GET TO THE CHOPPER
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.