Evolve doesn’t have a cam­paign as such, but it does of­fer up Evac­u­a­tion, a five-round wrap­per for the four modes that, thanks to the glut of bonus XP at the end, is the best way to level up. Its gim­mick is that ev­ery round won tips the game bal­ance in favour of the los­ing side, but of­fers a perk to the win­ner that car­ries over into sub­se­quent matches. A hunter win may un­lock an NPC sol­dier to join the team, for ex­am­ple, while mon­ster vic­to­ries could flood the map with easy food, or poi­sonous gas. It’s all capped off with a round of De­fend, where the hun­ters try to pro­tect a fu­elling es­cape ship. Tur­tle Rock boasts of 800,000 vari­ants of buffs, maps and modes, and while many dif­fer­ences are in­tan­gi­ble, the va­ri­ety is a good counter to end­less Hunt matches in quick play. in the heat of the chase. Fifty matches in, you’ll still not re­call that this grey rock for­ma­tion con­tains a cave open­ing with one other exit un­til you tum­ble head­long into the dark­ness. It robs the game of many op­por­tu­ni­ties for in­tel­li­gent play. And detri­men­tal to the flow are the mantraps – flora and fauna – lurk­ing in the gloom that lock down hun­ters and may even kill them if their team doesn’t come to the res­cue. Most you can avoid, but land­ing from a rock-shelf leap to be dragged into an un­seen pool never ceases to frus­trate.

The match­mak­ing is capri­cious too. You’ll be paired with lone-wolf green­horns as of­ten as tricksy pros, and while you gen­er­ally get your first or sec­ond choice of class, it’s far from guar­an­teed. Boots to menu aren’t in­fre­quent, and al­most no one on PS4 uses the voice chat. In some ways, that’s just as well, be­cause the qual­ity is poor, though the im­pli­ca­tions are huge. Much is forgotten the mo­ment the Trap­per’s dome falls and preda­tor and prey tus­sle in earnest. Ev­ery class – gun plat­form As­sault, team-buff­ing Sup­port, con­tain­ment spe­cial­ist Trap­per, vi­tal­i­ty­manag­ing Medic, and mon­ster – does have a dis­tinct role to play, and ev­ery char­ac­ter brings some­thing new to the fight. Lazarus, for ex­am­ple, is not your tra­di­tional healer, his best work done when shrouded un­der a per­sonal cloak and bring­ing downed team mem­bers back from the dead. Kraken’s vor­tices and Ban­shee mines help you con­trol space in a way Go­liath’s brute­force at­tacks can’t, while Wraith’s de­coys in­tro­duce du­plic­ity to the pre­scrip­tive UI tells. Dam­age feed­back is still too light, but the spec­ta­cle is un­ques­tion­able.

Even so, doubts soon mount over Evolve’s longevity. Nest mode, where the mon­ster must pro­tect a clutch of eggs, and Res­cue, a battle over wounded NPCs, both ben­e­fit from forc­ing the sides to­gether, but only the fi­nal mode, De­fend, sig­nif­i­cantly changes the game’s foot­ing, the hun­ters hav­ing to pro­tect power re­lays from a fully pow­ered mon­ster and waves of minion creeps.

And re­gard­less of mode, fights adopt pat­terns quickly. The mon­ster in­vari­ably needs to take the Medic out early, and should save the tank-like As­sault for later. Downed hun­ters are eas­ily re­vived, so you’ll see a lot of mon­sters camp­ing on corpses, pum­melling away un­til they’re dead for good. Hun­ters have four abil­i­ties each, and some aren’t use­ful in a fight, so their ro­ta­tion quickly be­comes pre­dictable. And all the rep­e­ti­tion is com­pounded by the grindy un­lock tree, seem­ingly hob­bled to sell pre­orders, with hours of busy­work be­fore you have full ac­cess to the on-disc cast.

It’s tes­ta­ment to the raw strength of Evolve’s cen­tral idea that it can over­come so many lim­i­ta­tions and pro­duce flashes of great­ness at all. But at launch, it feels neutered, and far too in­con­sis­tent to es­tab­lish a last­ing dom­i­nance on the mul­ti­player scene.

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