By Michael Stoll 14 April 2017
Top Line: Evolve is a Left-4-Dead style co-op monster hunt with a few good ideas balanced out by a few bad ones, and the overwhelming variety of stuff can make the game prohibitively difficult to jump into. 2.5/5.
Whenever games with enormous casts of playable characters come out, I always look at them in the light of a few choice franchises, specifically in the following frames: On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the Dynasty Warriors series, how much variety is there between characters’ playstyles? On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being Overwatch, how fun and interesting are the characters? And, on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being a completely fictitious game I can’t think of, how well balanced are all the characters?
Turtle Rock’s Evolve, which is available until April 15th for free on Xbox Live’s Games with Gold, has a cast of 24 playable human characters and 7 playable monsters. So, when looking at Evolve, the first thing to do is judge the characters. How much variety is there? While some characters are just reskins of other characters, there’s only one of those per class, so in total there are 20 completely unique hunters and 5 unique monsters. This is one of the game’s strongest points. Each character plays and feels differently from the others. Each character has 4 abilities, 1 of which is shared with other members of their class (i.e. Assault, Hunter, Medic, Support), and the other 3 of which are unique to the character. This makes for a varied and unique experience just about every time you boot up the game. Next question, how fun and interesting are the characters? As unique as they are from one another, most of the characters are pretty bland. Outside of a few select characters (EMET, Jack, and Hyde come to mind), the other characters are all kind of…dull. Now, getting into gameplay mechanics, how balanced are the characters? Not very, at all. Even though I loved having EMET on my team for his quotes, he was about as useful as having a sentient trashcan in the field. Lennox, on the other hand, who I was best suited for, was unreasonably powerful, at least compared to other assault classes.
But let’s get into the monsters. They’re all pretty cool looking, with about as much character development or variety as one can hope for in a game like this. Balance-wise, though? It’s honestly hard to tell. I played the game for about 6 hours and played as 3 of the monsters, in a solo lobby. I got destroyed every time. This is one of my issues with the game, as compared to Overwatch, which has a training room to learn each character’s abilities and bot lobbies to test yourself, Evolve throws you in the deep end. There’s a brief Assault-class tutorial and a one monster tutorial and then you’re on your own. And learning how to play the monster well is very challenging, because the 30-second tutorial video at the beginning of a round the first time you use a character/monster is just not enough time to learn. Ultimately I didn’t have the patience to try and figure it out, because it just wasn’t fun getting steamrolled by hunters several times until I got good, as playing with the monsters don’t offer much of a narrative outside of “Kill human eat meat grow big.” Learning to play any Hunter besides Markov was the same way; a 30-second video and then the deep end. Granted, the Hunters were a little easier to get the hang of in a game or two.
Enough about characters though, let’s get to the nitty-gritty. How’s the game? Well, the mechanics are sound, and each character’s weapon and ability set was fun to play around with, even if some of the might as well have been a set of pool noodles (looking at you, EMET). And the battles with the monsters are exciting and fun, and the hunts are tense. On top of the core mechanic of hunting and killing the monster, the game offers several game types, as well as a quasi-story mode, reminiscent of Battlefront II’s Galactic Conquest mode, but with more options for battle types. However, all the different battle types fail to truly break away from the core mechanic. Regardless of what mission or level is being done (except Defend mode), pretty much every game type comes down to a Monster vs. Hunter deathmatch. I think in my 6 hours of playing I had one match determined by an objective victory rather than having one team die. So, while there are several game modes, in practice there’s really only 2: Hunt and Defend.
Bottom Line: I give Evolve a 2.5/5. The characters, while unique, are usually bland and fairly poorly balanced. Learning to play as every character in order to learn who the player is best with takes a long time, and the game didn’t have enough in it for me to want to spend the time learning. The game types pretty much always end up the same way, but the core mechanics are solid and functional.
All images in this review are from the Evolve Facebook page.