Promising a compelling premise is easy, but following through on a complex pledge is an entirely different feat. Somewhere in that process, Evolve loses focus on what it set out to master, and instead finds itself fighting minor annoyances stacking up to a what ultimately feels like a game still in testing.
Evolve focuses too much on justifying it’s ambition, rather than polishing and fleshing out basic fundamentals that make a game feel complete. The big cover story promises come to fruition, but it needs more. The game delivers an arena style shooter that relies heavily on teamwork and tactics. When focused, Evolve makes for a satisfying and unique multiplayer experience that sets itself apart from the rest of the pack. Unfortunately, due to the limited display of diverse innovation, the game’s accomplishments feel rehashed. These persistent redundancies make Evolve’s special moments become few and far between.
The tale goes, humanity has traveled to the distant future where galactic colonies are under attack by alien Monsters. The game focuses on the colonies being invaded by Monsters on planet Shear, a world considered to have some of the most valuable resources in space. To alleviate the threat, players are put into the roles of four Hunters, sent to deal with the Monsters. Assault, Support, Medic and Trapper make up Evolve’s Hunter classes. Each class plays a prominent and crucial role when leading their team to victory. The variation of player roles in a match when taking control of any of the four classes, offers great nuance, balancing most of the gameplay on the Hunter’s side.
An intro cinematic and voiceover is as far as Evolve’s story goes, but that’s okay for the absence of a campaign is slightly compensated by conversation between the Hunters. Before and during matches, players can overhear various conversations that help flesh-out the world. There’s no over arcing narrative, but these short, simple conversations are able to give context to what’s going on in both the world the game has created and the Hunter’s own lives. Bits and pieces of personality are littered throughout the game and remain the most intriguing thing aspect of Evolve.
The game is at it’s best when players are coordinating and progressing with their execution of objectives, tactically. If not done in this fashion, the matches hastily develop into a cluttered and incoherent mess. Having unreliable players on your team is the worst, and in the case of Evolve, guarantee your demise. Whether playing with strangers, or a group of friends who know how to undertake the monster, communication is key. Not only does it play a big part in bringing together the Hunters, but it toys with a certain magic. Being hot on the trail of a lethal Monster is tense and relies on all players to be firing on all cylinders. It’s great that Evolve trusts players and allows us freedom, yet the way the game is formatted and presented, it detracts a lot of the good work they’ve done.
In the role of the Monster, chasing objectives and simply maneuvering, come across as burdensome and bulky. Yet this issue is greatly improved upon when unlocking the two other monsters. When in a match, playing as the monster, players are given the ability to evolve by slaughtering and consuming wildlife. When evolving as the monster, participants are given four options to upgrade, which assist in defeating the enemies. This mechanic of leveling up during each and every match is a great feature. The implementation of this valuable component makes the battlefield feel mostly even when each match begins.
The Hunters are given much more resources to work with when battling the Monster. It wasn’t until dumping a good amount of time into the Monster class, that I was able to understand just how developer Turtle Rock Studios intended me to play. Standing in the way of Evolve’s full potential is the upgrade system. It feels like a bit of a grind to pass that initial phase of leveling up, but once there, new powers and classes unlock with ease. It wasn’t until after progressing past first Monster and Hunter classes that some of it’s stronger moments became apparent. After having spent a good amount of time in the game, I found it’s the leveling system to be what holds the game back in it’s early hours. Having more of the Monster and Hunter classes unlocked was great and each felt increasingly powerful. Yet, by the time I began breezing through the leveling system, I realized I was already burned out with what Evolve had to offer. No matter how powerful you are, at it’s center, Evolve fundamentally remains the same game.
It’s worth mentioning the game looks good. Though bad draw distances and clunky physics do detract from this, it’s not a terrible game to look at. It’s also worth noting when playing on PlayStation 4, I encountered frequent problems with the frame rate. When too much was going on it noticeably dipped, which in turn, was a big hindrance on the gameplay.
Movement comes across as slightly restrained when playing as both the Monster and Hunters. This is due to how the level design of the maps are constructed. Evolve’s maps are grand in size and have a great sense of a dark, dangerous forest. The aesthetics each map has fits the tone of the game, terrifically, yet struggles basic fundamentals when it comes to ease of traversal. Quickly moving around a map in Call of Duty or Titanfall is something I hardly put much thought into. Once getting down the controls and knowing the map, traversal is a quick and basic part of multiplayer shooters that shouldn’t cause nearly as much trouble as it did with Evolve. I frequently found myself frustrated when in control of both the Monster and various Hunters. Clearly, I’m not alone, for in-game chat consisted of much criticism revolving around the navigation of the maps. For a game so methodical about it’s tactical approach, many aspects diminished from what Evolve set out to change and revolutionize.
Summary: Evolve is an attempted big splash in a shallow puddle. The premise of the game is great, yet it’s execution falls short of what it vowed. For a $60, AAA experience, Evolve quickly runs out of steam. Whether due to the reliance on upcoming DLC, or absence of creativity, I don’t know, but I’m sure not gonna stick around to find out. The superfluous and constant lack of variation make Evolve, dare I say, teeter on boredom. Unless what you’ve seen from this game directly speaks to you, and are willing to submit yourself to a less polished representation of it, I can’t recommend dishing out the cash. The potential is there, but it’s jumbled, sidetracked, and definitively forgettable. It’s in need of evolving.
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