Evolve on PC, PS4, and Xbox One
Oh look. Someone’s publishing another multiplayer-centric title where players battle against one another. There are smaller creatures dotted around the map which attack players to create a sort of Player vs Player vs Environment system that so many games these days have. It’s got a bunch of monsters in it and bucketloads of DLC. Sounds like half of the stuff announced at E3 last year, right? Well actually, no, because this is Evolve. It hatched from the primordial ooze in developer Turtle Rock’s office and frankly, it’s got a lot to live up to. Will it be survival of the fittest, or another countdown to extinction?
Evolve is set upon the world of Shear. This planetary body is home to all sorts of weird and wonderful wildlife. Most of it is nothing more than a minor hindrance. Some of it though is a little less fragile, and these are the Monsters. Huge, savage beasts capable of tearing a human being limb from limb with nothing more than a twitch of their muscles. Terrible creations which become more powerful with every mouthful of tasty meat, turning them from deadly adversaries to unstoppable killing machines whose need to feed is never satiated.
The major threat to the human race in Evolve come in three forms (with two more being added at later dates via DLC). Everyone who has been taking even the slightest bit of interest in this new title will already be more than familiar with the Goliath, a muscular menace who can flame-broil his meals or rend rocks from the very ground to fling them as weapons. This creature is joined by the hovering product of a Lovecraftian nightmare in the Kraken, which uses ranged abilities centered around lightning to dispatch its foes. Finishing off the family tree is the stealthy Wraith, its long limbs ending in savage barbs which it uses to snatch prey using surgical efficiency from a distance before disemboweling them with demonically corrupt competence.
This terrible trio forms three points on a triangle of termination that’s surprisingly balanced in its execution. When looking at them in a little more depth though, one can’t step away from the feeling that this is supposed to be a game where more monsters should be rampaging across the land. The swift Wraith and brutish Goliath make up two parts of a spectrum that seems to be missing a little something special. We already know that the gargantuan yet slow Behemoth is already in the pipeline. That serves as little compensation for those who are also given to feeling that something massive and slow should have been in here right from the start, rather than promised at a later date.
These beasts are the stars of the show in Evolve. If there were a showing of Evolve at a cinema, the names Goliath, Wraith, and Kraken would be up in lights. They are the driving force behind Evolve, but they would be nothing without their supporting cast of Hunters. Unlike the Monsters, who all have Hollywood good looks and the talent to match, each Hunter is a somewhat less inspiring as a character. Their shouts meld seamlessly with their cries for help while playing Evolve to such an extent that you sometimes start rooting for the Monster even if you’re playing as one of the fleshy meatbags.
Worthy of a special mention here is the Hunter Maggie who, when paired up with Hyde, makes the same reference to her necklace so frequently that you’ll be writing it on the walls in your sleep before you realize anything’s wrong. Luckily, the only time you’ll really be hearing these semi-developed characters speak at length is during the drop phase. This is the part of the game where Hunters spawn into the world and the Monster has to run away to begin their quest to evolve into a more powerful pariah. After that you’re put into the body of a Hunter and sent off into the trees to do your job.
Much like the Monsters before them, Evolve‘s Hunters and their classes are well-differentiated. Assault class players specialize in dishing out as much damage as possible to whatever stands in their way, while the Trapper’s mind is focused on the singular task of keeping whatever nasty beast dares to stand before them in one place. The Medic provides a much-needed way to regenerate health along with a handful of ways to hinder the creature. Even the Support manages to come out with something special in their ability to cloak the whole team while throwing out abilities like calling in “space bombs” (their words, not ours) and increasing the damage dealt to the Monster via buffs for other Hunters.
That isn’t to say that they’re all incredibly capable folks alone though. As the Monster evolves from the relatively weak Stage 1 to the positively tyrannical Stage 3, each Hunter alone becomes less and less threatening. When the Hunters work together as a team, that is when they really see success and, fittingly, when Evolve really starts to hit its stride for both side of the conflict.
It might sound unfair at first to think of one player running around as a Wraith while four people try to take it down but throw those concerns straight out of the window. Don’t even open it and break the glass if you must. The balance of power in Evolve has been tweaked and fettled by the crew at Turtle Rock to create something that really has to be experienced to be believed. At any point in a game of Evolve the delicate conflux of a Monster’s power with the abilities of Hunters creates a harmony that is rarely seen in gaming.
So many games give both teams the same weapons, the same abilities, even the same freaking characters, yet have trouble stopping one particular loadout from being more powerful than its peers. Evolve however manages to bring together a huge array of different characters – three Monsters to date and twelve Hunters – with the poise of a ballerina’s point shoe. No matter what combination the Monster is up against, it can in theory succeed. The strength of a Monster can always be destroyed by a group of canny hunters, too.