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It’s finally time to start carving each other up across the jungles of Shear, the home planet of futuristic sci-fi monster game Evolve.
One of the most anticipated games of the past year, Evolve released on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on Tuesday. I received a PC review copy last Friday, and I’ve spent the last week exploring every inch that Shear has to offer. My monster has tasted the flesh of publisher 2K Games’ employees. He’s been roasted on an open fire by my fellow reviewers. And I’ve battled it out with hundreds of adventure-seeking players in the days since Evolve’s launch.
My journey was one of great excitement and terror for the first few hours, but it soon drifted into a familiar and at times boring turkey shoot. Evolve boasts fabulous gameplay and a dark, desperate presentation, and yet I couldn’t help but wondering — what’s next?
The strengths and weakness of Evolve are many, so strap in.
What you’ll like
It’s easy to learn and difficult to master
Evolve’s simple playstyle is one of its biggest draws.
Players choose between one of four hunter classes — assault, trapper, support, and medic — or the role of monster, which battles against all four hunters. A story mode isn’t around to cover exactly what is happening, but the planet Shear holds many of the galaxy’s most important goods and people. The monsters are threatening to destroy all of this, so the hunters must take them down or stall them enough so that planet’s occupants can evacuate.
Each hunter class and the monster start with one playable version. You unlock an additional character option once you gain enough experience with the first-tier character, and you unlock a third-tier character once you have enough experience with that second-tier character. Everyone starts off with Markov in the assault class. Once I did enough damage with his three distinct skills to rank up, I unlocked Hyde. And once I did the same with Hyde, I unlocked Parnell, the third-tier and strongest assault character.
The monster upgrades in a similar fashion. Do enough damage with the Goliath’s four skills and you unlock the Kraken. Kill pesky hunters with the Kraken and you unlock the Wraith.
While all three monsters are built for killing, the hunter classes each have defined roles. The assault does the bulk of the damage and uses an invulnerability shield to protect himself. The medic heals the team and weakens the monster. Support characters can buff the team, weaken the monster, and do some damage. The trapper slows the monster down and damages it.
The co-op “4-versus-1” mechanic borrows strong control features from multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) hits like Dota 2 and League of Legends. Like these games, players only have to worry about four different skill buttons when playing as the monster or four weapons when playing as a hunter. I am not sure if a four-skill system has a magical quality or if my tiny gamer brain can only process movement, attacking, and up to four gadgets at once, but Evolve’s control scheme is an absolute breeze to learn.
A basic control scheme lends well to Evolve’s main strength: fast-paced tactical action in which one player’s misstep could end an encounter. Many players will have to learn this lesson the hard way, and I am no different.
At first, I felt as if I had Evolve mastered after just a few hours. I learned that I preferred the trapper over the assault, support, and medic hunting classes during my time with the various Evolve test phases, and I unlocked the penultimate trapper, Abe, in about two hours.
My epiphany came during a match in which I paired up with another reviewer, who played the assault class, and went up against a 2K employee’s Goliath, the playable first-tier monster.
For the first 20 minutes, my Abe play was the stuff of legend. My tagging pistol couldn’t miss. Every stasis grenade I threw slowed the poor beast down, and my team rained fire on the Goliath from every angle. We nearly had him dead when he managed to charge away from us and escape through a cavern.
I realized at that moment that I neglected to toss my mobile arena during the skirmish. The mobile arena enables the trapper to encase the monster and his teammates in a giant impenetrable bubble, which keeps monsters like the 2K-helmed Goliath from escaping.
The next 10 minutes were spent hunting for the beast with no luck. Where the hell did he go? It’s a giant freaking monster. Why can’t we find it?
The Goliath hit its maximum level, and we retreated to defend our power station — which is vulnerable to fully evolved monsters. There, the Goliath put an absolute beating on us. Our medic bot was the first to go. It managed to toss a rock that pinned her against the wall, and his fire breath did the rest. Next was my assault friend, who popped his invulnerability shield a little too early and paid dearly. I don’t remember if our support bot or my beloved Abe was the next to go, but we lost the match around the 45-minute mark.
I realized when that smug bastard controlling the Goliath gave us a congratulatory “good game” that he was probably toying with us from the get-go. I’m kidding. He was a nice guy. But the fact remained that all it takes is one experienced monster or hunter team to make you realize just how little you know about strategical elements, such as the topography of the maps, the limits of each character, the right skill combinations, etc.
Mastering these skills will provide Evolve with longevity.