Evolve: Initial Impressions
We aren’t quite ready to offer our final review verdict on Evolve just yet, but we thought you might appreciate our early impressions before you run out and purchase the game on release.
It’s a wonder how Evolve ever made it past the conceptual stages of development and into full production.
Hunt – Evolve’s marquee game mode – is essentially, fundamentally broken. A player controlled monster drops into a gorgeous looking level and is given a short head start before the four Hunters drop in and attempt to kill it. It’s remarkably simple to wrap your head around, but it fails to capitalise on its own promise or potential – nor does it seem to have the longevity or accessibility of Turtle Rock Studio’s Left 4 Dead series.
In a perfect world, the chase would be better than the catch. Hunt should be exciting and predictable, but after less than a week with Evolve it’s already surprisingly easy to guess how each encounter will play out.
Playing as a Hunter against a player that knows how to appropriately handle the monster – be it the Goliath, Kraken or Wraith – will find themselves running in circles for five to ten minutes searching. Meanwhile, the monster evades detection by creeping through the flora and eating the local fauna to evolve, gaining new powers and abilities.
You might occasionally receive environmental hints to the monster’s location, but for the most part you are simply circling. You might occasionally stop to admire the beautiful scenery, or to let your jetpack recharge, but then you’ll be back to circling. It’s an immensely mundane exercise in monster hunting.
Eventually you’ll encounter the beast. The Trapper will throw down the Mobile Arena – encasing a small area inside an impenetrable bubble shield – and Evolve will suddenly, unexpectedly, spring to life. It becomes a big boss battle, sixty seconds to kill or be killed – and it’s breathtaking.
When everything comes together in these short encounters, Evolve is unrivalled in delivering thrills. The four Hunters will need to work together as a perfect unit, utilising each of their class skills, weapons and abilities, to bring the beast to its knees. The player behind the monster, on the other hand, will have an opportunity to hulk out, to go a little crazy and inflict maximum damage in a minimal amount of time. Whatever role you play in this battle, you feel powerful and dominant in a way other multiplayer games rarely match.
But then the sixty seconds pass and the mobile area comes up. If both teams are still standing the battle will either drag on, or one group will escape to recuperate and heal up. Then the mundane dance of attention span devastation begins all over again.
Then again, there’s always the chance the Hunters will stumble upon the monster on a whim, less than a minute into the round – before it has even had a chance to evolve and level up. If that happens, it’s basically game over man, game over.
The game and map design doesn’t allow for a happy medium between a round being dragged out until you’re bored senseless, or it being over before it begins. That’s a problem that can’t be addressed in patches, though it could be in future DLC.
If you ignore the maelstrom of buzzwords and hype that has come to surround Evolve over the last 12 months, it’s simply a game about four players shooting a monster. Why Evolve seeks to keep this out of reach for so much of the time you spend on Shear is a mystery.
Mechanically, the gunplay is a marked improvement over Left 4 Dead – and controlling the Goliath is far more entertaining than manoeuvring the zombie-special Tank ever was. Shear is a sublime planet to explore, and it’s clear that the abilities and character classes have been balanced expertly. But, right now at least, the game modes don’t support the expected gameplay.
Don’t come into Evolve expecting a straight up monster shooter. Don’t come in expecting an experience as addictive or replayable as Left 4 Dead. Instead, come in expecting to spend a lot of time grinding through Hunt mode – and a handful of subtle variations of it – to unlock the array of Hunters and monsters. Expect to spend a hell of a long time orienteering in a digital space. Expect to settle for a mediocre experience you can finally play with your friends. But don’t expect Evolve to change the face of multiplayer gaming in the next-generation, the basic structure simply isn’t strong enough to support it.