Note: Our Evolve review was conducted on the Xbox One via a copy purchased independently by the reviewer.
Evolve is a curious game that’s built upon a fantastic idea: a sci-fi take on a Godzilla-esuqe hunter vs. hunted scenario complete with high-stakes strategic gameplay.
But as we’ve seen in the past, fantastic ideas have a way of losing sight of their core goals, becoming something quite different when made a reality. Evolve is a prime example of a great idea that lost a lot of its magic during execution.
The main problem with Evolve is that it makes players gamble with their time. There’s no guarantee you’ll enjoy yourself while playing, and that’s quite true with just about any game, but it’s moreso true here.
This is mainly because the game’s steep learning curve, its emphasis on teamwork, and the wildly varying pace.
As a monster, you’re lone-wolfing it and are pretty much responsible for your own survival. Basically you want to hunt down as many creatures as you can and trigger evolution as quick as possible while avoiding hunters along the way.
Every premature encounter lowers your odds in winning, and while there is some pretty good tutorials, it’s up to you to figure out which skill combos work in which situations.
Panicking almost always leads in death–especially with the Goliath–but gameplay can get pretty entertaining if you’re lashing lightning blasts with the Kraken or slicing and dicing with the Wraith.
Every match is a clean slate for the monsters. You get to pick which skills you want to use and allocate three points before the match. You’ll want to pay attention to the hunters that you’re facing and match your skills accordingly–like if Bucket is an enemy, pick up the Goliath’s stone throw so you can easily take out his pesky sentry guns.
Ultimately as the monster you have to find successful ways to outwit, outmaneuver, and out-hunt your opponents, all while paying close attention to the tracks you leave and chomping on wildlife to fuel your evolution.
As interesting as this sounds, playing as the monster can often be pretty menial and rote, and sometimes you’ll find yourself asking why you’re playing to begin with. Victory just means you get more points to spend in a light RPG like progression system, unlocking perks and more monsters along the way.
Seeing as your main goal is to literally avoid hunters until you hit Stage 3 for the final chaotic showdown. In a sense, Evolve is kind of like the Dragonball Z saga: there’s a ton of talking and commercials that culminate in a short fight, where the powers clash.
When you’re playing as the monster, there can be a sense of urgency and danger. But this feeling fades away as you explore the rather drag environments–despite the “interactive wildlife”, everything seems so tacked on–and start to feed.
Maneuvering and controls vary from monster to monster; the Kraken, for example, can float and wisp along in the air, whereas the Goliath is primarily ground-based. The Goliath can leap and climb quite adeptly, but he’s not so fast when you need to get out of an area in a pinch.
The Wraith is my personal favorite; it’s snake-like and oily, using a variety of deadly skills like the dreaded Supernova and basic melee slices to dish out chaos. Plus the Wraith also has a decoy ability that’s amazing fun, even if it’s a bit broken.
How much you get out of being a monster just depends on how crafty you are and how well you adapt to your surroundings and pick up on new strategies. But the novelty, like the thrill of the hunt, seems to wear off fast, letting the mediocre shooter elements shine through.
When you’re playing as a hunter, there’s a distinct heavy emphasis on teamwork and knowing your role and sticking to it. Now FPS mechanics are in play here, but they take a backseat to team-oriented strategy with defined roles like Trappers, Medics, Assault and Support classes.
Trappers are responsible for dropping domes and laying out hook traps then dealing some DPS when possible; Assault classes are simply wreaking total chaos as the main DPS/tank; Support pays close attention on mitigating damage whenever possible with the shield projector and using cloak to hide and revive teammates; the Medic heals with a medgun, burst heal, or even heal grenades.
The beauty of the classes is that there are three different sub-classes, or characters, that each have their own unique weapons and abilities. The principle role still stands, but there’s a number of different ways going about it thanks to the sub-classes.