Review: Evolve (PS4)

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Title: Evolve
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (26.2 GB)
Release Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: 2K
Developer: Turtle Rock Studios
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
Evolve is also available on Xbox One and PC.
The PlayStation 4 disc version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 411 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
You probably know all there is to know about Evolve at this point but just in case, here’s what it’s all about. Developed by Turtle Rock Studios, the group that brought us the excellent Left 4 Dead on the Xbox 360 and PC, Evolve is a new twist on multiplayer arena-based combat. Players take on the role of one of four Hunters or the Monster they’re after. As a concept it sounds great, but how does it hold up over hours of gameplay?

First, the story, such as it is. Set on the planet Shear, humans were attempting colonization when they were attacked by large monsters. You’re part of the rescue team sent down to aid in the evacuation. That’s pretty much as deep as it gets. Expect Michael Bay to acquire the rights and have a $250 million dollar movie out by July 2018.

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As the Monster, you’re given one choice to start, the Goliath. To unlock the others you’ll first need to gain XP and level up the Goliath. Playing as the Monster can be fun and the tutorial at the start of the game is a good way to get up to speed but you should really play solo first. I’ve already detailed a lot of this in a preview of the game so I won’t go over it all again here.

… the whole presentation feels a little thin …

You’re given the choice of four classes on the Hunter side: Assault, Trapper, Medic, or Support. The Assault class is your standard grunt, heavy on the guns and offense. The Trapper specializes in containing the Monster whether it’s by a dome-like forcefield, a sedation dart, or other means. The Medic is essential to keeping the group healthy and fighting with things like a health regeneration beam or even the ability to bring people back from the dead. The Support class can shield Hunters, call down aerial bombardments and more.

Each has their own strengths and weaknesses and they’re designed to really complement each other and work as a perfect unit as long as you have competent players controlling them. Speaking of which, one of the highlights of the game is that everything is available to a solo player. Because of this, you can take all the time you need trying out each class, building up your stats and unlocks, and finding exactly where you’re most comfortable in the game before you ever set foot in a multiplayer match. I’d strongly recommend this course of action when first playing the game so you have a better understanding of everything when you finally jump into the multiplayer.

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Because you only have one of each class to use at the start of the game this is where they get their hooks into you. Being able to see the Hunters and Monsters available to unlock when you finally level up is the enticing carrot used to keep you interested in the game. It’s needed because honestly the whole presentation feels a little thin. In total you have three different characters available in each of the four classes and three different Monsters. Add to that the small number of maps and it’s something that starts to stand out more and more the longer you play the game.

… gather some friends and track down the Monsters …

How to remedy that… well there’s always the DLC, right? The Hunting Season Pass set internet forums aflame with its pricing of $24.99 for four new Hunters (one from each class) and three new Monster skins (Magma Goliath, Magma Kraken and Magma Wraith). The general consensus, which I’d include myself in, is that the pricing is pretty steep for what you’re getting.

At least Turtle Rock built the game to support people playing together whether they purchase any of the DLC or not. They’ve also indicated that all new maps will always be free to all players, so there’s that. Either way I don’t think this bodes well for the success of this game in the long run.

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Visuals:
This is a good looking game, make no mistake. There are, however, a number of little annoyances that crop up along the way starting with the general sameness of everything.

The somewhat limited number of maps works against the game as there ends up being very little variety in the environments you’ll be fighting in. Maybe it’s a constraint on the gameplay formula, but the never-ending forest/industrial complex begins to take a toll. Even the weather effects here and there don’t do much to change to feel of the proceedings.

… it can be extremely satisfying to work together as a team …

Audio:
Each of the Hunters has a distinct voice and dialogue which is great. Unfortunately that dialogue is rather limited and you’ll be hearing the same lines after two matches or so. This is actually something that really bothers me. If you’re going to cover up the loading screen with a cutscene of the Hunters prepping for their jump with light banter then record more than two or three scenes. We’re locked into this at the beginning of every single match so make it worth our while and add a little flavor to the proceedings. The rest of the audio is fine yet unremarkable.

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Online/Multiplayer:
As a four vs. one arena-based combat type of game, multiplayer is the order of the day. Though you can play all modes solo as mentioned above, the idea here is to gather some friends and track down the Monsters, whether they’re played by a friend, AI, or unknown player.

The Alpha and Beta sessions for the game appear to have worked well as the matchmaking is usually quick and easy. I’d strongly suggest finding friends with the game however as this title, perhaps even more than others dues to its unique nature, suffers at times depending on who you get paired up with.

The biggest problem, and one that’s plagued PlayStation multiplayer in particular is the relative lack of communication between teammates. The other is the varying quality of the voice chat coming from the other players ranging from mediocre to get-me-out-of-this-round-as-quickly-as-possible terrible.

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Communication is the key to surviving and taking down the Monster and when a group doesn’t have headsets or sounds like they’re speaking through a Burger King Drive-Thru squawk box from 1972, you won’t be having much fun.

When you do get a good group together (where one person isn’t running off on their own) it can be extremely satisfying to work together as a team, trapping and attacking the Monster while buffing and healing the Hunters.

Conclusion:
The core idea and gameplay are really good here, the problem is the dearth of maps, modes, Hunters, Monsters, you name it. Play the game in short bursts and it’s great, play it for an extended period of time and the cracks begin to show.

On top of all that, the now infamous pricing on the Season Pass has soured a lot of consumers and put a damper on the long term prospects of the game. I don’t doubt for a minute that there will be a dedicated group of players that will form a tight-knit, long-term community around Evolve but for the rest of us it feels like the game’s days are numbered.

Score:
7.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 25 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation – minus the Switch.

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