From Left 4 Dead developer Turtle Rock Studios’, Evolve has big shoes to fill. During my time with the monster-hunting first-person shooter, I’ve stepped into the role of each of the hunters, played as every monster, and enjoyed every single minute of it; apart from when I ended up with a team of hunters that are completely new and don’t understand that Evolve is all about teamwork. At its core, Evolve is about gaming with friends, which could be seen as a disadvantage when your mates aren’t online but actually a huge advantage if you’re a fan of games that require a tactical approach and communication.
Evolve involves stepping into one of the hunter’s shoes, or that of the big, hulking beast ready to eat anything for a snack. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time with each, favouring the assault class over the others and leaned towards Goliath as my monster of choice as he’s a well-balanced beast that can tackle most situations.
Unless you are in a group of five, players are placed on the hunter side as monsters seem more reserved for the lone wolf. Stepping into one of four roles: Assault, Medic, Trapper and Support, each plays a vital role in being able to take down a monster in any situation. There are 12 hunters available, with 3 different type of hunters per class, which are unlocked by doing certain things like dealing damage to a monster with a certain weapon or following certain tasks. This type of progression can feel fulfilling, though sometimes it feels a little mundane – as unlocking the third tier on many of the hunters requires a considerable amount of time being put into raising stats. I can see most people just unlocking the third tier for their favourite hunter class, rather than all of them.
Assault being my favourite class to play is tasked with being the "tank" of the group and is usually equipped with shields and most of the heavy weaponry from mini-guns, rocket launchers and flamers. They will want to have most of the attention of the monster on them to distract him from the other team-mates. When I have been the only hunter alive taking on the monster and winning by the skin of my teeth, it’s fantastic fun; on your tip-toe type moments that have you wanting to jump straight back in for more.
The Assault hunter is nothing without the Medic, who is tasked with mainly keeping everyone alive; though don’t be thinking it doesn’t come with a host of great weapons to cause a headache to any monster that treads near them. Equipped with bullets that can slow the monster’s movement, instant revive, healing and so on, they are a vital part to any great squad. A great example is Parnell who comes with the super soldier ability which drains health but gives a pretty darn big boost to your damage output. Couple that with a sweet medic and you have one hell of a winning combo.
The other classes include The Trapper, tasked with tracking and hunting the monster with whatever tools are at their disposal. Each tiered Trapper has a range of different abilities at their disposal. The first gets a lovely looking creature, depending on how you look at it, called Daisy who is a Trapjaw that follows the scent of the monster. Or how about stepping into the shoes of Bucket equipped with some friendly drones that will cause a headache to any monster coming within their line of sight.
Last and by no means least is the Support hunter, coming with some pretty heavy guns to play with along with fantastic abilities like calling in an air strike (never will it get old!) and forming a shield for your comrades. The Support does seem to fall into a long range, stay out of the way from the monster type hunter, but don’t let that put you in a false sense of safety as anyone who plays the monster can turn and demolish you.
Which leads us to the monsters. Of course more hunters and monsters are planned in the future, adding to the already great variety at launch. First up is Goliath. Most people stepping into the shoes of the monster the first time will be somewhat forced to take on the hunters with Goliath. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing because Goliath is a good, all-round balanced beast that can take on a group of well organized hunters pretty darn well. The only thing I’d likely bring up here is how on the hunters side you have the choice of four from the get go but only one monster. The game does open up pretty fast for the second tier of unlocks.
Each monster comes with a whole host of abilities. Goliath is a fire-breathing giant with the ability to fling a huge chunk of earth at someone’s face, which is truly satisfying when you catch them mid-air. Goliath does come across as a somewhat "upgraded" tank from Left 4 Dead, which is by no means a bad thing. Being able to tank damage and rip apart hunters in great style, it really is enthralling to be this huge beast. Before pointing out the other two I should say that the aim of a monster is to hunt food, eat and then "evolve" into a higher level, which brings with it extra health, armour and extra damage.
Other monsters include Wrath and Kraken. Both are equally scary and vastly different from each other. I can see plenty of gamers out there coming up with all sort of strategies with any of the monsters. If you take on Kraken will you leave little surprises with your Banshee mines or perhaps cause havoc with the lightning strikes while you float about like a menacing titan. Then there is Wrath who has possibly the lowest health out of the three but that doesn’t mean it is weak. I still remember booting the game up first time and coming face to face with Wrath as it teleported to me, grabbed and whipped me away in order to slash me to bits. I love the fact there is vastly different techniques and strategies needed for each monster as it gives the game an awesome amount of depth and replay-ability.
Evolve is mostly a multiplayer focused title, but there is something of a "singleplayer" mode tacked on. I can see it being good for people that want to get to grips with the game, or just want to chill playing whoever they want. After completing each round there is an effect on the map. If the hunters were to lose round one, for instance, this could equal the monster getting plants in the next level that restores health or cloud cover so it makes it harder to spot. Though on the opposite side of this, if the monster were to lose hunters they could then get health pods, extra armour on turrets or even teleport terminals. It changes all the time and adds that nice element of surprise — the only thing I wish was that all this stacked, because after each level the effect from the previous match doesn’t carry over, which some may feel could be overpowering, but I feel it could just add to a great game being even greater.
Taking all this mayhem into account, the game handles exceedingly well, with the DualShock 4 controller feeling comfortable as always. Jump down to your fate as a hunter or go on a rampant warpath as a monster and you can expect to find no loss of controls. I would like to mention though that it does somewhat feel more intuitive with a controller for the monster, likely due to how they handle with in third-person, where as the hunters are first person. The only odd thing was sometimes – and this was near the start of launch – is Goliath would take off into the air by getting stuck on some terrain, though it seems resolved as it hasn’t happened in the past week. It did provide a great bit of laughter though and a scare to those playing as hunters at the time.
With everything neatly packaged into the powerful CryEngine its no wonder the game looks damn impressive. Foliage is always something that CryEngine has excelled at and it makes the maps on Evolve look very detailed with every little tree, bush and random wildlife having its fair share of attention. Even the details on the monsters skins have had subtle attention to make everything stand out and look impressive. The audio is impressive too as you listen out for any mere footstep of the monsters, or shuddering when you hear the horrifying stomping sound when the monster fully evolves.
With its balanced class-based, teamwork orientated gameplay, great graphics and slick mechanics that keep you playing into the wee hours of the night, Evolve itches that competitive urge and feels a lot more evolved that your standard, run-of-the-mill shooter.