Evolve Review: Evolve or, well Die
- Developer/Publisher: Turtle Rock Studios/2K
- Platform: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
- PC version tested. Copy purchased by reviewer.
Evolution becomes a very exciting concept in Turtle Rock Studios newest multiplayer first person shooter, Evolve. It envelopes you in a universe that's fun and funny at the same time. It's a great successor to their previous games and a great way to ring off the new year with a bang. Literally.
Spoiler alert, it’s a fun game and it builds upon excellent dynamics set forth in Turtle Rock Studios previous games, and it's quite enjoyable.
Turtle Rock Studios has a winner on its hands for sure. Evolve is fun, it’s exciting, and it has elements that make it unique among its peers.
I can’t be the only person who had nightmares of deadly supernatural creatures when I was a child. That fear eventually evolved (no pun intended!) into more of a fascination with the amazing creatures thanks to the discovery of video games and even being allowed (or sneaking into) darker movies.
Creatures that were once abstract concepts vilified by stories and only created by my (admittedly very vivid at the time) imagination were real to me. I no longer had to be scared as they became static or moving images that I could examine. Whether it’s because of a natural curiosity or some other deeper conundrum, having scary things on a screen only made me more curious as to what the monster was and how and what that monster thinks. Evolve gives you a glimpse into that world by letting you become the monster. To win as the monster you have to think and act like one. Who doesn't want to be the monster every now and then?
To begin, let me tell you what this game reminds me of, and see if that whets your own whistle. To me, it’s a cross between Unreal Tournament and Tribes. The jetpack makes me reminisce about the good ol’ days of playing Tribes and Tribes II with my friends while the outlandish backstories and the character, weapon and even the level design remind of Unreal Tournament 2004.
Evolve thrusts you into the action as soon as the game launches. Immediately you’re pushed into a tutorial on how to play the iconic monster in the game, a tutorial that seems to be designed to show off the graphical prowess of the CryEngine that they've employed and to help indoctrinate you into the destructive power of the monster. This foreshadows what’s to come in the game.
The story of Evolve is surprisingly complete, giving a good back story to prime the gameplay.
You’re part of a team of mercenaries that have been contracted to help evacuate colonies on the planet called Shear. The human colony there has recently been overrun by the savage and perverse flora and fauna that they were there to study, so Earth has apparently sent in the best to hunt down the monsters to allow time to properly evacuate. Interestingly the level of detail of the assets in the beginning cut-scene is rather high, adding a level of immersion and character development that is reminiscent of their last game, Left 4 Dead 2. The story is more than enough to set up the gameplay.
The premise is simple, 4v1 team based combat that’s set in several different alien locales set on the planet Shear. Simple but fun, entertaining and definitely very interesting. The object is simple too, the survivor wins. The four humans have to play together and use their specific skills together in order to track down and kill the monster before the monster’s able to get the jump on you and kills all of you. The depth of the gameplay and the overall atmosphere is absolutely stunning, though. The remnants of human society on this planet combined with the wildlife that responds to your every move as you lurk around and search for your prey, or hide from being hunted. The flora and fauna are very detailed and the maps are varied enough so as to not get boring.
Evolve is fun, as mentioned above, but more than that it’s exciting to play. The audio positioning seems to be spot on and adds a level of immersion that can catch you off guard if you wear headphones like I do. It also helps with the hunting. There’s a real sense of actually being down on this forsaken planet hunting these beasts. Adrenaline pumps and the heart races as you try to outsmart your prey. It can get really creepy at times, with the screams and strange noises of the flora and fauna that really do scare you if you turn it up. You can hear the periodic evolution of the monster as it eats the wildlife around it as well as scared wildlife that can help pinpoint its location.
There is the potential for a lot of action due to the health mechanics of the monster class. That thing has a lot of health, and it takes a bit to actually kill it once you've finally found it. But getting to that point is the most fun part. The action presented is also especially varied due to the destructive environment and the many ways to approach a given problem here. The action itself doesn't get boring, not one bit.
This game rewards true teamwork. If you don’t work together then you’ll inevitably lose. You have to go as a team, no single person stands any chance alone against the monster. You’ll inevitably just end up dying a gruesome and lonely death. It’s scary too.
The monster is most certainly the star of the game, and the ability of the monster to evolve is even the name of the game. There are three playable types of monsters to help liven things up a bit, the Goliath, the Kraken and the Wraith. The relative abilities are the same, but the intricate detail and animations are very different. You can throw rocks, breath fire, jump smash and rush your foes, all in glorious CryEngine rendered detail. It’s rather great that this engine has this much life left in it. It’s decidedly gorgeous still.
There are three stages that the monster can evolve into, giving it more powerful attacks, more health and increased armor. The further along in the evolution of the monster and the longer it’ll take to take it down, and the more devious you’ll have to be in planning to take it down. Just rushing it isn't really much of an option. Bide your time and use that teamwork and it's possible to become the victors in this team deathmatch.
Stealth and planning can actually be very useful elements. If you want to, you can even use the various abilities of the different classes to set up a trap with harpoons and mines in order to attempt to lure it into it.
And boy is it exciting when the fecal matter hits the rotary impeller. All hell can break loose and even the best laid plans can just dissolve into oblivion.
There are two modes, that of Evacuation and Skirmish. Skirmish is played one round at a time and features the same rule set each time. Evacuation You have four different playable classes with multiple playable characters in each.
First is the Assault class, where you can play as Parnell, Hyde or Markov. This class is focused on just what it says, attacking and blowing up things. Each character has unique weapons that have relative strengths and weaknesses as well as appealing to different play styles.
The Trapper class has Abe, Maggie and Griffin. This class is the one that actually has the ability to seek out the monster. Abe gets to use a custom shotgun, stasis grenades, a tracking dart pistol and a mobile arena that can trap the monster in a defined area while Maggie gets a sweet looking machine pistol, harpoon traps, and a pet Trapjaw that can lock onto the scent of the hunted.
The Medic class consists of Caira, Lazarus and Val. Obviously this is the healer class, that’s a very valuable resource.
Then we have the support class, consisting of Cabot, Bucket and Hank. This class has various tools that make keeping your teammates alive easier as well as some heavier firepower.
Each level requires you to accomplish and master certain class specific things before you can progress to that next level. Assault class essentially has to blow stuff up and be accurate about it, the trapper class has to follow the dictates of the trapper abilities, the medic has to heal successfully. That’s an oversimplification though, but definitely the gist of it.
The hunt isn't always fun-filled and action packed all the time, however. There can certainly be plenty of times that tedium takes the spotlight instead. With a good player as a monster, they can effectively avoid the hunting party for quite some time. It can become a bit boring, though not overly so. It gets worse if your team isn't up the task of branching out and trying to explore or if they don’t understand the trapper role that well. The theme of teamwork rings especially true.
The voice communication system is solid enough and works well to try to coordinate your efforts, but if your teammates don’t use it then its just as useless as if it weren't there. I found myself constantly using the treasured jetpack to try to get to vantage points to spot the beast, to no avail.
Sometimes you can’t even find the monster even if you know what you’re doing!
Technical issues were few and far between.
There are also some other niggling issues that could have been ironed out before release. At times the cursor will disappear when a menu is overlaid on top of the screen, or sometimes the cursor appears when I’m in the first person view of my character while in the drop ship. Simple things, but odd. The disappearing cursor actually had me CTRL ALT DELETE to exit the game so I could start over, but that was no big deal in the grand scheme of things. Ultimately, it’s polished as a game that has few graphical or GUI issues. Cryengine is great for that, that was a good choice on their part to use such a scalable and mature graphics engine.
The performance is also pretty good on my PC. I never experienced any graphics issues at all while playing. I've included a chart to demonstrate how it performed whilst battling the monster in one of the maps. Obviously this isn't scientific by any means, but simply a glimpse into the overall performance one can expect. The following was captured running at 1080p on the Very High preset with vsync off. My PC is an Intel 5960x, Gigabyte X99M, 16GB 2666Mhz DDR4, a Samsung 512GB 840 Pro and a Sapphire R290 Lightning.
However, there are the occasional network issues that I've noticed. At times it seems that the lag was absolutely enormous. Without actually measuring it or knowing where my fellow teammates are from, it would seem as if I was connected to a server that was either on the opposite side of the world to me, or there were server side issues themselves. In addition to that it’s been reported by several players that they've been stuck on the team matching screen for some time, though that’s becoming more sparse. Server issues seem to be common among recently released games, whether it's from not adequately preparing for the anticipated load of players or whatever it happens to be. Anyway, the issues will likely be fixed soon.
Evolve is good, really good.
Overall, I like it. Evolve is a good game that challenges you. It’s fun and incredibly entertaining. But, and there’s always a but, it doesn't quite feel like it should cost as much as it does. Remember my reference to Unreal Tournament? Well, it feels as if it’s short full conversion of that game. Though it does feel polished and finished as a whole, it's just that it doesn't quite feel long enough or as if it has enough content to truly justify the cost of the game. That doesn't mean you won't like it. Because you likely will.
Written in conjunction with Ali Naqi.