Turtle Rock is no stranger to the cooperative shooter genre. The groundwork that they laid in the past with the Left 4 Dead series has definitely taught gamers that they know what makes this type of game work. It isn’t as simple as putting a group of people together under the same banner with a common goal. You have to make them need each other, to work with each other. That was evident in Left 4 Dead and it is more evident than ever in Evolve.
Evolve is a giant game of cat and mouse, although it isn’t always clear who is on which side of that equation. As four distinct hunters make their way onto battlefield to hunt down a single monster, each side will do their own fair share of both hunting and being hunted. The hunters are on the offensive almost from the start as it is in their favor to find and engage the monster as quickly as possible. No single hunter is capable of taken the monster out alone, even in its weakest form. Together however, they might actually stand a chance. If they take too long though, they will find their selves going on the defensive side of things.
Each of the four hunters is unique both in their role and their weaponry. This is why the game works so well when it hits its stride: everyone has a specific role to play. The trapper is your key to finding and inhibiting the monster. The medic is paramount to keeping everyone alive and to help with recovery during the brutal battles. The support is needed to enhance all of the other hunters’ weaponry to stand a chance against the mighty beast(s). Finally, the assault, is your one chance to take the giant monster(s) down once and for all. As I said earlier, no one of these individuals is really capable of taking down the Goliath, Kraken, or Wraith on their own, but by working together as a singular unit, they stand a chance. Communication and cooperation is the key. It is actually more than key, it is a necessity, not only to succeed but to see and feel what Evolve has to offer.
The longer that the “hunt” takes however, the more things swing into the favor of the monster. Each of the monsters, like the hunters, is unique in both its arsenal and gameplay style. The Goliath is a a tank, meant to engage players head on. While the Kraken and the Wraith (which is a bit overpowered) give you the opportunity to explore more methodical approaches to dispatching the hunting team. Regardless of which monster that you choose, you get the chance to grow and evolve over the course of the match by devouring wildlife found throughout the map. The more you eat, the stronger you get and the more moves you get in your arsenal. This same wildlife can pose a threat to you as well, especially early on. The world of Shear is ripe with creatures of all sizes who can often be the key to turning the tide in battle. A stirred-up flock of birds may give away the location of a hiding monster while a riled up creature in a river bed may serve as the perfect distraction for a monster’s getaway.
The process of the hunt, on both sides, has an amazing feel and creates a very tense atmosphere. Creeping through the levels, looking for signs of the beast is intense and keeps you on the edge of your seat with ever new track found or with each sound of broken branches and twigs behind you. Once you find that beast, and the battle erupts, the action becomes frantic and exhilarating. It is this process that makes the game so enjoyable, regardless of the game mode that is being played. However, everyone has to play their role in order for this to happen, which leads us to Evolves first problem.
While the pacing and structure of an idea Evolve match is almost perfect, it is extremely difficult getting into that “perfect” situation. It can take a while to find a match, let a lone a good one. Despite the day one patch that was supposed to address the matter, the loading and matchmaking times of the game are still ridiculously long. Your best bet is to head into the game with a party of friends who all have the same goal and mindset. Otherwise, you’re going to spend a lot of your time waiting to get into matches with people who won’t help promote the kind of multiplayer experience that Turtle Rock envisions with the game. This means that most of the time your Evolve experience is going to be lackluster. Every once in a while though, you will get into that “perfect” game and you will be reminded of just how good this experience can be. That is what keeps you playing.
Another issue I have with the game is the overall lack of content for those who don’t want to spend all of their time online. Where is the campaign? While there are a variety of modes, which all focus on the basic concepts of the hunt mode (tracking and the evolution of the monster), the world of Shear is ripe for exploration and explanation. This world would be perfect for a deep campaign and the evacuation procedure is the perfect setting for a tense and action-packed story. None of that is ever realized. There is no option for solo players other than bot-filled matches. The glimpses of the backstory and character personalities are only provided in mid-match dialog and brief, introduction cut scenes. It is an interesting and beautiful world, but its details seem just out of reach of the player at all times.
The progression system utilized in Evolve is without a doubt, the game’s biggest problem. While it is great in theory, it becomes the experience’s own worst nightmare. Ultimately it becomes the player’s biggest roadblock to experiencing everything that Evolve has to offer. It makes perfect sense that the game rewards you for completing certain tasks and playing your assigned role in matches. It makes sense that your monster attacks level as you use them, as does your mastery of each of the hunters’ tools. Progressing through the mastery levels of all of them is required to unlock other monsters and hunters with their own strategies and tools. What doesn’t make sense is how hard it is for a player to do those things. You don’t necessarily get a chance to level everything with the game’s matchmaking service.
It would be nice to play as that second tier trapper but your chance to play as the first trapper to level them up is inhibited by the matchmaking. That is the issue with all of the classes: you don’t always get the opportunity to experience and explore them online. As a result, you are almost forced to grind through the levels offline while playing with bots. This is actually something that is beneficial early on, as it gives you a chance to learn the ins and outs of each role and map without the pressure of real-life team members, but the amount of time that it takes to actual reach the different character plateaus can feel tedious.
All in all, Evolve is a mixed bag. Turtle Rock has a certain vision for the future of cooperative multiplayer and Evolve gives quick glimpses but not the entire picture. The multiplayer, once everything is opened up and begins “clicking”, is an amazing experience that truly sets the bar for the modern multiplayer experience. You just have to wade through a lot of mediocre matches and experiences to get there. On the other hand, the lack of solo / offline content leaves a lot to be desired as does the troublesome progression system that you have to trudge through to get to the best parts of the game. There are definitely fun times to be had here, you just have to dig a bit to find them.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
If you have been here before, you know the basics: lifelong gamer, father, and of course, certified news monkey. I have been blogging on the industry for close to a decade now, in some form or another. It wasn't until I landed here at Gaming Nexus that I really dove in head first. Now, writing about games has become what I do for fun (and sometimes work) and something I intend on doing until the day I die.
I'm a huge fan of just about everything you can interact with using a controller, no matter how old or new, good or bad. If you put it in front of me, I will play it... end of story.