Will Evolve be a successful new species of shooter, or a dead end? | PCGamesN

Will Evolve be a successful new species of shooter, or a dead end?

A jetpack soldier flies above a giant monster and a dark jungle.

I can’t shake my skepticism about Evolve.

It kills me to say that. I adored developer Turtle Rock’s Left 4 Dead games, and I love the concept of an asymmetric multiplayer FPS. But with games against both the revealed monsters under my belt, I keep running into the fact that Evolve seems less like a fresh new take on multiplayer and more like Left 4 Dead: Nothing But Tanks.

I think I understand where Turtle Rock are coming from with Evolve. Thinking back on Left 4 Dead’s multiplayer, it could be frustratingly inconsistent. By design, the human survivors had major advantages: firepower, health, range, ease-of-play. The special infected could overcome these advantages, but it required employing all of their special abilities in concert at the right opportunity. That level of coordination was tough to achieve via random matchmaking.

Evolve tries for a simpler kind of asymmetry. Instead of a bunch of monsters with special powers, you get one superpowered, player-controlled monster. The monster’s approach doesn’t have to be so subtle, because it’s basically a boss monster with a ton of hit points and a kick like a mule. Meanwhile, the four human players do their standard co-op thing.

It’s a neat idea, a game of cat-and-mouse where the hunters can eventually become the hunted. The trouble is, I never feel Evolve offered me much flexibility. My sessions with Evolve felt very rote, and more than a little dull. Each is so narrowly prescribed that there’s hardly any room for me to add anything to the process. I was a cog in a simple machine.

Now, I’ve only played Evolve at PAX East and at E3, and neither show is a great setting for appreciating a multiplayer game. With developers shouting instructions at the team (Stay together! Okay, there he is, use your harpoon! Use your harpoon! Medic, you need to be healing!), you don’t get much of a chance to explore Evolve’s possibilities.

Shoot her!

But after two sessions, I’m still not really clear on what those possibilities are. The hunt phase is so straightforward that it turns into a simple chase. The monster leaves big glowing footprints and you run after them, and occasionally get a more timely prompt that the monster has scared some birds or wildlife, giving you a better idea of its location. In essence, then the squad of hunters just stick together and run along the monster’s path, hoping to nab it before it can evolve into a stronger form.

I keep waiting for this segment of the game to turn into a cool hide-and-seek, but I’m not sure Evolve really allows for that. There are so many incentives for the hunters to stick together that the monster likely won’t fare well if it attempts an early battle. Its best play is to just keep running and hiding, and I’m not sure I like that dynamic.

A lone hunter in a bush hat blasts a giant monster with a shotgun along a darkened jungle trail.

If the players can force an early fight with the monster, they have a huge edge, which means the first act of a game doesn’t really offer any interesting decisions. Should the medic and the support gunner split off from the group to go check out that cavern? Hell no! Should the monster turn and fight while they players aren’t looking? Nope, it should just go and snack on some wildlife and try to power-up.

Then you find the monster, gang up on it, and try to kill it. And I’m not sure I see what else there is to it. The boss is a bullet-sponge and, controlled by a person or not, there’s only so much nuance to fighting a giant in a death arena. It hits really hard, so you run when it focuses on you, and meanwhile your three teammates just hammer it with shots and special abilities.

One of those special abilities is the Mobile Arena, which is a power the Trapper character uses to pin the monster inside a large forcefield with the players. This prevents it from making an escape, and gives both sides a lot of room to run around. But by confining the action in this way, both my games of Evolve have degenerated into a lot of circle-strafing. Just like a generic boss battle against any old-fashiond AI goon.

Death by firing squad

Each journey through Left 4 Dead told a story. That’s why I kept coming back. But Evolve seems to tell just one story, and it’s one I find kind of boring, “There was a big monster and we cornered it and shot the shit out of it.”

The new monster that was revealed at E3, the Kraken, was at least more interesting. The Kraken was a little more maneuverable thanks to its flying abilities, and its lighting-attacks definitely forced players to show it a little more respect at range than the Goliath that made its debut at PAX. But it just didn’t seem like there was enough for any one player to do in Evolve. Especially after the Mobile Arena was deployed, Evolve was far too much of a slugging match to hold my interest.

A small green monster screams at the camera from close-range.

I’m hoping my lukewarm reaction is really product of the trade-show format, and that a typical hunt will feel less straitjacketed than what I saw at PAX and E3. There is a lot we don’t yet know about the story, and I suspect that the final game will probably do more with environmental storytelling and pacing to open up the experience. But for now, I can’t get around the fact that nothing about Evolve seems as interesting as its premise would suggest. Hunter or hunted, I keep coming away from Evolve feeling trapped.

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Gangret avataricheyne avatarSax avatarColMustard avatar
Sax Avatar
3 Years ago

In hindsight and after reading Rob's impressions: the gameplay video I saw did look pretty linear.

ColMustard Avatar
3 Years ago

Interesting read. I had almost the reverse opinion though as found Left 4 Dead incredibly dull after a single playthrough of each campaign. There was no real variation in the weaponry and no differences beyond aesthetic for any of the characters. All I found myself doing was holding down the trigger as another wave of enemies came along and then doing it for a bit longer when a boss monster appeared.

I know it's not quite as simple as that, but there was very little about the game that would make me want to play it again.

Evolve on the other hand, I played a few games, once as the Goliath and another two as different hunters and found it pretty different each time. The roles are well defined and drastically different, so you matter more to the team than just another gun.

I will admit that it can turn into a slugfest when you get in close and personal and there certainly are some typical shooter tropes which I hope the final game avoids, but it felt pretty fresh compared to the glut of near-future military shooters that have dominated FPS for the past few years.

Gangret Avatar
3 Years ago

Totally agree about your fear, Left 4 Dead was pleasant because it was relatively fast-paced (dozens of zombies, mutiple objectives on one map, 5 specials zombies...) and there was multiple strategies to use if you wanted to win because of these 5 specials zombies. To my mind, the worst part of L4D is when you have to face a Tank. Not because he can destroy a team in 30 secondes but because he has tons of HP and you have to shoot on a thing which is hard to kill, it's boring.

Evolve seems to have 2 problems :

- You have to face a monster which is harder to kill than a Tank.

- There is only one monster to kill.

Because there is only one monster, the strategic aspect is decreased. The mercenaries have to use their abilities to trap the monster then shoot during several minutes to kill it. The second problem is that one monster can't trap a team as boomer+spitter+hunter+smoker can, except if it got its final state. During the early-game, the monster can't do anything so it has to "farm" then it will try to attack the team.

I don't have played Evolve yet, but we can already see that the gameplay seems a little bit broken.

icheyne Avatar
3 Years ago

That's disappointing. Maybe we're just becoming jaded old men?