The evolution, no pun intended, of Evolve's public perception has been fascinating. When the game was first announced, there was genuine enthusiasm for the title. The guys who made Left 4 Dead were going to be bringing a really cool concept of an asymmetrical monster hunting game? What's not to love?
Well, it turned out a bit. A lot of the gaming world have condemned the game recently for an extremely aggressive DLC campaign, putting lots of stuff out of the reach of those not willing to pre-order a game and submit to a Season Pass. Hell, even if you did sign up for a Season Pass, there are tons of cosmetics not included that you could spend even more on. This has all understandably lead some consumers to show a vehement distaste for the game as a whole coming into its launch.
That question for me then became, putting all that to one side, if you walk into a store and pick up Evolve for £40, can you have a good time with what's on the disc? Or rather, is Evolve actually a good game?
After spending about 20 hours with the game, I'm inclined to think yes. Very much so. In fact I'd say it's one of the most fascinating multplayer experiments in a while, and most importantly, it's just a whole bunch of fun.
Basically, the game goes like this. One team of players take on the role of the hunters, all of which have specialised roles. There is the Medic, Trapper, Support and Assualt, while each class has a choice of three characters with different abilities. On the other side of the match sits a single player as the Monster. It's their job to hunt and eat wildlife until it reaches Level 3. If taking on the Hunters directly, you are pretty squishy at Level 1, more or less evenly matched at Level 2 and stronger than the other team at Level 3. It is pretty neat dynamic.
And that is probably the word I would use to describe Evolve most. This game is 'dynamic'. This is a game full of ideas and spinning plates all working in tandem. There are certainly some wobbles along the way, but the game more or less keeps its fine tuned composure to create a fragile and appealing balance.
The game is multiplayer based, but it also offers a single player mode with equal, if not more challenge. Honestly, this game's AI is incredibly smart and I often found games against bots, frequently harder than those against players. No mistaking it though, this is a game that is meant to played with multiple people.
There are 12 hunters in the game, all with different abilities. Each has a defined personality and abillities, but none of them ever feel overpowered. Some certainly have bigger downsides, but the potential to be good is still there with every single one.
Granted on the Monster side of things, the plates are certainly less stable. There are three monsters to play as in the game right now. The Goliath and Kraken are pretty fun to play against, but the Wraith is a complicated monster that I'm not sure entirely works. Despite having a winning record against them, I feel their powers are just too much to handle a times. They can create decoy's, seperate players, run away the fastest and go in a flurry of hits against you. Add on top of that games featuring the creature can be painfully slow at times. The Wraith has the least health, but can out run you, meaning you may not even see them until they are Level 3, in which case, the game may well be over.
Besides that though, if you can get several friends together, Evolve is a great time. The game is predicated on players firing on all cylinders in all the roles. If you get into games like this, Evolve is a stellar experience. The design of the game flourishes and it's easy to see the intelligence that runs through it's veins.
If you get into a match and one or two players don't fill their expected job, Evolve can become a chore. The hunt becomes a slow burden as opposed to an exciting search with ever building tension. You need everyone to play their part to a competent level for a game to be truly good. As of writing, I've actually found players filling their roles pretty well. I've only once or twice thought to myself, "this medic is useless." Players want good games and I've found the community quite encouraging on that front.
I think what really keeps me coming back to Evolve is that pursuit of the great 'moment-to-moment'. It doesn't always happen, but when it does it's exhilarating. I think that is why it's easy, once you strip away all the outer layers that have turned fans off, to really enjoy the game on its own terms. When you are there, committed to your role and playing well, Evolve is an intoxicating experience. You just have to be willing to find it.
Will the game keep me coming back in the long run for months and months? Probably not. I know lots of people need their multiplayer games to consume hundreds of hours of their time to justify a purchase. I fear that Evolve won't have a huge longevity to it in the online space. The game will certainly have players involved in the online infrastructure for a while, but as for you, you might only get 20-40 hours out of it. I understand that isn't enough for some people. But for me? Those 20-40 hours have been great so far. If I sit down with any game and get that much entertainment out of it, I'm satisfied. You may not, and that is what you should consider when purchasing. Me? Evolve hits me like Titanfall, I may not have a desire to play it every day, but I'm happy in the knowledge that it's there when I want to have a good time.
Evolve is a brilliantly intelligent game at its core, with some troubling outer layers. When all is said and done though, the games shines when you are actually playing it. That is all that should really matter. The spinning plate act that the game does is an enticing bit of design and it makes for tense play when everyone involved in a match is firing on all cylinders. Although when they aren't, it can be a burden. Evolve is walking a tight rope and asking a lot from its players. In my experience though, each game has largely been an exciting thrill ride. It can be tough to love, but if you give yourself over to the experience, you'll find yourself having a ton of fun in one of the most complex and experimental multiplayer games in years.