Developer: Turtle Rock Studios
Publisher: 2K Games
Platform: Reviewed for PC (Also available for Xbox One and PS4)
Genre: Sci-Fi/Horror FPS
I have to confess, I’ve been staving off writing my review as I was convinced there was something I had missed during my original time playing it. I had the opportunity to play some of the Alpha and I walked away from that with two impressions but when I found that one of my original impressions still seemed relevant… Well, I grew concerned. My impressions were as follows:
1. It was time to futureproof my PC.
2. It seemed like it was trying to be a monster variant of Turtle Rock Studios’ last venture: the Left 4 Dead games. Which I’m totally cool with, only it just seemed the elements that made the Left 4 Dead games so great were Missing In Action.
Pulling back a moment, Evolve’s premise surrounds a group of hunters contracted to help in the evacuation of a planet called “Shear” after it has come under attack from an increasingly growing number of monsters. Though admittedly this is primarily the setup for the game’s “Evacuation” gameplay mode in which a team of four players fight as Hunters against one player controlling a giant Monster over the course of five matches. In between said matches independent game modes are voted upon. The modes are:
– Nest: The Hunters are tasked with tracking down a collection of the Monster’s eggs and exterminating them before the Monster player can hatch them. If, however, the Monster does manage to hatch an egg then the Hunters can expect to deal with a weaker AI minion following the Monster player around.
– Rescue: The Hunters are tasked with finding and guiding AI survivors to dropship evacuation sites while trying to fend off the Monster while the Monster must foil the rescue attempts by slaughtering the Human survivors.
– Defend: The Hunters must guard a series of generators that pump fuel to a survivor-filled ship prepping for launch, so while the Hunters must stop the Monster from working its way through two generators before assaulting the ship, the Monster has the pleasure of watching waves of multiple AI minions regularly spawn in to do their bidding.
– Hunt: Exactly what you’d expect. It’s the default mode when you select “Skirmish”; it’s the Beige Mode.
It’s an interesting selection of game modes and Evolve maintains your interest even when you finally find yourself on the planet’s surface. The visuals are fantastic, the use of the CryEngine has been superb and everything flows magnificently well when running or climbing or flying as a Monster or a Hunter. While the gameplay is repetitive, you will find yourself going round after round because, hey, hunting towering beasts with futuristic weaponry is just plain awesome. And crushing tiny humans while stomping around as a giant Monster like you’re Marshawn Lynch on steroids is just as great. Plus the dialogue exchanges between the Hunters at the start of each level, as well as during the quieter segments and at the end of each level makes for some nice immersion.
My dry banter aside, Evolve is set up well with a very pretty introductory cutscene and then any pretext of story is summarily ditched. Which is a shame because there’s a very well designed set of game modes submitted for our enjoyment but there are two crucial elements missing and they both relate to the satisfaction of the player.
First of all, the game’s sound design leaves a lot to the imagination, everything is just too quiet and there’s a lack of kinetic energy all across the board. To put it another way: let’s say I’m playing as an assault class and I’ve just spotted a Monster several times larger than I. I’m holding down the trigger on a minigun while this Goliath charges at me through the brush and plants are being crushed underfoot of this giant beast as it is being riddled with heavy weapons fire. In your head it sounds like there’s great impact amidst this hail of gunfire and the loud thuds of a colossal beast as it smashes everything in its path but in actuality we’re left with a lot of quiet or high pitched sounds that don’t seem to connect with the onscreen visuals.
Secondly, the lack of story involvement within the Evacuation mode seems to be key in creating what is essentially very rote and boring gameplay. The problem is the Hunters don’t have enough incentive to work together and form a team as opposed to what would inherently happen in the Left 4 Dead games. However, if there was a development in the story at the end of each match then there would be more reason for the Hunters to work together and develop an attachments with one another. This is what would happen in the studio’s previous franchise, as there is a consistent overarching narrative within the Left 4 Dead games that is told in a very visual-heavy manner. Though, to be fair, the latter series’ linear level designs also assisted with this as the survivors worked towards an end goal where the desired result involved the survival of the whole team. Whereas in Evolve, regardless of the game mode, it just plays as a large cage match every time, or more relevantly: It’s the Tank battle from Left 4 Dead on a loop forever.
In the end, my first impression still seems to hold up; Evolve desperately wants to be like the Left 4 Dead franchise but it doesn’t seem to understand what makes those games work so well. There just isn’t enough to convince the player’s to work as a team and there’s not a whole lot of depth in regards to the game’s universe or game types. You’ll very quickly find that each match plays in near identical fashion each time and that there just isn’t enough to keep you invested or properly immersed.