Evolve 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.
The 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.
Evolves’ 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.
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.
Evolve 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.