Titanfall’s “campaign”, Evolve’s story makes Destiny’s lack of story telling seem like a Naughty Dog production. Evolve is set on the planet Shear, a planet far off in the universe in the distant future. Humans have established colonies that are now, naturally, being attacked by a horde of monsters. A professional planet tamer named William Cabot is brought out of retirement and puts together a team of veterans, psychopaths and expendables to save the colonies and exterminate the alien presence.

Evolve features four sets of hunters (with three characters available to unlock with each class): assault, support, medic and trapper. Each character within each class has their own unique set of weapons (though with each class having the same special ability across all three characters). For example, every character within the assault class features the “personal shield” special ability that grants them invincibility for a short period of time, but all three characters feature different primary/secondary weapons and grenade types.

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It’s clear that Turtle Rock Studios, developers of the Left 4 Dead franchise, really put in the time to try and differentiate Evolve from the normal player-versus-player (PvP) game. To succeed in Evolve, you’ve really got to focus on teamwork. Unless you’re playing as the monster, lone-wolfing it in Evolve will not get you into the win column. Turtle Rock did a great job of balancing the 4v1 formula that Evolve uses. At the start of each match, the monster starts off at level one and very weak. He must evade the hunters and forage the world and eat other creatures in the environment in order to level up and be able to face the hunter head on. Likewise, the hunters must race against the clock to take down the monster before he reaches level three, which is practically unstoppable. To defeat the monster, all four hunters must work in perfect unison to use all of their abilities and weapons together to take down the monster. The assault class can lay down mines, the trapper class can set harpoon traps and use their special ability to trap the monster in a giant dome, medics can heal injured teammates and the support class can cloak all hunters for a stealthy attack or retreat.

Evolve’s got four game modes: hunt, defend, rescue and nest. Each of these modes is also worked into Evolve’s “story” mode known as Evacuation (similar to the “campaigns” in Titanfall), which is just all of the game modes but with a few added cutscenes detailing the story. Hunt is the standard mode which just pits the hunters against the monster directly. Defend pits you against the monster (as well as some minions) as you attempt to defend generators until time runs out. Nest forces you to kill the monster or destroy a bunch of eggs before the monster is able to eliminate all the hunters. Finally, rescue forces you to revive and protect survivors five until a drop ship arrives before the monster is able to kill five.

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While the average Evacuation match for me took anywhere between forty-five to sixty minutes, you can easily just jump into quick matches if that’s more of your style. Unlike Destiny and Titanfall, which are both completely online, Evolve does feature an offline solo mode that allows you to compete against bots or create custom matches with your friends. While the game gives you an immediate tutorial for the monster when you first boot up the game, there are only very quick video tutorials for the hunters so I found this was a quick and easy way to try out each character and see which one fit my play style. I favored the support class.

One of the other interesting aspects of Evolve are the the various map effects. Adding these little map variations do a good job of changing the playing field from match to match. These can range from clear skies (allowing for easier sight lines to the monster), teleport gates (both for hunters and for the monster), minions for the monster and other environmental effects like poison gas and carnivorous plants. They’re usually subtle and don’t swing the battle one way or the other, but they’re a nice change of pace.

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While the characters have a decent amount of personality (at least for the little you’re told about them) and the monsters are certainly brooding and menacing, one of my biggest pros for the game are the spacious and beautiful maps. Out of the box, Evolve has twelve maps (which is very good for a shooter) and they’re all pretty big which just adds to the cat and mouse of the game. At times, especially before you really learn the maps inside and out, it can be a bit annoying to try and track the monster as a hunter. Evolve does have some cues for hunters including birds flying away, monster tracks and noise from the monster itself, but if the monster gets too far away from you, even with your jetpack, it can be tedious to try and catch it.

As of writing this review, I’ve played about thirty matches of Evolve and feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on the game. As other reviewers have said – the upgrade system isn’t bad but it seems to be a bit too tedious for its own good. It’s always good to give gamers a sense of accomplishment when they unlock something new, but with how long it can take to unlock new characters (which really depends on how good you are at the game and how much time you can devote to playing), it gives Evolve the impression that there’s much less there at launch than there really is.

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For me personally, I got sick of the combat of Evolve after about fifteen matches. I tried switching between characters (which of course ruins my ability to progress at unlocking new characters) but there’s just not enough there in terms of combat fun for me to keep going back. For those of you looking for PvP fun, chances are you’ll like Evolve more than me, but for me, it just wasn’t a good fit. For some reason, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get hooked on it.

As I said, it’s got plenty of maps at launch, a tedious but ultimately rewarding progression system and fun take on PvP. That said, it’s not without its faults. I would tell people to add this to their GameFly queue to try it out before dropping $60 on it like I did.

Evolve is out now for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. For more information on Evolve, please visit the games website.

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The Good

+ Nice diversity of characters and abilities.

+ Rewarding upgrade system, though a bit tedious.

+ Good amount of maps at launch.

+ Playing with friends is a lot of fun...

+ Ability to create custom games/offline.


The Bad

- Overly repetitive combat.

- Lack of story.

- Connectivity issues at launch.

- ...playing alone? Not so much.

- Day 1 DLC worth 2x the games launch price.

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