The latest game from 2K and Turtle Rock Studios is ‘Evolve’, which is set on the planet of Shear. Evolve is a 4v1 shooter experience where four hunters must hunt down the monster in a hunters vs. monster situation. The game launched a few weeks ago on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC, taking advantage of the next generation hardware. It also heavily relies on multiplayer and it’s definitely something I would avoid if a solo experience is what you mostly desire. The game looks great graphically, running in 1080p but at only 30 frames per second. Does the lower frame-rate impact the game? Not at all, it feels great to control and plays at a good pace. (Note: Click ‘Read More’ to see the rest if you’re on the front page!)
Once you boot up the game, you’re placed into the Tutorial, playing a monster. The class of monster you’re given is the Goliath. You’re shown all the basic controls, how to feed on wildlife as well as climbing and clambering heights. The monster is played in 3rd person view, while hunters play in first-person. Once you finish the tutorial for the monster, you’re allowed to move onto the assault tutorial where you play as Markov. The issue with the tutorial for me is that it’s long, boring and simply drags on a lot. However, you can also pause and go straight to the main menu.
The four character classes available in Evolve: Assault, Trapper, Medic and Hunter.
The main menu presents you with seven options. Multiplayer, Solo, Switch User, Profile, Extras, Options and Store. The Store allows you to purchase upgrades for your characters as well as in-game DLC as micro-transactions with real money. The profile contains leaderboards, accolades (which are different kinds of medals) and badges which acts as the games custom emblem editor. Here you choose a foreground, background and then you also have the options to change colours on each. Once done, you must hit save and not press B and expect a ‘go back to menu and save option’. This can be a little clunky until you’re used to it.
It’s worth mentioning why the multiplayer is on the top of the menu and not the solo mode. It’s simple really, the multiplayer is the focus of this game. The solo mode really only acts as a training ground. In multiplayer, you’re given a few choices. Skirmish is the main multiplayer mode. This is where you play a round at a time matchmaking on the ‘hunt’ game mode cycling maps for each round. Evacuation is the next and this acts as the games campaign, featuring give missions and all the game modes in Evolve. You also have an option for custom lobbies which are just private lobbies with customized settings and where you can invite your friends. Solo features the same stuff, with the addition of the tutorials, minus the online stuff. If you wish to play ‘Evacuation’ in solo mode, this is the way to go.
When you load up Skirmish (or Evacuation) for the first time, you’ll be asked to select your order of preference for roles on the team. Therefore you can tell the game, you prefer being the Monster on the team, or maybe being the medic. When I went into Skirmish, I was dropped out the first game I was placed into before it even started, which made me worried about how performance was going to be. Thankfully, it was only a once off. The first game was ‘Hunt’ on the map ‘Refuelling Tower’. This is a forestry map, set at a night-time with trees and rivers present in the biome. The game will give you a choice of three monsters if that’s the role you’ve been given. These include the Goliath, Kraken and Wraith. I had the Goliath and Wraith unlocked from the get go, with the Kraken unlocking after you fully level up your Goliath. That is quite the grind. From there, you’re given the choice of multiple abilities and three skill points to spend on each. I remember spending two on the ‘Warp’ ability and the last one the ‘Abduction’ ability. They didn’t seem to help, I got destroyed in the first game.
The Wraith, one of the monsters at your disposal in ‘Evolve’.
After each match, you’ll see the games progression system in action. You’ll earn character mastery XP awards based on how well you did in the game. You’re also shown a map after each round showing the exact trail the hunters and monster took allowing players to plan more efficiently for the next round based on their previous manoeuvres. The second game I played was on ‘Fusion Plant’. This time I chose the Goliath monster, spending my three points on the fire-breath. You also had the choices of ‘rock throw’, ‘charge’ and ‘leap smash’. There’s also a default perk which increases climb speed by 30%. You unlock more of these as you progress. The third game I played was on ‘Aviary’, a rocky ruins, forestry map and once again, I was playing as the monster. The interesting thing was that my preference for monster was third, so why wasn’t it giving me my first or second preference? I’m not sure, I can also add that each game had an empty AI slot.
Playing the game feels good, controls aren’t difficult to master and the monster feels superior to control. However, I soon realized the monster is not overpowered and actually, the hunters feel overpowered. Each game that I was the monster, it was challenging enough to try killing one of them. When the hunters are in a party and communicating well with each other, they can be a huge threat for the monster. However, if they aren’t co-operating, that’s the monsters chance. Mastering any of the hunters is easy, it feels like the majority of first-person shooters. Using ‘Y’ and ‘B’ to switch weapons will probably be the most confusing thing for newcomers to the game.
An example of the progression used that’s used for ranking up in ‘Evolve’.
Evacuation is the games co-operative campaign mode which features five missions across various maps and game-modes and players affect the environment by winning or losing previous missions. You’ll be giving two choices here, ‘Co-op’ which is just four players against an AI monster or ‘PvP’ where players will face a player controlled monster. The main aspect of the story is spread across five days which each mission accounting for one day. Your objective as a hunter is to save as many survivors as possible. For each day (after each mission), players will vote for the next mission which will be a location on the ‘Evolve’ map. The outcome of each mission affects the next as I mentioned earlier. However, it won’t be the same missions each time you play Evacuation. Each play through will have a different combination of environments and objectives which allows for over 800 possible combinations. This is so the mode doesn’t get too repetitive.
When I played Evacuation for the first time, it put me into day two. I initially thought, what about day one? I guess it was because the story element doesn’t matter too much in Evolve because there really isn’t one. We had to play ‘Rescue’ on ‘The Dam’ for this one. Rescue involves rescuing survivors who are on the map and getting them to the evacuation ship. You fail if the monster kills the survivors before they can get on the ship, however, if the monster wins, you don’t fail the mission. You move onto the next day where the outcomes of the previous day will have an impact. Hunt was the mode we had for day three, on the map ‘Barracks’, a wet, swampy map. This is all about killing the monster, identical to ‘Skirmish’. For me, this game lasted about twenty minutes with us running around for ages, trying to find the monster. It just felt boring and repetitive after a while. The next day we played another new mode, ‘Nest’ on ‘Orbital Drill’. This game mode involves destroying all the eggs and minions spawned by the monster. The final day was set for us on ‘Colonial Water & Power’ which felt like a darkish industrial estate. We were also placed into another new mode, known as ‘Defend’ which involves defending the power source while killing the minions and fending off the monster. At this stage, I noticed the monster was very powerful, fast and deadly; killing you almost instantly if you get caught up with him.
In ‘Evacuation’, the more survivors you save, the more XP you get. It works out like this; 1 survivor = 1XP. You should manage to save a few hundred or thousand at least. Evacuation also features some cut-scenes, pre-mission and after missions reports rounding up your objectives and setting the stage for the next mission. The concluding cut-scene for us at the very end showed monsters and their minions being shot at by hunters with the monsters coming up closer and closer. There was a lot of them and then it ended. So what exactly had we all done story-wise? Save survivors and fend off the monsters. I really think story could’ve been highly expanded on here. What about where these monsters came from or how can the hunters put an end to this threat? The lack of story means the spotlight is mainly on the fact that ‘Evolve’ is a multiplayer co-operative experience and even that can get dull after some time. In total, ‘Evacuation’ took our team 51 minutes to complete all five days. I must say, the stats screen at the end was excellent showing a good detail of our teams accomplishments such as our biggest threats, game MVP, the number of shots fired, wildlife killed and so forth.
One of the statistics screens used in ‘Evacuation’.
Next up are the ‘Custom Lobbies’, these basically take everything from Skirmish and Evacuation but places you into a full customizable experience with your friends. You’ll be given options for map and mode, the map effect and extras.
You’ll have four games mode to choose from:
- Hunt = Classic Evolve game mode. Hunters kill the Monster before it kills them. It’s almost like a race because the as the Monster levels up and reaches it thirds stage it can destroy the power relay.
- Defend: The monster must destroy the transport ships power source before the time runs out. Hunters must defend for the remaining time or else play it like Hunt and kill the monster.
- Nest: Monster must kill the Hunters before they destroy all of the eggs and minions. The monster can hatch an egg to spawn a minion at the cost of one egg.
- Rescue: Hunters must revive and evacuate five survivors before the Monster kills five of them.
Evolve also had a total of sixteen maps. Twelve of these are available in ‘Hunt’, ‘Nest’ and Rescue with the other four being exclusive to ‘Defend’. These include:
- Fusion Plant
- Orbital Drill
- Refuelling Tower
- Rendering Plant
- The Dam
- Weather Control
- Wraith Trap
‘Defend’ has four maps to choose from:
- Colonial Water and Power
- King’s Port
- New Calico
- Salveron Industries
Custom lobbies also allow players to enable a ‘Map Effect’ which changes certain aspects of the map while playing. You can only enable one at a time and you’re given a choice of six. Some may help the monster, some may help the hunters. Some may have negative impacts or positive impacts to one or both sides Here’s what you can choose from:
- Cargo Ship which patrols the map to help the hunters find the monster.
- A second monster which is a minion, following the main monster to attack the hunters.
- Teleport Gates helps hunters by allowing them to teleport to a central location on the map.
- Teleport Rifts to the same as the gates, except these are for the monster and not the hunters.
- Clear skies forces predators into hiding, making it easier for hunters to travel and also makes it easier for them to spot the monster. The monster finds it difficult to get food.
- Carnivorous Plants can be increased on the map, making it more dangerous and difficult for hunters travelling.
Finally, there is also ‘Extra’ options in Custom which allows the host of lobbies to change settings such as difficulty of the game, wildlife population spawned on the map, the length of the round, the time it takes for reinforcements, the number of strikes available, options to toggle character perks, option to set mastery bonuses, whether additional wildlife is spawned or not and if voice (game) chat is team only or set to everyone.
Evolve is a game that may seem to offer a lot of content and while in some ways it does, it lacks in variety and story. When you look at this game for what it is, a 4v1 multiplayer experience where the hunters must kill the monster, it achieves that perfectly. But is it worth $60? That’s an important question and honestly, I don’t think so. If the game had a dynamic campaign that felt great in both solo and co-op that told an epic story and featured epic battles – if it had more multiplayer modes, such as a 4v4 team based mode with two sides of hunters, then maybe. That improves the amount of content found in the game. While you could argue sixteen maps is a lot, and it is, it just lacks the replayability value after a while.
Turtle Rock Studios have made Evolve do what it does great. There’s very few bugs found in the game and while it lacks a variety of content, it must be mentioned that everything is polished. If the idea of a 4v1 is of interest to you, then I would recommend checking out the game. If not, you probably will lose faith in it very quickly. In my opinion, the game is much better when you’re playing you’re your friends communicating to them in a Party. This means you can plan tactics and share tips with each other. Evolve will always have a fanbase who love it for what it is and I’m happy about that. I hope that the game continues to get supported with content updates that make me want to revisit Planet Shear for a game of Evolve. With this, I’m happy to give Evolve a well-deserved 7/10. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great attempt and sets a good standard for new IP and this concept of gameplay.
- Set’s a good standard for 4v1 gameplay experiences.
- Very few bugs are found, nothing that breaks the game.
- Multiplayer is exciting and interesting, especially when you’ve in a party with your mates.
- Great variety of multiplayer maps.
- It’s possible to win in Evolve whether you’re a hunter or monster, it’s well balanced.
- Multiplayer games can drag on for ages and get repetitive.
- Tutorial feels like a boring introduction for new players.
- There’s no real interesting story element. We hear very little about Planet Shear.
- Sometimes class preferences don’t feel reflected in game.
- Lots of grinding done for unlockables.
- No real competitive matchmaking so you’re forced to communicate and plan well (an issue if your friends don’t have the game).
Reviewed on Xbox One