Evolve: Beating the beast…

Multiplayer gaming has become the bread and butter for many a franchise, so much so that sometimes games appear in which this concept reigns supreme. But in the see of combat shooters that require players to fight off other players, standing out can be a bit of a task. However, Turtle Rock’s Evolve is a game that not only manages to cast a very different light on the idea of multiplayer gaming, it does so with tons of style and forethought. It does bear mentioning that there were a lot of mixed feelings coming out of Evolve’s Beta. Many felt that the premise of the game was unbalanced and flawed, but the time between the Beta and the final product has definitely seen the game change for the better. What sets Evolve apart is that it effectively makes use of an idea that can be extremely tricky: asymmetrical multiplayer. It’s much simpler to take a 4v4 game, or any other game that has the same kinds of numbers on both sides, and balance it properly. But when you’re dealing with 4V1, things get a lot trickier. To this end, Evolve does things rather well. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves; first, let’s look at the setting that makes this kind of game dynamic possible in the first place.

The planet Shear is plagued by lots of dangerous wildlife, but the worst of these are behemothic monsters that roam the landscape, preying on human settlers and destroying their facilities. The situation is so bad, in fact, that Shear is being evacuated. But just because the humans are leaving doesn’t mean that the monsters are backing down. Covering their escape is vital, and to this end, teams of hunters are dispatched to the planet’s surface to fight off the monsters while the survivors escape. And here lies the core of the game’s idea. Four players take on the role of hunters, while a fifth player controls the monster they are after.

In essence it’s a good idea, but the potential pitfalls are many. However, Turtle Rock made sure that the game worked by adding elements to each party that make things a little less simple. Let’s look at the monster first: this creature, of which there are three varieties that get unlocked as the player progresses, lends the game its title. By feeding on wildlife to be found on the lush and expansive maps, the monster not only heals itself, but it gains points towards evolving into a bigger, meaner killing machine. A stage one monster is pretty easy to take down, but a creature that has reached stage three is almost unstoppable. Each stage of evolution gives the monster new or more powerful abilities. The player controlling the monster will need to make use of all the creatures’ abilities like climbing, sneaking and sniffing out prey to progress, while being careful not to give the hunters too many clues to its location early on. These clues include things like birds scared into flight and other tell-tale signs.

On the other side of the fight we have the hunters. This four member team has four distinct roles, in the form of the hunter (who supplies the heavy fire power) the medic (who heals the hunters and weakens the monster) the trapper (who slows the monster down and provides barriers to its movement) and the support specialist (who buffs hunter armour and supplies some tremendously heavy fire power). Each team is comprised of these four players cannot elect to have a team made up of four hunters, for example. The careful balance needs to be maintained by the players. A team in which just one of these roles is ineffectively handled is on the back foot against the monster, making team communication and persistent co-operation crucial to success.

The end result is a game that is surprisingly tactical, well balanced and lots of fun to play, if multiplayer is your thing. There is a single player aspect to the game, but the only difference here is that roles not filled in by players are controlled by very skilful and clever bots. On the upside, playing the single player game will help the player progress and unlock new elements in the multiplayer mode too… progress is perpetual in Evolve.

The setting is the sixth star of the show; Shear is rich and complex, with wildlife and plant-life aplenty. The terrains are generally rough and inhospitable, making each of the massive levels another important element in each side’s quest for victory.

Evolve offers numerous game modes, like standard hunts or defence missions, even rescue missions in which hunters needs to rescue survivors before the monster gets to them. Players can also engage in mini campaigns, which will string a number of these different modes together. Whoever wins each mission will find benefits in the following one, creating a longer game in which success and failure have palpable effects on the ongoing game.

It would have been great, though, if the game featured a stronger single player element. Many shooters still use the single player idea to draw people in, and Evolve would have benefitted from single player gaming that wasn’t merely a bot-controlled clone of the multiplayer action. Additionally, even though it has great presentation, Evolve has the most basic of plots… inclusion of a single player campaign could have made the game intriguing as well as lots of fun.

With good graphics and a decent control set, not to mention entertaining voice acting and a very solid concept, Evolve has a lot going for it. The downside to the game is that progression is slow, and until the player has unlocked numerous new characters and elements in the game, its full potential is a little stunted. It may take a long time to get those unlocks, as the player needs to jump through various hoops ingame to achieve them. But as more becomes available to the player, Evolve gets even better.

This game certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. If multiplayer isn’t your thing, then Evolve is one to avoid. But if you enjoy co-operative and competitive play, and think the idea of an asymmetrical approach is really cool, then there is nothing you’d rather want to be playing. Turtle Rock have done an excellent job in creating a game that rewards clever, strategic play, and they have gone a long way to showing us all that multiplayer gaming doesn’t always need to be what appears to be a fair fight off the bat. A campaign for those who enjoy single player gaming, or even a plot that was a little deeper than what Evolve presents would have been great additions to the game, but even without those elements, Evolve serves as a great option for the ever growing online multiplayer community.

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