Evolve review

Evolve review

Evolve review

by February 12, 2015

What a funny old game Turtle Rock has made. Not Joe Pesci ‘I’m going to shiv you over this plate of linguini’ funny. It’s more ‘unpredictable downright confounding, but against all olds, occasionally brilliant’ funny. There’s the core of a great premise here: you can’t get much more viscerally primal than dudes going full Neanderthal on a 70ft squid thingie. Yet a good deal of the action you’re treated to in Evolve doesn’t so much court Darwinism as it burns books over a fire made from monster bones while hollering about Adam and Eve. 

At its most base level, this four-vs-one co-op shooter acts as a hunting sim. Either you and three chums/AI bots form a crack hit squad looking to kill the other player’s monster, or you take control of a beastie that makes the thing out of Cloverfield look utterly dreamy. Its chief objectives? Survive and gorge… oh, and make basically every other species on the planet Shear extinct. Survival of the fattest, baby.

When you play as a Hunter its your job to track, trap and ultimately settle your differences with the monster through a combination of reasoned discourse and biscuits. No wait… through brutal electrocution and air strikes. I always get those mixed up. As the monster, you must first simply eat any local wildlife in sight; the ultimate goal to evolve into your most powerful, ‘level three’ form, thereby either wiping out your puny human foes or destroying a power relay. It’s a nice dynamic. On paper.

In the game’s headline hunt mode, which ironically is Evolve’s weakest, you spend much of your time either scouring or scavenging decidedly moist sci-fi forests. These sweltering surroundings act as one giant smorgasbord for the game’s initial three monster classes – Goliath, Kraken and Wraith. Monster one is essentially a rock-chucking take on The Thing. Monster the second is a big ol’ tentacle colossus that likes to fly and lay down mines. While abomination number three is a serpent-like being capable of teleportation and Invisibility. No fair. 

Insert story here

Need some sort of vague narrative to justify you virtual slaughter? So be it. Well, from what I understand the game takes place on a planet called Shear. And naturally enough, there are folk living on Shear. These colonists seem to have gotten themselves into a bit of bother with the local monster population; hence the need for your uber tough Hunters to parachute in to save the day. Think Aliens-meets-Avatar and you’re about 63% of the way there. Play the five-round Evacuation mode and there’s plenty of scope to save/eat the day.

Hold on there, Timmy/ Tina Teleport. Both the Kraken and Wraith must first be unlocked by reaching level one on all the Goliath’s skill trees – buffed up by say, throwing boulders 20 times or doing 20,000 points of damage with its leap attack. It’s an unwanted grind in an otherwise sensible progression system, and something you’ll have to endure to unlock all available 12 Hunters, too. 

Whether you’ll feel compelled to snare ’em all depends on how much you can stomach artificial padding in a game that’s pretty limited in scope. While later characters are generally better – Griffin the second tier Trapper can fire torpedoes directly at the monster, whereas starting character Maggie has to plant them on the ground – it takes a hefty amount of time to churn through the unlocks. Combined with 2K’s unapologetic day one DLC additional character packs and it all feels a tad cheeky.

Still, the idea of basically playing as a video game boss is a brilliant one. In execution, being the Big Bad isn’t entirely satisfying, but it certainly gives Evolve a hook. Mechanically, there’s much to enjoy about the monster(s). You start each round with a brief head start on the Hunters, during which time you must create some distance from your would-be killers and munch anything within clawing radius to grow bigger. Being chased is fundamentally more satisfying than doing the chasing. And next to the Hunters’ cluster of powers, which often make your view busier than a screen of Matrix code when they’re fired in conjunction, there’s an uncluttered elegance to simply sneaking, eating and occasionally eviscerating.