Evolve Review

2K_Evolve_StudioTour_TeamC_Pose ReviewEvolve capitalizes on a lot of different elements from successful franchises and combines them into a solid little game, while it struggles to really excel at any one thing, it does build an experience from the pieces and finds its own niche to survive in, as it puts players in a 4v1 battle.

Evolve pits man against monster, as players take on one of five different roles in arena battles across a number of different maps. As the hunters you’ll fit into a number of well travelled MMO-style stereotypes, The Assault, Medic, Trapper and Support classes band together to form a coherent team to hunt the monster. Each class has its strengths and a very specific role to play during the match and depending on what role you’re thrust into, dictates the pace at which your game will progress and how much that progress will become the crutch (or success) of your team.

The Assault is pure and simple Tank class. He is designed to run in, smash the monster for major damage and divert the monster’s attention away from other team mates. Often he can be used as bait if played correctly, to lure the monster into a trap and can also lay mines down to really hit the monster hard. The Medic doesn’t only heal up your team (very similar to the Medic in Team Fortress 2) but also acts as your team Sniper. The sniper creates a weak point for others to attack which provides double damage buff when hit. In later iterations the Medic can even raise fallen hunters from the dead, which becomes an invaluable skill when faced with a fully leveled up Monster. The Support class offers a Shield buff to targeted team members, they can also call in an orbital barrage against the Monster which can be an excellent tool if you manage to pin the monster into a corner and can hit them successfully. Finally the Trapper, who can cordon off the monster into a dome and can also fire harpoons into the monster to slow their attack down. The trapper acts also as a tracker and initially she comes with a pet Trapjaw that will quickly follow the monsters trail if they ever lose you.

2K_Evolve_StudioTour_TeamC_Abe_Shotgun_BurstThe Monster is much easier to get to grips with in the early game. As a solo player you’re not relying on anyone playing their class properly and can focus on your own game-plan of setting false trails, luring the hunters into a trap and waiting patiently as you level up to maximum power and make your final assault against those pesky hunters. The third person perspective used when playing the monster feels jarring and clumsy when darting through narrow corridors, or caught up amongst scenery while trying to battle four hunters.

The hunters weapons feel completely outmatched against the monster and something akin to shooting a potato gun into an oncoming freight train thinking it’ll make a difference. There’s no punch to any of the weapons, even as you climb through the skill tree to unlock new hunters that come equipped with a shotgun, it simply feels impotent against the hulking mass that approaches. Unfortunately the methodical feel to the game often negates any speed or momentum you start to gather. As your weapons all hit their cooldowns in the middle of the heated final battle and you’re stuck simply watching from afar as your teammates battle on without you, you’re left watching a timer tick down as you wait to use your class power and get back in the fight. While you’re never completely segregated from the fight, as you’ll always have a weapon you can use, it just isn’t exciting or fun when the majority of a fight is spent jamming on a button hoping for the cooldown to end.

4-hank-v-goliathEvolves’ maps are varied and offer a lot of different locations to fight in although when boiled down they’re all reasonably similar – a maze of corridors that wind around a centralized point. This central point is the focus for the monster and one of the winning conditions to destroy the power station (and the Hunters main objective is the defence of said object).

Evolve is a Multiplayer game. The meat of the game is spent in the Hunt mode which simply pits Man against Monster and, although the game has a sort-of story mode, it is simply a derivative of this mode that you’ll be playing, but with some additional dialogue thrown in for good measure. This is Evolves biggest problem, you’re relying on others coming to play and engage their class. When people do this you’re going to have a great time fighting against the monster, but when this doesn’t happen, and someone comes in to simply play around and not follow team orders, then you’re going to get wiped out incredibly quickly.

The lack of variety is a problem in Evolve, the elongated method of unlocking additional members of each class feels like an artificial way of stretching gameplay. To unlock the next member in each class (for a total of 12 hunters) you have to upgrade every weapon in the current hunters arsenal. This became increasingly frustrating as I was forced to play against the style I had naturally found and had a lot of success with. It took me over 8 hours to unlock most of the additional hunters and monsters. While the additional monsters were a lot of fun (and the Wraith, in particular, feels extremely overpowered) there still feels like a lack of them to really keep me coming back time and again. Trying something new and the lack of ability to build your own class feels like a missed opportunity.

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It’s hard to talk about Evolve without addressing the DLC controversy. And although I can see what has got everyone riled up, ultimately the DLC currently on offer is simply cosmetic in nature (outside the Season Pass) however, the argument becomes valid when paired with the simply lack of variety in the main game. It seems almost that Evolve was designed as a free to play experience that also comes with a full game price tag.

Evolve is successful in building in the tension during a match, this isn’t a run and gun shooter but something slower that burns under the surface during a match, that cultivates in a very sporadic back and forth in the last few minutes to ultimately decide the outcome of a match. The early parts of a match are where Evolve truly succeeds. When everyone is playing their class and you’re closing in on the monster to get that first hit before it tries to hide away and evolve away in peace. The chase feels fantastic and the game has developed its player base over the past week. It’s interesting to see the amount of people who keep coming back and are now settling into their roles and, as a fellow Frugal Gamer told me recently when I took up playing BF4, playing the objective and team orders.

1-lazarus-v-krakenEvolve does some things right, however this is far outweighed by the lack of variety in the games and development of the classes. I can see the game developing a very solid player base who pride themselves on being able to fulfil certain roles in a team however this, in turn, will turn away a lot of new players. The daunting tutorial takes a long time to clear and doesn’t even begin to teach you the basics and strategy involved in truly being successful in the game. The game is designed to keep you playing by locking away additional content behind a lot of awkward and annoying hoops. I could see Evolve growing into something solid with balance patches and additional content down the line, but right now feels rather bare bones and lacking in the excitement the concept had promised. I was hoping for something akin to Gears of War but instead found something lacking in the same punch and versatility.

Score: 7/10

Dead Effect PC Team Review

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A group of FGUK writers get their hands on Dead Effect, here’s their thoughts…..

Derrick Ritchie’s Thoughts……

Let us just get the awkward stuff out the way first. The movement in this FPS feels particularly odd, the enemies are stupid and, at times, ridiculously cheap, the script is truly awful and the voice acting appears to have been carried out by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s understudy and a bloke from down the pub. The controller support is frankly lazy and the whole game feels rushed from tablet with very care having been taken over the port.

But through all of this, through each stage of irritation, there is something enjoyable in here. After a while the head popping of deranged bad guys becomes kinda fun, and the continued circle strafing, while not as outright bombastic as something like Serious Sam or Doom, is still a pleasant distraction. Somehow I found myself slowly working through this game and before I knew it the end had been and gone (be warned the ending is particularly abrupt). It will not be memorable but as a six or so hour experience to vent some frustrations I have played much worse.

By the standard measures this is a thoroughly average game, but one that had a surprising ability to keep me playing. Keep an eye open for it.

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Adam Belcher’s Thoughts……

On paper, Dead Effect looks like your two favourite Sci-Fi gaming franchises in Dead Space and Mass Effect spliced into one horror RPG.

It starts off in space, you awake from hyper-sleep and it’s apparent rigor has initially frozen your hands in front of you, you find a weapon quickly followed by a small number of hungry un-dead. So far so good, right?

In grabbing their attention the blood thirsty enemies start shuffle towards you in a ‘Shaun of the Dead’ fashion, as you unload your recently discovered pistol rounds looking for the head-shot.

Searching the ship you can find cash, ammo and even Kindle tablets lying around which try and help you make sense of the madness that has taken over the ship..

The game does control OK, and offers controller support however engaging with anything a pop up suggests you use the keyboard instead, the reload speeds are agonisingly slow, however at the end of the mission there is an opportunity with the cash & gold found in game to purchase weapon upgrades such as damage, mag size, reload speed and accuracy as well as restocking ammo and grenades.

Graphically, the game does look slightly dated, however the enemies are varied in detail and scary enough to be effective and the lighting and gas effects adds to the atmosphere, interior ship detail is also adequate and there is no need for a map as you are directed to your objectives using either the green or the red doors. The narrow corridors create an element of claustrophobia along with the sound effects as you move forward, and you know damn well that there’s a Conga line of misery around every corner.

At the end of each level you get your mission stats to show you how well you did to scratch the completionists itch you no doubt have. When you eventually get eaten alive your ability to re spawn requires your in game cash accumulated to continue, which is slightly different and feels very much like pay to play, which paying the current price of £5.59 maybe shouldn’t be necessary?

Ultimately the game works, offers a by the book Zombie shooter in space, and if that floats your boat, then give it a shot.

Dead_Effect_(PC___Mac)_-_02Ian P’s Thoughts…………..

Originally available on iOS and Android, Dead Effect is a first person shooter set in 2045 aboard the spaceship ESS Meridian. Waking early from a cryogenic sleep we find the ship has been infested by zombies. We must discover the source of the outbreak, eradicate the walking dead and save the ship. It’s a budget release, currently priced at £5.59 on the Steam store, so I was expecting too much.
There are three game modes to keep you occupied. A story mode, which will take roughly four hours to complete, more if you want to start new game plus to collect enough cash to buy all the available weapons and upgrades. All are pretty standard fair, pistols, shotguns, rifles and the predictable chainsaw make their customary appearance. Then we have the Survival and Biohazard modes, these are basic challenges maps designed to test your zombie slaying prowess. Sadly there is no multiplayer which is a shame.
The graphics are palatable, it does, manage to represent what a spacecraft may look like, the lighting effects do a fairly decent job and zombies look somewhat convincing. Character movement is a little rigid, even for the undead, there is a slight mannequin feel to the whole proceedings. The sound effects do a reasonable job of creating an eerie atmosphere, without ever really being convincing.
Overall would I recommend Dead Effect? No, not unless you were a die-hard FPS fan. The controls are poorly implemented, the story is very short, the game mechanics are misguided and poorly judged. There are worse games you could play, but there are also so many that are so much better.I am still not convinced that iOS ports to PC are a good idea and Dead Effect has done nothing to convince me otherwise.
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My Thoughts……….
If you’re after for something cheap to fill your time, Dead Effect will satisfy that hunger. I thought for the price, it looked rather splendid given it was a port from a game built for tablets. The controls are a let down though, sometimes it felt like I was fighting against them. But, there is something very moreish about this game.
If you like horde-mode type games and have a few quid spare, I would say give it a pop, but do bear in mind what the braniacs above me have written in their criticisms.

Currently available on Steam for £3.99 HERE

Heavy Bullets

Heavy_Bullets_-_Key_ArtNow that Heavy Bullets has actually received a full release, and my colleague Dedwoods42 is not available to do a follow up on it, the task has fallen on my shoulders. Following up on his stellar preview will be difficult, but I will try my best.

Let me start by saying that I found Heavy Bullets frustratingly addictive. It reminded me of spending all my money on House of the Dead, just to try and get a step further in the arcades. This is partially due to the Perma-death aspect of the game (that’s right- if you die it’s back to level 1) but not limited to it. I feel that games like this don’t really need a great story to drive them. The developer hasn’t provided a whole pre-game book to read, instead we have been given a few lines to explain there is a virus in the mainframe and you have been tasked with going in and resetting it. The reward? $5000. Fair bargain I’d say. This is more than enough story for me; I just want to shoot things.

This is my first Rogue-like game, and if they’re all like this then I’d happily scoop them up all day. What I really enjoy is the fact that is procedurally generated, which makes it damn hard! Death has never felt so inevitable, or so enraging! After having a few runs on this trying to progress – but falling prey to hidden worms, or a fatal wasp sting. I have devised myself a plan. You can bank money and power up objects to use in future lives, which is helpful. As the game is procedurally generated, sometimes the right power up machine or bank won’t appear when you most need them to.

Heavy_Bullets_1One gripe I have with this game is that no descriptions are given for the power ups. I was faced with a pair of sparkly stripper heels over a silver heart and I didn’t know what to choose. As is always the case, trial and error prevails. I feel that the life insurance and last will upgrades do need a description though, but I suspect that’s me not being used to the genre. I will say that the game offers many power-ups, but I can’t really tell you what they all do. As Dedwoods stated in his preview, the stripper heels give you a heightened perspective, by about 9 inches! I found the backpack was probably the most useful, giving you the ability to carry more than one power-up and toggle between the one you want equipped. Other than this my money is mainly spent on extra life hearts- giving you the ability to take more damage and red potions. There are more typical power-ups, such as missiles, but if you are a half decent shot I don’t find these as necessary as, for instance, the knife (close range one hit kill – if you remember to use it!)

Anyway, back to my completion plan. So far I’ve established you need to save as much money as you can, it’s best to probably have a few play-throughs, gather up money and store it. Having one item slot sure is a drag! The reason I would save so much money is for potions and life upgrades. Sometimes shops are few and far between, and as the game is procedurally generated they are never in the same place. This makes for a challenge: An incredibly frustratingly addictive just-one-more-go type of challenge.

Heavy_Bullets_3What’s perhaps so positively mystifying about this game to me is how all the elements complement each other; there is something beautifully enticing about the colour scheme – mixed with the amazing soundtrack from Doseone and the voxel-ish graphics. This game is like Minecraft on LSD with a revolver. The monsters further complement this sentiment. It draws me in like a moth to a flame, every time. Which is something that even Minecraft couldn’t do, perhaps that’s why I find this indie title so impressive. I haven’t before this found much of a solid footing on the indie scene.

One thing I really enjoyed about this game was how eco driven it is, you can have more than 6 shots for your revolver, but why would you need them when you can recycle your shots fired? Recovering you’re expended rounds adds a little extra challenge.  With a great soundtrack that makes you feel like an 8bit gangster, courtesy of Doseone and a colour scheme that for some reason reminds me of a GTA: Vice City sunset. I could see Heavy Bullets in an arcade cabinet in the back of an arcade where many kids would spend their weekends, crowding round watching as their friends spend their allowance to destroy the variety of enemies and bosses the game chucks out at you. If you wish to read the Preview – CLICK HERE

Score 8/10

Publisher: Devolver Digital

Secret Ponchos – Early Access Preview

Secret Ponchos BannerSecret Ponchos is a rooting tooting top down PvP online shooter currently in Early Access on Steam.  Developed by Switchblade Monkeys, from my first look at the trailer I couldn’t wait to get hands on with this game.  From the moment I pressed play and the spaghetti westernised music started playing I was hooked.  The unique stylised art design was on show front and centre as I chose and named my outlaw, I couldn’t wait to get stuck in, a few weeks later and I still can’t wait to get really stuck in.

For a game that’s all about PvP, not being able to get into a game can be rather problematic, especially if you’re trying to write a preview.  Over the past month or so I have managed to get a few games in, but the lack of online players sure hasn’t made it easy. No doubt with the full release, that won’t be a problem.

So first off you’ll have to chose what type of outlaw you want to be. From the Stone Cold Killer with a revolver and knife, to the recently added Matador complete with cape and Sword, the 5 classes currently available are all rather varied.  The individual design and personality really shines through and a lot of thought has been put into creating these characters, although a little more needs to be done when it comes to balancing their abilities.  Some characters currently feel really overpowered. Whilst I’m sure that tweeks will be made all the way up until Ponchos gets it’s full release, it can be frustrating to constantly go up against the same characters time after time as other players are looking for the easy victory.

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The arenas for these duels are also looking mighty fine.  From the eery Boneyard, to the bright sun drenched Train Wreck, just as much care has gone into their creation as the characters and its adds real atmosphere to the game.  I’m really looking forward to seeing what else the small team can come up with as I’m sure they will be making additions to the 4 maps currently on offer.

Secret Ponchos plays well and although support for playing with keyboard and mouse has been added, controllers are clearly the way its been designed to play.  Left stick moves your outlaw whilst right stick aims, add to that a dash ability and a rudimentary cover mechanic and you start to get an idea of how the game plays.  I really like the idea of the cover mechanic, pressing A lets you hunker down behind an object which breaks the line of sight from your opponents making you vanish off their screen.  It’s a great idea however in reality opponents just tend to rush you and makes it’s use rather limited at the minute.

Secret Ponchos undoubtedly has promise by the spittoon full, and I’m sure that if more people were playing it would be an absolute hoot.  However Steam metrics are currently showing at it’s busiest just over 70 people were playing at any one time add to that an average of 21 players daily, and you start to get a picture of why I’ve been finding it hard to get hands on game time. The devs are clearly aware of this and have gone so far as to recommend certain times to play, but for anyone on this side of the pond the times just aren’t feasible.

Whilst I’ve been playing the PC version, the PS4 game was originally due to release for free as part of Aprils PS+ line-up.  It was confirmed to Polygon that the delay was for more thorough testing and polishing, but no new release date has been announced as of yet.  Maybe once that version is out of the way the PC version can take centre stage and the game can flourish and achieve it’s full potential.

Secret Ponchos is available on Steam Early Access priced at £10.99 and can be found HERE