Published on February 24th, 2015 | by gareth0
Following up a game as popular and successful as Left 4 Dead is not an easy task. Then add into the mix having your studio closed by your new owners, reopened as a casual studio, having the publisher of your next big game go Bankrupt and then dealing with the huge expectations for your latest project; and you see the task facing Turtle Rock Studios.
Turtle Rock Studios and 2K have combined to give gamers EVOLVE, a game that takes the co-op gameplay aspects of Left 4 Dead and throws in some new wrinkles and features thanks in large part to the increased power of the next generation of gaming consoles and the versatility and power of gaming PCs.
The game is set on a distant planet named Shear where giant and deadly creatures are threatening the established colonies to the point where an evacuation is being planned. As such a team of expert hunters is assigned to locate and eliminate the creatures posing the threat and as such players play as one of four classes, Assault, Trapper, Medic, and Support. Each class has weapons and abilities specific to their role and as player’s progress; they will unlock other characters in the various classes each with their own weapons and abilities which gives players far more options than simply having to play the same class in a new characters but with the same weapons and abilities.
The game also allows players to play as the monster and they will gain size and abilities as they consume the abundant local wildlife and “evolve” into a larger and more dangerous threat. Naturally as players gain experience, they will gain new abilities and even more weapons to use against the hunters.
Players have the option to play with friends, bots, or be randomly matched and there are various gameplay modes such as hunting, rescuing survivors, and defending an installation. There is also an Evacuation mode which tasks players to survive and complete various missions in a connected campaign where what they do or do not do over the missions will change options that are available to them. For example, players who are able to defend a power station will have gun emplacements available to them in the next mission. Failure to save the power plant will result I a toxic cloud being released which will harm the others. Other failures in this mode can result in the local wildlife becoming even more dangerous and aggressive which is not something you want to deal with when tracking the monster.
Playing on the PC version of the game I was impressed by the smooth frame rate and the lush and detailed environment in which I played. It was very easy finding others to play with and the system did a good job of matching players according to their level for the most part.
Shear is a very lush and dangerous world filled with all sorts of animals and plants who have no problem taking a bit out of you and party.
It is vital to work as a team, as lone wolf players rarely survive long, and as such the key is getting good players around you. I have had the misfortune to be teamed with players who do not come to your aid, who wander off and do their own thing, and ignore your suggestions for strategies. This usually results in a frustrating defeat.
I have also worked with a random team that was very helping of one another and while we endured some losses in early missions we rebounded well to complete the last two missions of the Evacuation mode and see a successful conclusion.
The players are fairly easy to control and anyone who has played Titanfall or Call of Duty: Advanced warfare will have a leg up in using the jet packs to jump and glide in combat and when navigating up and across terrain and obstacles.
Playing as the monster can be rewarding and also a challenge as knowing when the best time to stop running and attack the hunters is a key and also if you should stop evolving at level 3 and try to destroy various objects to win or try to evolve to the max levels.
As with the players, the success or failure of a mission can depend on how well the person playing the monster is. A novice with little skill tends to make for an unsatisfactory hunt while a seasoned player with good abilities can often present a frustrating challenge as many times the monster can appear to be overpowering. I can remember a recent mission where my team unloaded on the creature on three different exchanges and had their armor and health depleted. Pressing on the attack a few minutes later, the creature was able to take down the entire team in a matter of seconds despite being able to handle us in the early and much longer exchanges.
The weapons are painstakingly slow on the big guy as dart guns, fusion cutters, and lightning guns work well on the local wildlife but tend to not do much unless part of a joined and sustained attack. I remember one battle where I was unloading on the creature over and over, swapping weapons when one needed to recharge and the other needed to reload. Despite scoring hit after hit the creature was not taking any devastating damage and continued to ignore me while taking out other members of the team before giving me his full attention.
This is where running away can be a good thing as when hunters fall and you are unable to revive them, they can return to the battle when a drop ship returns which is indicated by a countdown on the screen.
The characters are diverse and interesting and have some great lines but after playing the Big Alpha, Beta, and some early access, I found that I was ready for some new lines and characters by the time the final release came out.
Evolve is a game that will be different things to different people. Some will bemoan the lack of a traditional campaign while others will want more powerful weapons and balance.
If you’re happy playing a game that is at its core an online co-op game then Evolve is a game you will want to play. If you’re someone who needs a structured and lengthy campaign with multiple locales, then Evolve may not be to your liking.
Some gamers have complained about the amount of DLC that was available at launch stating that some of it should have been included in the final game. My take on DLC is pretty straight forward and you can see it here. That being said, taking Evolve for what it is rather that what it is not, it is a very beautiful and action filled game that will present plenty of fun and challenges along the way for gamers. What you ultimately do with the game is largely up to the players as they will find the gameplay style, customizations, and characters that work best for them.
I am curious what the future will bring for the series as I would not mind seeing new characters, weapons and scenarios but for now, what is available is highly enjoyable and challenging.
4 stars out of 5.