REVIEW: “Evolve” is too much of a grind

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  • reviewed on PS4 / Rated M / $59.99 / released February 2015
  • OFFICIAL SITE: evolve game.com
  • PURCHASE LINK: Amazon
  • FINAL: You should TRY this game. 3 out of 5 stars

“Evolve” initially sounds like the usual kind of online shoot ’em up, but the game’s hook is wildly compelling. You play either as part of a team of four hunters or as their quarry, a five story-tall monster. These 4-on-1 matches take place across hostile alien landscapes packed with carnivorous plants and predatory animals.

The goal of any given match may slightly vary, but generally speaking, one side wants to eliminate the other. The monster player gets a short head start; its initial objective is to hide from the hunters while eating nearby wildlife. As the monster eats, it grows in power and size. The hunters, therefore, need to track the monster quickly and efficiently to bring it down before it becomes an even more difficult foe. The hunter team is comprised of four specializations – assault, trapper, support and medic – with each class given different weapons and abilities.

With so many different playable classes, “Evolve” offers a lot to master. Thankfully, there are offline single-player modes so you can hone your craft and not embarrass yourself on the world stage. Still, this leads “Evolve” to a place where it wants you to put in significant hours to train up. Initially, only one set of four hunters and single monster are available to play, and anything further (eight additional hunters and two monsters) must be unlocked. The game’s concept is more appealing than the grind it takes to improve your skills and open up more characters.

Online, “Evolve” lives and dies by the prowess of your fellow players. As a hunter, it is a letdown to have to endure match after match of drawn-out snipe hunts as your uncoordinated team chases a wily monster across the map. It is also disappointing to encounter a monster player that does not know what he or she is doing, resulting in an unsatisfying and easy win. With every significant role filled by a human player, there’s no way for the game to smooth that out by invisibly adjusting enemy difficulty or confrontations. Unless you’ve hooked up with a stellar team, the overall experience is very uneven. Obviously the game expects that perfect scenario to happen, where all five players are well-matched, but in practice it feels like a lot of online game time is lost to terrible team tactics.

The single-player mode is a lifesaver for those who feel comparatively under-skilled and want to avoid that stress. The computer-controlled teammates and enemies are reasonably smart and offline single-player is treated the same as online multiplayer in terms of progression towards your unlockables. It is a shame that there is no split-screen option for local multiplayer, but the lush tropical environments may be too detailed for a single game console to duplicate across two screens.

“Evolve” trusts in its players to do well, and that is simultaneously the game’s strength and its weakness. The setup and environments can lead to some spectacular moments, framed by a diverse cast of hunters and some grotesque monsters, but the price to get to that point may be beyond both your time investment and your friend list.

 This review is based on product supplied by the publisher. “Evolve” is available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. Image courtesy 2K Games.