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Music and video games have a lot in common. Take drum and bass for example: a Benga-produced track might be different from a DJ Fresh record, but they both fall into the same genre, regardless of how different they may be. It’s the same with first-person shooters. Well, mostly.
Yes, yes, I know. That’s like saying all cars are the same if they have four wheels and are painted red. It’s oversimplification, but Evolve does make one wonder if all FPSes have to be one dimensional. It challenges the mold, but largely remains within a comfortable set of confines.
Evolve is Turtle Rock Studio‘s latest monster versus human shooter, but is it really any different from the hordes that preceded it?
First thing’s first. If you’re looking for a game that has a deep and evolving storyline, this isn’t quite it. Have a look at Life Is Strange if story telling is what you’re in this for.
If you’re into killing, then stay seated. Evolve‘s essentially a game of “kill or be found or be found and killed”, with a few splashes of tactics and interesting team dynamics.
The game is set in the future on an Earth-like planet called Shear, where monsters roam around like brain-hungry cattle just waiting to slurp you up like a piece of spaghetti. But you can also play as the monster, which, does have its golden moments at times.
For one, Shear is a puzzling world, and I’m not just talking about the enigmatic landscapes that I found myself lost in perpetually. The game is set in the future but all ten-odd environments resemble something from a Steven Spielberg boxed set. This isn’t at all bad, and in fact, it’s good, and there’s enough diversity in each to make each rampage through the woods an interesting affair.
The landscapes are randomised if you’re mashing in a Quick Play game but you’re always surrounded by things that go bump in the night, regardless of the mode you choose. There aren’t any zombies to worry about in this one, but there are all types of tentacled monsters that believe your head is an appetiser.
Shear’s physics isn’t too foreign from Earth’s makes traversing landscapes a little more mundane, but the map effects are far from normal with a healthy choice between lava rain, electric smiting, falling bits of satellites and fog, to make finding the monster a right challenge. There is a varying array of landscapes too, from jungle to dilapidated power stations and all have their unique advantages and all characters are equipped with jetpacks that help when faced with a vertical cliff face.
“Wait, this feels familiar” will be one of the thoughts cycling around your head while playing this game. While it is an FPS set in a distant land that kind-of resembles earth and is fit with all sorts of monsters, two games come to mind immediately when you’re thrust into your first game: Borderlands role play and Call of Duty‘s mechanics.
Evolve is a mixture of the two, bringing in some serious first person destruction of creepy-crawlies. With that said, it takes the best part of these two games and Evolve isn’t short in the weapons department either.
There’s a choice between a solo rant or a multiplayer adventure, with the latter probably the easier of the two (depending on how good your online friends are). Other options include a Quick Play, a custom brew-your-own-battle option and a more meticulous five-round Evacuation mode, which takes your success and choices in the previous rounds into account.
All Hunter modes have this in common though: you can choose between four classes, namely Assault (or what I term the shit-basher), Support, Medic or Trapper. I grew particularly fond of Support and the Medic class, especially thanks to first-tier Hank’s laser cutter and first-tier Maggie’s pet monster Daisy. As you progress, more characters are unlocked (like Abe, featured above) and they become even more interesting, from weaponry and abilities to the little personality each exudes.
You pilot said team of four hunters, choosing one of the four available classes to tackle a particularly ferocious and difficult-to-slay monster. All takes place within a confined map, but isn’t too small that the monster can be found hiding under the nearest rock. You’re required to work together with your team members to slay the beast. The more you slay, the more you level up, the more the game rewards you. It’s really simple.
The custom mode is particularly brilliant if you enjoying customising the playing field. Having a particularly bad day? Choose a weather condition that spits hell fire from the cloud above. Playing alongside Thor? Perhaps the lightening option will be to his taste.
Combining these six weather modes, with the ten-odd environments, additional perks, character combinations, monsters and multiplayer/solo modes, you have a game that won’t really tire easily.
Alternatively, in Monster mode, you play as the monster using a third-person perspective, in which you’re tasked with evading and eventually eating those trying to hunt you. I wouldn’t exactly say this is easy (not playing as Goliath either), but it’s a lot more fun than being eaten. It’s also frustrating and annoying, as the third-person monster view doesn’t really stick with the key philosophy of the game. The controls really feel more adept when in first person mode, not the other way around.
Essentially, the combination of these four classes will be detrimental in defeating the monster, in solo and multiplayer and your skill in running and throwing rocks is critical in evading the hunters when playing as the scaly one.
Gameplay for one, regardless of the class or gaming variables, is frantic. Camera panning with the right analog is rather sensitive especially once you gain sight of a monster and attempt (in vain) to lock on.
It’s also a game that needs constant attention in order to gain XP and unlock hidden features, weapons, perks and characters but some would argue that it gets a bit drear too quickly when attempting a serious post-work sit-down.
What it does lack in narrative substance it makes up for in sheer instantaneous fun. Undoubtedly, it’s once of those “I’m really not sure what to play right now” filler games that you’ll find playing a lot more than your project titles. It’s easy to get into a rhythm, but this is best enjoyed with four people or more or as an online multiplayer unit.
Mechanics and graphics
The mechanics is solid and predictable, from the climbing physics, to the rock throwing, jumping and jet-packing through the environments. Although I often found the map difficult to read, running through a dense patch of vegetation quickly made way for a clearer path. It’s impossible to take cover because one of your less talented teammates will always give your position away.
Nevertheless, on the graphics front, Turtle Rock really used all of the PS4’s muscle in crafting the environments. The game is pretty dense in that regard, and even if you’re particularly bad at evading the monster’s threat, it’s easy to enjoy the surroundings. Camouflaged monsters are well hidden and are as seasoned as jaguars at stealth attacks. Or course, while the graphics are great, there are a few glitches which will hopefully be fixed with a future patch or two.
The DLC conundrum
For now, the biggest criticism of Evolve is that players get half a game. I find this a bit harsh as none of the DLCs instrumentally affect the nature of gameplay, but it’s probably because Turtle Rock has a slew of paid-for DLCs ready to download that add weapons, armour and the like to the experience.
Let’s be frank — no gamer enjoys a paid-for DLC that includes features that should’ve been in the game from the get go, but hell, you can’t really judge a game as “crap” based on that alone. I do think it’s a let down but unfortunately, that’s just the climate of console and PC gaming at the moment, and it looks like it will be here to stay.
Verdict: Now for the big question: would I buy Evolve? I’m not too sure. Generally, it’s not the type of game I’m usually drawn to, but I did find myself perpetually engrossed and motivated to slay more and more infernal beasts. In that sense, it worked as a title. In terms of fun factor points, it score highly, but is it a game that will age a bit too quickly for personal perusal? Probably.
With that said, is it that much different to other FPS games? Not entirely, but it does try to do something a little different in the FPS genre, and for that, I’ll definitely nod my head to its sometimes mundane but often surprising beat.