Evolve has the unfortunate feeling of being a part of a game. While the concept is fully realized, and there's plenty of gameplay hours, character diversity, and maps/modes to explore... it will always feel like a multiplayer-only disc release like this is lacking, perhaps thanks to the release of Team Fortress 2 in the Orange Box.
+Interesting and original game-play style
+Diverse character roster
+Well balanced gameplay
+Awesome character design (monsters and hunters alike!)
-Limited appeal that will drop off quickly over time
-Feels like it's lacking real "meat" to the overall package
The concept of a 4-v-1 multiplayer game-style is something that I just happen to find exciting. It's doubly interesting for me when you throw in a class-based shooter system, where the 4 that are working against the 1 are forced to play complementary roles. Team-based gameplay at its finest, if you ask me. When Evolve was announced, and I heard we could not only have all of that, but got to play as a big bad-ass monster, I was totally sold.
Since then, I've followed the game production with a vested interest, watching videos, game-play especially, and then participating in a number of Alphas and Betas.
Leading up to the release, my loudest and most often occurring thought was "Are they going to have enough in this game to keep it from being more than a short-term affair?"
Evolve launched, officially, this Tuesday and I've spent the week getting reacquainted with the game (after having my character progression reset for the third time). So far the offerings that the game has, at launch, seem to confirm my fear. This is a great concept, without the longest legs.
I can see myself playing this game pretty religiously over the course of the next month, maybe two, before I give up and move on to something else. The concept of 4-v-1 is an awesome one, but it seems like it should be the multiplayer mode in a much larger game. Evolve seems to lean FAR too heavily on the cool concept for a multiplayer game, and ends up feeling like it forgot to add in the principal piece of the game.
To its credit, the game has added a bit of a story, and there are a couple of different play modes including a multi-chapter story that "evolves" over the course of five days spent on an alien world trying to clear the inhabitants of the surface of a rather hostile living-space. There's also a wave-clear mode where you're intended to hold down a specific point and defend against wave after wave of monsters (in various shapes and sizes) a la Gears of War's horde mode (though with far fewer options for defense building).
So, the game isn't particularly deep... but it is, as I mentioned, a high-concept piece that deserves recognition for what it does well. The "Hunt" is actually pretty cool, and incredibly well balanced, all things considered.
That is, assuming you have a team full of players that both know how to play the game, and are familiar with the role of their particular class. All too often the game will fall victim to a group of new (or inexperienced) players running around haphazardly with seemingly no idea what they are supposed to do.
The game does try to minimize this; each time you start the multiplayer section as a different role (your first time as medic or a monster) a video clip will roll explaining what it is you're supposed to be doing on the team. It even goes so far to explain each of your items/weapons/abilities individually so (in theory) you know EXACTLY what you're supposed to be doing, and what you're supposed to be doing it with, before you jump into the actual gameplay.
Just in case I happen to bump into any of you online, during what looks to be a lengthy reign of king of the monsters, here's some prop-tips you should consider when you jump into the game:
Firstly, the game lets you line-up your favourite classes/characters before you dive in. You get to choose your favourite role from first to last, 1 to 5, monster, trapper, assault, medic, and support. Make sure you know what you want to play, and pick your selections accordingly. Far too often, people are using the defaults online, or just picked classes that make ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE for their play style. There is nothing worse than a Medic who's running at the front of the pack and can so, so easily be picked off by a semi-intelligent monster/player and turn the fight in his favour in about 30 seconds flat.
Conversely, my default is to play a trapper. I like to believe I'm pretty damn good at it. Maybe it's because I had the advantage of playing the game so much pre-release, but I know my role and I stick to it. I get out in front, I hunt down the monster, and I lay down a trap to make sure it's going nowhere. From there I fall back, dropping traps to slow and leave it up to the team to deal as much damage as possible (and cross my fingers that my medic can keep me alive, I have a knack for pissing monsters off).
That's what it's all about. People who play Halo and Call of Duty really need to avoid this game like it gives cancer, if it has any hope of being a great experience for the rest of the community that actually "gets it." We need people that understand their roles, and will play to their strengths.
Of course, none of this is the fault of the game itself, and that's what I'm reviewing... so let me try to get back on track. As mentioned, the game is doing everything in its power to help you with this major, major problem. Not only does it show you a video of your character, every time you are thrown into a new character or role, but it has the option (from the main menu) to review the specifics of any character with two videos: the original introduction video, and an "advanced" video that digs deeper into strategy for the specific character you're interested in. For what it is, I honestly thing Evolve is as good as it can be. Playing every role is fun. Even the ones I don't care about are interesting, especially when you unlock the second and third versions of each class. There's plenty of diversity by that point that, there's absolutely someone you're bound to fall head-over-heels in love with playing.
The most important thing for a game of this type, balance, feels like it's there. Neither side feels really overwhelmed overpowered unless you're lazy enough to make the hunting party's lives really hard by allowing the monster to grow to level 3 completely unchallenged. The diversity is there, what with 3 character options for each class (including the monster). The fun is ABSOLUTELY there, with the hunters definitely, but even more so with the way the monsters play -- in my personal opinion, they are the best part of the game. There's nothing more satisfying than taking down a group of four hunters and chewing on their bodies while "You Win" scrolls up into view.
That's not to say there aren't problems though, and unfortunately they are the most obvious problems. This game is ridiculously short-sighted in concept.
Don't get me wrong, I was one of the people saying that I got a complete experience out of Diablo III when I wrapped up the story and was content with the $60 price tag (sans "end game" content). Evolve has enough there that it checks the box on the traditional movie-ticket equation -- if you are willing to pay $15 for a 2hr movie, then $60 for a game should be at least 8hrs of fun.
It's always going to feel like a PIECE of a game though. The experience doesn't feel like a full one, somehow. Maybe that's because this seems like a PC game. Like how Team Fortress 2 works on Steam but couldn't be brought to console except for as a part of a package.
End of the day, I would say caution. Be aware of what you're getting into, and know that's something you want before you drop $60 on a 4-vs-1 class-based hunter/shooter. If that's what you're looking for... well then you couldn't ask for a better example than Evolve.
I didn't want to rant TOO much about this during the official review... but it's likely to come up again in some kind of a rant in the future: The DLC in this game is ridiculous. There's a ton of options for "skins" for the monster, and color adds for the hunter weapons. Last I checked it's about $150 of additonal add-ons not included in even the pre-order versions of the game. That's stupid, consider another point docked for being a dick.
Review based on a Xbox One version of the game, supplied by the Publisher.