Evolve (XB1) Review

Ken McKown

The thrill of the hunt.

The concept behind Evolve was always intriguing to me. The asymmetrical design of its battles was something new and fresh. Plus, who doesn’t want to be a giant fire-breathing monster? It also helps that the developer Turtle Rock Studios created one of the best co-op experiences of last generation with Left 4 Dead.

I went in blind with Evolve. Unlike most of the gaming population I never touched the beta or alpha, I didn’t watch pre-release videos and I had almost no knowledge of the game prior to release.

My first few matches were frustrating. I was dominated by the monster. Scavenging the map, trying to locate it before it evolved tested my patience, and then I discovered what I was doing wrong.

Feel the burn.

Let me put some cream on that.

MSRP: $59.99
Platforms: PC, XB1, PS4
Price I’d Pay: $49.99

Evolve is more than just a 4 vs. 1 multiplayer shooter, it is a team-based experience. Everyone has to do their job in order to succeed. There are four classes on the hunter side, and each one is crucial to victory. The assault class is the damage dealer, the trapper has to contain the monster, support needs to buff and cloak players, and finally the medic has to keep the team alive.

It takes teamwork and communication, so anyone going in with delusions of playing alone or with a host of random people not using a microphone online will be quickly thwarted.

Once I got my team together we started planning attacks, and learning how to utilize the hunter’s abilities. Evolve delivers one of the biggest rushes I have had in gaming this year. The satisfaction of trapping the monster and whittling down its health is unparalleled.

This of course is only one side of the coin. Those venturing in solo might not be able to find enjoyment on the hunter side, but playing as the monster is equally strategic and satisfying. Starting off players are weak; running into the hunters during stage one is usually fatal. Learning to cover tracks, sneak around, and play to the strengths of the environment are crucial. The monster is technically stronger than the hunters, but a skilled group will take it down without hesitation. Strategy is required on both sides.

It is this balance that makes Evolve special. Learning the nuances of each hunter (there are three characters for each class, all with their own unique abilities) and working together is imperative. If everyone doesn’t do their job, it will be a long and painful match.

Shoot her!!

Shoot her!!

Of course, there is more than just hunting involved. Evolve comes with other modes to spice things up. Hunt is the core mode, but there is also Nest, which tasks hunters with destroying the monster’s eggs around the map. The monster can also sacrifice an egg to hatch a minion to fight at its side. Rescue has both players and the monster chasing down survivors on the map. The hunters want to lure them to a dropship to be rescued, while the monster wants to of course kill them. Finally, Defend is exactly what it sounds like. The hunters have relays to protect and the monster has to destroy them.

What I continue to love about the game though are the new tactics I learn in every match. For example, I mostly play a trapper; it took me several matches to learn that Abe, the trapper I often use, can use his stasis grenades to bring Kraken down from flight. Also, things like the monster not being able to deal damage to the power relays if they are being shot. Turtle Rock has fine-tuned this game to be extremely balanced, and while there are some exceptions, like Wraith being a bit overpowered for my liking, it works.

My favorite mode though is the combination of all of these into one package. Evacuation sets up five matches, starting with hunt and ending with defend. The three matches in between can be voted on by players, and each victory makes the next match easier for the winner. For example, if the hunters win in the Aviary, there are more birds on the next map to help locate the monster. The only match that matters is the last one though, so previous victories only help in making it easier. This is also where the game attempts to tell a story complete with cut scenes, but it never really pans out. Still, this is where I spend the bulk of my time when playing with friends.

While there is a solo mode for those wanting to play alone, I don’t recommend it for anything outside of training. What I do love though is Evolve’s flexibility when it comes to playing with friends. We could setup matches with as few as two people, with AI filling in the gaps. It isn’t ideal, but it works. The game also allows lots of customization for these matches, making it easier for the hunters or monster, as well as map variables and wildlife sliders. The game can be enjoyed with as few as two people, but I definitely recommend at least three or four; five is still ideal.

The progression system is also addictive. I always felt like I was unlocking something new. There are three hunters for each class, and they are unlocked by completing one tier of specialties for the previous hunter. This doesn’t take long, and I found myself wanting to upgrade them all fully simply for the bonuses I received for my weapons and perks.

Caption

Did I interrupt feeding time?

There are a few areas where Evolve falls flat. The first is map selection. While there are 16 maps included (four of which are designated for only one mode) they all feel extremely familiar aesthetically. The layouts are diverse, but visually they start to blend together. The loading times are also brutal, and getting in and out of matches takes far longer than I would have liked. There are also some balance issues, like I mentioned with Wraith, which can be ironed out with patches of course, and the sheer amount of paid skins on day one is kind of ridiculous.

Evolve accomplished what it set out to do, and I am having a blast learning all the concepts it delivers. As long as I have friends to play with, it will continue to be in my rotation of games to play. My only concern is fatigue setting in with some players, and the base dwindling. This will kill the game, as playing solo is simply not the route to go. Still, with a healthy amount of content and maps planned I can hope the support continues for months to come. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to the hunt.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Good

  • Really well-balanced
  • Addictive progression
  • Playing with friends
  • Catching the monster

Bad

  • Loading times
  • Map visual variety
8.5

Great

Ken McKown
Ken is the Editor-in-Chief of this hole in the wall and he loves to troll for the fun of it. He also enjoys long walks through Arkham Asylum and the cool air of Shadow Moses Island. His turn-ons include Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear Solid and StarCraft.
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