Last night upon returning home, I only had one thought in my head: jumping into the hunting grounds of Evolve, being the predator, and reigning supreme. I think I ate. I can’t remember, which means it wasn’t important, and I believe I may have taken a shower. I do know that I played the game for four and a half hours straight, as I have every night since Tuesday.
Evolve presents you with a supremely addictive mechanic that is easy to get into and easier still to become addicted to. However in time I found myself saying “Haven’t I done this before?” and it was at that time that Evolves charm shed like snake skin, and I beheld the true beast in front of me.
Evolve is a massive game of cat and mouse, made primarily to be played in the multiplayer mode. 4 people will take on hunters with various roles that allow them to take on the 5th player in the game: the monster.
Each hunter has a role they play: Trapper, Assault, Medic, and Support. There are multiple hunters with alternate gear which are unlocked in each class through game play, and the same is true for the monsters.
Each multiplayer game will start the same: a monster will spawn and begin hunting for food, which will both provide armor to shield him in his encounters with the hunters, and allow him to evolve and gain new abilities. Meanwhile, the hunters will search for clues such as broken foliage, animal carcasses, and groups of frightened birds to track down their prey. At stage I, the monster is a relatively easy kill for the hunters if they are working together, but a stage III will require a great deal of teamwork to overcome. As the hunters, you are looking to kill the monster, regardless of which stage he is in. As the creature, you can either kill the hunters or evolve to stage III and destroy a power relay for an instant victory.
Single player also exists for the game, though it’s not as prominent and the AI feels like the game’s largest let down. Playing with an AI on your team of hunters likely means they won’t coordinate with you properly, and you’re liable to lose. Playing again an AI monster means he will hunt flawlessly and you’re similarly hosed. In one game, I was informed of a flock birds that were scared of the goliath’s presence and immediately began running in that direction. 20 seconds later, I was told there was a second flock of scared birds 400 yards behind me. The monster had managed to run almost from one end of the map to the other in a matter of moments.
The controls are simple, and well mapped out. Your various weapons are mapped to the bumpers and Y/B buttons so it never feels like you’re asking your fingers to perform great acrobatic feats to get your characters to do what you need. Movement is fluid and smooth and the character animations are anything but clunky.
The Ultimate Game: Humans
Trappers will help to reduce the mobility of the monster by creating a large, inescapable arena or by deploying harpoons that will attempt to root the creature in place. These harpoons can be broken and the arena will only last a limited time, so both should be used wisely. The trapper also has a dart gun which aids in the tracking of the monster and a pet named Daisy, who will sniff out tracks and attempt to revive downed allies.
Assault players will be acting as your meat and potatoes tank role, drawing the monster’s fire with a high damage output before shielding himself to withstand anything the monster can put out. The rest of the assault’s weapons are standard fare: an assault riffle for mid-range fire fights, a short range arc gun with very high damage out-put and mines you can use to set a trap. I found the assault class to be the most basic character to play, but also the most boring of the three.
Medics keep your party alive. The most prominent item in the medic’s arsenal will be the healing gun, which emits a green beam to heal and revive allies. In addition to this, you also get a sniper rifle with anti-matter and tranquilizer darts. Your anti-matter rounds will create a pinpoint hole in the monster’s hunter, allowing for bonus damage to be scored there for a limited time. Your tranquilizer darts will slow the monster and allow for tracking.
Support characters will hold up the rest of the team in a variety of ways. He can coat one of his teammates in a powerful shield or cloak the entire team for a short duration, hiding them entirely from the monster and either allowing them to escape or approach the fight from a new angle. Hank is also the hunter with the second highest damage output, able to call down an orbital barrage and use a powerful laser cutter to apply very heavy damage.
All characters have a jetpack in which they can use to gain a height advantage, but fuel is depleted quickly and refills much slower than anyone is ever comfortable with. There’s nothing worse than having to ask yourself if you waste 30 seconds waiting for your reserves to fill, or run the long way around to lose your prey entirely.
Evolutionary Terror: The Monsters
At first, only the goliath is available as a monster, which can traverse great distances in a single bound, breathe fire over a large area, perform a devastating ground slam, or throw rocks at the hunters from a distance. The final skill in the goliath’s arsenal is likely his most versatile: the ability to rush long distances as a method of escape or to close the distance on your prey. I’ve seen hunters thrown yards away by such an attack, separating the group and putting them I a terrifyingly detrimental position.
Walking as the hunter will create tracks unless you are in stealth mode, which the hunters can use to track you. A smart monster will need to double back on tracks, leap distances at the right moment, and transition into stealth mode fluidly to evade his pursuers. The ability to climb gives the monster a supreme advantage in mobility, but remaining hidden is much harder than it seems.
Evolve is a game that knows exactly what it does and does it well. The game is made for a fantastic night of multiplayer with four friends, laughing and taunting each other as frustrations mount and people die, which brings me to my first main pitfall: enjoyment.
A successful monster will lead the hunters around in circles time and time again, remaining hidden, and vanishing the moment he’s spotted. This can be incredibly frustrating to a group of hunters who are searching for any sign of the beast and waiting in eventual boredom as the monster grows stronger.
A well coordinated team of hunters will find it simple to track down the monster and dispatch it with relative ease, ending the game before the monster could even enter stage II and triggering one of the game’s amply long loading screens to start the next match. In short, it feels like one side is doomed to have a bad time in 80% of the cases.
While there is a great deal of variety in the characters and creatures (with more on the way), each match still feels the same. I’m still hunting a monster, I’ll still meet up with him eventually, one of us will die, repeat. The various game modes in single player boast a great deal of variety, but still come down to cat and mouse, with one side dying. I enjoy Evolve immensely, but it’s not something I see myself playing for days on end.
All in all, Evolve feels like a fully satisfying amuse bouche at the classy steak house. It’s unexpectedly delicious, but just can’t quite satisfy my cravings for the main course. I’m in a steakhouse; I’m here to eat meat. The salad is nice, but unsatisfying and I want my meat. Evolve is much the same, it feels like a brilliant groundwork to a much larger game, but for most people spending upwards of $60, I just don’t feel like it’s enough, it needs to Evolve a little more first.