I don’t know if Evolve will be the best multiplayer shooter you play this year, but I’m pretty confident it’ll be one of the more unique shooters across all platforms for 2015. Essentially a 4 vs. 1, team-focused shooter, Evolve pits a group of hunters from four different classes against three wildly different, intimidating monsters, with all five components being controlled by actual players. It has some faults, but they’re few and far between, making this a multiplayer experience that I think is worth checking out.
While there is a single player mode, make no mistake, this is a multiplayer game. You’ll get little mileage out of playing against bots, mostly as an excuse to quickly unlock characters and perks. But the real meat and potatoes is found online, teaming up and working against other players. At the onset of the game you can opt to pick your favorite role, and the matchmaking will do a pretty solid job of matching you up with other players while allowing you to generally stick to your favorite or second favorite role. Matchmaking can feel a bit sluggish when entering your first game from a cold start, but after you’ve been paired up with a group, it’s fairly quick at getting a match started.
Modes break down into four basics including Hunt, Defend, Nest and Rescue. Hunt and Defend are pretty self-explanatory, you’ll either be hunting down the player-controlled monster, or defending against its attacks at a central point. Nest involves hunting down monster eggs, which the monster can also opt to hatch for an A.I. controlled minion. Rescue features the hunter player characters searching out survivors and guiding them back to safe points, while avoiding the monster who actively tries to kill the survivors. These four modes can be cycled between randomly. along with 12 different maps, when opting to check out the basic quick play feature in both multi and single player games. You can also opt to go with the custom option, allowing you to pick the modes, maps, wildlife, difficulty, and special map effects that can be present while playing.
The fifth mode featured is Evacuation, which stands out more as its own thing in Evolve. Evacuation is spread out across five in-game days, with each day featuring a variety of missions to choose from for the hunter players. The monster, on the other hand, is tasked with wanton destruction, and depending on the end result of the day, the next day will have some type of adverse effect or benefit for either the hunters or the monster. It’s a really fun mode, and sort of the main mode of Evolve in my opinion. While most players seem to gravitate towards the standard quick play option with the other four modes, I think Evacuation is where Evolve really shines and it’s the first thing I’d advise new players to try out when jumping into Evolve.
The four hunter classes featured are all pretty unique, with some definite benefits and drawbacks for each. The classes are divided up into Assault, Medic, Trapper, and Support, and then further divided by unlockable characters for each class. These characters, earned typically by gaining experience from using their respective class type, come with different weapons which help to further diversify each individual class.
Most of the roles listed above are easy enough to understand, with Assault being your primary tank/damage dealer, Medic your healer, and Support being your buffer class. Trapper plays a pretty important role too, however, allowing you to toss down mobile arenas which will trap a monster within a small space, surrounding by an energy field for you to fight in. This prevents the monster player from running away, but only for a limited time. The Trapper can also try to pin the monster in place, important due to the huge amount of mobility each monster class has.
There are three different monster types to choose from, including the starting Goliath class, and the unlockable Kraken and Wraith. Again, each monster is very different from the other, with the Kraken’s flight ability and the Wraith’s cloaking/teleport ability making them stand out in comparison to the bruiser/brawler that is the Goliath monster. Monsters will get a head start on the hunters for every round, allowing them to begin scavenging for smaller, consumable creatures on every map. The monster can level up once it’s eaten enough food, allowing it to evolve up to 3 stages, with each stage granting ability points to drop into four different abilities unique to each monster.
Ideally the hunters want to stop the monster from reaching stage 3, at which point the monster can really become a force to be reckoned with. However, until the monster reaches that point, Evolve is generally a game of cat and mouse, as the hunters will doggedly chase the monster through the environment. This is done by following the footsteps of the monster which helpfully glow for a limited time, along with looking for telltale environment damage, and the birds that a monster will disturb while moving about. This chase can sometimes be frustrating, and oftentimes feel slow and plodding, which does hurt the overall pace of the game in my opinion. Some of this is impacted by the skill level of the other players around you, but even with a solid group of friends working together, it can take a bit of time for the action to really start.
And that’s essentially my biggest complaint against Evolve. Not that Evolve needs to be action-packed at every moment, but there needs to be a bit more to the actual hunt mechanic than what currently exists here. To the developers credit, the addition of aggressive wildlife that can also sometimes lead to buffs for the hunter players is a step in the right direction, but it’s not quite enough to stem off the monotony of chasing the A.I. controlled Daisy or the monster footprints until you finally catch up with your prey. Especially in comparison to playing as the monster, where you feel like there’s this constant forward progression in addition to the big, bombastic battles when the hunters corner you or when you get the jump on them. There’s a big difference between the two roles, where the hunters feel more reliant on the monster than the monster does on them.
Still, despite my issues with the hunter role outside of battle, I can’t deny I’ve had some fun with Evolve. It’s certainly a memorable experience, more so with a group of friends working together, but still enjoyable with random online players in tow. I think your overall enjoyment will wear thin over time, and I don’t necessarily see Evolve as a shooter with a lot of longevity in its current state. But there’s enough content at launch, and certainly a robust launch player base, that help make Evolve something worth checking out now. So check Evolve out if you get a chance, you’ll definitely be hard pressed to find another multiplayer shooter like it right now.