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Evolve | Review


Evolve | Review

Monstrously entertaining.

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.

Parnell shotgun evolve

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.

Which is, you know, is hunting. The clue’s in the name.


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.

This exercise in the beauty of asymmetrical gameplay really comes into its own when you take into account the environmental foes that both sides have to deal with. Wildlife comes in many forms throughout the maps of Evolve. Slow and dimwitted Crowbill Sloths wander lazily through the flora, which itself is capable of chewing upon a Hunter’s face, while packs of Trapjaws bring down their prey in the shadow of lumbering Nomads. All of these creatures pose a threat to Hunters in the same way as they offer a boon to Monsters.


Let’s say, for example, you start a game of Evolve as the Kraken. From the very beginning, your goal is to feed on as much fauna as possible to evolve into a stronger version of yourself and replenish your armor value. This armor can be depleted by fighting either wildlife or players and is replenished by eating whatever you’ve killed. To stop fights going on forever though, your health as a Kraken (or indeed any Monster) cannot be rebuilt. This gives the Hunters a fighting chance should you be adept at running away. It might sound a tad harsh on the Monster but it’s actually an incredibly fair system and adds to the constant need to progress which Evolve fosters in your heart.

Other factors like the methods a Monster has for it to sneak around unnoticed twinned with minor assistance offered to Hunters in the form of scattering birds or tracks create a constant air of dread for both parties. The same can also be said for things like the buffs gained from wildlife which can help both groups spear onward to success. There’s plenty here to applaud in design but there’s one aspect of it which really makes the moment to moment gameplay worth experiencing.

The player is given a toolbox with plenty of applications, rather than a single set of spanners which only turns one or two nuts.

Incredibly Goliath Shot

Savvy Hunters will find that sound is their best friend, while others will take heed from the beautiful lighting effects of Evolve to spot what their quarry is doing and where it is. A Wraith’s ability to instantly zip across the field of play and explode sounds like a simple damaging attack, but can be put to good use as an additional escape tool or a way to attract Hunters into your clutches. It’s not necessarily a game where you fight other people in a skill-based melee of combat. Evolve is a sandbox for players to test their wits against one another to see who will come out top of the food chain.

Speaking of chains, progressing through Evolve‘s leveling system is a little hit and miss. You could play for upwards of 10 hours and never unlock a handful of the Hunters. If you choose to exclusively play as the Goliath when given the option to be a Monster, you will never even see the option to play as a Wraith since it’s only unlocked in the Kraken’s progression tree. This is because Evolve takes the route less traveled by giving you so many reward paths to go down that you’ll easily lose track.


You can hit level 14 within 10 or so hours of play, and by now you’ve unlocked a bunch of new perks to play with and a couple of shiny profile art pieces. Your leveling as a specific Hunter class or Monster type is itself a whole new kettle of fish. This isn’t a huge problem when looking from the outside in. Turn the tables though and it’s incredibly hard to keep track of how you’re actually doing without keeping your eyes locked on the screen after a 15 minute monster mash in which you got eaten about the face four times while your Assault buddy was walking into a wall.

Actually, no, that’s a rare sight.

You see, Evolve‘s maps are beautiful, but not in their visual extravagance because they all seem to use the same color palette and have as much graphical differentiation between them as the individual cookies in any packet. They are designed using some sort of witchcraft which, when paired up with the subtle markers given to Hunters, does a fine job of funneling the team into the same place without the need for heavy constraints. Of course you will come across that one utter dingus who thinks he can take on anything with his Laser Cutter but luckily, at least for the majority of the time, the maps of Evolve push people in the right direction at the right time.

Hyde Rocket Launcher Evolve

As fun as the standard Hunt mode is, it does become a little boring after a few hours of constantly fighting the same sort of battle; however, with Evolve‘s Evacuation mode there’s a glimmer of sunshine on the horizon of an otherwise dark day. This mode tasks both sides with a romp through five different battles towards a final end scenario which plays out as a sort of tower defense. In this section of the game there are three additional game types which serve to brighten up Evolve, with Rescue being a personal favorite, along with a power struggle which grants benefits to both teams through the Evacuation campaign.

These endeavors do get a little long, though. Hunts can last upwards of 15 minutes at times and Nest battles often tip over the 10 minute mark. Devoting an hour to playing through the whole thing can be tricky for some, not to mention a little constraining when you’re playing this game to have fun. There is a glimmer of light over this little issue though, because if someone drops out the not-too-bad AI steps in to save the day.

When we say save the day, we mean try to not completely screw everything up.


While more prevalent in Evolve‘s solo mode, its AI can be something of a nuisance when you’re forced to play with it at times. When you’re a Monster, AI opponents act like you’d expect humans do and display enough intelligence for you to forget you’re not playing against people. When you’re on the side of the Hunters though, this story can sometimes be different. An AI companion will always follow a player-controlled Hunter. Sounds like a good thing at first. It’ll stop them being a pain and getting themselves killed, you’d think. Well, no, because their incessant need to follow you makes you feel like there’s a constant concern of keeping that AI useful while you’re trying to do everything in your power to survive.

Even with Evolve‘s AI issues, often bland (but immensely pretty in their own right) visuals, personality-deprived Hunters, and brain-draining progression system, it shines out as a beacon. A light for players who love to play as a team or as a single entity against their fellow homo sapiens. The AI isn’t even all that terrible at times and can make playing the game alone as a Hunter quite enjoyable – every so often.


Where the magic lies is in the multiplayer on offer. Evolve sets itself apart from its peers as something all together special in this world. We’ve got traditional MOBAs coming out of our noses that gets wiped away on slightly less traditional first person shooters. There isn’t a day goes by where you don’t hear of someone crying for their favorite single player game to have a multiplayer option. Evolve brings something that proves Darwin’s Theory of Evolution perfectly. The survival of the fittest is a real thing in this gaming climate we’re living in, and Evolve has all of the tools it needs to live on for months if not years to come.

That is of course, if the community remains active. Reviewing games that focus themselves so centrally on a mutliplayer environment is difficult. Evolve is great now, but it will only make its way to incredible if the players keep on playing. Should they get bored or be distracted by another game, Evolve stands to suffer a great deal. Luckily for Evolve, it has the wide open gameplay and variety of options for both teams available that people are unlikely to go away any time soon.

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