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The universe Evolve takes place in is a harsh one. It’s a kill-or-be killed, survival-of-the-fittest sort of setting. As with so many works with this sort of gritty science fiction setting, coarse language is often an issue, and Evolve is no different. Some of it, like signs on hunters’ lockers in their dropship, is used to sort of reinforce the universe (“Hyde’s @#$@, Hands off!”) while the rest of it is used as a sort of mid-hunt, adrenaline-pumping expression of dread or fear. All of the typical major four-letter offenders are present. They’re not extremely common, thank goodness, but they do show up from time to time.
For a game based solely around hunting and killing, there’s surprisingly little gore. The monster can feed on fallen wildlife and fallen hunters while projecting some suggestively disgusting sound effects, but there’s no viscera to be concerned about and no notable blood spatters or pools.
One primary topic of concern for many Christians is in the name of the game itself. “Evolving” is a core mechanic of the game. It doesn’t feel in your face or preachy in any way, though. It’s used as more of a “level-up” mechanic, takes only a few seconds, and you move on.
A few of the female hunters, particularly the starting medic Val, have overtly skin tight suits that could be considered suggestive. In my first online match, another random player actually voiced something somewhat crude directed toward the character. For the most part, characters are appropriately dressed and equipped, though.
Evolve is one of the few games I’ve had my eyes on for months. Created by the same folks that brought us the Left 4 Dead series, we’ve known the game would feature asymmetrical 4v1 gameplay. Even after a somewhat rocky Alpha and better solidified Beta, many questioned the quality of the final product. I’m happy to report that I’m quite pleased with the final product.
The story of Evolve is fairly sparse, but we can pick up bits and pieces through the banter of the hunters. The game is set on a distant planet known as Shear. Monsters have recently started attacking human colonies and William Cabot, a tracker and tamer, is brought out of retirement with a crack team of hunters to handle the threats and save the colonies.
The story really only serves the purpose of providing a reason to throw crazy monsters, a variety of hunters, unique locations, and abusive wildlife together. Regardless, it works very well to establish a fun, crazy world to hunt in.
At the core of its gameplay mechanics, Evolve pits four hunters against a single monster in a variety of game types. The hunting party will always consist of four characters, each in a separate vital role. The four roles humans play as are medic, assault, support, and trapper.
Within each class, there are three characters you can play as. You get one from each class to start with and after playing for awhile and leveling up their skills, you’ll unlock the next in line and so on. Even within each role, the specific characters play drastically different. Val, the starting medic, will get a tranquilizer gun, healing gun, and a bolt-action marker rifle while Lazarus, the second medic, gets a cloaking device, “Lazarus” gun to raise fallen comrades, and a semi-auto marker rifle with a much larger clip. It’s fantastic to see the wide range of variety you get from each character while staying within the confines of your single class.
As the monster, you can play one of three separate creatures. Everyone can start off with the ape-like fire-breathing Goliath. After some time spent with him, you will unlock the flying, electric, sea creature-style Kraken. Finally, persistent monster players will be able to unlock Wraith, a stealthy trickster with deadly bladed arms.
Experiencing the wide variety from character to character is refreshing. Regardless of class, you always fill a role no one else on your team can. In the case of the monster, you always pose a deadly threat to everything in your environment. It’s clear Turtle Rock Studios have put a great deal of work into ensuring each character feels unique, fresh, and fun in their own way. They’ve also worked greatly to balance the gameplay so no single setup consistently dominates.
While most folks are likely familiar with the standard 4v1 Hunt mode, there’s actually quite a bit more packed into Evolve. For folks looking to shake things up, you can play Evacuation, a five-mission mini-campaign with varying game types, environmental hazards, and effects which vary from mission to mission. Where Hunt typically takes up to 20 minutes to play, Evacuation can take 45 minutes or more with three additional game modifiers. Nest requires hunters to destroy monster eggs while the monster tries to defend them. Rescue has the hunters rescuing and escorting colonists to dropships as the monster tries to slaughter them. Finally, Defend involves the hunters defending key objectives while the monster and waves of its minions try to take them out.
There’s a wide berth here for folks that don’t like continually doing the same thing over and over again. If you are one of the folks who’s looking forward to a long career as a hunter or monster, though, there’s more than enough here to keep you coming back for quite some time.
While the game is fairly solid overall, my friends and I have experienced a fair deal of issues with the game’s networking functionality. Occasionally, some players will get matched up and be unable to hear each other. I’ve also had the game drop members of a party in the middle of matchmaking. Though these problems can be frustrating from time to time, they still are not substantial enough to deter my recommendation for the game.
One other thing I take umbrage with is the fact that on launch day there were $50 worth of cosmetic DLC in the game’s store. It’s not a huge deal, but it seems unnecessary to have out so early. Folks who invest in every DLC available could spend a great deal on the game when you factor in a season pass and cosmetic items.
Evolve is a great looking game. Each arena on Shear is big and full of wildlife, helping it feel like its own living, breathing place. Characters each have their own unique designs and voice work. The monsters all look and feel alive and furious as well. Visual indicators and effects also help keep the game easily accessible and immersive.
There are a few frustrating things about the game’s visuals that can be frustrating. Much of Shear’s wildlife is aggressive, including even the vegetation. Many of the deadly creatures and plants you’ll face blend in far too well with the world. You could be running through a field of brush and be in the jaws of a carnivorous plant without ever realizing it.
While it’s not without its problems, Evolve is a great title for people looking to get some game time in with other folks. Whether hunter or monster, the well-balanced asymmetrical gameplay is a breath of fresh air. The variety of hunters, monsters, and game modes will keep us coming back for years, especially with the promise of more characters to come.
If you’re averse to interacting with others or you only want a single-player, story driven game, Evolve probably isn’t for you. For anyone looking for a unique multiplayer experience, however, Evolve will keep you returning to Shear time and time again.
The Bottom Line
If you're looking for a good story-driven game, this probably isn't for you. However, if you're looking for a unique multiplayer game with great variety and replay value, look no further.