EVOLVE - Money Bloodhound or Underdog Beast?
Who wouldn't like to be a Big A** Monster, trampling teensie little soldiers to dust...
...or the next epic Ghostbusters squad, taking down a huge abomination of doom in an intense and nerve-racking team effort?
Now that is EXACTLY what Evolve is.
Well, unfortunately too much so - but let me elaborate:
If you have seen trailers or even just gameplay videos (if you haven't, you MUST check them out!), you will have noticed that visuals and sounds in this game are really impressive. Unfortunately not as impressive as they are in-game, especially if you play it on a big screen, in a dark, quiet house.
But while there certainly are visuals and sounds that are absolutely enjoyable on their own, and for some more than for others, they are still just a part of the game and should never be the sole point of focus.
Either way, Evolve does somewhat live by its stunningly immersive presentation.
Gameplay (The Culprit)
Competitive PVP games that offers a variety of classes, abilities and equipment is as hard to balance as it gets, obviously even more so when the playing field is uneven by default.
In fact, EVOLVE is so dramatic and radical in every way, that it is probably best described as a "that's life, suck it up!"-simulator. But this is exactly where I believe this game shines.
If you need a new enemy to headshot every 2.5 seconds before your attention deficit kicks in, this game is not for you. If you do not enjoy tracking down and cornering targets in tactical maneuvers, this game is also not for you.
This is not a "bouncy, quick-scope, bullet-dodge, jump-in-the-air-headshot twitch-shooter". It is a ruthless "give all you got, put your team's needs above your own" hunting-simulator set in a science fiction world.
No matter how skilled you may be at insta-headshots and line-of-sight plays, if you can't take the heat, cooperate and communicate on almost supernatural levels and don't love the "thrill of the hunt", then being a hunter in this game is NOT for you.
On the other hand, if you are a born lone wolf, living for the thrill to outsmart entire teams of high-skill players, then being a monster is definitely for you!
This game will deliver as many heart-pounding moments as boring, frustrating or even heart-breaking ones.
Your heart will drop down your pants when you are hiding behind a rock or in a bush as a monster with low health, while the hunter team chases directly past you, as you know this could have been the end for you.
You will feel the thrill of the hunt as you track down footprints, sprint after your hound and dart into the direction of startled birds, trying to cut off the monster's possible routes without directly running into it all by yourself. You rush in a panic because you know, find it now, or it will evolve and eat you alive.
It can even become truly touching when you hunt down, fight and evade a young stage 1 monster so tenaciously that it gives up, stops defending itself and accepts its grim fate, letting you forget the player behind it for a moment, as if you were staring at a scene from a wildlife documentary.
All these moments make this game exceptionally intense and usually fun; that is, until you come across the infamous unfairness fairness of life, which is so much more present in this game than in most other games. While the developers will juggle attributes of classes and abilities with the intention to balance the game as a whole, there will always be all the other factors such as the monster's stage (3 in total), the hunter team composition, the environment in which the fights break out, the team's skills and teamwork as well as the monster's skill and even the fauna - yes, wildlife WILL participate if disturbed, and some of those creatures hit like a truck!
Besides the typical team based PVP problems like team balancing, another issue is the rather small player base which gets split across 3 different platforms:
- Xbox One
And multiple game modes.
Although the rather professional, but not perfect A.I. takes over for empty slots or even AFK players, depending on your time zone it can be difficult to find full player matches with everyone in their preferred role, as you will only be able to prioritize roles, but not exclude any.
This is where the game gets truly controversial.
Being a shooter, albeit with very slight RPG influence, the content is definitely limited. Especially at this point in time, with the game being rather fresh, content is limited to:
- a linear ability/weapon upgrade for hunters and monster
- a number of unlockable buffs to pick 1 from at the beginning of the match for hunters and monster
- great looking, although questionably useful custom skins for monsters, especially if you value camouflage
- next to useless custom skins for your hunters' weapons/equipment - unfortunately these do neither match the rest of the outfit, nor do they look very high quality
- unlockable monsters/hunters
- purchasable monster/hunters
And the last point on the list leads to all the controversy about the game's business model.
Not only are you required to purchase the base game, with currently extremely high price fluctuations, but you are also given only one way to play certain monsters/hunters. By dropping additional, rather small but still noticeable sums into the game.
On top of all this, the publishers and developers 2K and Turtle Rock Studios created a great amount of confusion with 2 separate season passes, which do sound like good deals in the long run, but given all the outrage of customers about the mere existence of more than 1 season pass on top of an originally high price tag for the base game (around $60 depending on your location) it begs the question how populated the servers are going to be, and for how much longer. Then there are also DLC packs, all of which contain content you may very well just purchase separately for cheaper, if you are more picky about your characters.
Evolve is, in my opinion, much less a game and much more a punch in the face. A punch from the harsh reality of a sci-fi shooter and the unfair story of life. It can be absolutely captivating for the hardcore hunters and born monsters among us players, but it is a harsh game in many ways, which for the longest time included the business model. 8 stars because of the difficult nature of this game as well as the slow development into the required direction. But I definitely have hope.
Don't punish a good game for overpriced content if you don't actually want that content, or for the confusing way the publishers handle their content packs.
This game is a cold-blooded hunt-simulator for people who feel at home in the harsh reality of the wilderness, where only the strongest, smartest and sneakiest will survive - one of the most unique, polarizing and intense shooters you will have ever played.