Evolve Review - Does Darwin Approve?

Evolve on the PS4

There's no denying the popularity of multiplayer in the world of gaming. The thrill of competing against other human players is hard to match. Call of Duty has made an entire franchise based around it, but they still include that little old thing called a campaign that gamers (like myself) prefer.

Now, before you write this review off as biased because I don't commonly play multiplayer, let me finish. I'm a gamer who started off on the Sega Genesis and knew "multiplayer" as the split screen mode in Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64. Online gaming was never something I like, mostly because I'm not much into chatting it up with angry strangers who would probably rather take me out in real life because I managed to get a shot on them in a match.

It's not all bad though, there's genuinely good people online just looking to have a good time, and then there's people who "swat" other players by calling into law enforcement and sending SWAT teams to the other player's house in real life. Sounds ridiculous, but it happens, and the 911 operator has to take it seriously.

All of that multiplayer history aside, let's take a look at one type of game that has always managed to bring out the best in people: Co-op. One of the first games that comes up when you think of an online cooperative experience is probably Left 4 Dead made by Turtle Rock Studios.

Now, that same studio has released Evolve for the PS4 and it brings a new take on the predator vs prey dynamic that we haven't really seen much in any generation, let alone the latest one. So, is this an evolution of the genre that would make Darwin blush? Let's find out.

Uh Waiter? There's Some Story in My Multiplayer

Evolve has never made any excuses about its goal: this is an online multiplayer game through and through, just like Left 4 Dead. That being said, it does have what could be considered a "campaign" and all of the modes can be played offline with surprisingly lethal A.I, but these are small concessions. Side dishes from the main course if you will.

The game has a setup for it's "Evacuation" mode which paints you as one of four different classes known as "Hunters" who are going up against what the game unapologetically calls a "Monster." The story here is very, and I mean very light, but it's a good setup.

You're here to help extract colonists from the planet after a species of mega-fauna was discovered that poses a threat to the entire human existence on the planet. You have five days (matches) to extract as many colonists as possible before the evacuation ship leaves.

So, each match plays out as a day in the story and before each match you vote which mode you want to play. At the beginning of each map you see a basic cut scene that sets up a specific modifier for that map. According to the game, depending on who wins and loses each match in Evacuation, there can be 800,000 different combinations of map modifiers.

Allow me to provide an example. Say the map opens with a transmission about how they have a monster trapped and if you can stop the creatures from breaking it out, they will master its ability to teleport short distances.

In that match, if the hunters win then the monster's power is harnessed and the subsequent map will have teleporters that they can use to get around quickly. If the monster wins, another effect is placed on the next match.

I played through Evacuation several times and got the same ending each time, but I did see several different modifiers to the maps which I really enjoyed. There's some dialogue between the characters before and during the matches which serves to give them some personality, but not a whole lot.

In short, Evolve can be played single-player but it does not have a story beyond the setup. If you refuse to play online, you're not going to find a lot of things to love here. You'll find some, but not as many as you would in a more story focused game. Now that we have that elephant out of the room, let's move on before we tackle the other one.

Modes, Maps, and Monsters. Oh, Hunters too, can't forget them

Evolve's modes are quite varied which I enjoyed. The main mode "Hunt" has four hunters going up against one monster. The "Nest" mode has the monster trying to protect six eggs that are placed in random locations on the map. To win, the monster must protect at least some of the eggs for ten minutes. It can hatch one of the eggs as well to provide a minion for protection. The hunters will try to kill the monster, or destroy five of its eggs.

The "Rescue" mode has injured colonists trying to escape from the planet. The hunters will try to find these survivors and extract them in specific locations while the monster tries to kill five colonists before they can save that amount.

Finally, Defend has the human colony ship refueling and preparing to evacuate the planet. The hunters must defend a two generators and the refueling station to win. The monster must destroy these things, and to this end it starts the match with a fully evolved form.

Before we move into the hunters, let's examine the monsters. There are three monster types that ship with the game: Goliath, Kraken, and Wraith. Only the first monster is available at the beginning, the other two come when you fulfill certain goals in terms of damage, wins, and so on.

The Goliath is a hulking beast that serves like a tank that can absorb, and deal, damage. The Kraken works best from afar, firing lightning and using ranged attacks. It can also fly, so there's that.

The Wraith is focused on stealth, sneaking around, teleporting and deceiving the hunters in order to complete it's objective. We'll dive into the monster mechanics momentarily, but for now, the hunters!

There are a total of four Hunter Classes in Evolve. They break down into the following:

  • Assault
  • Medic
  • Support
  • Trapper
  • Each class has four different abilities that include weapons and gadgets. The game explains each one as you play it for the first time so you understand their role. They work extremely well together, but again, we'll examine that in just a moment.

    The maps in the game all take place on the alien planet known as Shear. They are fairly large in size and varied in their locations. There's a good amount of versatility to them, especially when modifiers are applied. Without those they would just be "good" maps but with the modifiers they suddenly become dynamic.

    How Does It All Work in Motion?

    The first role I'll cover is the monster. In this capacity you can utilize the monsters abilities to jump, leap, fly, or teleport (depending on which one you're using) to navigate the map. You start with health and basic level abilities that you pick before the match.

    Once you're in, you need to find food. By using a scent mechanic you can find local creatures in the area and hunt them. When you've killed them you can eat them to gain points towards evolution. The creatures range from pushovers to powerful beasts that wield temporary boosts when you devour them.

    You can evolve up to level three and put points into your skill each time. The mini-RPG element at work here is very fun, but evolving isn't easy. The Hunters, especially in single-player, are incredibly well organized. They can track your footsteps if you're not sneaking around, and they are instantly alerted when you startle a flock of local birds/vultures.

    When attacked, your armor will eventually rejuvenate, but your health will not. The monster isn't as powerful as I would have thought, especially at the basic level. I suppose that's a matter of balance, but if you charge in expecting to kick a$$ and take names, you'll get your charred derriere handed back to you.

    There are some things to help you out, for example if you're losing the balance gets put in your favor in the Evacuation mode. Winning also gives you a bonus in the coming match when you're playing in that mode.

    That being said, in multiplayer I've lost my fair share of matches as the hunters, so it really comes down to who is behind the wheel. It's about understanding the environment, fooling your prey, and evolving as quickly as possible. The A.I is incredibly coordinated and hard to take down, but people online have flaws that you can exploit.

    On the Hunter side of things, these characters comes in several different flavors. The default team has some interesting banter, but unlocking more skins give you characters (and voices) to replace the person you're playing as in that class. The cooperative element at play here is very strong.

    Take for example the Assault class. Here you have a lightning gun that can deal massive damage, even to multiple targets if you're fighting aggressive wildlife. You have an assault rifle to shoot when the lightning gun is recharging, you have mines you can place down, and you have a temporary shield that makes you invincible.

    Other classes like the trapper can lay down harpoons that lock the monster in places until it breaks them. They can also set up an area that traps the monster in a certain area. I found this to be extremely annoying when I was trying to escape, but it's a valid strategy nonetheless.

    The balance is solid, it really is, but there's times when it all breaks down. That's just human nature I suppose, but if you have a team that's not smart about staying together and using their abilities, you're not going to have a good time. In the matches I played, the majority of players weren't using headsets either which meant we had to just assume everyone was on the same page.

    My first couple matches in evolve were like the first couple dates with a really pretty girl. I was awkward, fumbling through weapons and lumbering around like an idiot. I was frustrated, but determined to give the game a chance. The tutorials are good to introduce you, but they only cover one monster and once class.

    The progression of rewards and unlocks is slow, but it keeps you coming back for more, which is always a good thing. The problem with a game like Evolve is that it lives and dies by its community. If people work together and monsters continue to find new ways to exploit the abilities given to them, it will work like a charm.

    If people don't put in the effort, it's just another multiplayer game with a cool gimmick. There's always that human element with these kinds of games, and without a campaign to speak of, you're alienating a portion of the gamer audience immediately.

    Before we pass judgement, it's time to address that final elephant in the room.

    Wow, Okay That's a Lot of DLC

    Evolve has been getting a lot of flak for the DLC practices it has in place. The developer promised new modes and maps as free DLC to avoid alienating players who wouldn't pay for them. In order to still make money, they've offered a number of additional skins, 24 in fact since launch, that cost between $1.99 and $2.99 a piece.

    That's a lot of money, but people probably won't by every single skin, maybe just the ones for the class or monster they like. Fair enough, but then you have the fourth monster DLC "Behemoth" that is only free if you pre-ordered the game. Otherwise he's a whopping $15 when he comes out.

    A 5th monster is on the way, but even if you bought the season pass, you're still not getting everything. You're not even getting the monsters, just hunters and skins. There were numerous packages and options when the game came out, but none of them promised you all the addition content, and buying it all separately, when it's released, can cost up to $120 total with the game included.

    There's no "give me everything" option, which has caused a lot of confusion, and anger among consumers. People have accused the developer and the publisher of being "shady" and "underhanded" but I wouldn't say that.

    The problem here is the pricing. We're being offered tons of options, which is great, but the prices are all out of whack. Why should a monster be $15? Why would there be $60 worth of skins? The free maps and modes are a great step, and charging for extra items like these makes sense, especially because other players can play with the paid monsters and characters, they just can't play as them until they purchase.

    Great, so no community split, which can kill a mulitplayer game, but there's just so many options at such a high price. People want an easy solution that gets them all the content for the game. That's why a "season pass" has been so popular because it promises all the content for a game (for the most part).

    Is Evolve worth My Money?

    That's the question, isn't it? The score here isn't based solely on the quality of the game (it's very good once you get past the learning curve) it's about whether or not there is $60 worth of content here (without DLC).

    Evolve is a unique multiplayer game. It has a tiered unlock and progression system that keeps you playing, but without a story mode or some sort of continued progression (like the prestige system in Call of Duty) I wonder how much longevity it has.

    The DLC controversy has also brought forward a lot of negative PR for the game. At the end of the day, Evolve needs to prove to you that it's worth $60 and then more potentially for the DLC you want. In my opinion, it's not worth the full price. It doesn't have the content and longevity without me paying more than that.

    Perhaps with a price drop, some new maps and modes, and maybe a restructuring of what the "season pass" includes, it could become something that I would play consistently. As it stands, it's fun and unique, and very well thought out, but it it's a thin piece of meat for how much it costs.

    Multiplayer lovers will find a lot to like here, but how long until they go back to their Call of Duties or their Battlefield 4's? I myself would wait for a lower price and maybe a DLC pricing shift before I would pay for this experience.

    Final Score: 8.0/10

    What do you think of Evolve? What about the DLC controversy that has been swirling around? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

    Article by - Bradley Ramsey
    Insert Date: 2/13/2015

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