Evolve stole the show for a lot of people at last year’s E3 conference. The asymmetrical shooter easily had some of the longest lines, as gamers were clamoring to taste something truly unique. And, for the most part, people walked away absolutely enthralled with what the game seemingly had to offer. Fast forward nine months later, and what’s arguably the first major release of 2015 is finally out in the open. Unfortunately, though, it simply cannot live up to its own hype.
I was taught when there’s an elephant in the room that you should introduce it. And, with Evolve, there is a pretty damned big elephant in the room. The DLC plan here is absolutely atrocious, and every single person involved at Turtle Rock Studios should be ashamed of it. On the very first day, there was $85.88 worth of DLC in the store, including the Hunting Season Pass. This is, in a word, bullshit.
With $25 of that being dedicated towards the season pass, the rest is for new skins. While it’s easy to make claims such as, “You don’t have to buy them,” that’s missing the point. This is a company loudly proclaiming that the $60 admission for its game isn’t enough, and that if you want access to everything, you’ll have to pay more. I understand that the art team has nothing to do near the end of development, but I also remember a time when skins were simply unlocked by playing through a game.
I don’t know if this was Turtle Rock Studio’s fault or 2K’s, but it’s all a bit much. Down the road, more hunters and monsters are going to be included via DLC to add a bit more to the game. I don’t mind having more monsters or hunters added later. In fact, I’m very much for that. However, the next monster pack is apparently going to cost us an additional $15. I think I would be forgiven for not having the highest of expectations for Evolve when it looks like gamers are being nickel and dimed on the very first day of release. Add in the fact that you probably needed some sort of spreadsheet to keep track of all of the pre-order bonuses available, and it’s simply been a mess from the word go.
I do want to be fair here, though, and mention that all of the maps are going to be free as the game matures. Still, it just feels that everything about the DLC has been bungled from a communication standpoint, and that’s definitely left a sour taste in my mouth.
Now, this would have been easy to ignore if the rest of the game was absolutely stellar and felt like a full experience, but sadly, that’s not the case. While there is certainly a lot to do in Evolve, it can start to feel fairly hollow as you get into it. There’s a definite feeling of Déjà vu as I play through areas again, and most of the varying types break down into the same meta-game. Maybe this will change as the player base matures and learns new strategies, but right now it feels like multiple layers of paint on the same canvas.
When you first start playing Evolve, you’re limited to four characters and one monster. Each of your initial four characters fits a certain class (the Assault, Medic, Trapper, or Support), and really needs to fill its specific job on the field if you want to even think of succeeding. As you level up your personal rank, you’ll get access to more perks, such as being able to jump higher, deal more damage, or (my personal favorite so far) use less rocket fuel as you move around the battlefield. Playing as a certain character more often allows you to rank them up as well, giving you boosts to ammo or range.
Each of the three weapons that your character has can be ranked up to three stars by essentially just grinding away. Getting all of them to the first star unlocks the next character in your class, which in turn offers a bit more variety. For example, Val, the starting medic, has a healing beam she can use as well as a long range single shot sniper rifle that creates weak spots for your team to attack. Lazarus, on the other hand, doesn’t have a healing beam, but has the Lazarus device which can revive teammates from a distance as well as provide a personal cloak. This does help combat the feeling that the game doesn’t change, but it also means you may end up wasting a round trying to basically level up a perk without really helping your team win.
The main problem I’ve found here is that unless your team is pretty on point with both playing their roles and working together, the game is over before it’s even begun. Separating from the group is only going to get you killed, and a monster who’s even remotely capable is going to be able to pick off a weakened team with little effort.
On the other side of the coin, you may end up playing as the monster. The Goliath is your starting monster and is the most “normal” of the bunch. Relying on pure strength, the Goliath uses fire breath, a charging attack, a powerful diving stomp and its ability to hurl boulders at enemies to stay alive. Getting one star in each of these abilities unlocks the Kraken, who could easily pass as Cthulu’s son and relies more on massive damage through ranged electricity. The last of the standard monsters is the Wraith. As of the time of writing, we haven’t seen as much of the Wraith simply due to the time required to unlock it. However, the times it has shown up, it’s proven to be more than a slight pain in the ass for hunters, as it focuses on stealth, teleportation and other supernatural abilities to dominate on the battlefield.
It should definitely be mentioned that there are some major balance issues with Evolve right now, most notably with the Wraith. The Wraith was absolutely devastating at level two in the beta, but even with some nerfs, it’s pretty much impossible to take down when it hits stage three. There’s not a lot of fun to be had if you feel like the game is over when there’s still time on the clock. Even the Kraken seems to abuse the game’s physics system and was able to launch players an unnaturally long distance with certain attacks, pretty much ending the hunters’ offensive. These could be addressed down the road, but Evolve had two fairly large betas and we’re still here.
One of the better parts of Evolve is the ability to “take a break” and let the AI take over for you, very similar to how Left 4 Dead managed it. While normal missions don’t take all that long, a full Evacuation tour can be upwards of an hour, so having to step out for a moment isn’t unthinkable. The AI can also step in if a player quits or is booted for whatever reason.
The only complaint I have here is that the AI is almost TOO good. I actually am willing to believe that it’s more of a case where the AI knows how to play their role perfectly whereas most players are still just learning how to be effective on the battlefield, but I’ll be damned if it’s not a challenge. Should the AI take the reins of the monster, especially a Kraken or (god-forbid) a Wraith, you’re going to need to play almost perfectly to stand a real chance. It’s definitely possible to win, and I’m sure it’ll get easier as the player base gets better, but right now it’s a pretty tough challenge.
The AI is also hampered by strange glitches at times. I’ve seen AI hunters get stuck in the landscape, eliminating any usefulness they may have as well as seemingly losing the monster when it barely breaks their line of sight. I don’t hold the AI against the game too much simply because it is a multiplayer title that has some options to help single players or groups that loose a man, but it’s still important to point this stuff out.