I went into my review of Turtle Rock’s Evolve questioning how replayable a seemingly barebones multiplayer offering would be. I knew I wouldn’t be able to swap between several loadouts in-game or customize my character’s armor after each round. I also knew I would spend more time on tactical actions than head-on combat. Whether or not Evolve’s core experience would be rewarding and replayable after several hours as the various Hunter classes and Monsters was the main question I searched for to justify the game’s price-point of $60. (Quick aside: We benchmarked Evolve here, for those curious about which video cards are best for the game).
I’ve come out appreciating how the game strengthens its core experience and offers players the ability to do more with fewer tools than, for example, a Battlefield or Call of Duty game. Evolve offers rewards for trying out new ways of using its characters’ weapons and abilities, rather than tie players to class-specific roles in every detail. I’m still struggling to feel as rewarded with the Monsters as I am with the Hunters, but the game keeps encouraging me to take on that challenge. It’s a challenge few games provided in a multiplayer space, and it’s something that can appeal to noncompetitive audiences.
Evolve is an asymmetrical hybrid of first-person shooter, MOBA, and first-person action elements, reminiscent of Left 4 Dead. The game pits four role-specific Hunters against a powerful Monster that can exploit the surrounding wildlife to gain armor and evolve into a stronger opponent. Players compete in five modes, including Hunt, Nest, Rescue, Defend, and Evacuation – which combines the four previous mode into a five-part mode. Evolve runs as a single player offline experience and online as PVP.
Setting up a Game
I’ll quickly go over how to set up Evolve since it differs from multiplayer FPS games. A game in Evolve is one round of a selected mode (Hunt, Nest, Rescue, Defend, or the all-encompassing Evacuation). For each round, the player selects his class – Assault, Support, Medic, Trapper, or one of the Monsters – and between rounds, if in the same party, the player can choose his class preferences so that he can potentially switch from Assault to Medic or Trapper to the Monster. This ability encourages people to stay in their given party and try out the different classes with each other; however, at least based on my week-1 experience, if someone bounces from the matchmaking lobby, then the whole party is bounced. I’ll talk about this more toward the end of my review.
Below I break down my experience of playing with the different Hunter classes.
Evolve’s classes differentiate in their core roles, but they also differentiate just as much within the classes. Characters in the same class will have different weapons and abilities, but their core roles will be the same. That said, the default loadouts for a character in any class are diverse enough so that anyone can find an enjoyable way to be successful with that class.
Evolve’s day-1 release comes with four playable Hunters, with four more that can be unlocked. Turtle Rock will release additional hunters as DLC.
Assault (default character Markov)
The Assault class has the most up-front time against the Monster. Assault doesn’t have a typical “Tank” amount of health, so the player can be crafty and, for example, lay down mines once the team detects the nearby Monster. Like the rest of his team, he can play from a longer range and lay down fire while jetpacking from point-to-point.
That said, I found it fun as Markov to equip my personal shield and attack the Monster head-on. This is also useful as a distraction for the rest of your team; they can get away from the carnage and can support the Assault with shield & health buffing.
Support (default character Hank)
Support characters take on the responsibility of buffing the team with shields – something that, unlike health in most cases, regenerates over time. The Support’s shield gun usually extends buffing at a lengthy range, meaning Support doesn’t have to follow teammates too closely.
Support is my favorite class in Evolve because it lets me be a badass in a few ways: Support can frustrate a Monster by constantly buffing someone it’s constantly hitting, and he can do so from a comfortable distance while jetpacking around. If supported by a Medic, he can replace Assault and fire on the Monster from closer range. The class’s deployables are also some of my favorite in the game – in particular, Hank’s orbital strike.
Medic (default character Val)
Evolve’s Medic functions a little like the one from TF2, but with more versatility. The Medic supports the team in two primary ways. First, she provides healing support with her med gun; like Support, this is something she can perform at a distance. Second, she uses her sniper rifle to damage the Monster and identify to her team a target on the Monster’s body that’s more vulnerable to their fire.
The Medic perhaps does the least amount of damage, but she still makes for a fun class. It’s one that requires a lot of movement, primarily in order to get a good sniped shot on the Monster, wear the Monster down in other ways (such as slowing it down with a tranquilizer dart), and to continue to heal the team. The main caveat is that the Medic is the first target the Monster wants to take down, so players are best off keeping to a mid-to-long-range distance.
Trapper (default character Maggie)
The Trapper hinders the Monster by surprise with traps and detection deployables. Primarily in Hunt mode, Trappers must deploy a Mobile Arena that contains the battle in a small enough environment to corner the Monster.
Maggie, the first available Trapper, actually comes with a Trapjaw, a critter that primarily tracks the Monster’s footprints and sounds but can also heal incapacitated Hunters. That said, I actually found this the least desirable of the initial characters for each class. The Trapjaw takes time to put players on the right path to finding the Monster – meaning the Monster could flee its last known location – and Maggie’s own machine pistol and harpoon traps are not strong enough to significantly damage the Monster on their own.
Evolve starts players off with Goliath as the one playable Monster. Players will likely have an easier time learning the Monster gamplay dynamic with Goliath than Kraken or Wraith, and because the player’s situational actions hold more weight with the Monster than with the four-player Hunter team, they will be able to learn about the game faster the more they play through several rounds as Goliath.
Playing as a Monster is always challenging, and for the first several rounds, it can be frustrating. I say this because, despite equating four Hunters, the player cannot rely on the Monster’s abilities alone to be successful. I look at the Monster like a real-time strategy game: you want to build powerful units (for Evolve, this is abilities), but the timing and order in which you build them (activity in between battle) is equally important. Using the Hunt mode – as it zeroes in on the core gameplay the best – the Monster must consume wildlife to gain armor, attempt to incapacitate and kill a Hunter (in most cases, the Medic first), evolve to gain back some health and pad its abilities, gain more armor, attack again, and evolve again. This is just a sample of a player’s strategy, but as I’ve experienced, the game requires the Monster to make many quick decisions away from its skirmishes.
Below I describe the specific classes.
Goliath has the most max health of the three monsters, pairing with his mostly-melee combat style. Despite being a ground-based creature, he can easily scale the map by climbing and bounding around. This can lead to more strategic executions for a couple of his abilities – including throwing a boulder onto enemies and leaping in the air to deal a small-radius, but punishing amount of damage.
Kraken offers some maneuvering and attack variation from Goliath, but with only a little less maximum health than Goliath, players can still enjoy melee combat frequently. He gets around the battlefield on foot and by flying, and when in the air, he can still attack Hunters & wildlife by shooting out projectiles. Kraken’s abilities also vary from close to long range, so he can tactically set up mines to trick his opponents, or he can take out a fleeing Hunter with a ranged Lightning Strike. The one criticism I have for Kraken is that his flying speed seems a little slower than Goliath's bounding speed. Kraken can burst while in midair, but that doesn't get him away from battle easily.
I did not unlock Wraith in my playthrough for this review, but I can recap my playthrough experience with her at Turtle Rock's Wraith unveiling two months ago. Wraith’s health is significantly lower than Goliath’s and even Kraken’s, so players have to employ her stealth movements & abilities in order to strike at the right time. She offers a couple attacks that can be used in closer combat with Supernova and even Warp Blast, but otherwise, players may want to use stealth tactics and isolate enemies one by one. She indeed requires a patient player, but she’s fun once finishing off a Hunter with an Abduction
Player Progression, Perks, and States
Evolve’s player progression system values the player learning to effectively use each of the Monster’s skills. After each round, the score screen presents the player’s progress toward doing a set amount of damage with an ability or using that ability a set number of times. Upon completing each of the progression slots, the player will unlock a new character. Completing other achievements through the progression system will unlock perks, such as increased damage and damage resistance, smelling range, jetpack regeneration rate, etc. Overall, this a compelling experience for the player – not only to unlock new characters in the game, but also to learn how to use each ability most effectively, especially if the player wants to get good in a primarily online-based game.
Evolve also has a thorough stats menu that breaks-down a player’s ranking across each class & character, the player’s progression with each character, as well as the various awards and accolades earned with that character.
Evolve has four different game modes and a fifth mode that encompasses the other four modes in a five-round-long affair. Here’s a quick breakdown of the modes’ objectives:
Hunt: Find and kill the Monster/kill the Hunters or the Power Generator. Hunt seems like the most straightforward of the four core game modes, but it can also take the longest. It’s a fun cat-and-mouse game that can turn its tide once the Monster evolves to Level 2 or 3.
Nest: Destroy the six Monster eggs/kill all Hunters before they destroy all six eggs. Nest is a mode that might actually require players to stick together as much as other modes. That’s because the amount of health for each egg requires several deployed special abilities. That said, Hunters can also split up to take out multiple eggs at once, especially if they know the Monster would take too much time getting from one protected egg to another. One criticism of note I experienced with the offline version was that the Monster had almost no time to armor up before it was attacked.
Rescue: Safely guide five survivors to the extraction point/kill five survivors. The Hunters have a more predictable movement pattern as they escort survivors to the extraction point.
Monsters have to determine the right time to strike and benefit from isolating the survivor as much as possible, especially from a Medic and Support. Though weaker than Hunters, Survivors can also damage the Monster.
Defend: Prevent the fully-evolved Monster & Minions from destroying the power generators/Destroy the power generators.
The Monster can partner up with his Minions to destroy a generator, or he can let them handle one while he takes out the other. The Minions mostly damage the generator up-close, so this gives the Monster some leeway for mixing up his attack tactics – even allowing him to distract the Hunters while the generator turrets try to take out the Minions.
Evacuation: Compete in five modes. Succeed more than the opposition across the five modes (measured by survivors saved/killed).
Evacuation always starts with a Hunt and ends with a Defend (with the Monster fully evolved). At the end of each round, the losing side picks between two game modes (i.e. a Nest and a Rescue) to be played next, but the winning side receives a benefit that could give them a tactical edge. However, to even things out, the game’s engine balances the difficulty in favor of the losing side.
Continue to the final page for criticism and analysis.