I don’t recall anything about flying squid monsters in the theory of evolution.
The backstory for the game is simple, monsters have appeared on the planet Shear and have overwhelmed the population to the point where an evacuation is ordered. A retired planet tamer named Cabot is tasked with getting as many people off the planet as possible within the five days before the last evacuation ship leaves. To combat the monsters, Cabot recruits a team of mercenaries, criminals, war veterans, and his own personal robot to take on the monster threat.
Gameplay for the hunters controls well, weapons and abilities are selected by the triangle, circle, l1 and R1 buttons. Additionally each hunter has a key pack that allows them to more easily move around the map and dodge the monster’s attacks. However I felt that the game could have used a melee attack of some sort for the hunters.
There are four classes of hunters, each with specific roles and abilities. The assault class which serves as the primary damage dealer, the Support which supports the other players with gadgets and buffs, the trapper specializes in preventing the monster from escaping, tracking it and slowing it down, and the medic class I shouldn’t need to explain.
There are a total of 12 playable hunters, four are initially playable and the rest are unlocked by ranking up the prior character. Each character is unique and has their own exclusive gear ranging from harpoon guns, flamethrowers, sentry bots, and other guns and gadgets. Each hunter is useful in their own way and is a character for every play style. Like dealing heavy damage? There’s a character for that, do you prefer staying back and letting sentry guns fight for you? There’s a character for that, do you prefer charging forwards like a madman with a melee weapon?… Okay maybe not every playstyle but you get the idea.
The monsters on the other hand are completely different. Each monster has different abilities and starts that affect their play-style. The goliath is the most durable monster and the toughest to take down, but it lacks the more useful traversal abilities that the other two monsters have. The Kraken is possibly the weakest monster physically, but combined with its variety of ranged attacks and ability to fly, it can become a force to be reckoned with at stage 3. The Wraith is more stealth focused, with its abilities focusing mainly on distracting and tricking the hunters, additionally its warping abilities allow it to escape from conflict with ease, making it the hardest monster to trap.
The matches never really felt one sided to me, both the hunters and the monster have an equal chance of winning, and I’ve seen matches go both ways.
There are four game modes available to play. The Hunt mode has the hunters going after the monster, who is trying to evolve to level 3 in order to destroy a power generator, Rescue has the hunters escorting survivors to dropships while the monster tries to kill the survivors before they can escape, nest mode has the hunters seek out a number of monster eggs to destroy while the monster tries to hunt them down and hatch the eggs to summon “minions” to attack the hunters, and the Defend mode has the hunters protecting a series of power generators from a level 3 monster and several minions. Each game mode felt different and engaging in its own way, and the game modes can also be ended by either killing all hunters or killing the monster.
Unlike Turtlerock’s previous game Left 4 Dead, there is no linear campaign mode. Instead there is Evacuation mode, where the player has to fight through five matches (or days) in a row, ending with a Defend mission. What makes this mode stand out is that the outcomes of each match affect the next in a specific way. For example, winning the Wraith trap match allows scientists to copy its teleporting abilities and create teleporters for hunters to use in the next match, and destroying the weather control facility will create a monsoon that results in more carnivorous plants growing around the map. These consequences make each match feel unique and keep the gameplay fresh.
The maps are well designed and very large, which gives you plenty of room to explore and escape from enemies. I found myself walking around in circles and never even realizing it. Its also worth noting that the monster isn’t the only thing trying to kill you. Every map is populated by various creatures that serve as food for the hunter and hazards to both sides. Hunters have to be on the lookout for hostile monsters and deadly plants that will trap and harm them in a way similar to the special infected from Left 4 Dead, and like Left 4 Dead you can’t break free from these situations without a teammate freeing you. Both sides can take advantage of the wildlife, with the monster able to lure the hunters towards dangerous wildlife and the hunters being able to follow the monster’s trail using birds that are attracted to the monster and its fresh kills. Special albino wildlife can be found and killed to grant temporary boosts to both hunters and monsters. The wildlife makes the large maps feel alive and dynamic.
My biggest complaint is that actually finding the monster is a bit too long and often uneventful. You can follow tracks, but losing the trail is easy and the only other helpful indicator is birds flying in the sky near a creature the monster has killed or that were startled by the monster. The monster could be miles away getting stronger while your off following a trail that already went cold.
If your lucky you’ll hear a bit of banter between hunters that gives exposition on the technology, develops the hunter’s characters, and gives some more insight into the game’s universe. Unfortunately this dialogue tends to get old after the third time hearing the same conversation.
When you do find the monster, there is a certain satisfaction equivalent to finding someone in a game of hide and seek. If you replaced that someone with a fire breathing monster/ chuthulu/ teleporting ghost beast.
And we can’t forget that this game relies heavily on its online features. My biggest concern for the game was how character selection in an online match would work, but the game handles this rather well. You can choose your class preference and rank them from 1-5, with one being your most preferred class. The game will try to put you in your most preferred classes in matchmaking, so you don’t have to be worried about being stuck as your least favorite class every match because someone picked it faster than you. Online for the game ran rather well except for two errors I encountered. The first was when a guy on my team respawned as a npc soldier with a minigun, and the second was when I was playing evacuation mode online and once the round finished, I ended up in a different match with different players without any warning.
My favorite part of Evolve however is its concept. I love the idea of a 4 vs 1 game and Evolve executes this idea very well. Its a very unique concept unlike anything I’ve seen before and I’d love to see more games use this style of 4 vs 1 gameplay in the future.
Overall I enjoyed Evolve. Its not as good as Left 4 Dead, but its a good unique idea that can stand on its own. The maps are well designed, the characters are balanced and unique, and the monsters are all dangerous in their own ways. Unfortunately the game could have done much more, added a much needed melee button, and maybe even improved the soundtrack.
I give Evolve three and a half overpriced DLC monsters out of five.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One (Reviewed); Publisher: 2K Games; Developer: Turtle Rock Studios; Players: 1-5 ; Released: February 10, 2015; Genre: First Person Shooter; MSRP: $59.99