Evolve: What friends are for - Games Weekly

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Evolve: What friends are for

This Is a tale of two games. On the one hand you have an accomplished, if lightweight, squad-based shooter with a unique hook. On the other, you have an unbalanced, unkempt solo shooter that’s near enough impossible to win and impossible to truly enjoy it’s confusing, really. Evolve is a game that relies entirely on other people doing what they’re supposed to do, and as you know, this basically never happens when you’re playing online. However, we appreciate that this isn’t the fairest of criticisms, as 2K didn't invent idiots. And for all its flaws, there are some really fun elements to enjoy in Evolve if you know where to look.

The concept itself is great, pitting four humans with specific roles against a fifth player as a monster. Much has been said before now about the three stages of evolution that the monster goes through (the clue is in the name), and these are reached by eating the vast swathes of wildlife that inhabit the game’s overgrown, irrepressible jungle environments. Due to the monster’s relative weakness whilst at Stage One, the hunters need to get to it quickly and destroy the bugger before it grows any larger.

This poses problems. On the one hand, a good monster player can make it near enough impossible for the hunters to catch up with it, resulting in ten minutes of running around aimlessly in the jungle before the monster returns in its strongest form, which simply becomes boring after a few hours. On the other hand, a poor monster player can often be found by the hunters at Stage One, and it’s game over before any of the fun really begins. This game is at its frantic best when the monster is at full power and the four hunters have to really work together to bring it down, and so delaying this scenario with some predictable cat-and-mouse shenanigans seems ill thought-out. It’s a great idea on paper, but sloppily executed.
This is, of course, assuming that you’re sticking to Hunt mode. If you pick Evacuation, you’re thrust into a mini campaign that lasts five rounds, each sporting a different game type. We found Defend to be the most interesting, as the monster starts the round at Stage Three, and has a host of annoying helpers with it.

There is a pretty robust levelling system at work, too. Perks are unlocked as you level up, and they can be used for each of the characters. Each class sports three different characters, each with different weapons and play styles. It’s surprisingly deep, really, and you will find yourself becoming something of a specialist with certain characters as you rack up the hours.

When you get into combat you have more of a chance to experiment with each of the hunters’ abilities, and there is quite a substantial range. Experimenting with each of the classes, we found the shooting mechanics to be pretty decent, and when you do your job properly as, say, the Medicor the Trapper, it can be genuinely satisfying. It’s when others don’t do their jobs that things go really wrong, and that’s something that’s totally out of anyone’s control it’s just an unavoidable trap that Evolve falls right into and suffers for.

The fact that the game is near enough unplayable if you’re on a team of idiots not doing what they’re supposed to (or playing with the awful AI) is symptomatic of the unfortunate balancing issues that are at the heart of Evolve, and this is never more apparent than when you come up against the Wraith. If you're a Monster player, picking the Wraith is essentially picking Easy mode. It’s like a cheat.

These balancing issues extend to the human characters as well, but despite their conspicuous nature, they still fail to ruin Evolve completely.This is a game that can be praised for its concept for its courage, really. It’s refreshing to sit down and play a shooter with some new ideas, but said ideas just need to be tightened up. Whether or not patches can fix certain issues remains to be seen, but there is a frame work here that could become something great going forward.

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