New ideas in the video game industry are few and far between. Even rarer are novel, ambitious experiences that pan out as well as Evolve. Turtle Rock Studios, known for their work on Left 4 Dead, brings its expertise in 4-player cooperative gameplay and merges it with asymmetrical competitive multiplayer. The result is a game that simultaneously feels familiar and unlike anything I’ve ever played.
In Hunt, Evolve’s principal game mode, you take control of one of two sides, the Hunters or the Monster. On the Hunters side, players choose between four classes, assault (damage), medic (heals), support (buffs) or the trapper (ummm, they trap). There can only be one of each role and each role must be filled or else Evolve places an AI player on the team. Each class has three possible Hunters to choose from with differing abilities (e.g. in the Medic class, Val has a tranquilizer gun that slows the Monster, where Lazarus has personal cloak for temporary invisibility). The way each class interacts with one another opens the door to experimentation and cooperation as no other modern shooter has. And trust me, success as the Hunters will rely on cooperation.
This reliance on cooperation as the Hunters is actually one of Evolve’s few faults. If you get placed into a match where nobody is using their mics and everyone is off doing their own thing, you will have a frustrating, miserable time. Playing with a group of strangers is vastly different from playing with friends. However, it’s hard to knock Evolve for what may just be a problem with the current culture in online gaming (a discussion for another article, no doubt).
If you have no friends, or just enjoy watching the world burn, then playing as the Monster is for you. There are three Monsters to choose from; the Goliath (a hulking beast), the Kraken (Flying Cthulhu), and the Wraith (honestly, I don’t even…you just have to play it to see). While Hunters are played from the first person perspective, the Monsters are third person, allowing those who aren’t shooter fans to get in on the fun. At level one, the focus is on quickly and stealthily putting distance between yourself and the Hunters, while at the same time munching on some of the wild beasts that roam the land. Enjoying a balanced diet as the Monster gains you armor, buffs (in the case of special “albino” creatures) and eventually the ability to evolve. Evolving allows you to distribute 3 skill points among four abilities, allowing you to tailor the Monster’s build to your liking.
Where Evolve shines is in its atmosphere, world building and ability to make you feel like you ARE the Hunter or Monster. Often times when I was chasing down tracks, watching my step trying to avoid the carnivorous plant life (Come on! 20 foot monsters weren’t enough?), I would stop and be amazed at how much it felt like I was hunting something. I know that seems like a silly thought, because “No duh, that’s the point” but think about how often that actually happens in a multiplayer shooter. How often in Call of Duty do you feel like a soldier, or like a Spartan-II (named such because they were a small elite unit that fought together similar to the Spartans of old…what was I talking about?). As the Monster, the transition from looking over you shoulder as prey to stalking the Hunters as beast is exhilarating.
Evolve is a game that continues to unpack itself, rewarding those who invest themselves in it. It shines through its multiple objective-based game types, but can become a grind with its progression system. Evolve is a thinking man’s shooter, emphasizing strategy over reflexes. Call of Duty this is not, but what Evolve is, is a fresh take on competitive gaming, a monstrously fun time (yay puns) and one I highly recommend!